Latin American Studies Latin American Cinema
by
Maria Helena Rueda
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 December 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0083

Introduction

Moving pictures arrived in Latin America soon after the Lumière Brothers created their first projection in December 1895. Pioneer cameramen arrived relatively early to the fast-growing Latin American cities of the time. Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro saw their first film screenings in 1896, and most other Latin American cities soon after. By the 1910s all countries were making films locally, but only Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil would eventually develop large film industries. While few studies exist on the early history of Latin American cinema as a whole, all works dealing with the individual national film histories touch upon the subject. By the 1940s, Mexican and Argentinean films were being distributed throughout Spanish America, with the ones from Mexico in particular developing an enthusiastic following. The Brazilian film industry also developed its own audience. These national film industries declined in the 1950s, mainly as a result of the strong international expansion of Hollywood-based studios. The 1960s marked the emergence of the influential New Latin American Cinema. Defined as a movement by a 1967 filmmakers’ conference held in Viña del Mar, Chile, it encompassed the work of young directors whose work was experimental, low budget, and socially engaged. Directors associated with Brazilian Cinema Novo, such as Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira dos Santos, and those who participated in the resurgence of filmmaking in Cuba after the revolution, like Tomas Gutiérrez Alea and Santiago Álvarez, were part of this group. There is a large amount of literature on this movement, whose influence continued throughout the 1970s. The economic crises of the 1980s had a negative impact in the production of movies. In the 1990s reforms in film legislation led to a dramatic decrease in state sponsorship. The result, paradoxically, was the development of alternative forms of filmmaking and the initiation of new outstanding film movements, like the New Argentine Cinema, including directors Lucrecia Martel and Adrián Caetano, among others. In México filmmakers like Alejandro González Iñarritu and Alfonso Cuarón revitalized the national film industry and also achieved success abroad. Since the mid-1990s film production in Latin America has been revitalized by transnational coproduction agreements—like Ibermedia—and the creation of new state legislation aimed at promoting filmmaking in each country. Many recent books study this new trend in Latin American film, reflecting on its links to globalization and its cultural significance for the region.

General Overviews

Most books on Latin American film focus on a particular era, topic, or national context. One reason for this tendency is the existence of clear dissimilarities between conditions for the production of films in the various Latin American countries and during different historical periods. Even those books that offer a panoramic view tend to do so by devoting separate chapters to filmmaking in a particular country or time frame, often through the analysis of individual films that are representative of the specific situation in each context (Galiano and Caballero 1999 and Elena and Diaz López 2003, both cited under Edited Collections; Hart 2004, Rufinelli 2010). Among those authors who opt for a general view, Paranaguá 2003 offers what is arguably the most wide-ranging reflection on trends and processes in the continent, across nations and periods. Earlier historical surveys of Latin American cinema, such as King 1990 and Schumann 1987, were descriptive in nature, without a deep emphasis on the conditions and evolution of filmmaking in each particular country, or the transnational trends in the continent. Several overviews opt for including contributions by various authors, each specializing in a particular country or era, unified by an introduction or prologue (see Edited Collections). While these compilations are eclectic, with chapters reflecting the individual expertise of each contributor, they provide a good general sense of various aspects of filmmaking in Latin America, including its links to other forms of cultural production, and how the industry has historically been affected by socioeconomic conditions in each historical period. Books published since the early 2000s show a greater emphasis on transnationalism than their predecessors, due in part to the importance gained by coproductions and international cooperation agreements since that time.

  • Hart, Stephen. A Companion to Latin American Film. Woodbridge, UK: Tamesis, 2004.

    E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive analyses of twenty-five films that represent specific stages in the history of Latin American cinema, from ¡Qué viva México! (1931) to Cidade de Deus (2002). Films from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Cuba are included. An introduction offers a general description of filmmaking in the region.

  • King, John. Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America. London: Verso, 1990.

    E-mail Citation »

    First historical look at the region’s cinema written in English, this book analyzes its dialogue with other cultural products and with the cinemas of Europe and North America. Two chapters discuss films made before the 1950s. The remaining eight analyze production after the 1960s, organized by country.

  • Paranaguá, Paulo Antonio. Tradición y modernidad en el cine de América Latina. Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica de España, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book offers a comprehensive reflection on the history of Latin American film, around the theme of tradition and modernity. The author pays close attention to films produced before the 1960s and reflects on filmmaking in the region in comparison to the cinemas of Europe and the United States.

  • Rufinelli, Jorge. América Latina en 130 películas. Santiago, Chile: Uqbar Editores, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    The author, a well-known scholar of Latin American cinema, includes here commentaries on 130 films that are, in his view, the best and most representative works of Latin American cinema. Films from all countries and periods receive attention here.

  • Schumann, Peter B. Historia del cine latinoamericano. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Legasa, 1987.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book offered the first concise look at the history of cinema in Latin America. Chapters are organized by country, with the longest ones dedicated to Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba. Emphasis is placed on films produced after the 1960s, but there is considerable information on previous periods.

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