Latin American Studies Science Fiction Film
by
Alfredo Luiz Suppia
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0152

Introduction

Latin American science fiction (SF) cinema does exist, although it is seldom noted by most film critics, scholars, and historians—and perhaps even by major audiences. Unlike other countries across the globe, Latin American countries generally lack more visible and consistent SF film production. This circumstance can be ascribed to limited film budgets and the lack of a consistent film industry in Latin America, which, in turn leads to a type of production and aesthetics that relies on the audiences’ imagination more than special effects per se. The alleged “invisibility” of Latin American SF film can be partially (if not totally) explained by the historical instability affecting the Latin American film industry. Thus, cultural biases align with economic circumstances in the preclusion of Latin American SF cinema. Exceptions, however, may be found in the scenarios of Argentina and Mexico, countries where speculative fiction (including both the fantastic and SF) appear to have developed differently, in comparison with other Latin American nations, such as Brazil. In any case, a systematic and consistent body of film criticism and academic work dedicated to Latin American SF film has yet to be constructed. Unlike the literature on the United States, Europe, and Japan, the available bibliography on Latin American manifestations of this film genre is generally sporadic and scattered. Yet, this situation appears to be gradually changing. Internet and digital technologies have scaffolded a (still) fragile web for film scholars interested in SF cinema. And, interest in Latin American SF—literary and audiovisual—seems to be growing, on the part of international scholars. This article will provide a basic bibliography for further investigation into the field of Latin American SF cinema, with a special focus on three countries: Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.

General Overviews

Despite the marginal approach of most international encyclopedias and companions to SF audiovisual media, fragmentary information on isolated SF films and TV series produced in Latin America can be found in a number of works. For instance, Hardy 1995 is a reliable source that does not overlook Latin American SF film. This work, however, only lists a handful of Latin American films, in contrast to the massive number of US and European productions. This is understandable, given the scenario put forth by the international film industry. Equivalents to what are perceived to be the paradigms for SF cinema—films such as Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet (1956), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982)—are much scarcer, or perhaps completely nonexistent, in Latin American film production. However, this so-called serious-dramatic SF cinema has occasionally emerged in some Latin American countries, such as Argentina. Hence, films such as Alberto Pieralisi’s O quinto poder (The fifth power) (1962), an early SF film from Brazil; Eliseo Subiela’s Hombre mirando al sudeste (Man facing southeast) (1986), from Argentina; Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993) and Rodrigo Ordoñez’s Depositários (2010), from Mexico; Alejandro Brugués’s Juan de los muertos (Juan of the dead) (2011), from Cuba; and the Mexican American production Sleep Dealer (2008), directed by Alex Rivera, are undoubtedly eloquent representatives of Latin American SF cinema. Furthermore, SF film parodies have multiplied across South America since the 1930s, when Latin American filmmakers began venturing into the genre. Whereas notes on the roots of the melting pot that is Latin American SF can be found in Haywood Ferreira 2007, one of the most reliable and insightful overviews of Latin American SF cinema is presented in Paz 2008. This work properly serves as an introductory overview, addressing the verifiable aesthetics, production issues, and political subtexts in Latin American SF films, particularly from Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil. A selection of essays addressing sequential art, as well as literary and audiovisual works, Ginway and Brown 2012 contains a variety of approaches to Latin American SF. Finally, general information on Latin American SF film and literature can be found readily in Nicholls, et al. 2011, an online SF encyclopedia.

  • Ginway, M. Elizabeth. “A Working Model for Analyzing Third World Science Fiction: The Case of Brazil.” Science Fiction Studies 32.3 (2005): 467–494.

    E-mail Citation »

    Ginway’s essay provides a working model for analyzing Third World, or non-Western, SF. The author investigates selected Brazilian SF narratives published over a specific time period. These narratives are then grouped into generations, or eras, and examined against the backdrop of Brazilian cultural myths.

  • Ginway, M. Elizabeth. “Teaching Latin American Science Fiction in English: A Case Study.” In Teaching Science Fiction. Edited by Andy Sawyer and Peter Wright, 179–201. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230300392E-mail Citation »

    Ginway’s essay has an introductory section on SF cinema, and it also gives an introduction to SF in Spanish America and Brazil that may be useful to researchers who speak only English.

  • Ginway, M. Elizabeth, and J. Andrew Brown, eds. Latin American Science Fiction: Theory and Practice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137312778E-mail Citation »

    This anthology of theoretical essays compiles a variety of approaches to Latin American SF. The volume assumes a rather broad scope, exploring Latin American SF in different media from Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean, and the Southern Cone, thus, offering a multifaceted theoretical perspective on Latin American SF.

  • Hardy, Phil, ed. The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction. New York: Overlook, 1995.

    E-mail Citation »

    Hardy’s encyclopedia of SF film is one of the most reliable and comprehensive, covering the worldwide production of this genre, from its beginnings in the silent era to present times. The film synopses are straightforward, accurate, and elucidative. However, most Latin American SF cinema, Argentine, and Brazilian films, in particular, are completely overlooked by the book.

  • Haywood Ferreira, Rachel. “The First Wave: Latin American Science Fiction Discovers Its Roots.” Science Fiction Studies 34.3 (2007): 432–462.

    E-mail Citation »

    The author departs from “retrolabeling the early works of Latin American SF” (p. 432) in order to present a rigorous investigation and thorough archaeology of Latin American SF narratives vis-à-vis the Western history of the genre. As a result, the roots of Latin American SF are exposed and discussed.

  • Nicholls, Peter, John Clute, and Barry Langford, eds. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. 3d ed. 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive online database including information on Latin American SF. This digital repository features a variety of entries on Chilean SF, Uruguayan SF, Colombian SF, Cuban SF, and that of other countries.

  • Paz, Mariano. “South of the Future: An Overview of Latin American Science Fiction Cinema.” Science Fiction Film and Television 1.1 (2008): 81–103.

    DOI: 10.3828/sfftv.1.1.7E-mail Citation »

    With a focus on Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, Paz’s consistent overview introduces the main trends in Latin American SF cinema. The author studies how Latin American SF cinema rearticulates the narrative and iconographic conventions of American SF and thereby links these elements with local and regional cultural icons and traditions.

  • Suppia, Alfredo, ed. Cartografias para a Ficção Científica Mundial – Cinema e Literatura. São Paulo, Brazil: Alameda Editorial, 2015.

    E-mail Citation »

    This collection of essays brings together introductory “maps” for further explorations of science fiction in literature and film. Some of the essays gathered here are unpublished, others were originally published in academic journals, and have been translated into Portuguese especially for this volume. This small “atlas” speculates on topics such as film and science fiction literature in Latin America and Brazil; science fiction and the sense of wonder; science fiction under the prism of Brazilian literary criticism; the relations between horror and science fiction in cinema; science fiction and gender issues in film and literature; archeo-fiction and the pioneers of science fiction in Brazil and Latin America.

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