In This Article Mexican Film

  • Introduction
  • 1968
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Documentary

Cinema and Media Studies Mexican Film
Niamh Thornton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 August 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0170


Mexico has had a powerful indigenous film industry, although there have been peaks and troughs. One of the peaks was in the 1930s–1950s, which has been, not uncontroversially, described as the Golden Age (edad de oro) of Mexican cinema. It was a time when studios, modeled after those in the United States and supported by generous government funding through a film bank, made hundreds of films. The short turnover in production frequently led to repetition in narrative, wardrobe, character, set, and technical style. This means of production was cheap and highly productive, and because film was a popular form of entertainment in Mexico and elsewhere, it was lucrative. The studios went into decline in the 1960s with the arrival of television, changes in audience tastes, diminishing government support, and the opening of the first film schools and their associated film societies. During this period, B-movies flourished while art cinema had a strong run in production terms and critical praise, if not in audience attendance figures. The 1980s saw an overall decline in filmmaking in volume and quality, and this pattern continued for many years. Mexican film criticism as it evolved inside and outside of the academy grew out of a period of change in the 1960s and has remained consistently and primarily focused on historical and contextual analysis. The year 1992 was a major turning point for the attention given to Mexican cinema, most particularly outside of Mexico. The considerable box office success of Como agua para chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate (Alfonso Arau) in that year led to more focused academic interest from abroad. This attention has subsequently multiplied exponentially with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores perros (2000) breakthrough hit, his move to transnational filmmaking, and the international successes of others such as Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Carlos Reygadas. The field has grown globally with critics both inside and outside of Mexico energized by this international and transnational focus. In the early 21st century, there is a curious confluence of apparently contradictory elements at play whereby Mexican filmmaking is at one of its lowest points of production in terms of volume, while it is garnering significant international scholarly and popular attention. This annotated bibliography cannot prove to be exhaustive but should provide pointers to useful exemplary texts for those wanting to gain an understanding of Mexican film.

General Overviews

In Mexico, as in many countries, film studies is interdisciplinary. Researchers are as often found in sociology, anthropology, and art departments, as in film studies departments. In most university film studies departments, practice is privileged over theory. As a consequence, many of the foundational texts and current theoretical work were published first in newspapers and later in edited collections. There are universities, such as the University of Guadalajara and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México [National Autonomous University of Mexico] that have strong publishing arms where much theoretical work by academics is placed, although there can be difficulty accessing some of this outside of Mexico because of uneven distribution. Over recent years, there has been a growing range of work being published by scholars based in Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States.

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