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Film Studies: National Cinemas

This guide highlights selected resources for various national cinemas.

Introduction to South American cinema

South America see LATIN AMERICA

Latin America’s first moving-image display took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 8 July 1896, followed in the same year by screenings in the capitals of most other Latin American countries. Early audiences were essentially urban, and the first film images of Latin America, made between 1896 (Mexico) and 1911 (Peru), were usually by Europeans recording royal and state ceremonies, wonders of nature, and other actualities. However, most countries saw no significant local film production for several decades. This was partly to do with the dominance of US films: as early as 1914, Hollywood had targeted Latin America as a key market, establishing an ascendancy further strengthened with the coming of sound, when studios were set up in Hollywood, New York, and France devoted to making Spanish-language talkies for export. Nonetheless, Latin American countries with internal markets large enough to compete—Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico—developed industries of their own, specializing in films featuring local variants of popular film genres, including a distinctively Latin American variant of the exploitation film (see latsploitation), and films which, like the Brazilian chanchada, feature music and dance.

However, the conditions under which most cinema cultures in Latin America operate—especially in smaller countries like Uruguay—have been such that state support is crucial to their survival; but this has often been sporadic or shortlived. On the other hand, where state support has been sustained (as in Cuba), a distinctive local cinema culture has been able to flourish. The beginnings of state support date back to the 1950s and 1960s, when there was a surge in film-related activity across the region. The founders of film societies, magazines, and university film courses were usually interested in both filmmaking and film criticism, and the influence of Italian Neorealism and France’s Nouvelle Vague and cinéma vérité was widespread (see film studies journal; film society). These conditions gave rise to new, often militant, approaches to documentary film and to realist strategies in fictional and semifictional film, strategies which in certain areas continue today. For example, in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, and elsewhere, documentary filmmaking increasingly embraces work with and by native communities, often through the activities of grassroots video collectives (see indigenous film). Out of the ‘new’ Latin American cinemas of the 1960s came the idea of Latin American cinema as a ‘continental’ project: in 1967, the first forum of New Latin American cinema, attended by cineastes from across the region, took place in Chile. This generation of filmmakers and commentators was prominent in critical and theoretical debates concerning forms of cinema appropriate for a region characterized by underdevelopment and grappling in its own ways with modernization and globalization. The influential concept of Third Cinema, for example, was propounded by Argentine filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, while Cuban director Julio García Espinosa advocated an ‘imperfect cinema’ as a mode distinctive to Latin America. Today, the notion of ‘precariousness’ is more current. Women filmmakers, feminist cinema, and female-oriented genres have been notable presences in the region, with increasing female participation in every area of film culture—producing, screenwriting and criticism, as well as directing. In Argentina Maria Luisa Bemberg, and in Venezuela Fina Torres, have developed updated feminist takes on melodrama, for example, while women’s documentary groups have flourished in Colombia and Brazil.  ...

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2020). Latin America, film in. In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 Jun. 2024

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