Modernity’s Other Landscapes: Early Cinema and Race in Latin America
Since traditional notions of cinematic modernity have been mainly articulated in temporal terms (i.e. positivist notions of progress, time travels, photography’s embalming of time), what can we learn from film productions aimed at celebrating new geographic places, national entities, and diverse societies? What happened when the modernity of Western cinematic attractions became refracted through Latin American peripheries?
Ana M. López’s groundbreaking essay “Early cinema and Modernity in Latin America” (2000) laid out a comparative view of the emergence of moving pictures in Latin America. She invited to identify the traits of Western modernity’s asynchronous and peripheral manifestations. While mainly premised on a remote access to Western technologies, communications, and lifestyles, moviegoing in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico prompted new practices of national self-representation. In addition to actualités of local interest, in fact, the earliest forms of national films productions were narratives of marked patriotism. Examples of these modern pageantries included Nobleza gaucha (Argentina; 1915); A vida do Barão do Rio Branco (Brazil; 1910), and Grito de Dolores (Mexico; 1907).
By combining Western cinematic practices with patriotic narratives of decolonization, Latin American film productions often relied on the representation of vast and pristine natural sceneries and typical social landscapes—variously featuring urban élites, European immigrants, gauchos, indigenous populations, and former slaves. Engaged in exhibiting the recurring tensions city/countryside and indigenous/urban life, Latin America’s cinematic modernity came to acquire its own, original, polyphonic traits, which often took form in narratives exalting non-urban or non-urbane, folkloric, and racial diverse characters.
Given the influence of European film manufacturers and first-generation immigrant filmmakers, what role did influential “scientific” notions of racial difference play in Latin nations’ production of patriotic narratives? What other frameworks of acceptable, or even valuable, racial difference were deployed in these modern productions? Since traditional notions of cinematic modernity have been mainly articulated in temporal terms (i.e. positivist notions of progress, time travels, photography’s embalming of time), what can we learn from film productions aimed at celebrating new geographic places, national entities, and diverse societies? What happened when the modernity of Western cinematic attractions became refracted through Latin American peripheries?
Welcome contributions include, but are not limited to, case studies related to early/silent films, production companies, film figures (i.e. filmmakers, producers, actors/actresses) that attempts wider critical reflections in light of current debates about early cinema, modernity, and postcoloniality.
If interested, please send a 250-word abstract via email (to email@example.com) by August 8. Notification of acceptance to the panel will be emailed by August 15.
Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference
OSAI INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY - Tokyo - 21-24 May 2009
Panel: Modernity’s Other Landscapes: Early Cinema and Race in Latin America
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