Presentation Memorial del 68 by Nicolás Echevarria

This is the presentation I gave at UNAM, UK Centre for Mexican Studies in advance of the screening of Memorial del 68 by Nicolás Echevarria, 16 October 2018.

I’m sure that many of you here are familiar with the events leading up to the massacre on the 2nd of October 1968. So, you will not need me to rehearse the frequent marches, the long history of workers protests, the student dissatisfaction with failed government promises, the international context which empowered young people to stand up and demand civil rights and a fairer future. From Derry to Prague, Paris to Chicago, London to Mexico City, young people, often supported by a wider movement stood up and marched for a better life.

The Mexican armed forces acting against those students were not uniquely violent, but their response was under scrutiny as a consequence of being on a world stage because of the Olympics held that October in Mexico City. The subsequent vilification by the government of the protestors is also not unique, but the continued silence over the exact events is now an outlier. There are still only guestimates (anywhere from 44 to 400) about how many were killed and how many disappeared. This is where the visual archive matters. The image of shoes left behind at the scene and the bloodstained Tlatelolco Square of the following morning retains its poignancy and emotional weight because they evoke absence and loss.

https://aristeguinoticias.com/0210/kiosko/5-peliculas-sobre-el-2-de-octubre/

There is an extensive audio-visual archive that runs to 8 hours of film and has been reproduced repeatedly. The first and most famous use of the footage was El grito (1968) directed by Leobardo López Aretche. Collectively made by the students who were given lightweight cameras from the recently founded Film school, they shot what they witnessed. This audio-visual material has helped recall the events. They are a testament to the gaps in history.

Some of the archive has appeared in fiction films, such as the docudrama Canoa (1976) by Felipe Cazals and El bulto (1992) by Gabriel Retes. Footage has been picked over and used time and again in what has become the life work of the documentarian, Óscar Menéndez in his successive films: Dos de octubre, aquí México (1968), Historia de un documento (1971) and México, 68 (1992). Another who has used this material over and again is Carlos Mendoza in films such as Operación Galeana (2000) and Tlatelolco, las claves de la massacre (2002).

The series organised by UNAM, UK focuses on non-fiction film and I want to draw attention to the fiction films, which are worth seeking out to get a deeper understanding of this moment and reveal ever-evolving attempts to understand 1968. As well as the famous first fiction film, Rojo amanecer (1989) by Jorge Fons there are two other notable fiction films: ¿Y si platicamos de agosto? (1981), a 35minute film directed by Maryse Sistach made while she was a student in London, and the Mexican-German-Spanish co-production, Francisca, ¿De qué lado estás? (2002) by Eva López Sánchez. All notable attempts to understand the past from the perspective of those with little power.

My work has considered these films (Thornton, 2013), but I am also interested in those films ostensibly about the Mexican Revolution, but where 1968 emerges as a means of working through this moment in films as varied as Reed, México Insurgente (1970) by Paul Leduc, the big budget Emiliano Zapata (1970) by Felipe Cazals, De todos modos Juan te llamas by Marcela Fernández Violante (1975), and the 1976 adaptation of Los de abajo by Servando González. Leduc, Cazals and Fernández Violante all merit analysis (Thornton, 2017) and have received varying degrees of attention, but I want to briefly consider the unusual case of the last of these, Servando González. His career was marked by 1968 because he was employed by the army to shoot film on their behalf. This was material he claimed to have fully handed over to them and to be innocent of its later use. His reputation never recovered and his later career was spent justifying and exploring this legacy.

To turn to Memorial del 68 by Nicolás Echevarría. Echevarría is a filmmaker with foothold in the recent and distant past. Memorial del 68 was a film he made as a result of an invitation by the Museo Memorial del 68 in the Centro Cultural Universitario de Tlatelolco de la UNAM on the occasion of the 40 year anniversary. So, it is very fitting to look at it again in the light of the 50th anniversary. It has been played on a loop in the museum for visitors to pause and listen to the testimonies of those who were witnesses to the events. It has been distributed via festivals and shown on television. The Mexican academic, Diego Zavala Scherer, praised the film for this capacity to move across different spaces because its intention is to tell the story of what happened to the widest possible audience and to give an accurate historic account of the events.

The film makes strong use of testimonials through straight to camera interviews. There are 57 testimonials in all. Testimonials are key to events where the historical truth has yet to be acknowledged by the authorities. By speaking to notable figures and witnesses to the events, including activists Raúl Alvarez Garín, Luis Tomás Cervantes Cabeza de Vaca, Pablo Gómez, and writers José Agustín, David Huerta, Carlos Monsiváis, Andrea Revueltas, Nacha Rodríguez, and Elena Poniatowska, Echevarría is building a full picture and loading up evidence where justice is still absent.

Sergio Raúl Arroyo, director of the Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco, described Memorial del 68 as

“un trabajo que tiende a extenderse, cuyo sentido principal es crear una memoria audiovisual que nos permita acercarnos al 68 como fenómeno central en la historia contemporánea de México,”

[a film that pushes beyond its limits, whose primary aim is to create an audio-visual memorial that lets us get closer to 68, which was a central event in contemporary Mexican history”]

What is clear is that it is a respectful memorial that is constructed out of multiple perspectives that merit our attention.

This memorial is a radical act of remembrance and bearing witness. The late intellectual and essayist, Carlos Monsiváis, who wrote about 1968, stated that “The massacre is so monstrous that there is no way to approach it”. Echevarría’s attempt is one of pushing back and broaching an overwhelming need to tell the impossible. Memorial del 68 is born of an urgent need to gather stories before the protagonists are gone and to help uncover the truth behind a terrible event.

 

Thanks to Axel Elías for organising this event and to Adrián Guillermo Aguilar and Ana Elena González of the UNAM, UK Centre for Mexican Studies for inviting me.

Reading

Thornton, Niamh. “Re-Framing Mexican Women’s Filmmaking: the case of Marcela Fernandez Violante” in Debbie Martin and Deborah Shaw eds., Latin American Women Filmmakers: Production, Politics, Poetics, London: I.B. Tauris, 2017.

—. Revolution and Rebellion in Mexican Cinema, New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Zavala Scherer, Diego (nd) “El memorial del 68, (Nicolás Echevarría, 2008): Recuerdo vivo, forma expandida”, El ojo que piensa, http://www.elojoquepiensa.cucsh.udg.mx/assets/ojo01/4Elmemorial.pdf

Coincidence and Curation: The Liverpool Biennial, HUO and Me (or, at least, what I’m reading)

Curationism Buch jetzt portofrei bei Weltbild.de bestellen

I am finalising a book proposal, which means that I am avidly synthesising and summarising my ideas so that I can pitch it succinctly and clearly to a future publisher. The book is on tastemakers and tastemaking and will draw on some ideas around curation. For this, I have been reading Curationism (2015) by David Balzer, amongst other works. In this, he makes much of the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist (often referred to as HUO), whose career up the point of writing, he summarises and critiques “[a]s the world’s most famous contemporary-art curator” who “sets a remarkable precedent, acting as the archetype for the professionalization and domination of his field” (Balzer 2015, 11). Prior to reading this book, I was not aware of HUO, so it came as a pleasant surprise to happen upon the announcement that HUO will be interviewing Agnès Varda at an opening event as part of the Liverpool Biennial on Friday 13th of July and I have managed to get tickets. She was the primary draw for me, but to see HUO will be an added attraction having read Balzer’s book.

In Curationism, Balzer dedicates a prologue to HUO seeming to both admire and decry his presence in the art world. He describes his busyness and industry, his connections to key players in the art world and celebrity (Kanye West, amongst others), and as “the typification of the curationist moment” as well as “its natural harbinger” (Balzer 2015, 21). HUO, for Balzer, is exemplary of a phenomenon that came out of three significant shifts in the art world: performance art, de-professionalization (or de-skilling) of artists, and decreased government funding which has made museums and galleries dependant on visitor numbers. Curation has become both highly specialist, idiosyncratic, and professionalized in the figure of HUO, and distributed, generalized, and amateur, as experienced by all of us in our everyday from online selves to real, lived experiences. We are, in Balzer’s words, living in a “curationist moment” (2015, 2). So, it is a fascinating moment to see one of the most (in)famous curators, HUO, speak to an invited curator-artist-director (celebrity curator, in Balzer’s terms), Varda, at a moment when public, gallery, and ad hoc pop-up spaces throughout the city of Liverpool will be carefully and artfully curated for the Biennial.

Reading

Balzer, David (2015) Curationism: How Curating Took Over the World, the Art World and Everything Else (London: Pluto Press).

Central American Children and the Mexico-US border: Learn More

Teens on La Bestia

Sin nombre (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2009)

The uproar surrounding the detention of children at the Mexican-US border has brought attention to the migration of Central Americans to the US.

‌The majority are from what is called the Northern Triangle – Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala – and are seeking asylum because of increased violence in their home nations. Many of these take a long, dangerous, and harrowing journey through Mexico, which is also tasked to police their transit through agreements with the US.

On arrival, they have the right under international law to request asylum in the US. This issue came to the public attention in the US when, in April 2018 for safety reasons 150-200 Central Americans travelled as a group through Mexico to get to the US border to petition for asylum.

Whilst many of these cases are being muddled with anti-immigration rhetoric by the current US government, there are complex historic and geo-political reasons for this current movement of people across borders.

Many of these reasons go back to US interventionist policies during the Cold War and have been aggravated by the increased militarization of the US-Mexico border since the Clinton presidency.

It’s important for us to look back at the events of the past that have lead up to this point, so that we have the full context when looking at today’s headlines.

Find out more

To get some further insight into the causes of the movement of so many, here are some recommendations for reading, listening and viewing:

  • In Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (2017) the New York based Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli writes of her experiences navigating the bureaucracy of the immigration system as a privileged, bilingual individual and sets it alongside stories of children and young people she encountered whilst volunteering for a translation service helping undocumented Central American children facing deportation. It is a short and moving reflection and analysis of the experience.
  • Part of the National Public Radio (NPR) stable, Latino USA regularly addresses issues related to migration, as well as other features including portraits of well-known Latinos, such as Luis Fonsi and Alaska. A May 31 2018 episode took a look at how the US immigration system lost track of about 1,500 minors, which gives a sense of the possible fate of the children whose parents are not able to accompany them.
  • Three of the many recent films that specifically consider the reasons, experiences, and consequences of movement across borders are: Sin nombre (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2009), La jaula de oro/The Golden Dream (Diego Quemada-Díez, 2013), and Who is Dayani Crystal? (Mark Silver, 2014). Sin nombre and The Golden Dream are about teens fleeing poverty and gangs in their country of origin and make the perilous journey through Mexico. Part of their journey is on top of the infamous and very dangerous ‘La Bestia’ (the beast) freight trains that traverse Mexico. Who is Dayani Crystal? is a documentary featuring Gael García Bernal that is an investigation into the identity of a dead migrant discovered in the Arizona desert whose tattoo “Dayani Crystal” serves as the only clue to his identity.

These are only a starting point, given the complexity and historical reach of this issue.

*This blog was cross-posted on the University of Liverpool Modern Languages and Cultures site.

Mariana Chenillo: A Brief Introduction

In 2010, Mariana Chenillo was the first female director to have won an Ariel for her opera prima. The award for first film is technically for direction, but is distinct to that of direction. Established in 1947, Ariels are the Mexican film academy awards and a woman has yet to be awarded specifically for direction. There are always hopes that this will change. In the past, there have been many deserving contenders, but there is a current upsurge in the numbers of female directors getting international attention, which may result in a win for a woman.

Source: http://remezcla.com/features/film/mariana-chenillo-female-directors-expected-look-pretty/

Chenillo has directed two features to date. Cinco días sin Nora (2009) is about Chenillo’s grandmother’s suicide and the subsequent family fallout. Unexpectedly, it is humorous. Dark humour characterises her work. So, too, does the way women in her films have non-standard and disruptive bodies that present challenges to the social constructions of wellness and women’s agency.

As well as Cinco días sin Nora and Paraíso: ¿Cuánto pesa el amor? (2013), Mariana Chenillo’s recent short film work gives an insight into her idiosyncratic position in Mexican film. In 2010 she made two shorts that formed part of anthology films: “La tienda de raya” [company store] made in response to the commemoration of the 1910 Revolution, Revolución [Revolution]*, produced by Canana; and “Amor a primera vista” [Love at first sight], distributed as the anthology film, Sucedió en un dia [It happened one day], and was part of the Primer Rally Malayerba PRO challenge asking ten directors to make a short in twenty-four hours. In Revolución her work sits alongside names that are well known internationally including, Fernando Eimbcke, Amat Escalante, Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo García, Diego Luna, Gerardo Naranjo, Rodrigo Plá, Carlos Reygadas, and Patricia Riggen. This is an entrepreneurial group who have portfolio careers primarily as actors and/or directors and, more latterly, also known for their work as producers through the arthouse and film festival circuits. Whilst in Sucedió en un dia Chenillo is alongside a group of directors who have had a consistent output and some circulation internationally, but are more embedded in the national film market. These include, Daniel Gruener, Beto Gómez, Julián Hernández, Gustavo Loza, Alejandro Lozano, Issa López, and Ignacio Ortiz. To have created work for both of these anthologies reveals her unusual position amongst contemporary Mexican filmmakers, she is both part of a select group of transnational arthouse filmmakers and embedded in the national film and television industries.

My chapter “Paraíso ¿Cuánto pesa el amor? (2013): Challenging the Neoliberal in Mexican Cinema” will be published in Carolina Rocha and Claudia Sandberg eds., Resisting Neoliberalism: The State of Contemporary Latin American Cinema (London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2018).

 

*I wrote about Revolución in Revolution and Rebellion in Mexican Film.

 

Further Reading

As well as the hyper-linked citations, I read the following to help me formulate my ideas around the neoliberal in Mexican film:

Couldry, Nick. 2010. Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics After Neoliberalism Los Angeles & London: Sage.

Sánchez Prado, Ignacio. 2014. Screening Neoliberalism. Mexican Cinema 1988-2012 Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

In addition, I found this text a useful exploration of neoliberalism in reading and academic process:

La Berge, Leigh Claire and Quinn Slobodian. 2017. “Reading for Neoliberalism, Reading like Neoliberals.” American Literary History, vol. 29, no. 3: 602-614.

 

Digital Footprints

I am just refining a chapter on Paraíso ¿Cuánto pesa el amor? (Mariana Chenillo, 2013). It’s currently available in the UK and Ireland on Netflix as Paraíso [Paradise]. Dark humour characterises Chenillo’s approach. The women in her films have non-standard and disruptive bodies that present challenges to the social constructions of wellness and women’s agency.

Paraíso ¿Cuánto pesa el amor? is an adaptation of a short story about a couple, Carmen (Daniela Rincón) and Alfredo (Andrés Almeida),  who move from the suburbs of Mexico City to a middle class neighbourhood. Both start out proudly fat and, isolated and feeling pressured by the metropolitan elite, they have to decide whether losing weight is the route to happiness. It is affecting and largely uplifting. I read it with reference to Ignacio Sánchez Prado’s (2014) work on neoliberalism and Mexican film and I draw on some of the cultural studies work carried out on fatness.

While research this it has been interesting to find the digital traces of Daniela Rincón, the writer of the short story, Julieta Arévalo, and the Music supervisor, Lynn Fainchtein. Paraíso ¿Cuánto pesa el amor? is Daniela Rincón only role in film. Subsequently, she has moved into the online wellness blogosphere as a blogger and vlogger. Her ‘About me’ section gives a sense of her personal philosophy and reasons for communicating with others on this topic:

Tomé la decisión de adentrarme en el mundo del Body Positive y trabajar en mi alimentación y mi condición física. De eso han pasado casi 20 kilos, un Canal de Youtube y la identificación con miles de mujeres que, al igual que yo, quieren amar a su cuerpo tal y cual es y trabajar para encontrar su salud sin importar la apariencia física. (http://www.danielarincon.com/)

[I decided to get into Body Positivism and work on my diet and fitness. Since then I’ve said goodbye to 20 kilos, created a YouTube channel, and have connected with thousands of women who, like me, want to love their bodies as they are and work to find health without worrying about their how they look. Translation mine]

In my chapter I reflect on the relevance of her online persona and how it can inform our reading of the role in Paraíso ¿Cuánto pesa el amor?.

Julieta Arévalo is a little known writer who appears to only have one book of short stories,  Paraíso y otro cuentos incómodos [Paradise and Other Uncomfortable Stories]. She can also be found via an old LinkedIn profile and, from what I can verify, as the winner of an award to travel around New Zealand. Curiously, it’s difficult to be totally sure of this last detail. I would love if it were.

The final person is Lynn Fainchtein. She’s an experienced music supervisor with a well-developed page intended for those looking to employ her. It is finessed, professional, detailed, and helped me understand her trajectory given the few interviews that have been published with her.

This brief insight gives a sense of the different online interventions and the distinct online labour required of them as creative workers in the film industry and elsewhere.

 

1976: Haunted by 1968

I have spent much of the last few weeks drafting and re-drafting a chapter for a forthcoming edited collection on Memory and Trauma in Mexican Visual Culture, a project I am co-editing with Miriam Haddu. My chapter considers three films released in 1976 that I contend are all haunted in different ways by the ghosts of 1968 that, in turn, is haunted by the iconography of the Revolution. The chapter is informed by writing on Mexican film, but also on archive and memory study work as a way of finding my way into understanding the use of archive material in the films. I compare Los de abajo by Servando González with two other films from 1976, Canoa and Los Poquianchis, both by Felipe Cazals

Soldier directing the camera in Canoa

I discovered González’s work when researching adaptations of novelas de la Revolución, that is, a large selection of books set during the Revolution. First published midway through the bellicose period of the Revolution in 1915 Los de abajo is generally counted as the first novela de la Revolución. González’s adaptation is the second, the first was in 1939 by the Golden Age filmmaker Chano Urueta. Perplexed by the fact that González’s name barely graced the literature in the field, I looked into his biography and discovered the clear reason why. He was employed by the government to film the student protests in 1968, for which he was shunned by many of his contemporaries. Thus, he had become implicated with the brutal repression and murder of students at a moment that continues to be an unresolved moment in Mexican history. As someone who has researched 1968 and its aftermath I had a visceral response to his decision to film the students, that can only be a fraction of what his compatriots must have felt. I understand their decision to ignore his work in favour of giving attention to others with whom they shared fellow feeling. But, his work and his decision continue to haunt me. I chose to venture in, a choice that is afforded me as an outsider.

In order to understand González’s work and to explore how to conceptualise it, I compare it to two films by Cazals, a director at the centre of a group of filmmakers, writers, and critics known as the Nuevo cine group, named after a short-lived, yet highly influential, film journal. They used journals, prizes, curated events, and colloquia and other public fora to publish, discuss, disseminate, and promote each others work and that of their predecessors. This group saw themselves as distinct to the studio system directors and wanted to foment a culture of auteurist filmmaking. Their writing continues to frame much of the discussion of Mexican film.

I look at extracts from Los de abajo, Canoa and Los Poquianchis where archival footage is used in the understanding that, as Dagmar Brunow expresses it, “The archive is not a space in which facts remain unchanged, but a process in which knowledge and facts are continuously recreated and transformed” (2015, 37). By extension, archival material is neither stable nor fixed and can be deployed for multiple ends. There is much work done on this in relation to photographic material, and a growing number on film. I also explore how these films use footage that carries the aura of what Jamie Baron calls “the archive effect” (2014). The material is deployed by Cazals and González as a means of exploring how the representation of violence on screen implicates the filmmaker in a system that has traces of perpetrator violence. They navigate this differently because of the historical events they portray and how their biographies are understood in relation to their work.

Something I don’t have space to explore in my chapter, but want to note here is that whilst I am carrying out an auteurist reading of both González and Cazals, it takes many to make a film. For my purposes, this is how both are framed and it is possible to trace such patterns in their work. However, I want to note, in particular, the collaboration between Cazals and Tomás Pérez Turrent, an academic, screenwriter, actor and director, who wrote Canoa. Los poquanchis was co-written with Xavier Robles, another notable screenwriter whose credits include an adaptation of an Albert Camus play as Bajo la metralla (Felipe Cazals, 1983) and the first fiction film about 1968, Rojo amanecer (Jorge Fons, 1989). In addition, there is an extra on the DVD version of Los de abajo where the actor, Eric del Castillo, who plays the protagonist, talks about how he workshopped the play (the novel was adapted for the stage several times) and he asserts that his input is integral to the film adaptation. This is an interesting assertion of creative control and complicates any auteurist reading of the film. It is possible to speculate on other motivations for this extra. It might be a way of encouraging those put off by González’s past to watch the film or for del Castillo to position himself as a serious actor rather than as a telenovela (soap opera) actor for which he is famous.

Bibliography

Baron, Jaimie (2014)  The Archive Effect Oxon & New York: Routledge.

Brunow, Dagmar (2015) Remediating Transcultural Memory: Documentary Filmmaking as Archival Intervention Berlin & Boston: de Gruyter.

 

 

 

Alejandro G. Iñárritu Day at Sussex

I was invited to participate in a one day symposium on the Mexican filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu (as he has now taken to naming himself). Alongside Paul Julian Smith, Geoffrey Kantaris, Deborah Shaw and Dolores Tierney who gave fascinating papers bringing new approaches to this well-studied director, I gave a talk on melodramatic masculinity in his films. The talks were recorded by Catherine Grant and posted on Mediático and and can be found here. I really enjoyed the talks and discussion the first time around and look forward to catching some more of the detail on further listening.

María Félix – on happenstance and segueways in online research

I am writing a chapter on women in world cinema taking Mexico as a case study. No doubt, I will write more on this anon. Here, I want to post a short reflection on a brief segueway in my research.

In the chapter I am planning on including an analysis of the actor Diana Bracho and her performative style (this may change in the edit). While quickly scanning her imdb page to check the English title of a film, I spotted an entry that says she plays María Félix in a short called “María Bonita” that purportedly was released in 2015. As I have carried out considerable work on Félix, I was intrigued. I set about trying to see if I could source it. According to reports online the film is about an episode in the director, Amanda de la Rosa Frisccione’s life, when Félix stayed in her parent’s house in Veracruz in the 1990s. At the time, the former was in her mid-teens and the latter in her 80s. Unlike what the imdb page says, in the reports the 20 minute short is called “Belleza eterna” [Eternal Beauty]. I tried to find the film online and came across an interesting interview with Bracho who discusses taking on the role of Félix and bringing to it her own recollections of who Félix was. I also came across two short videos made of the shoot, that are both under 30 seconds. Their brevity reveal little about the film and could be counted both as teasers, because of the brief glimpses of Bracho as Félix in the recognisable wardrobe of late-period Félix, and as paratextual ephemera typical of YouTube.

In part, I am writing this as a way of logging a short deviation from a project I am working on and my delight in how apparently disparate routes can take me somewhere new with ongoing long-term projects. It is also a way of briefly describing how the Internet is a productive, if flawed, research tool, and can lead me towards work that exists but I cannot access. Knowing what is out there is great, not being able to watch it is a constant frustration. This is not a full stop. I will pursue this and see what can be uncovered by other means. If I’m successful I will update my discoveries here. In the meantime, I must get back to the chapter at hand.

Re-Framing Mexican Women’s Filmmaking: the case of Marcela Fernández Violante

I have recently completed editing on a chapter entitled, “Re-Framing Mexican Women’s Filmmaking:  the case of Marcela Fernández Violante” that will come out in 2016 in Debbie Martin and Deborah Shaw edited collection of essays, Latin American Filmmakers: Production, Politics, Poetics (I.B. Tauris).

Whilst researching for a monograph (2013) on political violence in Mexican cinema I encountered an anomaly in the critical assessment of 1970s history: Marcela Fernández Violante (1941-). For that project I was interested in what is called the independent period of filmmaking, and why, in the aftermath of the 1968 student protests, filmmakers chose to make films about the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). Films like Reed, México insurgente (Paul Leduc, 1972) garner considerable critical attention, yet I was the first to write about Fernández Violante’s Cananea (1976). This is despite Fernández Violante’s film being technically skillful, reflecting political concerns, and returning to an originary story of the Revolution related to a key historical figure, like that of Leduc. Unable to find much about her in histories of the 1970s, I searched for analyses of her work in the histories of women filmmakers in Mexico and she is mentioned, but with little attention to her work. This is despite the fact that she is a formidable and noteworthy presence in Mexican cinema and a woman of many firsts. In 1969, she was one of the first graduates from the film school, the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográfico (CUEC). In 1977, she was the first woman admitted into the film director’s union, and was the director of the CUEC from 1984-8. She had a notable start to her career, her first film, Azul (1967), a short about Frida Kahlo, won her an Ariel –a Mexican industry award- while still at film school. She has subsequently made 8 features up to her 2002 film, Acosada: De piel de víbora [Accosted: snakeskin], as well as a 30 minute episode on one of the pioneering Mexican female directors, Matilde Landeta (1910-1999), as part of the television documentary series, Los nuestros [Our Own] (1987). Despite this body of work and her influential position in central roles, I could not help wonder why there is so little critical analysis. Then, I read the interviews. There are a number of them and they are forthright assertions of her career goals, where she feels she belongs, and who and what came between her and greater success. This is not the usual diplomatic language of someone in filmmaking, a field that relies on goodwill, teamwork, and where it is rare to get a full account of what went wrong in a project.

Her direct, sometimes spikey, approach in interviews makes her voice a fascinating source for Mexican film history, and as a woman she is perforce a marginal figure, which makes it an act of recovery in alternative history telling and a challenge to conventional narratives. Therefore, I make extensive reference to what she has to say. My chapter is about recovering the untold by looking at two of her feature films, De todos modos Juan te llamas [General’s Daughter/Whatever You Do It’s No Good] (1975) and Misterio (1980). The first is a personal project that was supported by the university and she was a hired director for the latter. Both of the films analysed here are individually significant because they mark different modes of filmmaking and exemplify the developments both in her career and in the Mexican film industry. My chapter is also about asserting the need to reconsider how Mexican film history is told. Inserting Fernández Violante into the history of Mexican cinema shows that the current models merit revision.

Cine de la Revolución en Linea / Films of the Revolution Online: Reading and Viewing

If you want to carry out online research on films of the Mexican Revolution there are a small number of resources to guide you. I thought I’d curate a sample that includes a range from the introductory to the applied. All of these are in Spanish.

Very short reads (and some viewing)

Coinciding with the 2010 centenary commemorating the start of the Revolution, there have been several short summaries and overviews. Here are a sampling. This one from a tourist site focuses on key historical figures and another site aimed at women readers has short descriptions accompanied by clips. Many of these short articles mention some of the usual categories: early documentary, Golden Age/Studio system era films, controversial canned films and some recent releases. This listicle of the top ten unmissable [imperdible] films starts, unusually, with Sergei Eisenstein’s ¡Que viva México! (1932), and, even more unusually, includes six films made after 2000. These all serve as good starting points for those looking to get a brief glimpse into the range of films made.

Slightly longer read

This article goes beyond the scope of the expected and expands horizons considerably by mentioning both well-known and lesser-known titles. It also includes the news (in 2009) that Johnny Depp (as Pancho Villa) and Salma Hayek (as the woman, presumably) was due to appear in a film by Emir Kusturica called Seven Friends of Pancho Villa and the Woman with Six Fingers. In 2011, Depp was reported to have dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and this project no longer appears to be going ahead. I had not come across this before and now feel intrigued by the news. The author, Óscar Díaz Rodríguez, also includes some figures obtained from the UNAM’s film archive,  “Se consignan 619 títulos sobre la Revolución Mexicana desde el inicio del cine hasta nuestros días, de los cuales 134 son documentales nacionales y 186 extranjeros; así que 156 filmes son de ficción y 143 son extranjeros”. That’s 619 films about the Mexican Revolution (up to 2009), 134 Mexican documentaries, 186 foreign made, 156 Mexican fiction films and 143 foreign made fiction films, which gives a sense of the significance and scale of production.

For longer reads and research (and brief viewing)

A more in-depth site was created by researchers from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). It has a good overview, a detailed bibliography, posters, and film clips from a range of periods and styles of fiction and non-fiction films. There is also a searchable database of films. It’s not exhaustive, but it is very impressive. It is also not clear whether further work has been carried out since 2009 as this is the only date on the site and it does not include many of the recent books that came out since 2010.

Where next

As someone who goes online periodically to see what is new and whether there are expanded resources out there, I want to capture what I come across as a form of archiving what I see and also to trace changes in what I find. It has grown a little since I began my own project, but has still considerable capacity for further growth (619+ films!). I would love to hear from anyone who is working on projects that I have not yet seen or who would like to discuss the possibility of contributing to the database that I am gradually expanding or, indeed, who would like to work with me to explore the many un(der)researched films of the Revolution.