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July 2008, Week 4


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Giorgio Bertellini <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 22 Jul 2008 10:31:30 -0400
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Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference
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Panel: Modernity’s Other Landscapes: Early Cinema and Race in Latin

Organizer: Giorgio Bertellini
Screen Arts and Cultures
University of Michigan
6545 Haven Hall
505 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

E-Mail Address: [log in to unmask]

Summary: 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
[log in to unmask]) by August 8. Notification of acceptance to the
panel will be emailed by August 15.

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