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LATIN AMERICA

Many of the countries of Central and South America had achieved independence in the twentieth century. However, they remained dominated by powerful countries like Britain and most especially the United States. This sometimes took the form of direct military intervention, as in the case of Cuba or Dominique. More commonly, the US dominated through political and economic means. Thus, the Organization of American States set up in 1954 served as a conduit and forum for political lines emanating from Washington.

The US equally dominated cultural life. A number of countries, notably Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, had major film industries. However, the Hollywood Corporations prevailed in both distribution and exhibition. Many Hollywood films used the peoples and countries of Latin America as an exotic backdrop for adventures built round rugged US males. 'The Treasure of Sierra Madre' was one 1950s film frequently cited critically by South American Cineastes. When Latin Americans were able to be stars in heir own right it was usually in the manner of Carmen Miranda, whose screen presence was a garish and slightly erotic pastiche of Brazilian culture.

In the 1950s, socially conscious filmmakers were already producing films that offered dramatically different images of life in the countries labouring under neo-colonialism. Fernando Birri in Argentina initiated a genre of Social Film Documents with 'Tire die' ['Throw me a Dime', 1958]. The film shows the lives of poor shantytown peoples, and the children begging dimes from passengers on passing trains. Another social documentary was 'El Megano', by the Cuban filmmaker Julio Garcia Espinosa. This detailed the lives of charcoal burners living in misery in the Zapata Swamps. The police seized one copy after a screening, regarding such social criticism as dangerous.

The recent Italian Neo-realist movement influenced both Birri and Espinosa. Their films were to become more politically conscious than the Italian films. However, they did learn from the use of different production approaches, non-professional actors and a style looser than that seen in Hollywood studio productions.

The liberation of Cuba in 1959 was a political shock to the system of domination in Latin America. It was also a cultural shock and the new type of art, including cinema, pioneered in Cuba in the early 1960s was to inspire filmmaker all over Latin America.

Resistance to neo-colonialism meant resistance to the puppet rulers subservient to US interests. Such resistance led to the frequent imposition of military rule by Juntas of officers, usually supported surreptitiously by the CIA. Repression most often increased resistance. So, in Argentina and in Brazil in the 1960s there were powerful cultural movements for freedom and self-expression. In both cases there were key manifestos arguing for a cinema of libertarian and seminal films that remain influential to this day.

Chile was another important site of political and cultural resistance. In 1967, at Viña del Mar, a film club movement organised a Latin American Film Festival. Out of this came the idea of a New Latin American Cinema: a cinema devoted to anti-colonial and anti-imperialist politcs, and embodying the characteristics that were expressed in 'Towards a Third Cinema'. Chile had an important film industry at this point, and a film school, which was influential throughout Latin America. However, Chile was to see the most brutal counter-revolution in 1973, when the military suppressed the democratic government and murdered thousand of people. Even now, in 2003, the perpetrators have escaped justice. This process of reaction was recorded in an important film of the New Latin American Cinema, 'The Battle of Chile', ['La Batalla De Chile', 1977] made in exile with support from the Cuban film industry. [The director Patricio Guzmán has now completed a 'Part 3, The Power of the People' ['El poder popular']: also three films made after he was able to return to Chile, 'Chile, Obstinate Memory' [1997], 'The Pinochet Case' [2001], and 'Salvador Allende' [2004].

In 1979, an Annual International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema was established in Havana. The Festivals have continued to showcase Cuban film and established filmmakers, filmmaking collectives and new cinemas across the continent. The latter have included Women's Film Group in Mexico; the Film Institute set up by the Sandinista after the ousting of the dictator Somoza: and first time films from countries like Ecuador and Guyana. Whilst some of the pioneers are no more, and some of the collectives have passed on, the Festival remains a focus for films, for seminars and discussions.


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L. AMERICA CHRONOLOGY
A chronology of Latin America
and Latin American Cinema




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FERNANDO SOLANAS



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Argentina achieved independence from Spain in 1810. Nevertheless, for most of the C19th and early C20th the country was dominated by British capital. Argentina's first film [silent] was shot in 1897. Silent cinema developed quickly, partly because there was a large urban audience, including many European migrants. In the 1920s, Hollywood successfully secured dominance in the film industries of Latin America, including the Argentinean. However, in the 1930s sound era Argentinean film, with two popular genres of Tango films and the 'social-folkloric', became the most successful film industry in Latin America. Decline set in with the 1940s, when there was a renewed Hollywood campaign for markets and a move by indigenous filmmakers to less popular European-style films.

This was the time when Juan Perón, with his iconic wife Eva, came to power. His particular brand of populism was overthrown by a military coup in 1955. The 1950s saw the Nuevo Cine film movement which returned to Argentinean themes. In 1956, Fernando Birri, partly influenced by Italian Neo-realism, established La Escuela Documental de Santa Fe. His pioneering documentary 'Tire dié' ['Throw me a dime'] was a seminal film across Latin America.

Military repression and the consequent resistance, based mainly among the Argentine working class, increased in the 1960s. The significant development in the cinema was the founding of the group Cine Liberación. For the group, "it would be a cinema of aggression, a cinema that would put an end to the irrationality that has come before it, an agit cinema. This does not mean that filmmakers should take on exclusively political or revolutionary themes, but that their films would thoroughly explore all aspects of life in Latin America today. This cinema, revolutionary in both its formulations and its consciousness, would invent a new cinematographic language, in order to create a new consciousness and a new social reality."

Two key members of the group, Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, collaborated on the key film, 'La hora de los hornos' ['The Hour of the Furnaces'] in 1968. The film was produced in a clandestine manner. For example, the processing was done in fragments so that overall content of the film would not be apparent. The form of the film strikingly used the montage approach pioneered decades earlier in the political cinema of the 1920s Soviet Union. When completed it was shown in screenings at meetings of workers, students and activists. The film was structured so that the projection could be halted and the content debated. Student barricades in the streets followed the most famous screenings, at the University in Montevideo. The film was an example of the call for a Third Cinema and a major influence in the development of The New Latin American Cinema.

This seething activity led to elections in 1973 and the return to power of Juan Perón. Solanas continued filmmaking whilst Getino became head of a new Censorship Board. However, Perón died in 1974 and was succeeded by his second wife Isabel. In 1976 there was a fresh military coup. Many filmmakers, including Solanas and Getino, went into exile. The military Junta ruled until 1983 and was one of the most vicious dictatorships in recent Latin American history. The defeat in the war with Britain over the Malvinas led to its collapse. Since then, Argentinean mainstream and Independent film has flourished again. Solanas has made several films, as have other filmmakers who show the influence of the Cinema Liberación movement. However, many of the Argentinean films seen in the UK adhere to the format represented by Hollywood and First Cinema.


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Poster for 'Hour of the Furnaces'


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Solanas was born in 1936. He worked in advertising before joining the group Cine Liberación in 1966. 'Hour of the Furnaces' was his first film, and it was co-scripted, co-photographed and co-edited with Octavio Getino. This filmmaking practice was the basis for the manifesto, jointly written by the two filmmakers, 'Toward a Third Cinema'. Their experiences in making that film form an important reference in the manifesto. It is clearly a documentary film that "directly and explicitly sets out to fight the system." In this case, that was both the repressive military system of controls in Argentina, and the imperialist policies of the United States that supported and underwrote that dictatorship.

The film not only uses the montage techniques associated with the 1920s Soviet Film Movement, but also is influenced by their practice in production and exhibition. The making of this film depended on the group and the movement.

"Guerrilla film-making proletarianises the film worker and breaks down the intellectual aristocracy that the bourgeoisie grants to its followers. In a word, it democratises."


The film took advantage of new film technologies of the 1960s:

"...the simplification of the movie cameras and tape recorders; improvements in the medium itself, such as rapid film that can be shot in normal light; automatic light meters; improved audio-visual synchronisation..."


The rupture with established conventions continued with the distribution and exhibition of the film.

"We thus discovered a new facet of cinema: the participation of people who, until then, were considered spectators. ... we incorporated into the showing various elements (a mise en scéne) to reinforce the themes of the film, the climate of the showing, the 'disinhibiting' of the participants, and the dialogue: recorded music or poems, sculpture and paintings, posters, a programme director who chaired the debate and presented the film..."


With the return of Peronist government, Solanas' work, like that of Getino at the Censorship Board, moved much closer to the mainstreams. The later films that followed on from his exile during the dictatorship are closer to the second cinema of the authors.

Tangos's 'The Exile of Gardel' [1985], 'Sur' ['South', 1988] and 'El Viaje' ['The Voyage', 1991] are all co-productions involving Argentinean and French investment. In addition, they circulated in the International Art Film Circuit.

When Solanas' most recent film, 'La Nube (The Cloud)' [1998] was presented at an International Film Festival he claimed it was "not a political film, but a social film". However, at an earlier discussion he did suggest that the 1988 film 'Sur' was a Third Cinema film. In addition, the more recent 'El Viaje' seems also to possess the same qualities. It clearly did not enjoy the collective production or unconventional exhibition of 'Hour of the Furnaces'. However, offering a picaresque voyage through the Latin American continent, using a bricolage of satire, exposé and cartoons, it did share some of the political attack and provocation offered by the earlier film. It also used a Brechtian style narrative, broken down into chapters, which clearly delineated the objects of political criticism.

Solanas would appear to be still setting out to make films that "explicitly confront the system".


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Santiago Alvarez (1926-1998)

TOMÁS GUTIÉRREZ ALEA (1928-1996)



ICAIC

(The Cuban Institute of the Cinematographic Art and Industry)

40 years of a novel Cuban glance

The Cuban Institute of the Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1999. It was born in 1959 with the first law dealing with culture in the new Cuban state. In the 1960s there was a ferment of film-making and experimentation. Cuba had a fairly developed exhibition network, but dominated by Hollywood product. The intervention of the new state preserved this network but opened it up to indigenous and radical film. Certainly in the 1960s these new films were popular and well received.

A key film of this period was 'Memories of Underdevelopment' ['Memorias del subdearrollo', 1968] which used the techniques of counter-cinema to probe the ideology of the new society. There was a radical breakthrough in newsreel and documentary, represented most excitingly by the experimentation of Santiago Alvarez. Cultural developments in the other arts contributed to the new cinema. Leo Brouwer, a modernist composer, contributed musical scores to many of the films, both fictional and factual. Artists like Raul Martinez produced biting, colourful posters for the films.

Since Liberation Cuba has been has been the object of an economic boycott led by the USA. In the 1960s and 1970s economic co-operation with the Soviet Union kept the Cuban economy fairly stable. The military co-operation led to the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s. ['Memories of Underdevelopment' deals with these events]. Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 the Cuban economy was in difficulties. And there was a major crisis in the early 1990s. This has affected all economic and cultural activities including ICAIC.

So, in the 1990s, whilst filmmaking continued, it perforce used video. Several features made in the 1990s remain undistributed because the Institute cannot afford to make 35mm copies.

Since 1979 Havana has hosted a Latin American Film Festival which still continues. This hosts Cuban films, International films, and, importantly, the work of film-makers round Latin America. This has provided a refuge for those forced into exile. The most notable being Fernando Birri and Patricio Guzman, whose 'The Battle of Chile' was completed with support from ICAIC.


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Poster for 'The Last Supper'




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Santiago Alvarez (1926-1998)

TOMÁS GUTIÉRREZ ALEA (1928-1996)



Santiago Alvarez (1926-1998)

Alvarez joined the Cuban Communist Party in the 1940s and was active in campaigns against the then dictator, Baptista. He joined the newly formed ICAIC after the revolution and soon began to specialise in newsreels and cine-journalism. Over two decades he made as series of documentary films on the Cuban revolution and the International struggle. He became a noted exponent of montage form, though he remarked that he evolved the style before he was aware of the work of Eisenstein.

The best films of Alvarez not only capture the activities of a revolutionary society, they articulate the politics of this world. An early film 'Ciclon' ['Hurricane', 1963] uses the natural catastrophes of the area to explore the struggles of the Cuban people. 'Now' [1965] is a biting piece of agit-prop, which satirically exposes the hypocritical polices of L.B.J. [Lyndon B. Johnson, US President] and the USA.

Two particularly powerful films present and explore the war of liberation in Vietnam. 'Hanoi Martes 13' [1967] shows the experience of the US bombing of the city and its population. '79 Primaveras' ['79 Springtimes', 1969] opens with the funeral of Ho Chi Minh, presented in powerful slow motion. It is followed by a literal shower of revolutionary images and slogans. It is a powerful expression of the internationalism that was present in the Cuban struggle, especially in the 1960s.

The latter film, like a number made by Alvarez, has music by Leo Brouwer, a Cuban composer. His music is both experimental yet very effective. It provides a musical counterpoint to the visual dynamism of Alvarez filmmaking. Both exemplify a cinematic culture able to make films that communicated with ordinary people, yet were both clearly politically conscious and at the same time cinematically progressive.


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Santiago Alvarez (1926-1998)

TOMÁS GUTIÉRREZ ALEA (1928-1996)



TOMÁS GUTIÉRREZ ALEA
(1928-1996)

Gutiérrez was born in Havana in 1928, and made his first short films in the 1940s, before studying filmmaking in Rome at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. In this way, like a number of Latin American filmmakers, he was influenced by the Italian Neo-realist movement.

On returning to Cuba he became involved with the revolutionary movement led by Fidel Castro and worked in a clandestine film unit. After the revolution he was responsible for its first feature, 'Histories de la revolution' ['Stories of the Revolution', 1960]. Over the years he was responsible for a number of key fictional features. His 'La muerte de un burocrata' ['Death of a Bureaucrat', 1966], a savage satire on bureaucracy.

In 1968 he made 'Memorias del subdesarollo' ['Memories of Underdevelopment']. Set in the 1960s, this was the first Cuban film to be released in the USA The film focuses on a Europeanized Cuban intellectual, too idealistic (or lazy) to leave for Miami, but too decadent to fit into the new Cuban society. The film clearly relates the protagonists class alienation. But is also offers powerful portrayal of Cuban society during the period of attempted US invasion, The Bay of Pigs*, and the nuclear missile stand-off between the USA and USSR. Alea uses a challenging combination of fictional narrative and documentary footage, combined in an editing style, which follows the mantras of Soviet montage.

His other major film is 'La Ultima Cena' ['The Last Supper', 1976]. This is a powerful portrait of a slave plantation and rebellion. The film clearly charts the oppressive nature of the plantation owner and the unholy ideological support offered by the church. The Last Supper sequence is as macabre and rich in irony as the parallel scene in Luis Buñuel’s 'Viridiana' [1960]. But in depicting the rebellion and its suppression the film clearly delineates the system of exploitation.

'Strawberry and Chocolate' [1993] tells the story of David, a student at Havana University, who is devastated when his girlfriend marries someone else. When he meets a gay artist, Diego, he is drawn to his cultured lifestyle and friendship forms between them.

Gutiérrez’s last film, 'Guantanamera' [1995] portrayed a comical effort by Cubans to move the coffin of a woman who died in eastern Cuba to Havana despite the lack of gasoline and other resources. Released in 2000, “it illustrated the absurdity of daily life as we live it in Cuba today,” Gutiérrez said.

Alea was also a working member of ICAIC and wrote important theoretical article on radical cinema and its audience.


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INTERVIEW WITH Jorge Sanjinés

Sanjinés' cinema with the people



Ukamau

The new Cuban cinema was extremely influential throughout Latin America. Radical developments also took place in other countries. In Chile there was a new type of cinema and a new type of culture. The University of Chile organised a Film Archive. A film Festival was founded at Viño del Mar. And in 1969 this hosted the first continental meeting of filmmakers in Latin America. One of the young directors, Miguel Littín compiled a manifesto and became head of the Government Agency, Chile Films. The new films were radical in their form and style, and frequently political. All this experimentation was bought to an abrupt halt with the US backed coup against the Elected President, Salvador Allende.

A number of young filmmakers from elsewhere in Latin America had already benefited from training in Chile. One of the most notable was the Bolivian filmmaker, Jorge Sanjinés. Working with a small circle, which became the Ukamau group, Sanjinés created a film school and a cine club. He came to wider attention with the feature 'Yawar Malku' ['Blood of the Condor', 1969]. This exposed the covert sterilisation policies of the North American Peace Corps. The film was both a political event and an award winner at European Film Festivals.

The films of Sanjinés and Ukamau are predominantly set among the Indian communities in the High Andes. They focus on the Quechua and Aymaran Indian nations, situated in the Andean mountain ranges throughout Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. Their subsequent films have included 'El coraje del pueblo' ['The Courage of the People', 1971] about a massacre of striking miners in 1967 in Bolivia: 'El enemigo principal' ['The Principal Enemy', 1974] looking at guerrilla warfare in Peru: and 'La Nacion Clandestina' ['The Clandestine Nation', 1989], studies a man caught between his loyalties to his people and traditional way of life and the lure of the modern. [This latter film was screened on Channel 4. 16mm prints of the films are available from the Workers Film Association via email: wfa@timewarp.co.uk].


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INTERVIEW WITH Jorge Sanjinés

Sanjinés' cinema with the people



INTERVIEW WITH Jorge Sanjinés

(Now unavailable - see reference below. The idiosyncrasies are from the original or translation)

Part of ping pong with Jorge Sanjinés

Contemporary scenario writer among most known of Latin America, Jorge Sanjinés, born in Bolivia, carries a critical glance on his country and the world.

Cinema and engagement: interview realized in Freiburg, site of the International Film Festival (FIFF) By Sergio Ferrari

Sergio Ferrari's question: The demonstrations of February 2003 made 33 died, which are added to those of the movements which took place at the beginning of January. What does it occur to Bolivia?

Jorge Sanjinés' response: We live a true social, collective insurrection. A historical phenomenon without precedent in the world, and which thus has a significant significance. For the first time, the Indians made their entry in the political structures: since the last elections, they have 40 deputies, that is to say a third of the seats of the Parliament. They therefore did not forsake, as social actors, the fight on the stratum, the stoppings of road, the mobilization.

Vis-a-vis this rising tide, the sector which dominates the capacity as well as the traditional parties show a stupid incomprehension. They do not want to see that the things change nor to take into account new reality, because their behavior of always is to exclude.

SF: A kind of blindness ethnique?

JS: Ethnique and cultural. They do not include/understand other Bolivia, or do not want to include/understand it. They are unaware of the Indian culture. They scorn it. It continues to appear to them without any importance. They do not manage to see that the Indians have a logic different from that of the occident: a logic collectivist, which is not pyramidal, to which the relation ordre/obéissance is foreign, which is born from the people and which are in work in the people. A country leader never decides only. This herméneutique which leads them to base the decision on the consultation of the other mark the trade unions and defines a number of social movements. We have another political culture there.

SF: It is thus about a confrontation between two opposite visions of the universe and the life?

JS: Indeed. The key element in this new way of making of the policy since the base, it is the experiment of another political ethics. It missed in Bolivia - and in much of other Latin-American countries - an essential thing that unrestrained corruption had asphyxiated. Today, the Indians show at the company that they have a different ethics. Allow me to give you some examples. The parties receive a subsidy to carry out their election campaigns. After the elections, Movimiento Al Socialismo (Movement towards socialism), directed by Evo Morals, returned to the State what it had not used. That had never been seen. It was an established fact which the sums not used remained in the pockets of the parties. Other fact which does not miss interest: a many Indian deputies do not have their M.P.'s salary, which is relatively significant since it rises with 4 000 dollars per month. They give it to their communities and it is the area which decides the use of it.

SF: To the two opposite designs of the company, towards where Bolivia will return from there? Which can be its future?

JS: The situation can become dangerous. As long as the capacity will be unable to include/understand, the massacres, deaths, the social suffering will continue. I would not like to be alarmist, but this situation of social confrontation is perilous because the white class and the mongrels do not accept that Bolivia can be controlled by Indians. I speak in the short run. It is very possible that the next elections, in four years - if as well is as this government holds until the end of its mandate - carry to the capacity an Indian president.

But it is impossible to envisage all that can occur. Who would have imagined, only five years ago, which the Indians, the peasants, the parties which they created, would play such a significant role? If the sector which is still dominating does not want to see new reality, does not want to accept the presence of the Indians in the State, the new social actors more will not give up defending their rights and fighting to make succeed their claims. They show it besides each day...

If one throws a glance behind, one notes that the social fights which have developed for two years touch very significant aspects for the capacity: the revolt of the producers of Coke, fights massive against the privatization of water and the adjustment néolibéral...

It is true. The mobilization of the Indian peasants shows that they are a high aware and a true capacity to make proposals. At the Parliament, the two parties which represent them advance proposals in agreement with their program which are of a great clearness. The remainder of the members of Parliament does not listen to them. During this time people are in the street, to not only defend of the short-term claims, but still with very clear objectives, like the refusal of the Free trade area of Americas (ZLEA).

SF: How to summarize your life of scenario writer?

JS: Twelve films, including nine full-length films. Two well defined stages. One, until 1978 - date on which the democracy returned to Bolivia - was marked by the production of films of denunciation. Inter alia, "Sangre de Cóndor", "El Coraje del Pueblo"; "Fuera de Aquí", "El Enemigo Principal"; . Then, I could devote me to topics of reflexion: "Nación Clandestina", which treated cultural identity, "El Canto of los Pájaros" which analyzed racism and discrimination.

SF: Which is they the role of the engaged intellectuals, which challenges must raise today, you in particular, like significant personality of the cinema?

JS: We must support the process of reflexion on itself where the company engaged. I propose to make a film as soon as possible to contribute my share to this effort. I want to approach the shock of the two designs of the life about which I spoke, from these two Bolivia which does not manage to get along, of the exclusion of the Indian, impatient majority to today play again an active role in the construction of the nation.

SF: You seem to want to go very quickly. A certain anguish?

JS: Yes, a little! I wasted time to create a non-profit-making association (Grupo Ukamau). Almost three years without making film. I want to work quickly, to make profitable current democratic space, the absence of censure. I smell myself badly, for example, when I think that during the military dictatorship, some of my films were prohibited in Bolivia and were projected only abroad.

But I live this stage in effervescence and with enthusiasm. I am happy to see that the Indian people find his force, take the way of his self-management and show myself also ready to exert his right to control the country.

Part of ping pong with Jorge Sanjinés Evo Morals? "a young remarkable leader who has a gigantic responsibility. It arrives there very well. It has a great future. "

Does the war counter Iraq? The cynical and disproportionate claim to seize oil and to control this significant area of planet?

Europe today? I delighted by the attitude adopted by some countries like Germany and France, but I do not know if they are truly opposite with the war or if there are other interests behind.

The new Latin-American cinema? The explosion of the participation. The fall of the production costs - thanks to new technologies - opens new possibilities with the young scenario writers. Today, of new talents can contribute their share to the cinematographic art. Unthinkable a few times ago.

Sanjinés today? "Always the same one"

[Interview translated automatically by google.com from an interview by Sergio Ferrari. Although no longer accessible, originally found at www.cityinfonetz.de and copied from here in June 2004]


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INTERVIEW WITH Jorge Sanjinés

Sanjinés' cinema with the people



SANJINÉS – A CINEMA WITH THE PEOPLE

In 1979 Sanjinés also published a manifesto 'The Theory & Practice of a Cinema with the People'. In a key passage the manifesto spells out the general approach.

"A film about the people made by an author is not the same as a film made by the people through an author. As the interpreter and translator of the people, such an author becomes their vehicle. When the relations of creation change, so does content and, in a parallel process, form."


The manifesto draws lessons from the filmmaking practice of the group, especially their work with Indian communities.

"When we filmed 'Blood of the Condor' with the peasants of the remote Kaata community, we certainly intended that the film should be a political contribution, denouncing the gringos and presenting a picture of Bolivian social reality. But our fundamental objective was to explore our own aptitudes. We cannot deny this, just as we cannot deny that our relations with the peasant actors were at that time still vertical. We till chose shots according to our own personal taste, without taking into account their communicability or cultural overtones. The script had to be learned by heart and repeated exactly. In certain scenes we put the emphasis entirely on sound, without paying attention to the needs of the spectators, for whom we claimed we were making the film. They needed images, and complained later when the film was shown to them."


Their understanding of the particular quality needed for a more relevant and combative art in this situation led them to develop distinctive production and exhibition policies.

"During the filming of 'Courage of the People', many scenes were worked out on actual sites of the historical events we were reconstructing, through discussion with those who had taken part in them and who had a good deal more right than us to decide how things should be done. Furthermore, these protagonists interpreted the events with a force and conviction which professional actors would have found difficult. These companeros not only wanted to convey their experiences with the same intensity with which they had lived them, but also fully understood the political objectives of the film, which made their participation in it an act of militancy. They were perfectly clear about the usefulness of the film as a means of declaring throughout the country the truth of what had happened. So they decided to make use of it as they would a weapon. We, the members of the crew, became instruments of the people's struggle, as they expressed themselves through us! ...."


The manifesto goes on the explain how the film style, as for example the use of long shots and long takes, follows from this approach. It also describes how the group took their films to the Indians in their high and fairly inacessible places.

" In Bolivia, before the appalling eruption of fascism there, the Ukamau Group's films were given intensive distribution. 'Blood of the Condor' was seen by nearly 250,000 people! We were not content to leave this distribution solely to the conventional commercial circuits, and took the film to the countryside together with projection equipment and a generator to allow the films to be shown in villages where there is no electricity. The results were exciting."


The manifesto quotes similar exhibition strategies for 'Courage of the People' in Ecuador The films that came out of this political strategy are very different from western films, from the mainstream or from auteurs. They are presenting a different reality and therefore use different techniques to achieve this.

Michael Chanan's documentary on 'New Cinema of Latin America', 'Cinema of the Humble' and 'The Long Road', contains interviews with other filmmaker working in the Andes and sharing some of the approaches of Sanjinés. In the making of 'Our Voice, Memory and Death' [Columbia, 1981] they recounted how the Indian participants in the film worked with them on the editing. They discovered that what appear to be Indian superstitions were stories that analysed the relationship between the people and the exploiting landlords, 'a sort of idea of surplus value'. Their film went onto include such images from the culture of the Indians. This type of filmmaking fits the demands both of Fanon's 'combative art' and Solanas and Getino's 'films the system cannot assimilate'

[The manifesto by Sanjinés is reprinted in 'New Latin American Cinema Volume One', edited by Michael T. Martin, published by Wayne State University Press, 1997 under the title 'Problems of Form and Content in Revolutionary Cinema']


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Contemporary Latin American Cinema

Many of the radical developments of the past decades in Latin America have fallen before the pressure of internal oppression and external exploitation. Whilst Cuban film-makers continue to develop their art they have suffered as Cuban society generally has suffered from changes globally. Community based film projects, as in Nicaragua, have been overtaken by political changes. Argentina and Brazil have emerged from military dictatorships but remain buffeted by the imperialist institutions such as the World Bank. Some of the pioneers continue their work, both Fernando Solanas and Jorge Sanjinés continue film work and political work. And new, younger film-makers have emerged, including in countries where films were not previously produced.

Only a limited amount of this work is seen in Europe, and then often only at Festivals. Some of the more popular films have been picked up by major distributors, frequently the Hollywood company Miramax. The Argentinean film 'Nine Queens' [Argentina, 2002] did well, though it was clearly a caper movie modelled on the Hollywood format. Other film with a stronger indigenous content like 'Amores Perros'[Mexico, 2000], 'Y Tu Mama Tanbien' [Mexico, 2001] and 'City of God' [Brazil, 2002] have been art house hits. Their politics are, though, are fairly oblique, and lack the confrontational stance of the earlier political films.

The Argentinean director Walter Salles has developed a series of films with a strong political focus. His new biopic of the young Guevara, 'Motorcycle Diaries' [2003], an international co-prodcution, offers more politics than many critics allow. But clearly a film that dealt with Che's participation in the Cuban revolution and/or his internationalist activities in the 1960s would be more powerfully confrontational.


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