From “Third Cinema” to “Latin American film”
Written by Samantha Holland , May 16
Globalisation, national identity and the demise of political filmmaking
This article stems from concerns I have about the label “Latin American film,” or “Latin American cinema,” because the films to which it refers are so diverse, but the label homogenises them – and, by extension, the cultures from which they emerge. My concern is not primarily about the use of the term by people interested in film and culture – such as community members on this site! – but by the global film industry and by cultural theorists (where the former have vested interests in the label, and the latter should know better). In presenting some of these concerns, I describe changes that have lead to the widespread use and acceptance of this label, as well as aspects of the history of films and filmmaking in Latin American countries that makes such a label problematic for me and more generally.
Some recent developments in “Latin American cinema”
It’s no exaggeration to claim that what we currently call “globalisation” has since the 1990s changed the production and distribution of films from several Latin American countries almost beyond recognition and, as a result, changed the very perception of what is now generally termed “Latin American cinema” or “Latin American film.” And terminology is crucial here – both to the issues I discuss, and to the concerns I raise. Especially significant is that while many of the countries I’m discussing were until recently called “developing countries,” they’re now termed “emerging markets” – something that’s happened as free-trade ideas and practices spread across the subcontinent and its governments lessen their involvement in filmmaking. The term “emerging markets” immediately shifts the identities at issue from national to commercial ones – something perhaps especially significant in the context of Latin American countries, for which the expression of national identities has been so important and so central to filmmaking, and for which commercial success was until comparatively recently neither a crucial aim nor a particular indicator of success.
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