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Core Course Lent 2021

Centre of Latin American Studies


Early Cinema and Modernity in Latin America

Maite Conde

This session examines early cinema in Latin America, exploring how the technological medium’s arrival and dissemination (exhibition and distribution) in the region was linked to and refracted by socio-political transformations in the region, specifically in relation to the continent’s incipient modernity impelled by new nation states. This entails looking at how the cinema’s language of display that is its visuality was linked to a wider spectacle of modern life, one that was refracted by the medium’s global origins and reach. In doing so the session considers how film’s reconfiguration of time and of space were part of Latin America’s invention of modernity. This allows us to discuss how ideas of Latin America’s hybrid modernity were visualised, and to interrogate attendant social and political ramifications, which includes questions of class and race.

Key Issues

  • Early cinema
  • cinema of attractions
  • mimicry
  • modernity
  • republicanism
  • positivism
  • hybridity
  • liberalism

Filmography (all available online)

  • Selection of films from Resgate do Cinema silencioso Brasileiro
  • Nobleza Gauchesca (Cairo, 1915)
  • Aura o las violetas (Di Domenico, 1923)
  • São Paulo, Sinfonia da metropole (Lustig and Kemeny, 1929)

Required Reading

  • Benjamin, Walter. ‘The Work of art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,’ in Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt (London: Pimlico, 1999), pp. 211-244.
  • Conde, Maite. Foundational Films. Early Cinema and Modernity in Brazil (Berkely, U of California P, 2018), Introduction and part 1.(online UL)
  • Gunning Tom. 'The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, its Spectator and the Avant-Garde', in Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, ed. Thomas Elsaesser (London: BFI Publishing, 1990), pp. 56-65.
  • López, Ana M. ‘Early Cinema and modernity,” Cinema Journal 40.1 (2000): 48-79.

Further Reading

  • Anderson, Perry, “Marshall Berman. Modernity and Revolution,” in A Zone of Engagement. London: Verso, 1992),pp. 25-56.
  • Berman, Marshall, All that is solid, Melts into Air. The Experience of Modernity. London: Verso, 2010), Introduction.
  • Bruno, Guiliana. Streetwalking on a Ruined Map. Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elivira Notari. New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1993, Introduciton.
  • Canclini, Néstor Garcia, Hybrid Cultures. Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity. (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2005), pp. 41-66.
  • Charney, Leo and Vanessa Schwarz (eds).  Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life (Berkeley: U of California P, 1995), pp. 1-15.
  • King, John. Magical Reels. A History of Latin American Cinema. (London: Verso, 2000), pp. 7-31.
  • Kraniauskas, John, ‘Hybridity in a Transnational Frame. Latin Americanist and Postcolonial perspectives on Cultural Studies,’ in The Latin American Cultural Studies Reader, Eds. Ana Del Sarto, Alicia Rios and Abril Trigo (Durham: Dukep UP, 2004), pp. 736-770.
  • Navitski, Rielle, ‘Silent and Early Sound Cinemas in Latin America. Local, National and Transnational Perspectives,’ in The Routledge Companion to Latin American Cinema .Eds. Marvin D’Lugo Ana M. López and Laura Podalsky, 2017. pp. 31-43.
  • Navitski, Rielle, Public Spectacles of Violence. Sensational Cinema and Journal in Early Twentieth Century Mexico and Brazil (Durham: Duke UP, 2017).
  • Rama, Angel. The lettered City (Durham: Duke UP, 1996), chapter 3.
  • Salles Gomes, Paulo Emílio. ‘The Social Expression of Documentary Films in Silent Brazilian Cinema,’ in Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes. On Brazil and Global Cinema, Eds. Maite Conde and Stephanie Dennison (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2018), pp.
  • Schwarz, Roberto. Misplaced Ideas, Essays on Brazilian Culture. (London: Verso, 1991), Chapter 2.
  • Serna, Laura Isabel. American Films and Mexican Film Culture Before the Golden Age (Durham: Duke UP, 2014).