Historically, Los Angeles and its exhibition market have been central to the international success of Latin American cinema. Not only was Los Angeles a site crucial for exhibition of these films, but it became the most important hub in the western hemisphere for the distribution of Spanish language films made for Latin American audiences. Cinema between Latin America and Los Angeles builds upon this foundational insight to both examine the considerable, ongoing role that Los Angeles played in the history of Spanish-language cinema and to explore the implications of this transnational dynamic for the study and analysis of Latin American cinema before 1960. The volume editors aim to flesh out the gaps between Hollywood and Latin America, American imperialism and Latin American nationalism in order to produce a more nuanced view of transnational cultural relations in the western hemisphere.
In the 1920s, as American films came to dominate Mexico's cinemas, many of its cultural and political elites feared that this "Yanqui invasion" would turn Mexico into a cultural vassal of the United States. In Making Cinelandia, Laura Isabel Serna contends that Hollywood films were not simply tools of cultural imperialism. Instead, they offered Mexicans on both sides of the border an imaginative and crucial means of participating in global modernity, even as these films and their producers and distributors frequently displayed anti-Mexican bias. Before the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, Mexican audiences used their encounters with American films to construct a national film culture. Drawing on extensive archival research, Serna explores the popular experience of cinemagoing from the perspective of exhibitors, cinema workers, journalists, censors, and fans, showing how Mexican audiences actively engaged with American films to identify more deeply with Mexico.
In Mexican Melodrama, Elena Lahr-Vivaz explores the compelling ways that new-wave Mexican directors use the tropes and themes of Golden Age films to denounce the excesses of a nation characterized as a fragmented and fictitious construct. Analyzing big hits and quiet successes of both Golden Age and new-wave cinema, the author offers in each chapter a comparative reading of films from the two eras, considering, for instance, Amores perros (Love’s a Bitch, Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000) alongside Nosotros los pobres (We the Poor, Ismael Rodríguez, 1947). Through such readings, Lahr-Vivaz examines how new-wave directors draw from a previous generation to produce meaning in the present.
Mexico’s Golden Age of film—the period from the 1930s to the 1950s—is considered “golden” due to both the prestige of the era’s stars and the critical and popular success of the films released. Golden Age directors often turned to the tropes of melodrama and allegory to offer spectators an image of an idealized Mexico and to spur the formation of a spectatorship united through shared tears and laughter. In contrast, Lahr-Vivaz demonstrates that new-wave directors of the 1990s and 2000s use the melodramatic mode to present a vision of fragmentation and to open a space for critical resistance. In so doing, new-wave directors highlight the limitations rather than the possibilities of a unified spectatorship, and point to the need for spectators to assume a critical stance in the face of the exigencies of the present.
Written in an accessible style, Mexican Melodrama offers a timely comparative analysis of critically acclaimed films that will serve as key referents in discussions of Mexican cinema for years to come.