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Latin American Cinema


The film was directed by Margot Benacerraf, who was born in Caracas in 1927 to Sephardic immigrant parents from North Africa. She studied drama in New York and filmmaking in Paris. Her film Araya was received with great critical reception in Europe, with French film commentator stating that he found Araya to be “a dazzling revelation of Venezuelan cinema,” (Noriega 55). Araya takes place in Arayan peninsula within the Venezuelan state of Sucre. Located in northern Venezuela, the peninsula has been famous since colonial times for its wealth in salt production. In fact, the Spanish began constructed a fortress in the 17th century to put an end to foreign theft of salt in the peninsula. However, besides for salt and ocean, the landscape is barren and difficult to live in. When speaking about Araya, Benacerraf described her admiration for the dignity of Araya’s inhabitants who “managed to turn the same elements that made their (Benacerraf et al., p. 64). She believed this relation to be a metaphor for Latin America as a whole.

The movie is a 90-minute scripted documented that “depicts a 24-hour cycle in the subsistence ritual of three communities of salt gatherers and fishermen,” (Noriega 51). It is a movie that looks at its human subjects in relation to their physical environment as well as their present, past, and future. The 24-hour cyclical nature of the film lends itself for an understanding of the repetitive and brutal nature of the work — “it is the story of 24 hours in the life of a town, the saga of men who are condemned to repeating the same tasks,” (Noriega 64) — and yet the film ends with questions for the future. Depicting the arrival of mechanization at the end, the viewer is forced to grapple with the question(s): What will happen to the people of Araya in the face of the arrival of machinery? How will mechanization further conditions of exploitation?

Critiques of the film included its lack of inclusion of the people’s voice, something that may have been a result of Benacerraf’s deliberate choice to make the film a documentary that “employ[ed] a more poetic mode, a narrative shaped by scripted rather than spontaneous action,” (Benacerraf et al., p. 65).

Muscular structure in Araya

In Araya, we witness the bodily components of the work of the people of the Arayan peninsula. For centuries, since the Spanish began mining salt in the peninsula, the people of Araya have inherited these rhythmic movements that can be seen in the captures above from the film. They are repeated, cyclically, to the point that they unconscious movements carried out by the people of Araya — the movement of their bodies is governed by their work.

Their transportation of salt is done in similar manners, requiring muscular exertion to carry the salt up to the top of the piles. In addition, their movement of salt using boats displays a special relation between their aquatic landscape and their muscular structure. The work that they do is determined by the place they live and the productive role they find themselves fulfilling.

Mechanization arrives in Araya

The arrival of mechanization in Araya puts into question the future of the labor of the people of Araya. How will machines change how work is done in Araya? This makes the labor and movements of Araya perfect for developing into an exercise that helps undo muscular structures in the face of the arrival of something that will require a complete readjustment of centuries worth of muscular tradition. Find this exercise in the Rehearsal Exercises page.

The Battle of Chile

The Battle of Chile is a 3-part documentary film directed by Patricio Guzman, who was born in Santiago de Chile in 1941 and studied filmmaking at the Film Institute at the Catholic University of Chile and the Official School of Film in Madrid. The three parts of the film are The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie (1975), The Coup d’etat (1976), and Popular Power (1979); together they chronicle the political tensions of 1973 Chile and the military coup that ousted democratically-elected socialist Salvador Allende from power. It is a movie that “offers the viewer the vivid experience of being thrust into there midst of a society in crisis,” (ICARUS Films 2), depicting even the sequence in which a newsreel cameraman records their own death at the hands of military gunfire.

Filming for this project continued until the day of the coup and the project was pieced together abroad in Cuba with help from the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC). It was critically praised winning six Grand Prizes in Europe and Latin America and is, alongside La Hora de los Hornos, considered to be an exemplar film of political militancy.

Democratic expression in The Battle of Chile

The socialism we witness in this film is unique in that it is an expression of the popular will of the Chilean people; Salvador Allende was a firm believer in democracy and of the need to respect democratic tradition. We see this expression of democracy in a multitude of ways in the film.

The first part of the film opens with a series of interviews of the people of Chile, asking them about the electoral process. They are asked who they would like to win, whether or not they believe in the sanctity of elections, and more. We see the faces of the people and their expressions including smiles and joy from Allende supporters, and anger from members of the opposition.

Similarly, in part 3 the will of the people is demonstrated through their expressive movements in response to strikes in the nationalized industries. For example, we see supporters of Allende expressing their political will through protest in the streets and through the continuation of labor in the factory; they broke the picket fence in protest of the strikes and support of the revolution as they understood that producing under Allende was for their own benefit. On the other hand, the opposition can be seen expressing their will through their own movements in their own protests such as throwing smoke bombs at buses during the transportation strike.

Yawar Malku (The Blood of the Condor)

The Blood of the Condor is a 1969 anti-imperialist film directed by Jorge Sanjines, a Bolivian director born in 1937 in La Paz. He studied at La Paz’s San Andres University and the film institute at the Catholic University in Santiago de Chile.

The film depicts the “sterilization” of the minds of the dominant class of Bolivia which has led to an apathy towards the lives of indigenous people through the negligence that is presented towards Ignacio, who is left to bleed out, and the support towards the practices of the Peace Corps members that are sterilizing indigenous women. It is seen as a revolutionary film and call to action with an ending that results in the indigenous people defeating the Peace Corps and “raising their weapons in a symbolic call to arms,” (Campbell & Carlos 388) despite its usage of narrative. The film garnered such popular attention that it resulted in the expulsion of the Peace Corps from Bolivia within a year.

In addition, Blood of the Condor set the stage for the development of Sanjine’s collective theater which can be seen in one of his following features, The Courage of the People. Initial screenings of Blood of the Condor in popular peasants’ and workers’ centers allowed Sanjines to readjust the film to be more consistent with the ideals of popular cinema — he brought the people into the means of production.  He found that “Peasants resisted a work like Blood of the Condor because of its formal structure,” (Sanjines 1, 92). He learned that peasants, instead, reacted positively to collective filmmaking that discarded formal Euro-centric filmmaking structures.

“The sterilization carried out against innocent, humble women is only possible because another kind of sterilization process had already been carried out within the country which conditioned the minds of the dominant class to consent to foreign intervention, to the manipulation of their reality in favor of interests that are not exactly those of the country itself,” (Sanjines 1, 79).

Writing indigenous and peasant resistance

Written into the film are multiple forms of resistance to the foreign and domestic violence that indigenous communities face in Yawar Malku. For example, the collective community, after consulting their religious figures, decide to confront the Peace Corps for sterilizing their people with fire and had also earlier stood up to them by returning the clothing they had brought to them. Similarly at the individual level, Ignacio’s brother sought the doctor out at the conference and called him out for his apathy, for the doctor’s lack of care toward his dying brother. Since this was not a collectively produced film, we know these are narratives that were brought into the film by Sanjines, albeit oftentimes in consultation with the communities, and as such they provide a strong framework for the power that scripting and dramaturgy can have on formulating resistance.


Lucia is a large-scale film project backed by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) that, with three episodes, clocked in at over two and a half hours. The film plays a unique role among radical Latin American cinema being a movie produced in post-revolution Cuba and being a film that addresses the issues that remain to be solved in this post-revolutionary world — it is “a film that conversely acknowledges that many social problems have found no solution, even following the Revolution,” (Amot 109). It was directed by Humberto Solas and released in 1968.

The film explores Cuban history and social issues by relating the experience of three female characters named Lucia and their relationship to their male partners in three different periods of Cuban history: the 1895 Cuban war of independence, the 1933 rebellion against dictator Gerardo Machado, and the post-revolutionary period. The Lucia of the last episode is a countrywoman who is surrounded by a community that enjoys the freedoms of the revolution yet she continues to be defined by her relation to her Husband Tomas who is characterized by his machismo — he prohibits her from going out whether it be to work or even visit her mother. However, the film also depicts how the revolution can equip women with the tools to free themselves from interpersonal oppression; in the film, Lucia learns to read and write through revolutionary Cuba’s literacy program and uses her newly acquired knowledge to write a letter to Thomas ending their relationship. This conclusion is complicated by the ending which shows a reunion between Thomas and Lucia, where they fight and hug as a little girl watches on. Nevertheless, the film surfaces important questions about the societal issues that continue into the post-revolutionary world and the need to address them.

Sculpting hope and transition in Lucia

Lucia, through Lucia’s relationship with her husband, shows us the current state of patriarchal systems in post-revolutionary in that they are still very much there. Thomas is happy to implement the revolution outside of his home but in his home he is the one  that is in charge — he is “the man of the house”. He is violent towards Lucia, treating her as if she were his property. It is evident that something needs to change in order to bring revolution into the homes of the Cuban people and end the oppression of feminized bodies.

The film proposes a variety of strategies that can facilitate the transition. First Lucia utilizes writing to tell Thomas she is leaving him; in this way, she turns a tool of oppression on its head using her newly gained education to send away her husband — the person women have consistently relied on partly due to their lack of education. This represents one way in which revolution can free women for patriarchal systems — by arming them with the weapons needed to dismantle them. Additionally, Lucia is shown receiving the support of the other women in the film both in a collective manner, when they all chase down Thomas, and at the interpersonal level, when she seeks shelter the night she leaves Thomas. This solidarity and collective work is another example of how the patriarchy can be broken, or the transitional image.


Lucia also shows us images of hope, of the future. The movie ends with a girl looking on as Thomas and Lucia fight and kiss on the beach. She represents the generation of women that is being fought for — the women that will be free.

Oiga, Vea!

Oiga, Vea! is a Colombian documentary film directed by Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo who were among the founding members of The Cali Group, an interdisciplinary collective of young artists and intellectuals growing up in Cali between the 1950s and 1970s. The film aims to expose and counter “the bilingualism of the neocolonial situation”; in other words, the film’s goal is to demonstrate the differences in opposition with the cultural thinking patterns endorsed by the bourgeoisie versus those endorsed by the people (Gomez 5) — the films aims to attack powerful national structures.

The film was an opportunistic project that took advantage of the content provided by Cali’s position as host city of the Pan-American games in 1971. The games were being used by the city and country to pat themselves on the back — “civilized” and “modern”. The film is made in alignment from the perspective of the people who can’t attend the events but are forced to contribute to the games in the form of tax money. In addition, the extravagance of the games is juxtaposed with the impoverished economic conditions and abandonment of other parts of Cali, oftentimes through the usage of humorous opposing images. The film is a thesis on the exclusion of marginalized society from decision-making and the surpluses of capitalism.

The exclusion of the people in Oiga, Vea!

Oiga, Vea! uses shots to depict the exclusion of the people from the games. For example, still shots of the stadium are all demonstrated from the outside — as outsiders, like the people, we are unable to know what the inside of the stadium looks like. The people can also be seen gathering outside the stadiums and outside of fences to attempt to see the games. Despite one radio host claiming that “Behind these doors we leave behind rifts”, the captures make it evident that the rifts remain among socioeconomic classes. It is evident that people are left out of games’ production.

The richness of the stadium is also juxtaposed with the poorness of the people. We see impoverished children lining up for the train to the Pan American Games and the wooden shacks of the people of Cali.

Maria Candelaria

Maria Candelaria is a Mexican film directed by Emilio Fernandez that explores the fraught relationship between indigenous people, mestizos, and people of European origin through its protagonist Maria Candelaria. The film is different from many of the previously discussed movies in that it is not considered to be “third cinema”. In the film, Maria is disliked by the town because she has been deemed immoral due to her mother’s lifestyle — she was implied to be a prostitute — in spite of her own virtuous day-to-day life. The film’s conflict centers on Maria’s inability to pay off a debt to a man of the town (rejecting his proposal to pay him back with sex), the film proposes her possible rescue by a wealthy painter of European origin who wishes to paint her for her beautiful indigenous features; she agrees to pose for him though refuses and runs away when she is asked to pose nude. However, the artist completes the portrait using the body of an unnamed woman and when the town finds out about the portrait they punish Maria for her sexual deviance by stoning her to death.

These captures show the moment in which the town stones Maria to death. Despite the potential for their unity, the perceived differences in virtue pit the people of town against each other rather than their real oppressors, the bourgeoisie and the colonizers.

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