Political Film in Latin America

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Student Research Reports, Summer 2018

The Cineteca Archive in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)
The Cineteca Archive in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)

Political film in Latin America
By Michiko Arai

Traveling to Chile gave me the opportunity to begin my dissertation research on Latin American archival footage essay films from the 1960s and 1970s by allowing me to view important films and take advantage of the resources in the Cineteca Nacional de Chile. I built on my previous research on Santiago Alvarez’s journalistic short films, a paper in which I assessed the historical weight of the cinema in relation to the political climate of the 1960s. The plethora of short political films composed of archival material that I was able to view while at the Cineteca Nacional expanded my understanding of the scope of news-related films of the time in Latin America. In other words, while Alvarez has a specific, signature style of filmmaking, his aesthetics and politics inspired many to view film as a revolutionary tool rather than a commodity with exchange value subject to a market of capitalistic cinema. This notion was bolstered by cinematic practices such as having community film viewings, encouraging discussions about the film on display, and taking films to remote communities where cinemas had yet to exist. In addition to the diffusion of Alvarez’s aesthetics, the use of archival materials appealed to young filmmakers because of the readily available and inexpensive nature of archival footage. If given the opportunity to return, I would schedule a time to view the films on the physical film reel in order to heighten my awareness of the cinematic experience of the 1960s. Learning about the restoration practices and the adjustments that the Cineteca Nacional has conducted would also serve to enlighten my undrstand of film as a relic that records layers and traces of time. 

A Moviola editing and restoration machine. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)
A Moviola editing and restoration machine. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)

A Moviola editing and restoration machine. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)
A Moviola editing and restoration machine. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)

A Moviola editing and restoration machine, with a sample of 8mm film. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)
A Moviola editing and restoration machine, with a sample of 8mm film. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)

Film stored in a preservation canister. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)
Film stored in a preservation canister. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)

The film vault. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)
The film vault. (Photo by Michiko Arai.)

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