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The Ethnic Eye: Latino Media Arts

Chon A. Noriega
Ana M. López
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Ethnic Eye
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking volume is the first to examine the range of Latino media arts, from independent feature production to documentary to experimental video. The essays explore the work of Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban American, and Latino film and video artists and address avant-garde practices, queer media, and performance art as well as more conventional film and video representations. Includes close readings of a wide variety of films and videos, including Stand and Deliver, American Me, Bedhead, El Mariachi, Carmelita Tropicana, Improper Conduct, Welcome to America’s Finest Tourist Plantation, Border Brujo, Mérida Proscrita, and Spitfire. Contributors: Marcos Becquer, Charles Ramírez Berg, C. Ondine Chavoya, Marvin D’Lugo, Claire F. Fox, Ilene S. Goldman, Carmen Huaco-Nuzum, Lillian Jiménez, Alisa Lebow, Scott MacDonald, José Esteban Muñoz, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Kathleen Newman, Christopher Ortiz.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8681-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    While attempting to develop a critical discourse on Latinos and cinema, filmmakers and scholars (mostly historians and social scientists) initially placed an emphasis on Hollywood representation.¹ In the 1960s and 1970s, these efforts provided a historical rationale for concurrent demands for access to the mass media to ensure Latino self-representation in film and television. Taken as a whole, this critical discourse mostly circulated within ethnic studies programs and in those social spaces where the idea of a Latino cinema could take hold and develop: film festivals, film student groups, and media advocacy groups.

    Since the mid-1980s, a new generation of...

  5. Critical Mappings

    • Imagined Borders: Locating Chicano Cinema in America/América
      (pp. 3-21)
      Chon A. Noriega

      In this essay, I will examine the articulation and development of a “Chicano cinema” as an expression of the Chicano civil rights movement. To some extent, this is a history that has been told a number of times already, first by the filmmakers themselves, and later by programmers and scholars.¹ And it is a history that has been told within a metanarrative of cultural resistance that defineslo chicanoaccording to its oppositional “experience,” “expression,” and “identity.” Nonetheless, in these accounts, my own included, Chicano cinema inevitably occupies an ambiguous location within the national culture, caught between the conflicting egalitarian...

    • Moving from the Margin to the Center: Puerto Rican Cinema in New York
      (pp. 22-37)
      Lillian Jiménez

      For many Puerto Rican film- and videomakers, picking up the camera was equivalent to “picking up the gun” in defense of civil and human rights in the United States after the civil rights movement. The beginning of this “coming to self,” as bell hooks describes it, was a burning desire to expose the terrible conditions under which Puerto Ricans of this generation had been raised; challenge the assumptions under which these conditions thrived; and re-create the societal institutions that had engendered them. In this war,imageswere a potent and vital weapon. Through popular culture, distorted images of spitfires and...

    • Greater Cuba
      (pp. 38-58)
      Ana M. López

      Exile has become a fashionable position from which to “speak.” Empowered by postmodern practices that proclaim the decenteredness of contemporary capitalist life and by postcolonial theories of discourse that privilege the hybridity and ambivalence of exile (both inside and outside, belonging yet foreign) as a significant site from which to challenge the oppressive hegemony of the “center” or the “national,” the exilic experience—along with borders, margins, and peripheries—has become a central metaphor of contemporary multicultural artistic and critical practices.

      Defining what such a position means for cinematic practices is, however, a difficult task.² Certainly, in the case of...

    • Drama Queens: Latino Gay and Lesbian Independent Film/Video
      (pp. 59-78)
      Frances Negrón-Muntcmer

      The 1980s and early 1990s were important years for the production and public discussion of U.S. gay and lesbian independent media. In some cases, attacks from the New Right brought unprecedented attention to work by (mostly) gay men, including gay men of color. With very few exceptions, however, the work of Latino gay and lesbian cultural producers was not part of these national debates, despite the fact that Latino gay and lesbian media has circulated since the early 1980s, and increased dramatically thereafter. Perhaps, as Chicano gay performance artist Luis Alfaro once noted, to be censored one must be heard...

  6. Close Readings

    • Crossing Invisible Borders: Ramón Menéndez’s Stand and Deliver (1987)
      (pp. 81-94)
      llene S. Goldman

      Early inStand and Deliver(Ramón Menéndez, 1987) Jaime Escalante boosts his students’ confidence in their math abilities with a brief history lesson: “Did you know,” he says, “that neither the Greeks nor the Romans were capable of using the concept of zero? It was your ancestors, the Mayas, who first contemplated the concept of zero, the absence of value. True story. Youburroshave math in your blood.” A few scenes later he tells the same roomful of students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, “You already have two strikes against you. There are some people in...

    • Reterritorialization in Recent Chicano Cinema: Edward James Olmos’s American Me (1992)
      (pp. 95-106)
      Kathleen Newman

      Some thirty years of activism by those involved with the Chicano political and cultural movement and with latina feminism has had its impact. Against the odds, a small number of Chicano directors, producers, and writers have created an impressive body of work in all film and video formats (fiction feature films and shorts, film and video documentaries, experimental films, video art installations, broadcast and cable television programs, etc.), which, like the work of African American, Asian American, Native American, and other latino filmmakers and videomakers, is now beginning to receive the critical attention in film and television studies it deserves....

    • Ethnic Ingenuity and Mainstream Cinema: Robert Rodriguez’s Bedhead (1990) and El Mariachi (1993)
      (pp. 107-128)
      Charles Ramírez Berg

      Columbia Pictures’ distribution of Robert Rodriguez's lowbudget independent first feature, El Mariachi (1993), shortly after signing him to a lucrative two-picture contract, marks a significant break with two decades of Chicano cinema. This New Wave is much more mainstream than earlier Chicano filmmaking and far less overtly political; its appearance raises some interesting issues for Chicano cinema.1 Is it possible for ethnic or otherwise marginalized filmmakers to enter mainstream media institutions and maintain their ethnic identity? Or is co-optation inevitable? As I have argued elsewhere,2 although mainstream filmmaking typically resists changes much less challenges to dominant norms and forms, film...

    • Flaming Latinas: Ela Troyano’s Carmelita Tropicana: Your Kunst Is Your Waffen (1993)
      (pp. 129-142)
      José Esteban Muñoz

      The heuristic impulse that propels this essay is concerned with a distinctly lesbian and Latina camp sensibility. There is some question as to whether or not “camp” is camp when it happens outside of its usual cultural parameters. The discourse on camp has been, at least since Susan Sontag’s infamous notes from the 1960s, a discourse of middle- to upper-class white gay male sensibilities.¹ The notion of camp I will be mining in this essay is one in which “camp” is understood not only as a strategy of representation but also as mode of enacting self against the pressures of...

    • Docudrag, or “Realness” as a Documentary Strategy: Felix Rodriguez’s One Moment in Time (1992)
      (pp. 143-170)
      Marcos Becquer and Alisa Lebow

      Writing about a video that treats the Harlem drag balls and its participants almost inevitably involves referencing the film that made the balls famous. In some waysOne Moment in Time(Felix Rodriguez, 1992) picks up whereParis Is Burning(Jennie Livingston, 1991) left off.¹ If, as bell hooks points out,Paris Is Burningfeatured the drag balls as the center of its characters’ lives, and the balls’ spectacularity as the centerpiece of its cinematic narrative, inOne Moment in Timethese provide merely a backdrop, a significant but not definitive cultural point of reference for the lives it portrays.²...

    • From Exile to Ethnicity: Nestor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez-Leal’s Improper Conduct (1984)
      (pp. 171-182)
      Marvin D’Lugo

      The Nestor Almendros/Orlando Jimenéz-Leal documentary about the repression of homosexuals in Cuba,Improper Conduct(1984), affords a rare view into the processes that have transformed the identity of Cuban exiles into a distinct Cuban American cultural ethnicity. Originally produced as a denunciation of the Castro regime’s treatment of homosexuals and thereby intended to shift liberal sentiment against socialist Cuba, the film nonetheless articulates its strident political position with conspicuous marks of textual vacillation.

      One reason for such textual instability may derive from the seldom acknowledged fact thatImproper Conductis not merely a simplistic right-wing propaganda vehicle, but a complex...

    • Media Destructionism: The Digital/Laser/Videos of Raphael Montañez Ortiz
      (pp. 183-207)
      Scott MacDonald

      Raphael Montañez Ortiz has been making valuable contributions to contemporary culture, including contemporary film culture, since the late 1950s. That he is not well known, especially among “film people,” is a function of his tendency to work outside conventional understandings of art, and, especially in recent years, at the intersections of various media technologies: the works that will be the focus of this discussion are neither films, nor videos, nor computer art, nor laser art—though each of these four technologies is a crucial dimension of the process that produces the works. On one level, Ortiz’s refusal to function within...

    • Collaborative Public Art and Multimedia Installation: David Avalos, Louis Hock, and Elizabeth Sisco’s Welcome to America’s Finest Tourist Plantation (1988)
      (pp. 208-227)
      C. Ondine Chavoya

      Video as a part of multimedia installation has become a prominent fixture in museum programming and exhibition, blurring the boundaries between film/video practices and the visual arts. This essay examinesWelcome to America’s Finest Tourist Plantation, SanDiego Bus Poster Project (January 1988), a collaborative project by artists-activists David Avalos, Louis Hock, and Elizabeth Sisco.Welcome to America’s Finest Tourist Plantationwas originally staged as a public art project: an exterior bus poster and a media event. Mounted and viewed on the back of city buses, the traveling poster catalyzed a visceral public response, generating dialogue in the print and...

    • Mass Media, Site Specificity, and the U.S.-Mexico Border: Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s Border Brujo (1988, 1990)
      (pp. 228-243)

      Today, “the border” and “border crossing” are commonly used critical metaphors among multicultural and postmodernist artists and writers. According to Chon Noriega, however, these terms were first employed by Chicano and Mexican scholars in the 1960s and 1970s who referred to the experience of undocumented workers from Mexico crossing to the United States.² Since then, in Chicano arts and letters, the Borderlands has replaced Aztlán as the metaphor of choice in order to designate a communal space.³ But even though the U.S.-Mexico border retains a shadowy presence in the usage of these terms, the border that is currently in vogue...

    • The Forbidden Kiss: Raúl Ferrera-Balanquet and Enrique Novelo-Cascante’s Mérida Proscrita (1990)
      (pp. 244-259)
      Christopher Ortiz

      In 1986 Raul Ferrera-Balanquet, who emigrated to the United States as a part of what has been called the Mariel boat rescue operation in the early 1980s, formed the Latino Midwest Video Collective as a workshop and support network so that Latino media artists studying at the University of Iowa could share ideas and resources.¹ The collective’s manifesto, authored by Ferrera-Balanquet, explains that “the textual construction of some of our videos ... takes as a point of departure the socio-political, psycho-sexual and economic set of relations in Latino culture, allowing us as Latino videomakers to critique elements of the world...

    • (Re)Constructing Chicana, Mestiza Representation: Frances Salomé España’s Spitfire (1991)
      (pp. 260-274)
      Carmen Huaco-Nuzum

      Kobena Mercer’s discussion of the dissolution of “fixed” identities may well serve to introduce the politicized videos of Frances Salomé España, which examine chicana, mestiza identity politics and the reconstruction of female desire.² Mercer adds that the archaeological view of identity and subjectivity of the 1960s and 1970s is no longer desirable or plausible because this view fails to take into account the contradictions and conflicts that “arise in the relations within and between the various movements, agents and actors in contemporary forms of democratic antagonism.”³ Like Mercer, other cultural theorists of color (Stuart Hall, Rosa Linda Fregoso, Norma Alarcón,...

  7. Distributors
    (pp. 275-280)
  8. Contributors
    (pp. 281-284)
  9. Index
    (pp. 285-289)