Lourdes Portillo

Lourdes Portillo

Edited by Rosa Linda Fregoso
Copyright Date: 2001
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/725249
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  • Book Info
    Lourdes Portillo
    Book Description:

    Filmmaker Lourdes Portillo sees her mission as "channeling the hopes and dreams of a people." Clearly, political commitment has inspired her choice of subjects. With themes ranging from state repression to AIDS, Portillo's films include:Después del Terremoto,the Oscar-nominatedLas Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead,The Devil Never Sleeps,andCorpus: A Home Movie for Selena.

    The first study of Portillo and her films, this collection is collaborative and multifaceted in approach, emphasizing aspects of authorial creativity, audience reception, and production processes typically hidden from view. Rosa Linda Fregoso, the volume editor, has organized the book into three parts: interviews (by Fregoso and Kathleen Newman and B. Ruby Rich); critical perspectives (essays by Fregoso, Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, Sylvie Thouard, Norma Iglesias, and Barbara McBane); and production materials (screenplays, script notes, storyboards, etc.).

    This innovative collection provides "inside" information on the challenges of making independent films. By describing the production constraints Portillo has surmounted, Fregoso deepens our appreciation of this gifted filmmaker's life, her struggles, and the evolution of her art.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-78912-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: TRACKING THE POLITICS OF LOVE
    (pp. 1-24)

    Lourdes Portillo and I first met during the screening of her unforgettable filmLas Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayoin 1987, a year after it received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. I was living in Santa Barbara at the time, writing a dissertation on telecommunication policy and teaching a course on Chicano/a cinema. The organizers of a UC—Santa Barbara-sponsored conference on Third World cinema had asked me, the resident Chicana film “expert,” to introduce the Chicana filmmaker and highlight the significance of her work. What I hadn’t anticipated then was the extent to which...

  5. Part One: The Woman behind the Camera
    • 1. Interview with Lourdes Portillo (1998)
      (pp. 27-39)
      Lourdes Portillo and Rosa Linda Fregoso

      Rosa Linda: I wanted to pursue a line of thinking that we began in Mexico City, when you talked about the process of making films as teamwork. And I think you specifically referred to this as like a jazz band, this process. So I wanted to ask you how making a film is like playing in a jazz band, because one of the things we are trying to do—you made me see this in terms of your work—is to get away from this view of film as the product of one person, which is the director. The whole...

    • 2. Interview with Lourdes Portillo (1994)
      (pp. 40-47)
      Lourdes Portillo and Rosa Linda Fregoso

      Rosa Linda: How did the idea for the topic [investigating Tío Oscar’s death inThe Devil Never Sleeps] come about? Or why did you decide to do a film about this subject matter?

      Lourdes: I’ve been making heroic, celebratory films about Chicano culture. So at first, I didn’t even think about making a film about Tío Oscar’s death; actually, I thought it was my personal life, but I was really obsessed with everything that was happening after he died. And I kept telling Ruby, “Oh, this happened today, and guess what happened, and so-and-so called, and somebody found this out.”...

    • 3. Interview with Lourdes Portillo (1990)
      (pp. 48-74)
      Lourdes Portillo, Kathleen Newman and B. Ruby Rich

      The following is an informal video interview which took place in Tijuana, Baja California, during “Cruzando Fronteras: Encuentro de Mujeres Cineastas y Videoastas Latinas, Mexico–Estados Unidos” (Crossing Borders: A Conference of Latina Film- and Videomakers from Mexico and the United States). The interview focuses on Portillo’s career as a filmmaker, beginning in the early 1970s.

      Kathleen: Why don’t we start, Lourdes, by asking you to tell us how you became involved in organizing this conference?

      Lourdes: I was invited to take part in a celebration of women’s films here in Tijuana, with El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF),...

  6. Part Two: Critical Perspectives
    • [Part Two: Introduction]
      (pp. 75-80)

      This section brings together a range of academic writings on issues of cultural politics, racial, class, and sexual differences, and identity and representation in the cinema of Lourdes Portillo. The writers collected here represent a diverse cross-section of scholars informed by multicultural feminist practices. Since the 1980s, critical interest in multicultural media has grown, due in large part to the proliferation of independent works by women of color and the sheer volume of works by Third World and diasporic women. So far, the demand for multicultural perspectives promises to continue well into the twenty-first century, particularly in light of the...

    • 4. Devils and Ghosts, Mothers and Immigrants: A CRITICAL RETROSPECTIVE OF THE WORKS OF LOURDES PORTILLO
      (pp. 81-101)
      Rosa Linda Fregoso

      Lourdes Portillo’s films and videos are emblematic of the broad spectrum of social, cultural, and political concerns of Chicana and Latina imagemakers. In writing this essay I am taking my cue from Alexandra Juhasz, who notes: “In our present climate, when women are reinventing the feminist wheel to fight yet again for our rights to health care and reproductive freedom, it is critical for feminist educators in film and other fields to see and show realist accounts of how women approached similar political work less than a generation before.”¹ I was inspired by Juhasz’s poignant reaffirmation of the theoretical import...

    • 5. Ironic Framings: A Queer Reading of the Family (Melo)drama in Lourdes Portillo’s The Devil Never Sleeps/El diablo nunca duerme
      (pp. 102-118)
      Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano

      The Devil Never Sleeps/El diablo nunca duerme(1996) responds to a unique event in San Francisco-based Lourdes Portillo’s life: news of her favorite uncle Oscar’s death in Chihuahua, Mexico. The multiple layering and ironic framings of this film create a house of mirrors that allows for queer identifications and semirevelations. Through these identifications and by foregrounding her authority as filmmaker to investigate rumors that her uncle was a homosexual, Portillo’s film constructs an ambivalent space into which she insinuates her own queerness. My queer reading ofDiablois not put forward as excluding or superior to postcolonial, postmodern, or feminist...

    • 6. Performances of The Devil Never Sleeps/El diablo nunca duerme
      (pp. 119-143)
      Sylvie Thouard

      Returning to the memories of her childhood withThe Devil Never Sleeps/El diablo nunca duerme,Lourdes Portillo locates herself at the unstable intersection of various roles: niece, coming back to Chihuahua after the mysterious death of a beloved uncle, Tío Oscar; detective, trying to find out if he committed suicide or if he was murdered, as some of her relatives suggested; and documentarist, an outsider living abroad yet filming her own family. As she travels across cultures and moves the documentary toward detective movies and telenovelas, she seems to propose a broad crossover to diverse audiences. Yet it is not...

    • 7. Who Is the Devil, and How or Why Does He or She Sleep? VIEWING A CHICANA FILM IN MEXICO
      (pp. 144-159)
      Norma Iglesias Prieto

      From a Mexican audience’s point of view, the cinematic works of Lourdes Portillo, especially her documentaryThe Devil Never Sleeps, play an important role in the deconstruction of Mexican culture.The Devil Never Sleepsis a film that, as much in form as in content, breaks with the established canons of its genre and reveals unspoken aspects of Mexican culture. These characteristics make Portillo’s film very useful for the study of the relationship between film and audience because it brings the more private aspects of subjectivity to the fore. The film’s cinematographic reflection, with suggestions of social and political criticism,...

    • 8. Pinning Down the Bad-Luck Butterfly: PHOTOGRAPHY AND IDENTITY IN THE FILMS OF LOURDES PORTILLO
      (pp. 160-186)
      Barbara McBane

      In this paper I will examine three films directed or codirected by Lourdes Portillo that privilege the photographic image in various ways:Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo(codirected with Susana Blaustein Muñoz, 1986);La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead(also codirected with Susana Blaustein Muñoz, 1988); andThe Devil Never Sleeps/El diablo nunca duerme(1994). In these films, questions regarding identity are staged through stories that involve the photographic image as an integral feature of the history told, as a technology within the practices documented, as a formal strategy of cinematic representation, or as all...

  7. Part Three: Production Materials
    • [Part Three: Introduction]
      (pp. 191-192)

      The materials compiled in the following section represent a sampling of documents used by filmmakers in organizing a film—items which I earlier termed the “invisible seams in the production process.” Included is the storyboard for Portillo’sColumbus on Trial. In many ways, the storyboard works like a draft for the technicians and actors. It is a visualization of what the filmmaker plans to do after she has examined the location and familiarized herself with the actors. Portillo storyboards most of her films, including documentaries. The first document included here is the script notes forDespués del terremoto;they areˀn...

    • 9. SCRIPT NOTES FOR DESPUÉS DEL TERREMOTO
      (pp. 193-202)
    • 10. CAST LIST FOR DESPUÉS DEL TERREMOTO
      (pp. 203-206)
    • 11. FUNDING APPLICATION FOR DESPUÉS DEL TERREMOTO
      (pp. 207-209)
    • 12. Letter for Oscar Nomination of Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo
      (pp. 210-210)
    • 13. Transcript for English and Spanish narration of La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead
      (pp. 211-238)
    • 14. TRANSCRIPT FOR INTERVIEWS IN LA OFRENDA
      (pp. 239-242)
    • 15. SCREENPLAY FOR COLUMBUS ON TRIAL
      (pp. 243-255)
    • 16. FLOOR PLANS FOR SET DESIGN OF COLUMBUS ON TRIAL
      (pp. 256-258)
    • 17. STORYBOARD FOR COLUMBUS ON TRIAL
      (pp. 259-280)
  8. Appendix: ¿QUIÉN ES EL DIABLO, CÓMO Y POR QUÉ DUERME? LA LECTURA DE UNA PELÍCULA CHICANA EN MÉXICO
    (pp. 281-295)
    Norma Iglesias Prieto
  9. Filmography
    (pp. 296-296)
  10. Major Awards and Honors
    (pp. 297-299)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 300-311)
  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 312-313)
  13. Index
    (pp. 314-316)