Hidden Chicano Cinema

Hidden Chicano Cinema: Film Dramas in the Borderlands

A. GABRIEL MELÉNDEZ
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hj0n4
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  • Book Info
    Hidden Chicano Cinema
    Book Description:

    Hidden Chicano Cinemaexamines how New Mexico, situated within the boundaries of the United States, became a stand-in for the exotic non-western world that tourists, artists, scientists, and others sought to possess at the dawn of early filmmaking, a disposition stretching from the silent era to today as filmmakers screen their fantasies of what they wished the Southwest Borderlands to be.The book highlights "film moments" in this region's history including the "filmic turn" ushered in by Chicano/a filmmakers who created new ways to represent their community and region. A. Gabriel Meléndez narrates the drama, intrigue, and politics of these moments and accounts for the specific cinematic practices and the sociocultural detail that explains how the camera itself brought filmmakers and their subjects to unexpected encounters on and off the screen. Such films asAdventures in Kit Carson Land, The Rattlesnake,andRed Sky at Morning, among others, provide examples of movies that have both educated and misinformed us about a place that remains a "distant locale" in the mind of most film audiences.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6108-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. 1 Borderlands Cinema and the Proxemics of Hidden and Manifest Film Encounters
    (pp. 1-30)

    More than once I have recalled an exchange among graduate students in my seminar “Critical Regionalism: Discourses on the Southwest.” Early one semester students brought forth their ideas regarding the ethnic and cultural make-up of the Southwest. From the discussion that ensued I learned that some newcomers to the region were working from the assumption that the American Southwest was a region populated by whites and American Indians, as in the notion of “playing cowboys and Indians.” Indeed, this view seems to follow what recently has become the strongest projection of the region in the American cultural imagination. Other students...

  5. 2 Ill will Hunting (Penitentes)
    (pp. 31-52)

    It is just past three in the afternoon, the hour the gospels record as the moment Christ was nailed and left to die on the cross. The year is 1888, nearly two millennia after that crucifixion. Charles F. Lummis is the man with his head draped by the black cloth of a Prosch camera obscura. He has just completed a successful New Mexican safari hunt in search of elusive evidence of penitents having bagged the “first ever” photographs of a crucifixion as purportedly carried out by New Mexicans in their Holy Week observances. Lummis himself describes the scene: “And there...

  6. 3 A Lie Halfway around the world
    (pp. 53-80)

    The successor in film to Charles Lummis’s vengeance narrative is the 1936 road show exploitation filmThe Lash of the Penitentes,produced by Mike J. Levinson and shot by Roland C. Price . Also released asThe Penitente Murder Case, the film opens with journalist George Mack beseeching his editor at the Metropolitan Syndicate to let him go to New Mexico and uncover the secrets of the Penitentes. Unmoved, Mack’s boss is skeptical that the United States could harbor the kind of “wild, primitive men” the Penitentes are said to be. Mack’s insistence grows as he declares that the government...

  7. 4 Lives and Faces Plying through Exotica
    (pp. 81-112)

    In contrast to Native Americans, who have been the subject of a great many ethnographic films and photographic surveys, there is a comparatively small amount of ethnographic materials related to the Mexican Americans of the Southwest before the 1960s.¹ As a rule, the visual ethnographies that do exist, at best, are ad hoc assessments of Chicano material culture (i.e., photo surveys of religious iconography, shrines, courtyards, home altars, roadside memorials, and so on). The documentation of these places and artifacts is almost always severed from the people and their cultural ways. As such, exceptions to this pattern are fundamentally important...

  8. 5 Red Sky at Morning, a Borderlands Interlude
    (pp. 113-145)

    Governor David F. Cargo, a Republican who began his first term in office in January 1967, was largely responsible for the creation of the New Mexico Film Commission in 1970. Cargo had long been an advocate of selling New Mexico as an ideal location for Hollywood to make movies, and the Film Commission provided numerous inducements to filmmakers. Exotica, worn to a nub by the mid-1960s, might still supply some enchantment, but the economic incentives (tax breaks, the availability of cheap extras, low hotel costs, New Mexico’s status as close to that of a third-world country) were the real drawing...

  9. 6 The king Tiger Awakens the Sleeping Giant of the Southwest
    (pp. 146-186)

    Land loss has historically been the latent grievance of the nuevomexicano. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the Chicano movement of the 1960s, a broad-based social movement aimed at redressing the exclusion of Mexican Americans from educational and employment benefits—and a myriad other social concerns—would become closely identified with Reies López Tijerina’s struggle to regain lands that had once belonged to New Mexican Spanish-speaking communities.

    Tijerina’s land grant movement and the issues it raised would in time spawn the most radical reconsideration of the Chicano experience in the Borderlands since the U.S. takeover in 1848. Its impact...

  10. 7 Filming Bernalillo: Post–Civil Rights Chicano Film Subjects
    (pp. 187-215)

    Danny Lyon arrived in New Mexico around the same time John Nichols was making his way to Taos. Like Nichols, Lyon emigrated from New York after having spent ten years working as a staff photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). His time at SNCC involved Lyon in a number of major actions in the civil rights movement in the South. As with other disaffected, college-educated Americans of this period, Lyon’s left-leaning cultural and political views kept him involved in emerging social movements. Recalling those years, Lyon writes: “The South rolled out in front of me—highways and cotton...

  11. 8 Toward a New Proxemics: Historical, Mythopoetic, and Autoethnographic Works
    (pp. 216-241)

    The commitment to record the group experience of Chicanos from an insider vantage point and in the service of a documentary impulse represents a decided turn in the cinematic representation of Mexican Americans, a move which also makes it appropriate to speak of a number of documentary and independent film projects ushered in by the Chicano movement as filmic autoethnographic works.

    The volume of such films produced in the last thirty years makes it nearly impossible to cover in a single chapter the gamut of self-representational impulses, so I seek to give space to but a small number of projects....

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 242-246)

    It has come time to ask what might be profitably learned from stringing together a comparison of a handful of difficult-to-locate films and proceeding to analyze them on account of two elements: first, they happened to be filmed in the Southwest Borderlands, and second, they present and in some instances re-present mexicano/Chicano/Hispanic stories. In some instances, these are stories we know a great deal about, while others are relatively unknown. My initial supposition about the films and documentaries I have looked at here is that all point to a set of offscreen stories about intercultural encounters. It holds true that...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 247-256)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 257-264)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 265-272)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-274)