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Women Filmmakers in Mexico

Elissa J. Rashkin
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    Women Filmmakers in Mexico
    Book Description:

    Women filmmakers in Mexico were rare until the 1980s and 1990s, when women began to direct feature films in unprecedented numbers. Their films have won acclaim at home and abroad, and the filmmakers have become key figures in contemporary Mexican cinema. In this book, Elissa Rashkin documents how and why women filmmakers have achieved these successes, as she explores how the women's movement, film studies programs, governmental film policy, and the transformation of the intellectual sector since the 1960s have all affected women's filmmaking in Mexico.

    After a historical overview of Mexican women's filmmaking from the 1930s onward, Rashkin focuses on the work of five contemporary directors-Marisa Sistach, Busi Cortés, Guita Schyfter, María Novaro, and Dana Rotberg. Portraying the filmmakers as intellectuals participating in the public life of the nation, Rashkin examines how these directors have addressed questions of national identity through their films, replacing the patriarchal images and stereotypes of the classic Mexican cinema with feminist visions of a democratic and tolerant society.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79810-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: An “Other Cinema”
    (pp. 1-28)

    When veteran director Matilde Landeta explained her notion of a feministotro cineor “other cinema” to interviewer Patricia Martínez de Velasco in 1988, only Landeta and a handful of other women in Mexico had directed feature films. Moreover, those women’s work, although spanning the nearcentury of the cinema’s existence, had been irregular, fragmentary, and often compromised by external obstacles; many early films had been lost due to critical and curatorial neglect, while later directors had seen their work shelved and forgotten. The status of women’s filmmaking was aptly expressed in the title of Martínez de Velasco’s 1991 book,Directoras...

  5. PART ONE: Histories

    • CHAPTER 1 Trespassers: Women Directors before 1960
      (pp. 31-58)

      In spite of a sustained surge of interest during the past twenty years, the presence of women in the Mexican cinema before the 1960s is a phenomenon still somewhat shrouded in mystery. Thanks to the work of numerous film scholars, we now have a litany of names: Mimi Derba, Adriana and Dolores Ehlers, Candida Beltrán, La Duquesa Olga, Alice Rahon, Adela Sequeyro, and finally, Matilde Landeta, who unlike her predecessors reemerges to become the mentor andgrande dameof an entirely new generation of women directors. But in spite of the growing body of research, these names remain little more...

    • CHAPTER 2 Student and Feminist Film, 1961–1980
      (pp. 59-86)

      The 1960s in Mexico saw the beginning of a cinema made outside or at the margins of the traditional industry. Like their counterparts in other countries, Mexican filmmakers at the end of the 1950s found themselves frustrated with a stagnant film industry whose resources were channeled into an impossible competition-through-imitation with far better-financed Hollywood product; at the same time, the advent of lower-cost filmmaking technology made it increasingly possible to challenge that industry’s hegemony. Sixteen millimeter, for example, freed filmmaking from the studios’ exclusive control and allowed it to be taken up in noncommercial arenas of expression, most notably the...

  6. PART TWO: Revisions

    • CHAPTER 3 Marisa Sistach: The Other Gaze
      (pp. 89-116)

      During the 1960s and 1970s, the industrial cinema, along with the patriarchal ideology it had served to reinforce and reproduce, suffered serious challenges. During that period, the trappings of the genteel Mexican woman, whose movements were restricted to the family home and whose sexuality was safely curbed and hidden under white lace sheets, were thrown off by a new generation of middle-class youth who not only attended college in greater numbers than ever before but also participated in student rebellions, drove cars, wore miniskirts, listened to rock ’n’ roll, idolized Che Guevara, and made passionate low-budget films attacking social problems...

    • CHAPTER 4 Busi Cortés: Telling Romelia’s Secrets
      (pp. 117-140)

      The career of Busi Cortés, like that of Marisa Sistach, shows a certain continuity with the recent past, even as it represents a new era for women filmmakers in Mexico. Born in 1950, Cortés began her career as a journalist in the 1970s, going on to work in educational television and finally to study filmmaking at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica. Her 1988 debut feature,El secreto de Romelia, was also the ccc’s first feature production. As a director, Cortés stood out as an ardent advocate of independent and university-based cinema. In the press, she boldly attacked not only the...

    • CHAPTER 5 Guita Schyfter: The Chicken and the Egg
      (pp. 141-166)

      In the beginning of her family autobiography,Las genealogías, cultural critic Margo Glantz lists a number of items that she, a second-generation Mexican and a secular Jew, has in her home: a shofar and some inherited candelabras rest next to images of Catholic saints, Christ, and pre-Hispanic deities, a juxtaposition that causes a cousin to comment that she does not seem Jewish, “porque los judíos les tienen, como nuestros primos hermanos los arabes, horror a las imágenes” [because Jews, like our first cousins the Arabs, have a horror of images]. The author, however, concludes otherwise: that “todo es mío y...

    • CHAPTER 6 María Novaro: Exploring the Mythic Nation
      (pp. 167-191)

      In 1991, María Novaro’s second feature,Danzón, starring María Rojo, became the first Mexican film in fourteen years to be invited to the Directors’ Section of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Still in postproduction, the film was hurriedly finished and subtitled; it premiered in France, where its director saw it for the first time in its entirety. Following its successful reception at Cannes,Danzónplayed at two commercial cinemas in Paris, toured the festival circuit, and soon became an international success; in the United States, it was bought for distribution by Sony Classics, the “prestige” film division of Columbia Pictures....

    • CHAPTER 7 Dana Rotberg: Modernity and Marginality
      (pp. 192-214)

      In Dana Rotberg’s 1991Angel de fuego, a rundown circus and an evangelical puppet show on the outskirts of Mexico City serve as the setting of spatial and social marginality. The beginning of the published screenplay by Rotberg and Omar Rodrigo not only indicates the circus’s poverty but also places it in relation to the city’s more prosperous center:

      Un circo instalado en la periferia del df. A un lado de la vieja carpa parchada con múltiples remiendos, hay tres dormitorios móviles, un rudimentario comedor al aire libre y un viejo camión que hace las veces de bodega. Un par...

  7. Conclusion: Borders and Boundaries of National Cinema
    (pp. 215-238)

    The second half of the Salinassexeniowas a relatively optimistic period for filmmakers in Mexico. The proactive policies of imcine under Ignacio Durán had replaced the torpor of the 1980s with a vibrant cinema that was winning back domestic audiences and attracting attention abroad, leading some observers to speculate about a “renaissance” or “new Golden Age.” For some this was marked by the international success of Novaro’sDanzónand Arau’sComo agua para chocolate; for others, what was most impressive was the entrance of new directors into the industry and, in particular, directors who were women. Conferences, festivals, international...

  8. Annotated Filmography
    (pp. 239-264)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 265-272)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 273-288)
  11. Index
    (pp. 289-298)