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Transition Cinema

Transition Cinema: Political Filmmaking and the Argentine Left since 1968

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    Transition Cinema
    Book Description:

    In May of 1976, documentary filmmaker and proclaimed socialist Raymundo Gleyzer mysteriously disappeared in Buenos Aires. Like many political activists, Gleyzer was the target of a brutalizing military junta that had recently assumed power. Amazingly, within a few decades, leftist filmmakers would be celebrated as intellectual vanguards in this same city.In Transition Cinema, Jessica Stites Mor documents the critical role filmmakers, the film industry, and state regulators played in Argentina's volatile transition to democracy. She shows how, during different regimes, the state moved to either inhibit or facilitate film production and its content, distribution, and exhibition. She also reveals the strategies the film industry employed to comply with, or circumvent these regulations.Stites Mor divides the transition period into three distinct generations, each defined by a major political event and the reactions to these events in film. The first generation began with the failed civil uprising in Córdoba in 1969, and ended with the 1976 military takeover. During military rule, repressive censorship spurred underground exhibitions, and allied filmmakers with the Peronist left and radical activists. The second generation arose after the return of civilian rule in 1983. Buenos Aires became the center for state-level cultural programs that included filmmakers in debates over human rights and collective memory campaigns. In 1989, a third generation of filmmaking emerged, with new genres such as cine piquetero (picketer cinema) that portrayed a variety of social movements and brought them into the public eye. By the new millennium, Argentine filmmakers had gained the attention and financial support of international humanitarian and film industry organizations.In this captivating study, Stites Mor examines how populist movements, political actors, filmmakers, government, and industry institutions all became deeply enmeshed in the project of Argentina's transition cinema. She demonstrates how film emerged as the chronicler of political struggles in a dialogue with the past, present, and future, whose message transcended both cultural and national borders.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7797-1
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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    (pp. 1-14)

    On May 27, 2003, police barricades caged the four blocks bordering the zone that surrounds the Brukman textile and garment factory, while armed guards anxiously stood watch over a large group of demonstrators who had gathered just outside the riot fences. Situated on Avenida Jujuy, the central artery leading from the central commercial district of Buenos Aires to distribution hubs across the country, Brukman was the scene of one of the most dramatic factory takeovers in recent Argentine history. On this particular evening, it was also the scene of a film intervention. The directors Ernesto Ardito and Virna Molina brought...


    • 1 CAMERAS IN THE HANDS OF “ANGRY YOUNG MEN”: Filmmaking and the Cordobazo
      (pp. 17-41)

      The birth of radical political filmmaking in Argentina was intimately tied to the struggles for social justice that marked the political scene of the late 1960s. Revolutionary politics both at home and abroad brought into question the relationship between filmmakers and the political use-value of their work, and a handful of filmmakers just beginning their careers turned their attention to the social and political margins in an attempt to transform their medium and to reinvent the production and exhibition of their work as sites of political activism. The creative vanguard of Argentine cinema of the early 1960s that had pioneered...

    • 2 FILMMAKERS INTO FILM WORKERS: Peronism, Dictatorship, and the Film Industry
      (pp. 42-72)

      Guerrilla activities, factory takeovers, strikes, and acts of civil disobedience, on the rise since the Cordobazo, expanded to include high-profile kidnappings, political assassinations, bombings, intelligence breaches, thefts, and money laundering in the early 1970s. The militant cause had swept thousands of Argentines into armed political action, and the level of ideological conflict on the left reached an absolute peak. Revolutionary groups were held responsible for the deaths of nearly 700 entrepreneurs, unionists, police officers, and other “allies of the state.”¹ Onganía’s regime was followed by three subsequent military governments that pushed many leftist artists and intellectuals further in their sympathies...


    • 3 THE SCENE AND THE CITY: Coded Landscapes and Collective Memory in Transition
      (pp. 75-103)

      At the end of 1982, it might have seemed unlikely that even a peaceful transition to democracy in Argentina would bring about a substantial change in daily life. Army tanks still lined important public plazas, and uniformed officers maintained a watchful eye over commercial centers and plazas. Civilians continued to tread uneasily in streets where armed gunmen only months before might have arrested a neighbor or relative. Even if the details of quotidian existence in Buenos Aires had not altered, however, the city was already preparing itself for the change lying just on the horizon. For two years the military...

    • 4 EXPERIENCE, REPRESENTATION, AND REPRODUCTION: Displacement and el sur de Solanas
      (pp. 104-128)

      Measuring the distance between the origins of structural violence and the reopening of democracy following the dictatorship, the notion of displacement became a central theme of transition cultural politics. Realities of forced migration, disappearance, and what Marina Franco has identified as the military’s program of “recasting” Argentine society¹ undermined any sense of collective agency within the Argentine social imaginary. This social imaginary—the social institutions, representations, ideas, and symbolic practices that order and comprehend the social realm—provides a bridge between subjective and collective experience, allowing individuals to situate their actions within a constructed and shared reality. A heightened cultural...


    • 5 DOCUMENTALISMO: Political Filmmaking and Social Movements
      (pp. 131-158)

      In 1999 a film collective calling itself the Insurgent Cinema Group produced the documentaryDiablo, familia y propiedad(Devil, family, and property), a film about the exploitative working conditions of the Ledesma sugar mill in the northwestern Argentine province of Jujuy. Directed by Fernando Kirchmar, the film explores the local myth of a blood pact between the factory’s owners and the devil, whereby the latter exacts the life of at least one millworker each year to guarantee the company’s prosperity. The film traces the menacing connections between workers who were active in denouncing the factory’s abusive working conditions and the...

    • 6 POSTMODERN EXIGENCIES: New Media, Memory, and Critical Spaces
      (pp. 159-185)

      Film scholars investigating the political cinema of Argentina are often struck by the paradoxical relationship between the objectives outlined by movements such as Cine Liberación or documentalismo and the particulars of the geopolitical economies of film circulation and First World discursive frames that bring these cinemas to the attention of the rest of the world. Even though some film scholars have begun to rethink the “mythical visions … of autonomous oppositional cinematic practice” of the past and complicate paradigms of the transnational flow of ideas of the “Other” on the big screen,¹ this inherent contradiction still positions the scholar and...

    (pp. 186-194)

    The intellectual and political dynamism of filmmaking that emerged in the city of Buenos Aires as a result of the ongoing transition to democracy suggests new ways of thinking about the role of audiovisual media in cultural history debates. The notion of film as a vibrant contribution to modes of intellectual inquiry and to projects of recording and historicizing the events of the nation’s recent past was a political one constructed from the common experiences, expectations, desires, and necessities of an evolving Argentine society. It did not result from any one set of legislative reforms or any singular advance in...