Based on a True Story? Latin American History Through Film


This course looks at critical historical moments and issues over five centuries of conflict and change in Latin America through the vehicle of film. The emphasis is on feature films created for a popular audience by Latin American directors (particularly from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Cuba), with a few examples of how Latin America has been portrayed by filmmakers in Europe and the United States. We will look at issues of authenticity and voice, some of the pitfalls of using film to understand history, and the role of cinema in the creation of national and popular memory. Although most of these films have been analyzed on many levels, the emphasis of this particular course will be on content and social or political vision rather than film theory, technique, or aesthetics. The topics or epochs that we will examine include: the encounter/conquest, slavery and race, colonial women, nationalism, dictatorship and the disappeared, El Norte—the United States and Latin America, urban indigeneity, revolution and power, revolution and culture wars, imperialism and globalization. Required readings will include historical monographs and primary sources, and one of the two weekly class meetings will be a film showing. There is no language prerequisite for this course; all films are available with English subtitles.