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From Novo to Novíssimo: a review of contemporary Latin American cinema
José Gatti
Resumo Expandido
What's new about Latin American cinema? There seems to be a boom in film production in Latin America today, but is there a new Latin American Cinema? Young filmmakers are praised at international festivals, some films make expressive box office marks, some authors become staple celebrity news and, more important than international recognition, Latin American cinema has been indeed (re)conquering domestic audiences, which had, since the 1980s, shunned Latin American films. What happened? What changed in the Latin American scenario? Are these changes due to the (somewhat real, somewhat exaggerated) economic prosperity that Latin American countries have undergone in the past decade? Are they due to technological advancements, which have made filmmaking more accessible and less expensive? And what about new laws, which are supposed to protect indigenous productions and make sure that they reach their public? It would be foolish to try to find one single explanation, but one might envisage some possibilities. One of them may be found in the new generation of filmmakers, a generation that has sought their training at film schools.

During the Golden Age of Mexican and Argentine cinemas, as well as during the period in which Cinema Novo boomed, film schools were not available in Latin America — filmmakers were invariably trained at the workplace, as in most of the world. When the lights of the Golden Age dimmed and a new generation started making films (such as the Cinema Novo group), a new mentality had taken over. These young filmmakers saw cinema as a medium that could convey political, social as well as aesthetic issues, unlike old melodramas and comedies, that were mostly meant as entertainment; moreover, they saw cinema as a discipline to be studied and detected the need for the establishment of film schools.

Pioneer schools opened in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico during the 1950s and the 1960s. Important courses were opened at Universidade de São Paulo and Universidad Autonónoma de Mexico, but their expansion continued and the last decades saw an actual mushrooming of schools throughout the continent, such as the innovative Universidad del Cine in Argentina, the Centro de Capacitación Cinematografico in Mexico and the renowned Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV in Cuba. Nelson Pereira dos Santos himself works as a professor in the well established Film School at Universidade Federal Fluminense, in Rio de Janeiro, which has become a model to several schools in the continent. A variety of factors can explain this expansion of film schools; among them we can identify the technological innovation (that has widened the access to the media), the demands of a growing industry (which reaches out to different media formats — such as television — and require specialized labor) and the reorganization of the market. In Latin America today, scholars and students research new audiovisual technologies, experiment with videoart, rediscover film history and produce theoretical works. Hence a new type of filmmaker has emerged: one who knows the history and the theory of cinema, who has studied key films and brings new aesthetical and technical questions into her/his work. That phenomenon is not exclusive of Latin America, for similar phenomena occurred in the same period in other regions, such as Asia and North America. For example, it is well-known the change that took place in Hollywood when generations of college-trained filmmakers appeared on the scene since the 1970s.

In Latin America, film schools also opened the way to post-graduate programs and research. Since the foundation of Socine — Brazilian Society for Cinema and Audiovisual Studies, in 1995, similar institutions were created in Mexico, Argentina and other countries, such as Sepancine — Asociación Mexicana de Teoría y Análisis Cinematográfico, and Asaeca — Asociación Argentina de Estudios de Cine y Audiovisual.[...]


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