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IL1: Ibero-American Cinema

Robert Capa

This paper is available for the academic year 2019-20.

The paper offers a comparativist exploration of Iberian and Latin American cinemas, from the so-called silent period to the present day. Organized in terms of key topics, it examines important filmmaking traditions, movements and debates that have emerged in the Ibero-American context and helped to shape it. This organization provides students with a critical and theoretical knowledge of reading different film making forms, such as avant-garde films, indigenous texts, popular cinema and transnational filmmaking, while also allowing them the tremendous possibility for transcending traditional local, national and linguistic divisions in order to pose broader comparative questions. In doing so the paper’s structure reconfigures the traditional metropole-colony dichotomy into a more nuanced and multipolar interpretive frame. At the same time, individual lectures will situate films in their social, political, historical and cultural context, thereby highlighting the specificity, locatedness and historicity of cinematic production and reception, including in certain instances their relationship to state institutions. The course will thus provide students with ways of critically understanding the connectivities and dissimilarities of the cinematic culture of the Ibero-American world. Films will be viewed in their original versions with English subtitles.


A Description of Topics, Lectures and Films to be taught 2017-2018 is as follows:

Topic One: Early Film Technologies in the Ibero American World

Lectures within this topic explore some of the main issues and debates that surround the study of the arrival and development of new film technologies in the Ibero American context, from the introduction of pre-cinematic modes such as magic lanterns and panoramas and the cinematic medium in the late 1800s, to the elaboration of early silent melodramas and the development of synchronized sound movies. Lectures will look at the impact of the arrival of the cinema and of cinematic technology in Spain and Colombia, looking at their intersections with modern urban society, the rise of sound and the early development of silent genres.


El heredero de casa Pruna/ L'hereu de Ca'n Pruna (dir. Segundo de Chomón, 1904)

Le scarabée d'or (dir. Segundo de Chomón, 1907)

El hotel eléctrico (dir. Segundo de Chomón, 1908)

 Une excursion incohérente (dir. Segundo de Chomón, 1909)

Bajo el cielo antioqueño (dir. Arturo Acevedo, 1925)

Alma provinciana (dir. Félix Joaquín Rodríguez, 1926)

Garras de Oro (dir. P.P. Jambrina, 1926)


Topic 2: Film,  Modernism and the Ibero-American Avant-Garde

This topic will introduce students to experimental films, setting out the principal theoretical concepts with which they are related. It will assess the various ways in which artists and filmmakers have approached the cinema as both a visual and a political art, continually searching for new perceptual experiences. Lectures will focus the emergence of experimental forms of filmmaking in the1920s. It will then consider the neo-avant-garde in the context of Spain’s La movida and conclude by exploring the tension between experimentations with film form and a desire for filmic realism by contemporary film-makers, examining its relation to ethical questions and will conclude with an exploration of contemporary filmmakers in Mexico and Portugal. Specific issues addressed include narrative, film form, representation, materiality, reflexivity, spectatorship, time and space, with a consideration of these issues in the light of specific viewing contexts.

Un Chien Andalou (dir. Luis Buñuel, 1929)

L’Age D’or (dir. Luis Buñuel, 1930)

Las Hurdes (dir. Luis Buñuel, 1933)

Arrebato (dir. Iván Zulueta, 1980)

Laberinto de pasiones (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1982)

El topo (dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970)

No quarto da Vanda (dir. Pedro Costa, 2000)

Batalla en el cielo (dir. Carlos Reygadas, 2005)

Post tenebras lux (dir. Carlos Reygadas, 2012)

Topic 3: Popular Film Traditions and Genres

This topic focuses on various forms of popular cinema produced in the Ibero American world, exploring in particular films genres, from 1950s Mexican melodramas, horror and gothic films in Spanish cinema looking at their relationship with Francoist politics, and contemporary film noirs in Colombia focusing on how their reimagine uncontrollable urban growth occasioned by the country’s ongoing political conflicts and the collapse of public space resulting from the drug wars of the 1990s. Lectures will look at Mexican Popular Cinema, Horror and the Gothic in Spanish Cinema, Contemporary Film Noir in Colombia and Science Fiction Film from Argentina


Soplo de vida (dir. Luís Ospina, 1999)


La história del baúl rosado (dir. Líbia Stella Gómez, dir. 2006)

Perder es question de método (dir. Sérgio Cabrera, 2005) 

La sonámbula (dir. Fernando Spiner, 1998)

La antena (dir. Esteban Sapir, 2007)



Topic 4: War and Revolution on Film


The Spanish Earth (Joris Ivens, 1937)

Raza (José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, 1942)

Sierra de Teruel (Malraux, 1939)

Memorias del subdesarrollo (dir. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968)

Lucía (dir. Humberto Solás, 1969)

De cierta manera (dir. Sara Gómez, 1974) 

Alicia en el pueblo de Maravillas (dir. Daniel Díaz Torres, 1991)

Fresa y chocolate (dir. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío, 1993). 

Memorias del subdesarrollo (dir. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea 1968)

Kuxa Kanema / Birth of Cinema (dir. Margarida Cardoso, 2003)


Topic 5: Dictatorship and Postdictatorship


El espirito de la colmena (dir. Víctor Erice, 1973)

Cria cuervos  (dir. Carlos Saura, 1976)

Toda Nudez será castigada (All nudity will be punished, dir. Arnaldo Jabor, 1974)

Tudo Bem (It’s all Right, dir. Arnaldo Jabor, 1976)

La historia oficial (dir. Luis Puenzo 1985)

Missing (dir. Costa-Gavras, 1982)

La noche de los lápices (dir. Héctor Olivera, 1986)

Kamchatka (dir. Marcelo Piñeyero, 2002)

Macucha (dir. Andrés Wood, 2004)

Tony Manero and Post Mortem (dir. Pablo Larraín, 2008; 2010).


Topic 6: Cinema Beyond the National: Trans-Cinema


Huellas y memoria de Jorge Prelorán (dir. Fermín Rivera, 2009)

El etnógrafo (dir. Ulises Rosell, 2012)

¿Quién diablos es Juliette? (dir. Carlos Marcovich, 2000)

Innisfree (dir. José Luis Guerin, 1990)

The Quiet Man (dir. John Ford, 1952)


  • There will also be the following 4 seminars over the course of the year:

Michaelmas Term:

1. Temporality and Technology

2. Popular Cinema and Genre

Lent Term:

3. The Politics of Counter-cinema

4. Gender and Sexuality

Readings for these seminars will be provided to students

Preparatory reading: 
  • Hayward, Susan. Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts (London and New York: Routledge, 2000)
  • Monaco, James. How to Read a Film (Oxford: OUP, 1981, rpt 2000)
  • Ezra, Elizabeth and Terry Rowden. Transnational Cinema. The Film Reader, NY: Routledge, 2006.
  • Hjort, Mette and Scott Mackenzie. 2000. Cinema and Nation. London: Routledge.
  • Triana Toribio, Nuria. Spanish National Cinema (Routledge, 2003)
  • Johnson, Randal and Robert Stam. Brazilian Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
  • King, John. Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America London and New York: Verso, 2000
Teaching and learning: 

The paper will be taught through 20 weekly lectures, supplemented by supervisions and four seminars. Students are expected to attend lectures for all six topics. A list of supervisors for the various topics will be provided by the paper convener, along with guidance on supervision and other practical matters. Students will have between 6-8 supervisions in the course of the year (including 2 revision supervisions). They are advised to arrange their supervisions to help them prepare for the three topics they have chosen to prepare for the exam. Two supervisions per topic are advisable to aid a comparative focus. Lecturers will indicate key films but students may supplement possible films for discussion with other appropriate examples, in consultation with their supervisor.


The paper is divided into six sections, according to the six topics taught. Students must answer three essays drawn from different sections. Answers must display knowledge of cinematic practices from more than one region (Spain, Portugal, Latin America, Brazil, Africa). Students must not repeat material substantially. Overlap between essays will be penalized. A specimen paper is attached.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Maite Conde (paper co-ordinator)