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PHX Art Museum Presents Golden Age of Mexican Cinema

Published: Friday, September 7, 2012

Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 13:09

Cine Latino

Screen capture of "Found Memories"

The Phoenix Art Museum launched its “Cine Latino” fall film study earlier this month, which will continue Wednesday with a presentation about the “Golden Age of Mexican Cinema,” which spanned from 1936 to 1950.

The presentation will be led by Desiree Garcia, assistant professor in the School of Transborder Studies and the Film and Media Studies Program at Arizona State University.

College Times spoke to Garcia about the history Mexican cinema and its returning popularity.

College Times: What is this event all about?

Desiree Garcia:This is the opportunity to learn about and encounter Mexican cinema when it was the leading Spanish-language cinema in the world. It also dominated the screens of hundreds of American movie theatres that served a Spanish-speaking clientele.

Will you be watching any films during the presentation, if so, what are they?

I plan to show a number of film clips from classic, golden age films. They will most likely include comedias rancheras (musical ranch comedies) such as “Allá en el Rancho Grande” (“Over on the Big Ranch,” 1936), and some comedies from Mexican cinema’s biggest star, Cantinflas. I will also show a clip or two from Hollywood films that were influenced by Mexican cinema in that period.

Why is it relevant today?

It could be said that Mexican cinema is experiencing another golden age today. Its directors are working in both independent and Hollywood production. And, unlike the earlier period, the Mexican filmmaking industry has become more inclusive during the last 20 years so that there are far more women directors now than ever before.

Whatsparked the recent renaissance in Mexican films?

The “New Mexican Cinema” dates to the 1970s when the Mexican industry’s Union of Film Industry Workers insisted on finding new talent, including young directors with new visions for Mexican cinema. The industry became even more inclusive in the early 1990s when women increasingly found work as assistant directors and directors. Films like “Danzón” and like “Water for Chocolate” gained international attention from popular audiences and critics. Since then, filmmakers like Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzales-Iñarritu and Guillermo del Toro have achieved great success with both their Mexican films and their Hollywood productions.

How have Mexican films influenced American films?

During the golden age, Mexican films could regularly be seen in American theatres. During the 1940s, Variety predicted that Mexican cinema would be the next important art cinema in the United States. Disney Studios collaborated with Mexican studios in order to produce their films “The Three Caballeros” and “Saludos Amigos.” Also, a number of Mexican actors found work in Hollywood such as Tito Guizar and Cantinflas.

More recently, the work of Mexican directors in Hollywood, including Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”) and Alejandro Gonzales-Iñarritu (“Babel”), has introduced a global perspective to Hollywood films that focuses on issues that have been central to Mexican life, including migration, violence and the oppression of the poor.

Are there any other Mexican Cinema events people should check out?

I would especially encourage your readers to attend the screening of “Los Olvidados” (“The Young and the Damned”) on October 12. This is a film by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel, who was working in Mexico in the 1950s. The film will be screened using a 35mm print, which is quite a rare opportunity in and of itself, and the print comes from Mexico where it was censored and forced to include a “happy ending,” as opposed to the very cynical and brutal ending that Buñuel originally intended.

Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, 602.257.1222, Wednesday, September 12, 7 p.m., free with museum admission

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