Picturing Argentina exposes the power of political cinema in shaping the collective mindset.
At the recent 2014 LASA congress, a book which attracted much interest was Picturing Argentina: Myths, Movies, and the Peronist Vision by Currie Thompson. The book, which was published just in time for the LASA congress, is the inaugural title of the groundbreaking Cambria Studies in Latin American Literatures and Cultures series headed by Román de la Campa (Edwin B. and Lenore R. Williams Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania).
There are also other reasons for the broad appeal of Picturing Argentina: It is an unprecedented study that concentrates systematically on the evolution of social attitudes reflected in Argentine movies throughout the years of the first Peronism; it is also the first to assess the period’s impact on subsequent filmmaking activity. In addition, this book is currently the only English-language study that provides an extensive assessment of Argentine cinema during the first Peronism. Given its interdisciplinary coverage extending across Latin American culture, history, politics, and sociology, Picturing Argentina is an immensely valuable resource to scholars.
The following are some key questions with responses taken directly from the book.
Why is the period important?
“This was a volatile period in Argentine history, framed by two coups and characterized by intense social conflict and reform. … The years of first Peronism were a time when Argentine cultural myths underwent remarkable transformation.”
Why examine the movies?
“Argentine movies produced in all the years under consideration provide evidence of both change and stasis in the nation’s collective mindset, and it is instructive to examine them in the context of first Peronism, which was characterized by intense, often bitter conflicts.”
How does this pertain to gender and social class?
“Many of Perón’s opponents saw economic class divisions as ‘natural.’His followers deemed them a perversion. … Also at stake were the ‘natural’ roles of men and women, the ‘natural’ behavior of fathers and mothers, the ‘natural’ leadership talents of military figures, the ‘natural’ implications of ethnicity, the ‘natural’ role of authority, the ‘natural’ practice of sports, and the ‘natural’ response to crime. … All these matters were of concern to Argentines during first Peronism, and all of them are reflected in the nation’s movies that premiered at that time.”
Why is the study of film critical to other disciplines such as politics and sociology?
“The government measures—blacklisting movie professionals, imposing censorship, blocking the release of films, requiring plot modifications or commentary distancing the regime from the social ills portrayed, rewarding pro-Peronist filmmakers with preferential financing, and encouraging content designed to evoke associations with beneficial government practices or to give a positive spin to controversial ones—complicate the understanding of how films “serve diverse groups diversely” during first Peronism (Altman 207). … Political cinema in its broadest sense reflects the dominant “quick moral intuitions” of a given period by presenting them as natural (as myths)—but it may also reflect on them and call them into question. As will become evident in the following pages [of Picturing Argentina], the interplay between these two trends attests fundamental changes in Argentine society during crucial years of the nation’s history.”
Browse this book now using the Cambria Press Free Preview Tool. A special 40% discount is currently on for all titles–use web coupon code LASA2014. Your library can use this too, so please forward the code on. See also the Latin American studies catalog.
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