JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

copyright 2010, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
Jump Cut
, No. 52, summer 2010

Genders and feminism in the films of Maricarmen de Lara

by Eli Bartra, translation by Christopher Follett

Paulina, rape and abortion

In Mexico on July 31, 1999, thirteen year old Paulina was raped by a heroin addict who broke into her modest home in Mexicali, Baja California, to rob her family, taking away about one hundred dollars in cash and leaving behind a terrorized family bound with rags and a very young girl destroyed by what had happened to her. This state had a governor from the strongly Catholic political party, Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN), yet abortion was legal in cases of rape. Paulina became pregnant.

In a country where violations of human rights are commonplace, the story of Paulina Ramírez Jacinta’s rape and its aftermath, nevertheless, stands out as particularly deplorable, a personal tragedy that has had a deep impact on the question of abortion rights. A thirteen year old girl in this terrible situation should have been straightforwardly able to satisfy her wish to avoid becoming the mother of an unwanted child: she had inner strength and unwavering conviction and the support of a loving mother and an older brother. She had the legal right to an abortion—even in a state where certain restrictions applied—early detection of the pregnancy (nineteen days after she was raped) and an order from the State Attorney’s Office to Mexicali General Hospital to perform the abortion (issued thirty-four days after the rape).

But things did not work out the way Paulina and her family had hoped. Two and a half months after the rape, Paulina was admitted to Mexicali General Hospital to have the abortion. She was kept there for an entire week while doctors debated who would perform the abortion. All of the hospital’s gynecologists refused; the director could not find another doctor to perform the procedure. She was released from the hospital. After another week of stalling on the part of the hospital administration, Paulina was admitted once again for an abortion. While in her hospital room, on the day the procedure was to take place, she was visited by two unidentified women claiming to represent the state’s Family Development Agency (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, DIF). They showed her a grotesque anti-abortion video, The Silent Scream, used by the ProLife organization for proselytizing, and had her concentrate on an image of Christ. That same night, moments before the scheduled abortion, the hospital director pulled Paulina’s mother aside to tell her of the supposed risks of an abortion, grossly exaggerating them. The director thus effectively scared the family to the point of retracting their request for a legal abortion. The family went home in indignation.

Women’s rights defenders from the Alaíde Foppa organization in Mexicali found out about the situation from an October 16th newspaper article and immediately contacted Paulina to offer their help. On October 25, 1999, they submitted a complaint about the violation of Paulina’s rights to the Baja California Law Offices for Human Rights and Citizen Protection and have offered constant support in the legal suits and proceedings that have been underway since, but they could not secure the legal abortion Paulina sought. Overwhelming public support had been raised in Mexicali and throughout Mexico with unprecedented media coverage of the case. At the same time, certain interest groups took up the case for their own ends, disregarding the family’s unfaltering desire for an abortion. Indeed, the ProLife group that sent unidentified women into Paulina’s hospital room boasted of its triumph in “saving the life of an innocent child.” To the great indignation of Paulina’s family, the anti-abortionists made public announcements falsely claiming to have gathered large amounts of money to support Paulina yet never gave any money to the family.

Reproductive and sexual rights advocates mobilized for Paulina; they drew attention to public authorities’ abuse of power and prioritizing personal religious belief over legal responsibility, trampling on women’s rights for the sake of a political goal. On the state level, since 1998 the panista state governor and legislators had been trying to amend the state constitution in order to “protect life from the moment of conception.”

The Catholic Church itself also played a large role. Before the family waived their right to a legal abortion, the State Attorney General took them to see a priest who warned Paulina that abortion is grounds for excommunication and persuaded her to desist. Mexico’s cardinal, who had made public proclamations against abortion under any circumstances, claimed this case as a success.

Maricarmen de Lara’s documentary, Paulina, en el nombre de la ley (“Paulina, in the Name of the Law,” 17 min., prod: Gire/Calacas y Palomas, 2001), is a simple, small kaleidoscopic video with four female voices describing Paulina’s rape and the string of bureaucratic infamies aimed at preventing the girl from aborting as she herself had wished. Paulina speaks in an articulate and coherent way, although with a rather flat voice. The editing produces a somewhat claustrophobic effect as the soundtrack cuts from one voice to another: between Paulina, her sister, her mother, and the lawyer, and occasionally her brother. There are a few cut-aways of a desert location filled with rubbish. These scant audiovisual resources are used to build up an atmosphere of impotence, the absence of any possibility of resolving the problem, a situation with no way out. In terms of Paulina’s life, she gave birth to Isaac in April, 2000; he is now nine years old. She got married, has a store and another baby, and her mother has since died.

Maricarmen de Lara uses documentary as a tool for getting close to a social reality that touches her and giving it visibility. She tries to get the person interviewed to reveal herself through her testimony. De Lara doesn’t work out a text previously, but allows the life histories or narratives of the event to unfold by themselves. In making Paulina, her goal was to draw the attention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Paulina’s problem while also raising public awareness about it. Each of de Lara’s video has a different intention. Consistently as a director, she likes to show the person interviewed because in that way viewers can appreciate not only what she is saying but her body language as well:

“To see people’s attitudes and the expression in their eyes has a particular weight with the audience.”[1][open notes in new window]

Paulina did not want to be interviewed for this documentary about her situation, but Maricarmen de Lara convinced her to because the filmmaker believed it was important for the public to understand what Paulina had gone through. In doing this, however, de Lara has said that she “felt like a vulture trying to draw Paulina’s testimony out of her,” even though “we are not the kind of journalists who go raking up the dirt or pouring ridicule on other people’s lives.”[2]

In terms of the film’s visual style, the cut-aways showing the rubbish dump, an abandoned car tire, a baby-buggy indicate the surroundings that formed part of Paulina’s life—they show where she lived. The filmmakers did slightly interfere with this environment: they set the buggy wheel spinning in order to give visual movement. If what we see is thus a mixture of documentary and fiction, that is what the director intended from the outset.

In terms of her filming process, de Lara prefers to work with a small crew, which varies to some extent according to the subject matter. With Paulina only two people were involved, since the director wanted the filming to be as unobtrusive as possible. Here, she says, they felt like “dancers in a china shop” partly because of the small size of the house. Normally, de Lara works with crews of between six and twenty (except when she filmed the feature En el país de no pasa nada /“In the Country where Nothing Happens,” which had a crew of 80).

Also made about the theme of abortion, Difficult Decisions (20 min., prod: Gire, 1995), is a fictional video which tells the story of four women in Mexico City who decide to have an abortion, at a time when abortion is still illegal. They are different ages (17, 36, 33 and 40) and from various social strata. Two of them have rather a bad time of it, the third dies, while the fourth comes out perfectly well. The script was derived from interviews, on the basis of which de Lara built up her characters. Difficult Decisions is, above all, a militant video aimed at making the public aware of the need to legalize abortion. Finally, in 2007, abortion was made legal in Mexico City—although in the rest of the country it generally remains a criminal offence. Currently, seventeen states in present-day Mexico continue to penalize abortion, even in cases of rape, under the pretext that life is to be “protected from conception until natural death.” And when individual state law permits it for certain cases, right wing governors prevent the law from being applied, as happened in Paulina’s case. [3]

Difficult Decisions includes the metaphorical image of a woman in a pool of blood. To create such images and to depict abortion, de Lara needed to incorporate acted material and thus used fiction, in spite of her opinion that drama is a much more difficult genre to execute. However, she sees what the genres have in common. In both her fiction and documentary work, her purpose is always to tell a story. That is her way of leaving a record, a piece of evidence as it were, of an event or situation—usually involving women. Her work stimulates discussion and thus has been used on countless occasions for workshops in schools and universities, shown on television and exhibited, primarily in cinema clubs.

In her filmmaking strategy, Maricarmen de Lara always carries out initial research, both for writing a script and for establishing a basis for obtaining finance. She uses documentary as a tool for approaching, understanding, and making known a social reality that affects her. To do so, she uses both testimonies and life stories. Whether her intention is to bring certain problems to the notice of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights or simply to make the general public aware of a problem or a particular kind of event, the stories she tells are always the ones that the mass media ignore.

Both the above short films (Paulina and Decisiones difíciles) were produced by GIRE (Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida)—a feminist NGO for reproductive rights created and directed by Marta Lamas, who appears speaking at the end of Decisiones difíciles. These two works were financed partly out of the profits of the feature En el país de no pasa nada, and partly by GIRE. The filmmaking company, Calacas y Palomas, owned by Maricarmen de Lara and her partner Leopoldo Best, co-produced Paulina. As consciousness-raising media aimed at denouncing the circumstances surrounding rape and abortion in Mexico, the two films have played an important role in workshops organized by GIRE throughout the country. It is difficult to assess how much impact the films have had, but what cannot be denied is that the general public is becoming gradually more aware of both rape and abortion as problems.

In the early 1990s changes were made in the Mexican laws covering sexual offences under which sexual harassment became a criminal offense, while rape became subject to prosecution by the state with automatic refusal of bail. Nevertheless, rapists are rarely brought to trial. The country has many good laws but fails to apply them because of the poor quality of criminal arrest and legal prosecution.

De Lara and women’s cinema in Mexico

Maricarmen de Lara was born in Mexico City (1957). She studied at UNAM’s national cinema school, starting to work in filmmaking in 1980. She has made three feature films and five medium-length films, as well as some forty short and medium-length videos. Among the latter are two important series: Géneros e identidades (“Genders and Identities,” 2002), consisting of four tapes, and Las que viven en Ciudad Bolero (“Women who live in Bolero City,” 1993-95), with six videos. One of her first co-directed films, No es por gusto (“It’s not for Pleasure,” 1980), was on the subject of prostitution, and among her latest videos is ¿Más vale maña que fuerza? (“Is guile worth more than strength?” 2007) about sportswomen. She has also made a series of three videos about some of the most important social movements in Mexico City: De la protesta a la propuesta (“From Protest to Proposal” 2009, about the feminist movement), Del Cabildo a la Asamblea Legislative (“From town hall to the Legislative Assembly”) 2009, and De la inquisición al México desnudo (“From the Inquisition to Nude Mexico”) 2009. None of these works were shown on television.

Más vale maña que fuerza is a documentary about female football (soccer) players and boxers. That kind of subject matter indicates not only that de Lara chooses to work about social problems such prostitution, but also that she prefers to develop narratives about “strong” women. If we look across her whole career this preference is amply borne out. She has researched various fields in terms of issues concerning women. Those issues include rape (the case of Paulina); infrahuman working conditions; domestic work; sexual health and reproductive rights—specifically AIDS, abortion and menopause. She has taken pains to publicize the lives of female personalities who are part of Mexico’s popular culture such as boxers, football players, and recognized composers and singers of boleros.

She also has gone looking into the rather unconventional lives of women and homosexuals in Juchitán. Gender relations in Oaxaca and identities are rather special, and quite divergent from those in other parts of the country; women have a very strong assertive social presence, and with significative social roles; they like to dance together at the velas (local festivities) and drink beer. Gay men (muxhes) are socially accepted, respected, and their role in the families is highly appreciated—unlike lesbians (nguiu), who are rarely accepted and even discriminated against.

Given the difficulties of making a living from independent cinema de Lara today is also a full-time teacher at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco, and, for her good fortune, once again a member of the National System of Creators. The System offers competitive fellowships for prominent artists and writers; successful applicants receive a monthly stipend for three years.

Although cinema is one of the cultural activities that have been most widely studied in different parts of the world over recent decades from the point of view of neo-feminist[4] theories, [5] for those writing in Mexico in Spanish, writers oriented toward women in film have paid more attention to classic Hollywood cinema and Mexico’s golden age of film, while rarely dealing with films produced in the last twenty years.[6] At this point, I should like to consider the work—both fictional and documentary—of Mexican filmmaker, Maricarmen de Lara, focusing attention on her very particular feminist vision of the world and treatment of genders, one of the fundamental aspects of her movies. Despite her long career in cinema and video, no major critical article or monograph has yet been published on this director although some reviews have appeared, and also fragments of interviews. I am guided by the idea that—to quote Maggie Humm—one of the “tasks of a feminist esthetics is to study and promote women as producers of art.” (Humm, 9) Since for a long time this has also been an interest of my own, I shall offer a few more small pieces of this great jigsaw puzzle which is feminism and art in Mexico.

In analyzing feminist documentaries of the 1970s and 1980s, Julia Lesage has emphasized the importance of an esthetics of political cinema in general and feminist cinema in particular (Lesage, 222). She finds that the narrative structure of feminist documentaries focused on illustrating female lives and experiences is generally linear. In such documentaries, the women almost always speak directly to the camera, often talking about similar themes in films made in different countries: rape, abortion, domestic work, abused women, struggles in the workplace. According to Lesage, these documentaries often focus on the private sphere and frequently show women of strong character. Feminist cinema has depicted familiar aspects of women’s lives and experience in order to define them in a new and non-colonized way; biographical documentaries, for example, serve as both criticism and antidote (233). The critics of this kind of women’s documentary cinema have concentrated mainly on three elements: its appearance of transparency, its naïveté in seeking to capture reality, and the tediousness of the “talking heads.” However, according to Lesage, the filmmakers have had as a priority giving a voice to those who normally lack one. A new iconography of women’s bodies and their space arises, which implicitly defies the visual representation that is traditionally made of them. She underlines that

“the films’ appeal lies not only in having strong women tell about their lives but even more in our hearing and having demonstrated that some women have deliberately altered the rules of the game of sexual politics.” (235, 236).

When dealing with women, it is necessary—almost inevitably—to approach their historical absence or presence in certain fields. Filmmaking is no exception. As the feminist movement got underway in the world, women started to enter little by little into social and physical spaces where they had been practically absent. By the 1980s their presence in Western film production, including Mexico, was already worthy of notice. For example, in the 1980s in France, as Paule Lejeune indicates, although female cineastes did not exceed 6% of the total, they had, nonetheless,

“opened a path for a different kind of expression on film, more subtle, more subjective, and at the same time, more rigorous” (Lejeune, 20).

For feminist film scholars, a series of questions and problems have been articulated consistently in relation to what has been called women’s cinema. For example, Teresa De Lauretis notes that the way in which women directors have expressed themselves and developed both artistically and critically seems to point less towards a “feminine esthetics” than to a feminist de-esthetics, that is, toward styles that challenge dominant cinematic styles. And if the word “de-esthetics” sounds strange or inelegant, the semantic play is nonetheless attractive—could she be right?[7]

In Mexico, throughout the first half of the twentieth century a scattering of women ventured in different ways into filmmaking, including directors such as Mimí Derba (Herminia Pérez de León), Cándida Beltrán, Adela Sequeyro, Dolores and Adriana Elhers, and the well-known director of feature fiction films, Matilde Landeta.[8] However in the second half of the century, above all from the 1970s onwards, women have entered seriously into Mexican cinema production. Hence, far from being an exception, Maricarmen de Lara should be situated within the context of a group of feminist cineastes (who have made both independent and studio productions) and who have made significant contributions to Mexican cinema.[9]

Nevertheless, rejecting the attention paid to women cineastes, in 1986 established film critic Jorge Ayala Blanco wrote an arrogant and devastating critique of both the first female directors and their works (Lesage points out that such a critical attitude is often the response to women’s endeavors and feminist scholarship). According to him, in 1986, radical feminism was already on the way out without having created any feminist culture. In passing, Blanco decreed the death of feminist cinema and also took the opportunity to exterminate feminism as a whole. For him, Mexican feminist cinema was purely and simply extinguished (Ayala Blanco, 20).  However it continues to flourish. In the 1980s ten full-length feature films made by women were shown theatrically (of course, not all the directors and themes were feminists); and Maricarmen de Lara’s four medium-length films, for example, are not included in that account (Castro, 188). More than twennty years later, feminist cinema and documentary are being produced in Mexico—transmuted into a different version of feminism, of course—and have enriched the cinematic output of this country. De Lara’s career is a clear example of this.

One of the principal threads running through de Lara’s work is the attempt to throw a new light on the different faces of violence directed against women. Notwithstanding, in her latest video ¿Más vale maña que fuerza? she takes up the question of the violence that women footballers (soccer players) and boxers voluntarily partake in as a result of the sports they choose to practice—which are among the most violent ones. The title, “Is Guile Worth More than Strength,” plays upon the meanings and implications that physical “strength” has within society. Both the narrative and images of this film offer viewers something of a paradox, in that here the people administering punches and kicks are women. This documentary also represents—and this is important nationally—an homage to the pioneering and triumphant women who have made these sports their own in Mexico.

The culture of sport is extremely important in Mexico, especially football and boxing. The interviewees in the film describe the difficulty faced by female boxers and footballers when devoting themselves to activities traditionally undertaken by men, and the narrative is structured to contemplate the existing violence and inequity in the sports world with a sense of humor. Women who are initiated in these professions tell their stories: Laura Serrano (known as the poetess of the ring), Maribel Domínguez, Iris Mora, Charlyn Corral, Thania Cortéz. Boxing and football have always welcomed individuals of working-class origin. In addition, the documentary broaches the issue of race as its main characters are, in general, people of mixed race at a remove from “whiter” Mexicans of European ancestry.

This video, which explores the sportswomen’s lives, casts a feminist glance at what is a macho endeavor par excellence. The speakers emphasize that there’s a scanty participation by women in football and boxing and offer testimonies regarding the discrimination they experience on account of their sex. At the same time, de Lara shows clearly the process of the sportswomen’s empowerment as they realize their ambitions by converting their passion into professional activity. The video is feminist because, besides casting light on a situation of injustice, it shows the possibilities of transformation on behalf of women becoming active, autonomous and freer subjects. In this sense it is similar to No les pedimos un viaje a la luna (“We’re Not Asking for a Trip to the Moon”), in which a massive earthquake that devastates Mexico City in 1985 also triggers a struggle by working-class women displaced from their jobs. The seamstresses were one of the sectors most affected by the earthquake. The workers lost their jobs and in some cases, their lives. This eventually led to a discovery of the wretched conditions in which they worked. This documentary was made shortly after the earthquake, and shows the seamstresses’ struggles to denounce their situation, and create an independent union. Here again we see the empowerment of women through (political) action. As they become more autonomous through political organizing, they gain a greater liberty.

De Lara’s filmmaking process

De Lara constantly repeats that she would like to do things “another way,” but this is precisely one of the main challenges facing her. There is in her, incontestably, a formal search, a seeking after a new way of talking about, often denouncing, unjust situations that women face. However, she has not always wholly achieved this goal; it is not easy to find that “other way” for women to tell their stories—other than the simple recourse of putting them on screen and having them talk. If the women themselves are not doing the talking, there has to be a scripted narration, often delivered in voice over, and this characterizes one of the most traditional forms of the documentary, “the expository mode” (Nichols 1997, 68) with an omnipotent narrator that de Lara does not like to use. Nevertheless, in the series, Las que viven en Ciudad Bolero, for example, she combines different forms, using the voices of interviewed women interspersed with a narration. Though she often uses mixed forms her preference would be the “participatory mode”(Nichols, 78) in which the filmmaker interacts with interviewees.

She is from the Jean Rouch school of cinéma verité, which in Mexico is called “direct cinema,” and she continues to express the certainty “that in some way the fact that people talk to you face on has strength, because the story belongs to them, and that is still valid.”[10] In effect, because she wants to tell a story to support her involvement in the “causes” she films or records, she is closer to Rouch or Dziga Vertov, who mix documentary images with overt narrative structuring. Thus her style is far less like US cinema verité and a director like Frederick Weisman, who thinks the filmmaker should not let him/herself get involved, that the camera should be like a fly on the wall. In this regard, de Lara emphasizes,

“It’s not a matter of giving women a voice. I don’t give them a voice; they already have one, they have stories to tell, and I document them precisely because they have a voice; the thing about giving them a voice seems to me a paternalistic position.”[11]

De Lara chooses subjects that move her, make her angry or attract her attention because they represent some act of injustice. She begins by investigating and looking for images, animation resources, newspapers, and graffiti. She also tries to uncover real grassroots leaders, because the people who seem most self-assured in front of the camera are sometimes false leaders. She also carries out interviews with other, cooler, informants—academics for instance, who know about the subject in question (who, one might add, tend to be the least interesting, the most boring).

“The medium is so intrusive that, particularly when matters to do with sexuality are being addressed, it is difficult; I therefore generally begin with a simple digital camera, just me. I formulate a hypothesis and then try to prove it. Sometimes I confirm it and other times I have to modify it.”[12]

When violence is the topic of her documentary, sometimes she treats it directly, other times indirectly. In No es por gusto (1981), the leitmotif of violence returns to the way prostitutes are beaten and mistreated by their partners and by the police. Nonetheless, despite showing the hard life of these women in Mexico City, de Lara also shows in an interesting way the gaiety and the playfulness in their lives with their children. As de Lara says, she detests “miserabilismo,” a celebration of misery, as a close relative of “dolorismo,” the exultation of pain, of suffering. This film attempts to offer a different kind of ending, giving an impression that prostitution is a story that has no end, but just goes on and on, like life itself. But for me that attempted ending does not really work and the film seems incomplete.

It is a characteristic of de Lara’s films to lack a traditional beginning and conclusion. In much of her work one has the sensation of coming in on a conversation and not knowing what it’s all about. Then, little by little, one starts to catch the thread of it, and just as often it comes to a sudden halt. It is as if we were just looking at a slice of the cake of life, from which the director might have wanted to cut out for us a segment of reality. A recurrent trait of her videos is that they begin abruptly (sometimes with a slight introduction) and likewise finish with a jolt. It would seem that the idea is to present “reality” just as it is, unadorned, without artifice—obviously impossible since actual social reality cannot be relayed by the cinematographic text “just as it is.” Everything passes through the filter of the direction, the camera, the editing. As Eric Barnouw concludes his text on documentaries:

“The essential task [of documentary makers] has been, as Vertov defined it, that of capturing ‘fragments of present reality’ and combining them in a meaningful way. It is still, as Grierson said, ‘the creative treatment of reality.’ Such formulations place the accent on two functions: (1) recording (with images and sound) and (2) interpretation.” (Barnouw, 287).

De Lara enjoys using mixed genres. For example, AIDS has been a major concern for her, and she made an interesting animated video Estamos rodeados de tentaciones (“We are Surrounded by Temptations,” 38 min., 1995) to inform about the pandemic. The film is based on a song by Lora called “Enmascarado de Latex” (Masked Latex), and the condom comes out of the package while the song refers to something “hidden under the pants”; the video shows how to use the condom with a couple making love, and then it even shows how to discard it.  Decisiones difíciles seems to me an excellent video about abortion; it is a mix of fiction and documentary, since it is acted, although perhaps the documentary part of the ending (a “talking head”) is not completely articulated with the rest. At times in de Lara’s work, the mixture of fiction and documentary turns out very well.

The videotapes that make up Las que viven en Ciudad Bolero have a historical importance of first order in the task of preserving popular memory. There is a series of three, Trilogía de la Inspiración, (Trilogy of Inspiration) that focuses on the lives and work of famous Mexican women composers and singers. These women (María Grever, Consuelo Velázquez, Emma Elena Valdelamar) are a fundamental part of  “sentimental education” in Mexico and throughout Latin America. The videos were not made for the television, but they have the structure (the required length) in case there is an opportunity to show them on television. 

On the same subject and as part of the series Las que viven en Ciudad Bolero she also made several videos El mejor dueto de América, Las Hermanas Aguila, La voz pasional, Amparo Montes and Las voces, las épocas, (María Luisa—Marilú— Landín and Avelina Landín). The works are all very well scripted by Alfonso Morales; he is an extremely imaginative and creative intellectual. I speculate that the male hand is noticeable in these videos, both in the co-direction (Leopoldo Best) and the screenwriting. Perhaps this is why we see little of the personal, domestic, loving and everyday aspects of the artists depicted; instead of their family context we are given the national and international socio-political context of their work. In this, a different approach to a character can be appreciated; a woman’s way of observing can be quite different from a man’s. It seems to me that in the case of Maricarmen de Lara’s work I can easily detect when a larger part is being played by men and when not.

Sometimes de Lara works with mostly women on a project. Other times she does not.  It should be pointed out that most of the people who have been behind the camera in her work or have edited for her have been men. She has only had one camerawoman, Maripí Sáenz. There is no doubt, for instance, that in No es por gusto, there is a stereotyped male gaze behind the camera observing the prostitutes, gliding over their legs, their bodies; the cameramen were Alejandro Gamboa and Vicente Blanchet. For editing, she thoroughly discusses the ongoing structuring process with the editor, who is often Leopoldo Best, also a director and her husband. She listens to his proposals; if they strike her as good ones she accepts them, otherwise not; she has the last word. (She has only had one female editor, Ximena Cuevas; the rest have all been men.) To the extent that cinema is a collective labor par excellence, it is not always possible to detect clearly the voice of gender in filmmaking. Or perhaps it is necessary to rethink cinematic direction itself. At specific moments in the process or in particular works, direction by a woman does not necessarily show a “feminine view” but is also determined by the male viewpoints which, in the end, all of us, both men and women, have learnt.

A perennial problem faced by Mexican filmmakers that needs to be mentioned—though it is by no means exclusive to this country—is the question of finance and distribution. De Lara has chosen to work in video because she is convinced that it facilitates greater circulation (De Lara, 463). Distribution, according to de Lara, is the bottleneck. Even when the government itself has given financial support for a project, filmmakers often cannot get television distribution, in particular on the state television channels. Acute differences within national political culture put enormous barriers up for documentary distribution. There is now, however, a program on the state-owned Canal 11 which transmits films by graduates of the film program, CCC, while TeVeUNAM also broadcasts shorts made by the national film school, the CUEC.[13]

Nowadays, de Lara is engaged in a perpetual endeavor to open new doors in the search for alternative sources of finance. At the same time, she is not neglecting the Mexican Government or international foundations such as the Ford or the MacArthur Foundations, where she competes for funds. Likewise, she often works for women’s NGOs that commission her services in the making of videos.[14] Furthermore, in the past, she often hired external filming and editing teams, but now she has her own team in the producing company “Calacas y Palomas.”She has also worked for television companies such as the private corporation Televisa, and Channel 11, for which she made Sida, enfermedad de nuestro tiempo (Aids, illness of our time).

 En el país de no pasa nada is a feature-length comedy that brings together characters from greatly different social classes, and offers a critique of the corruption and double life of politicians. A woman married to a corrupt politician has money but her family life leaves her unsatisfied. One day she discovers that her husband is cheating on her. He is kidnapped by a naïve couple, and his employees have also come up with a plan to revenge themselves for his pernicious conduct. The film has some good actors but it also has a Spanish actress who is awful. The plot is not well developed, and the genre probably does not suit the director.  One observes that the constants of her work are present: violence, and also a very important social problem, in this case, corruption. Nonetheless, I was not impressed by the most ambitious of her projects, the only one in 35mm.

De Lara’s politics

Maricarmen de Lara began directing films collectively and, to a considerable extent, in dialogue with militant feminism. For example, Vida de ángel (“An Angel’s Life,” prod: Colectivo Cine Mujer, 1982) is a documentary about domestic work in a lower-class district of Mexico City. It shows the endless housework of housewives in a big city. One member of the collective stated its feminist goal:

“The film helped us in exhibitions with different groups of women, from their most immediate identification with the women in the film, to the analysis of the organization of housewives in their struggle against capital.” (La Boletina, 2).

Without a doubt, the subjects that move de Lara to direct a film or a video have to do with feminist critique. Her involvement in the feminist movement has been fundamental to her work as a cineaste—both through the topics she deals with and through her process of filming and recording with various feminist groups and NGOs such as Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, SexUNAM, Modemujer, GIRE, Sipam, or Diversa. She has also recorded the movement’s activism—for example, in the Court of Reproductive Rights (Tribunal de Derechos Reproductivos) of ten years ago. At first, in the 1980s, she participated actively in the feminist group Cine Mujer with Rosa Martha Fernández, Ángeles Necoechea, Beatriz Mira and Marysa Sistach, among others. Nowadays her most important links are with young filmmakers and her own students.

When she talks about her filmmaking career, Maricarmen de Lara clearly shares the ethos and the aims of the feminist movement:

“They suggested I worke as assistant cameraman, in other words, the most delicate specialized humping job in filming … I wasn’t in a mood to wriggle out of it or to confess in front a male team that the loads were too much for me … Today equipment is very different; the cameras are simply lighter and roles are set up in a more inclusive way.”

“I believe these beginnings in feminism left my generation with a taste for combat which time has fine-tuned.” [13]

Deliberately and consciously—with an evident reminiscence of Marxism—de Lara accords great importance to the process of cinematographic production, and perhaps she has allowed subject matter to take priority over style. She has stated on one occasion, “The important thing is not the format but the story.” She adds:

“For the last twenty years I have been narrating through images the history of women’s rights and the violence that has existed above all for women with few economic resources” (García, 2001).

I find de Lara’s work feminine (with all the contradictions this implies), aimed at women (although not exclusively), and eminently feminist. Not only is it devoted to exhibiting a set of problems experienced by women—the inequitable relations between genders, sexism, machismo, and even misogyny in its cruelest forms—but in addition, it tries to show the empowerment of women and the possibilities of subverting the order of things. And the work of de Lara is, perhaps, above all, militant. She makes use of film and video in order to recount the lives of women in Mexico. Her work presents different stories, but with a shared concern over the years: to narrate experiences that have to do with violence, and to document resistance and struggle. Furthermore, she considers that video has

“the possibility of translating the knowledge of small groups of academics who are developing a gender perspective into a language capable of reaching a broad audience.” (De Lara, 464).

However, I think the dilemma of reaching a mass audience has not been resolved, nor the polarization of politics vs. pleasure (Smelik, 71). During the 1980s, Ann Kaplan advocated a feminist cinema that would not be situated outside the dominant culture, but would use the traditional film media. It is difficult to say whether or not the work of Maricarmen de Lara approximates to the tendency which Smelik refers to as popular feminist cinema (71), but she herself states:

“I believe that my materials have supported and reflected the growth of feminism in Mexico … I am definitely a feminist and do not believe that feminism has stagnated, even less so died; on the contrary, it has given a historical perspective to crucial present-day subjects”. (De Lara, 2001, 465).

What I have called the neo-feminist movement emerged in Mexico in 1971 and has passed through several well-defined phases.  First it was characterized as a movement centred on the body, on sexuality, on the “private”—hence its motto, “the personal is political.” It was a movement above all inward-directed, in all senses; towards the interior of every woman (in both physical and psychological aspects), and towards the interior of small organized groups (consciousness-raising groups) in which dialogue prevailed. Of course feminists also wanted to modify laws, but these had to do primarily—although not exclusively—with the body. The struggle for political rights such as universal suffrage, which allowed women to vote and be voted for, had already been won with the law passed in 1953. Feminism represented at one and the same time continuity and rupture. It was “discovered” that, in reality, what had to be sought was not equality but difference. Women are not the same as to men and so what was needed was that their differences should be respected. In the 1980s an expansion of feminism was created directed at the lower social strata, the clases populares, to some extent messianic and aimed at providing assistance. The 1990s in Mexico were characterized by the institutionalizing and bureaucratizing of feminism; this also, however, represented its legitimization. The movement expanded into a myriad of Non Governmental Organizations—the “NGO-ization” of feminism. In that decade the movement became more serene and reflective, with an emphasis on academic research into women and the relations between genders.

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the new generation of Mexican feminism is above all, like the international women’s suffrage movement, an outward-directed movement; it is conducting struggles in the public arena, in the field of institutions (both governmental and non-governmental) and in formal politics. Nonetheless, the struggles in question are more sophisticated and perhaps richer in many senses. In parallel it is possible that we are approaching the appearance of a new autonomous feminism; there are signs of the need for a resurgence. At this stage, the idea of struggling for the differences of women as a social group as against that of men is often set aside while the differences between women are underlined. At the same time there is a struggle for parity between the genders both in the social and the private spheres.[16]

DeLara’s most recent video is a feature-length documentary that addresses a national political event and Constitutional issue. It also features a strong woman protagonist on the historical stage. Voces silenciadas, libertad amenazada (“Voices Silenced, Freedom under Threat,” 2008, 93 min.) consists of a set of testimonies by journalists, writers and academics of both sexes arranged to present a historical account of the right to information and freedom of expression in the Mexican communications media. The event that triggered off this work was the expulsion of the journalist and broadcaster Carmen Aristegui from the radio station W Radio in 2008. This popular and highly respected journalist is one of the most critical voices on radio and television. After a long history of censorship, limitations and all kinds of obstacles, Maricarmen de Lara takes Aristegui as her example in a video in defense of ethical journalism. The director regards it as important to recover the memory of the struggles in the mass media in order to make of them “a truly democratic space” (Vértiz, 2009). In Mexico television is controlled by a very powerful duopoly, and this video demonstrates the unscrupulous use of both the State and the private corporate makes of this control. The following comment by Javier Betancourt seems to me to hit the mark when he says of Voces silenciadas:

“The principal merit of this work is the complete absence of sensationalism in the treatment of a media scandal involving the media themselves; thus, from take to take, from one interview to another, with the inclusion of historical documental sequences, de Lara shows that in the arbitrary firing of this Mexican commentator the destiny of freedom of expression in Mexico is at stake (2009).”[17]

One of the fundamental and recurrent questions that comes whenever one refers to a woman’s creativity—whether or not she’s working on a feminist plane—is that of gender difference. Time and time again these kinds of questions come up: Are films made by women different? Is the cinematographic language they use different? Do women have a different way of working? According to filmmaker Busi Cortés, women tend more often to bring their families into their work (Cortés, 2005, 238). In de Lara’s case, it is a fact that she and her partner, Leopoldo Best, have worked together on many occasions. She thinks, in effect, that female cineastes likely foster this kind of working arrangement. Although, if one thinks about it, perhaps such an arrangement is simply normal—because male filmmakers also often involve their families.  

Clearly, de Lara’s observation of society and her choice of subject matter do set her apart from other filmmakers in contemporary Mexico. The entire body of Maricarmen de Lara’s work—from 1980’s No es por gusto to 2009’s Reflexiones ciudadanas—is governed by her main interest: women in Mexico, their subalternity and the different struggles to surmount this situation. Her grounding in feminism provides the basis for her concern with social justice issues. She is a tireless filmmaker that, as she puts the period on one project, is already threading the needle for the next one.

Notes, references, film/videography

Notes

1. Bartra interview with Maricarmen de Lara, July 18, 2009. [return to text]

2. Idem.

4. For further information on the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico, see Lourdes Enríquez and Claudia de Anda (eds.), Despenalización del aborto en la Ciudad de México. Argumentos para la reflexión, Mexico City, PUEG-UNAM/GIRE/Ipas, 2008

4. For the use of the concept neofeminism see my text Neofeminism in Mexico, Working Paper # 33, Durham: Duke-UNC-Chapel Hill, May 2001.

5. For example, Laura Mulvey, Annette Kuhn, Ann Kaplan, Maggie Humm, Annette Smelik in English, Norma Iglesias, Márgara Millán, Julia Tuñón and Maricruz Castro in Mexico, just to mention a few.

6. See for example, Ma. de Carmen Rodríguez Fernández (ed.) Diosas del celuloide. Arquetipos de género en el cine clásico.

7. See De Lauretis, 1990, p. 306.

8. Aimée Muñoz Machuca. “Del cine y sus mujeres,” Gaceta Universitaria, Guadalajara, Universidad de Guadalajara, December 13, 1999, p. 17.

9. For more information on Mexican women cineastes of this period, see the book by Elissa J. Rashkin, Women Filmmakers in Mexico, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2001.

10. Interview by Eli Bartra with de Lara, August 11, 2007.

11. Lecture by Maricarmen de Lara, Master’s in Women’s Studies, UAM-X, October 31, 2007.

12. Interview with de Lara, August 11, 2007. She speaks of this also in Patricia Torres San Martín, p. 61.

13. Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, Mexico City and Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City.

14. Please refer to the filmography below to see how each video and film was funded.

15. Maricarmen de Lara. “Una habitación propia,” in Denise Dresser (ed.) Gritos y susurros II, (Mexico City: 2009), pp. 214-215

16. See Eli Bartra, Ana Lau, and Anna María Fernández Poncela. Feminismo en México ayer y hoy, 2002.

17. This documentary has been exhibited by Ambulante in several states of the Mexican Republic and in the capital. It had a significant theatrical distribution but its political content keeps it from television distribution.

References

Ayala Blanco, Jorge. “El parto de los montes feministas,” Intolerancia, 2, Mexico City, 1986, pp. 3-20.

Barnouw, Eric. Documentary. A History of Non-Fiction Film, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Bartra, Eli. “Mujeres y política en México. Aborto, violación y mujeres golpeadas,” Política y cultura, 1 (Mexico City: UAM-X, Fall, 1992), pp. 23-33.

Bartra, Eli, Ana Lau, Anna María Fernández Poncela. Feminismo en México, ayer y hoy, 2nd ed., Mexico City: UAM, 2002.

Betancourt, Javier. “Voces silenciadas, libertad amenazada,” Proceso 1687, February 28, 2009
[also available at http://www.proceso.com.mx].

Castro Ricalde, Maricruz. “Cine hecho por mujeres en el discurso periodístico de la década de los ochenta en México,” Iztapalapa, Year 23, No. 53, Mexico City: UAM-I, 2002, pp. 188-201.

-----------. “El feminismo y el cine realizado por mujeres en México,” Razón y palabra, 46, online journal, August-September, 11 pp.
[http://www.razonypalabra.org.mx/anteriores/n46/index.html]

Ciuk, Perla. Diccionario de directores del cine mexicano, Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (CONACULTA) and Cineteca Nacional, 2000.

Cortés Rocha, Busi. “De enjundias ancestrales. Un punto de vista personal sobre cine femenino,” María Ileana García Gossio (coord.), Mujeres y sociedad en el México contemporáneo: nombrar lo innombrable, Mexico City: Cámara de Diputados/Tec de Monterrey/Porrúa, 2005, pp. 233-258.

De Lara, Maricarmen. “Una habitación propia,” in Denise Dresser (ed.) Gritos y susurros II. Experiencias intempestivas de otras 39 mujeres, Mexico City: Aguilar, 2009, pp. 205-216.

------------. “Mientras haya de dónde cortar,” in Francisco Blanco Figueroa (ed.). Mujeres mexicanas el siglo XX. La otra revolución, vol. 3, Mexico City: Edicol. 2001, pp. 455-467.

De Lauretis, Teresa. “Repensando el cine de mujeres: teoría estética y teoría feminista,” in Marysa Navarro and Catherine R. Stimpson (eds.), Nuevas direcciones, Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2001, pp. 203-232.

-----------. “Rethinking Women’s Cinema. Aesthetics and Feminist Theory,” in Patricia Erens (ed.). Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990, pp. 288-308.

García, Natacha. “María Carmen de Lara: ‘Lo importante no es el formato, sino la historia’,” Babab, January 6, 2001

Huacuja del Toro, Malú. Los artistas de la técnica. Historias íntimas del cine mexicano, Mexico City: Imcine/Plaza y Valdés, 1997.

Humm, Maggie. Feminism and Film, Bloomington/Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press/Indiana University Press, 1997, pp. 3-35.

Iglesias, Norma (ed.) Miradas de mujer. Encuentro de cineastas y videoastas mexicanas y chicanas, Berkeley: Colegio de la Frontera Norte and Chicana/Latina Research Center University of California, Davis, 1998.

Kaplan, Ann E. Feminism and Film, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Kuhn, Annette. Women’s Pictures. Feminism and Cinema, 2d. ed., London: Verso, 1994.

------------. “Textual Politics,” in Patricia Erens (ed.), Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990, pp. 250-267.

La Boletina, Órgano Informativo de la Red Nacional de Mujeres, Year 2, No. 4, March 1983.

Lesage, Julia. “The Political Aesthetics of the Feminist Documentary Film,” in Patricia Erens (ed.), Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, Bloomington/Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1990, pp. 222-237.

Lejeune, Paule. Le cinéma des femmes, Paris: Atlas, 1987.

Mercader, Yolanda. “Estrategias simbólicas del cine: juego de reconocimiento e invención de identidades,” Ciudad Arqueológica [http://www.antropologia.com.ar].

Millán, Márgara. “El otro espejo. Cine y video mexicano hecho por mujeres,” in Marta Lamas (ed.), Miradas feministas sobre las mexicanas del siglo XX, Mexico City: FCE/Conaculta, 2007, pp. 386-443.

------------. Derivas de un cine en femenino, Mexico City: UNAM-PUEG, 1999.

Nichols, Bill. Representing Reality. Issues and Concepts in Documentary, Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991.

------------. La representación de la realidad, Barcelona: Paidós, 1997.

Rich, Ruby B. “In the Name of Feminist Film Criticism,” Heresies, No. 9, New York: Heresies Collective, 1980, pp. 74-81.

Rodríguez Fernández, María del Carmen (ed.). Diosas del celuloide. Arquetipos de género en el cine clásico, Madrid: Jaguar, 2006.

Rovirosa, José. Miradas a la realidad. Entrevistas a documentalistas mexicanos, Vol. II, Mexico City: CUEC-UNAM, 1992, pp. 83-104.

Siles Ojeda, Begoña. “Una mirada retrospectiva: treinta años de intersección entre el feminismo y el cine,” Caleidoscopio, 1, March 2000.[http://www.divshare.com/download/880961-589]

Sjogren, Britta. Into the Vortex. Female Voice and Paradox in Film, Urbana-Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Smelik, Anneke. And the Mirror Cracked. Feminist Cinema and Film Theory, Nueva York, Palgrave, 2001.

Torres San Martín, Patricia (ed.) Mujeres y cine en América Latina, Guadalajara, Universidad de Guadalajara, 2004.

Tovar, Luis. “Cinexcusas,” La Jornada Semanal, February 18, 2001.
[http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2001/02/18/sem-columnas.html]

Vega, Patricia. “¿Tendrán algún día acceso al cine industrial? Eclosión de cortometrajistas y videoastas mujeres enriquece el panorama fílmico mexicano,”
[also available at http://www.jornada.unam.mx/1999/09/06/cineastas.htm]

Vértiz de la Fuente, Columba. “Voces silenciadas,” Proceso 1697, Mexico, May 9, 2009.
[Also available at www.proceso.com.mx]

Filmography and videography

FILMS

 

Date

Production

María del Carmen de Lara

Crew

Technical data

1979

 

CUEC
Mexico

Collective Direction, Photography and Script.
AMOR P... AMOR

Co: Javier Hinojosa and Alfonso Morales

16 mm. B/W.

1980       

CUEC
Mexico

Co-Research, Script, Co-Direction.
NO ES POR GUSTO
About prostitution in Mexico City

Co: María Eugenia Tamés

Photo: Alejandro Gamboa

16 mm. B/W               Documentary.

1982       

CUEC
Mexico

Script and Direction.
PRELUDIO

About motherhood and professional life

Photo: Maripi Saenz

Sound: Penélope Simpson

16 mm. B/W,
Fiction. With Janet Macari.

1983         

CUEC
Mexico
            

Script and Direction. 
DESDE EL CRISTAL CON QUE SE MIRA

On the fantasies and ghosts of a housewife
             

Photo: Jaime Carrasco.

20 min. 16 mm. Color
Fiction with María  Rojo and Emilio Echeverría.

“Premio Nacional de la Juventud”

 

1986

INDEPENDENT FILM
Mexico

Direction, Editing, Co-Production.
NO LES PEDIMOS UN VIAJE A LA LUNA
The seamstresses were one of the sectors most affected by the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. The workers lost their jobs and in some cases, their lives. This eventually led to a discovery of the wretched conditions in which they worked. This documentary was made shortly after the earthquake, and shows the seamstresses’ struggles to denounce their situation, and form a union.

Photo: Maripi Sáenz.

Sound: Penélope Simpson.

Edition: Cristina Gómez

Montage advisor: Leopoldo Best.

58 min. Format
16 mm.
Documentary.

Ariel and Diosa de Plata, México.

4 Internacional Prizes for Best  Documentary.

1994    

MEXFAM-Mexico.

Direction and Script.
QUIZÁS... EL SABER MÁS

Women health promoters in a community where there is no doctor

Photo: Maripi Saenz.

Sound: Susana Gonzalez.

 45min. 16mm. Color Documentary.

1994

Mac Arthur Foundation and Calacas y Palomas S.A. Mexico.
Mac Arthur Foundation - Filmoteca UNAM;
SNCA-FONCA            
Mexico

Direction and Script
NOSOTRAS TAMBIÉN
Based on real events, this video recounts the story of a psychologist who works with women infected with VIH-SIDA. The production combines testimonies with  some staged scenes.

Co-script: A. Liguori.

Photo: Maripi Saenz.

Sound: Sybille Hayen.

Edition: Maricarmen de Lara and Ximena Cuevas.

40 min. Format
16 mm and Post Betacam Colour. Fiction.

Acting: Dolores Heredia.
Norma Del Rivero.
Daniel Giménez Cacho.
Jesusa Rodríguez.
Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez.
Adriana Olivera  

 
Nominated for the Ariel Prize: Best Cientific Film

1997    

Opera Prima. Hubard Bals Foundation for Script
Mexico

Co-script.
EN EL PAÍS DE NO PASA NADA

Co: Laura Sosa.

90 min. Hubard Bals, Amsterdam
Comedy.

1999-2000

Opera Prima. IMCINE, Filmanía & Ibermedia 
Mexico

Direction and Script for a feature.
EN EL PAIS DE NO PASA NADA
A comedy that brings together characters from greatly different social classes, and which offers a critique of the corruption and double life of politicians. Elena is married to Enrique, a corrupt politician. She doesn’t have to worry about money, but her family life leaves her unsatisfied, so she creates an imaginary world in which she is a superhero. One day she discovers that Enrique has been cheating on her. He is kidnapped by a naïve couple, and his employees have also come up with a plan to revenge themselves for his pernicious conduct.

Photo: Arturo de la Rosa.

Edition: Sigfrido Barjau and Jorge García.

90 min. 35 mm.

Best Film OCIC Award.

Mayahuel

Best Actor and Actress, Festival Internacional Guadalajara.

 

VIDEO AND
DIGITAL
WORKS

 

Date

Production

María del Carmen de Lara

Crew

Technical data

1984

TV Series, Chanel 11 Mexico
Thirteen programs
Mexico

Direction and Production.
VIAJE POR TU CUERPO

Chanel 11 crew.

27 min. 1 Inch, Color;
4 cameras.

1986

UNICEF.- ONU.               
Mexico

Direction, Editing and Production.
BUSCANDO UN NUEVO EQUILIBRIO

ILCE crew.

30 min. 3/4", Color.
Documentary.

1986

Programa de Capacitación, Instituto Latino- Americano de Capacitación Educativa
Mexico

Direction, Editing and Production.
TECNICAS Y TERAPIAS

ILCE crew.

30 min.
3/4"
Color.
Documentary.

1986

Special Program for Chanel 11
Mexico

Direction y Production.
LA FLOR DE NOCHEBUENA

Chanel 11 crew.

27 min. 1 Inch, Color.

1986

Special Program for Chanel 11
Mexico

Direction and Production.
LA CALACA BAILARINA

Chanel 11 crew.

27 min. 1 Inch, Color.

1992       

Transmission in 19 countries
               
               

Co-Script, Co-direction, Production
SIDA, ENFERMEDAD DE NUESTRO TIEMPO. CADENA DE LAS AMERICAS.

Co: Leopoldo Best.

 

4 hours.  Betacam and Digital.
Documentary.

1992-93      

Calacas y Palomas S.A.
Mexico

 

Co-Script, Co-direction, Production
EL MEJOR DUETO DE AMERICA, HERMANAS AGUILA.  CHAP. 4.
SERIES: Las que viven en ciudad bolero

Co-direction: Leopoldo Best.

Co-script: Alfonso Morales

Photo and Edition: Leopoldo Best.

27 min. Betacam.
Documentary

1993      

FONCA (Fondo de Co-inversiones y Proyectos Culturales) y Calacas y Palomas, S.A.
Mexico

Co-Script, Co-direction, Production
TRILOGIA DE LA INSPIRACION, CHAP. 2 CONSUELO VELAZQUEZ. SERIES: Las que viven en la ciudad bolero

Co-direction: Leopoldo Best.

Co-script: Alfonso Morales

Photo and Edition:
Leopoldo Best.

27 min. Betacam. Documentary.

Prize Gran Canaria Best Documentary

1993

Calacas y Palomas for the FIDEICOMISO ROCKEFELLER BANCOMER FONCA—New York

Co-Script, Co-Direction, Production TRILOGIA DE LA INSPIRACION. CHAP. 1. MARÍA GREVER.
SERIES: Las que viven en la ciudad bolero

Co-direction: Leopoldo Best.

Co-script: Alfonso Morales

Photo and Edition:
Leopoldo Best.

27 min.
Betacam.
Documentary

1993        

Calacas y Palomas S.A. for IMCINE-CNCA.
Mexico

Co-Script, Co-Direction, Production
HOMENAJE NACIONAL A CANTINFLAS
.

Co-direction: Leopoldo Best.

Co-script: Alfonso Morales

Photo: Leopoldo Best.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.   

60min. Digital-Betacam. Documentary

1994        

SNCA-FONCA; UPA and Calacas y Palomas, S.A.
Mexico

Co-Script, Co-Direction, Production. TRILOGIA DE LA INSPIRACIÓN. CAP. 3 EMMA ELENA VALDELAMAR
SERIES: Las que
viven en la ciudad bolero.

Co-direction: Leopoldo Best.

Photo and
Co-script: Alfonso Morales

Edition:
Leopoldo Best.

 27 min.
Betacam.
Documentary

1994-95   

SNCA-FONCA; UPA and Calacas y Palomas, S.A.

Co-Script, Co-Direction, Production with L. Best.
LA VOZ PASIONAL, AMPARO MONTES.

SERIES: Las que viven en la ciudad bolero

Photo and Edition:
Leopoldo Best.

Co-script: Alfonso Morales

27 min.
Betacam.
Documentary

1995       

Calacas y Palomas S.A. for GIRE.
Mexico

Direction and Script. DECISIONES DIFICILES.
This production presents four stories about women who want to interrupt their unwanted pregnancies. It is based on real events and different testimonies.

Photo: Cristian Calónico.

Edition:
Leopoldo Best.

30 min.
Betacam.
Fiction.

1995     

Calacas y Palomas, S.A.
Mexico

Direction.
TRES HISTORIAS DE LA MISMA HISTORIA
Program on Sexual Health for Youth. Training.

Photo:
Antonio
Uruñuela.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

30 min. Format Betacam. Documentary

1995       

Calacas y Palomas for MEXFAM
Mexico

Co-Direction, Co-Script.
DE AQUI NO SALE

Training Video on Health Education and AIDS.

Co: Leopoldo Best.

Photo: Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

20min. Betacam

1995     

Calacas y Palomas, for Mac Arthur-FONCA
Mexico

Direction and Script.
LA VIDA SIGUE
A fictional video based on testimonies with women who have had to face the problems caused by their husbands’ migrations to the United States, from which they have returned infected with VIH-SIDA.

Photo: Ximena Cuevas.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

 

30 min. Hi8-Betacam.

1996       

Calacas y Palomas for FORD Foundation - México.

Direction and Production. TRANSFORMANDO NUESTRAS VIDAS.
A health video, based on interviews with specialists in sexual and reproductive health, and with Indians from Chiapas.

Photo:
L. Lupone.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

30 min.

1996

Fellowship Mac Arthur Foundation-SNCA FONCA
Mexico               

Direction, Script.
ESTAMOS RODEADOS DE TENTACIONES
A video of interviews with young people living in marginal neighborhoods of Mexico City. They discuss sexuality, their parents, machismo, and the use of condoms. 

Photo: Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition: Enrique Ojeda and Leopoldo Best.

40min. Documentary  Betacam.

Video Prize for Youth, Creativity and Science. 

1996      

Calacas y Palomas for GIRE – Red por la Salud de las Mujeres
Mexico

Direction.
MEMORIA DEL TRIBUNAL DERECHOS REPRODUCTIVOS

Photo: Videomega crew.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

5 hours.
Betacam.

1997        

Calacas y Palomas for GIRE- Red por la Salud de las Mujeres    
Mexico

Direction and  Production.
TRIBUNAL DE DERECHOS REPRODUCTIVOS.

Photo: Videomega crew.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

26 min. Betacam

1997       

Calacas y Palomas, S.A. for CORIAC
Mexico

Direction  and Production.
¿QUE ONDA CON
SEXUNAM
?

Photo: Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition: Leopoldo Best

30 min.
Betacam

2001

GIRE; Calacas y Palomas S.A.
Mexico
               

Direction, Script and Production.
PAULINA EN EL NOMBRE DE LA LEY.
The story of a 13 year old girl who was raped, and got pregnant. The right-wing government would not permit her to have an abortion, even though it was legal.

Photo: Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition:
Leopoldo Best.

20 min.  Video
Digital Color.

2002 

Calacas y Palomas, S.A. / Co-inversión FONCA / Artistas Reconocidos. Rockefeller-Mac Arthur. (Pilot, 1999)
Mexico

Direction, Script and Production.
Series GENEROS E IDENTIDADES EN EL NUEVO MILENIO:
LA VELA DE LAS AUTENTICAS INTREPIDAS BUSCADORAS
DEL PELIGRO
A video about a party (vela) organized in Juchitán, Oaxaca, by a group of transvestites, which allows for reflection on sexual diversity and transvestism in Juchitán. In this city, the muxes and gays are a fundamental part of the community.

Photo: Jack Lach and
Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition: Leopoldo Best

30min.

Documentary

2002 

Calacas y Palomas, S.A. / Co-inversión FONCA / Artistas Reconocidos. Rockefeller-Mac Arthur.
Mexico

Direction, Script and Production.
MITOS Y MITOTES DEL FALSO MATRIARCADO JUCHITECO.
Juchitán culture is believed to be matriarchal. However, interviews with its inhabitants discover the contrary, as they talk about the inequality and violence of gender relationships.

Photo:
Jack Lach and
Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition:
Leopoldo Best.

29min.
DV and Betacam  
Documentary        

2002 

Calacas y Palomas, S.A. / Co-inversión FONCA / Artistas Reconocidos. Rockefeller-Mac Arthur
Mexico

Direction, Script and Production.
GUNAXHII GUENDANABANI (AMA LA VIDA)
A testimony of the organization, “Gunaxhii Guendanabani (AMA LA VIDA, Love Life), which is dedicated to preventing AIDS in the city of Juchitán, Oaxaca. Some community members comment in Zapotec on the need for condoms.

Photo: Jack Lach and
Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition:
Leopoldo Best

29 min.
DV and Betacam         
Documentary

2002 

Calacas y Palomas, S.A.  SNCA- FONCA. Fellowship Mac Arthur
Mexico

Direction, Script and Production.
DEL DIFICIL OFICIO DE LOS PUÑETAZOS.
SERIES on Mexican women boxers.

Photo: Ricardo Flores and Leopoldo Best.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

30 min. Betacam. 

2002 

DIVERSA, A.C.
Mexico

Direction and Production. INCIDENCIA PARA EL CAMBIO

Photo: Jorge Suárez.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

30 min.
Video.
Documentary

2002      

INMUJER;  Anden.

Direction, Script and Production.
NO ME DIGAS QUE ESTO ES FÁCIL.

Photo: Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition: Leopoldo Best

27 min.
Video.
Fiction

2002

Calacas y Palomas S.A.
Mexico

Direction and Production.
LA RONDA EN BICICLETA

Photo: Jorge Suárez.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

5 min.
Videoclip.  Digital.

2002

 

 

 

 

Calacas y Palomas S.A.

Inmujeres D.F.

Mexico

Direction, Script
MENOPAUSIA Y CLIMATERIO
Experts talk about menopause and climaterio, while women who have experienced it provide their opinions.

Edition: Fernando Perezgasga.

Photo: Antonio Uruñuela.

27 Min.
DV and Betacam   
Documentary 

2002

 

 

 

Calacas y Palomas S.A.

Inmujeres D.F.
Mexico

Direction, Scrip
NO SÓLO ES LA SUSTANCIA
This is a video about adolescent addictions. It is organized around the opinions of the members of organizations dedicated to helping young people battle their addictions.

Photo: Antonio  Uruñuela.

Edition: Fernando Perezgasga

29 min.
DV and Betacam               
Documentary

2006

GIRE, Calacas y Palomas S.A.
Mexico             

Direction, Script.
PAULINA CUATRO AÑOS DESPUES
Follow up of Paulina’s Case

Photo: Antonio Uruñuela.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

20 min.
Digital Video Documentary.

2007

FOPROCINE-Calacas y Palomas S.A.
Mexico

Direction, Script.
¿MAS VALE MAÑA QUE FUERZA?
Women and sports in Mexico: football and boxing

Photo: Jorge Suárez and Fernando Acuña.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

70 min
HD
Documentary

2008

Anden- Calacas y Palomas, UNAM, Mexico

Direction, Script.
Voces Silenciadas. Libertad Amenazada
On censorship and the freedom of speech in Mexican media, as highlighted by the case of Carmen Aristegui. When Aristegui's contract on W Radio wasterminated and her show went off the air, a disturbing fact became evident: Mexico's political transition in the year 2000 did not inaugurate a new era of plurality in the media. This documentary explores the way the largest media conglomerates have replicated a certain authoritarian vein that was thought to have ended with the PRI era. On the one hand, journalists continue to suffer persecution; on the other, the government passes laws that strengthen the monopoly of information and contribute to the unhealthy balance of power between politics and the media that persists today. Voices Silenced brings together several interviews with prominent journalists, writers and academics who attempt to reconstruct the history of Mexico's civil rights movements and the fight for freedom of speech. At the same time, it attempts to give a voice to those who struggle to ensure the media becomes more democratic.

Photo: Jorge Suárez.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

 

90 min.
Video
Documentary

2009

Anden - GDF

Direction, Script.
REFLEXIONES  CIUDADANAS:
I.  DE LA PROTESTA A LA PROPUESTA
A History of the Mexican Women’s Liberation Movement
II. DEL CABILDO A LA ASAMBLEA LEGISLATIVA
A history of legislative progress in Mexico City, told through the analyses made by Carlos Martínez Assad, Emilio Álvarez Icaza, and Leticia Bonifaz.
III. DE LA INQUISICIÓN AL MÉXICO DESNUDO.
Carlos Monsivais and Elena Poniatowska  are interviewed about recent ideological transformations in Mexico City that allow the existence of  progressive movements such as that calling for sexual diversity, as well as the massive response to Spencer Tunnick’s call to participate in his nude photographs in the Zocalo.

Photo: Jorge Suárez.

Edition: Leopoldo Best.

 

50 min. Each chapter.

Video

Documentary


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