Sunday, November 6, 2011

Towards A Personal Canon: Latin America

My top 100 Latin American films of all time.

There are traditional hot beds in Latin American cinema and my viewing has tended to be influenced by the availability of films from those countries. Probably topmost would be Brazil, which experienced an awakening  in the 1960s with the emergence of Cinema Novo. The likes of Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira dos Santos were among its chief exponents. But if Cinema Novo was about espousing social transformation and political liberation, the so-called Cinema Marginal offered cinema from the fringes -- unashamedly underground and low-budgeted. Lumped together under this banner were loose cannons like Rogerio Sganzerla and Julio Bressane.

Another traditional powerhouse of Latin American film would be Argentina. In the 1960s, the term Third Cinema was coined here by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino to describe the cinema being practiced in the Third World, sociopolitical, mass-centered, anti-colonial. In the last decade or so, Argentina has seen a resurgence with Nueva Ola, or the New Argentine Cinema. Directors of note include Martin Rejtman, Lucrecia Martel and Lisandro Alonso.

Mexico must also be mentioned as a country with a rich tradition in filmmaking. Time and again, it has produced good directors throughout the last century. Examples would be Emilio Fernandez in the 1940s, Arturo Ripstein in the 1970s, and an entire generation of talented filmmakers in the 2000s).

Chile will probably be synonymous with two luminaries: Raoul Ruiz, the director of magical, Borgesian films, and Patricio Guzman, the director of compelling political documentaries. They are easily two of the best filmmakers ever produced by the continent.

Cuba too has had a great film tradition: Tomas Gutierez Alea will always be held in high esteem by cineastes for Memories of Underdevelopment (although in truth he was no one-hit wonder), Humberto Solas for Lucia, and Santiago Alvarez for revolutionary documentaries that must still do Fidel Castro proud.)

But a handful of paragraphs to introduce Latin American cinema will always be insufficient. My own survey is at best fragmentary. Thus this list benefits from the input of several books. David A. Cook's A History of Narrative Film. Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell's Film History: An Introduction. Deborah Shaw's Contemporary Cinema of Latin America. Tamara L. Falicov's The Cinematic Tango, Contemporary Argentine Film. 

A few leads were also provided by the folks at mubi and kg. 

Here then is my list, an ever-protean list, in no particular order:

Nostalgia for the Light (Patricio Guzman, 2010)
The Battle of Chile (Patricio Guzman, 1975-1978)
The Hour of the Star (Suzana Amaral, 1985)
Chronicle of A Boy Alone (Leonardo Favio, 1965)
Three Sad Tigers (Raoul Ruiz, 1968)
The Deceased (Leon Hirszman, 1965)
Antonio das Mortes (Glauber Rocha, 1969)                           
The Dependent (Leonardo Favio, 1969)
The Given Word (Anselmo Duarte, 1962)
Los Muertos (Lisandro Alonso, 2004)

The Hour of the Furnaces (Fernando E. Solanas/Octavio Getino, 1968)
Memories of Underdevelopment (Tomas Gutierez Alea, 1968)
The Clandestine Nation (Jorge Sanjines, 1989)                     
Rapado (Martin Rejtman, 1992)
Julio Starts in July (Silvio Caiozzi, 1976)
Whisky (Juan Pablo Rebella, 2004)
Sao Paulo - Sociedade Anonima (Luis Sergio Person, 1965)
La Casa del Angel (Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, 1957)
The Red Light Bandit (Rogerio Sganzerla, 1968)
La Cienaga (Lucrecia Martel, 2001)

Rio, 40 Degrees (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1955)
Machuca (Andres Wood, 2004)
The Woman of Everyone (Rogerio Sganzerla, 1969)
The Priest and the Girl (Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, 1965)
The Land of Sao Sarue (Vladimir Carvalho, 1971)
Bang Bang (Andrea Tonacci, 1970)
The Antenna (Esteban Sapir, 2007)
Swimming Alone (Ezequiel Acuna, 2003)
Copacabana Mon Amour (Rogerio Sganzerla, 1970)
Sao Bernardo (Leon Hirszman, 1971)

The Blood of the Condor (Jorge Sanjines, 1969)
Terra em Transe (Glauber Rocha, 1967)
Tan de Repente (Diego Lerman, 2002)
Black God, White Devil (Glauber Rocha, 1964)
Amores Perros (Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, 2000)
Limite (Mario Peixoto, 1931)
Men and Women (Walter Hugo Khouri, 1964)
Official Story (Luis Puenzo, 1985)
City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002)
Macunaima (Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, 1969)

The Unscrupulous Ones (Ruy Guerra, 1962)
Ana and the Others (Celina Murga, 2003)
Bolivia (Adrian Caetano, 2001)
El Viaje (Fernando E. Solanas, 1992)
La Libertad (Lisandro Alonso, 2001)
Bye Bye Brazil (Carlos Diegues, 1979)
How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1971)                                                             
Central Station (Walter Salles, 1998)
Piel de Verrano (Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, 1961)
Fantasma (Lisandro Alonso, 2006)

Tangos, L'Exil de Gardel (Fernando E. Solanas, 1985)      
Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, 2007)
Tony Manero (Pablo Larrain, 2008)
This Strange Passion (Luis Bunuel, 1953)
Nietzsche's Days in Turin (Julio Bressane, 2001)
Los Olvidados (Luis Bunuel, 1950)                                
Nazarin (Luis Bunuel, 1959)
Jackal de Nahueltoro (Miguel Littin, 1969)
Let's Go With Pancho Villa (Fernando de Fuentes, 1936)
Ganga Bruta (Humberto Mauro, 1933)
Lucia (Humberto Solas, 1968)

Man Facing Southeast (Eliseo Subiela, 1986)
The Last Supper (Tomas Gutierez Alea, 1976)
La Nina Santa (Lucrecia Martel,2004)
Japon (Carlos Reygadas, 2002)
The Death of A Bureaucrat (Tomas Gutierez Alea, 1966)       
The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel, 1962)
Waiting for the Messiah (Daniel Burman, 2000)
Fando and Lis (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1968)
Pixote (Hector Babenco, 1981)
Vidas Secas (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1964)

The Case of the Naves Brothers (Luis Sergio Person, 1967)   
Milk of Sorrow (Claudia Llosa, 2009)
The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973)            
Castle of Purity (Arturo Ripstein, 1973)
The Angel Was Born (Julio Bressane, 1969)
Rio, Northern Zone (Nelson Pereira dos Santos, 1957)        
El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970)                                  
The Criminal Life of Archibaldo dela Cruz (Luis Bunuel, 1955)
Crane World (Pablo Trapero, 1999)
Passion of Berenice (Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, 1976)

La Frontera (Ricardo P. Larrain, 1991)
79 Primaveras (Santiago Alvarez, 1969)
Isle of Flowers (Jorge Furtado, 1989)
Araya (Margot Benacerraf, 1959)
Historias Minimas (Carlos Sorin, 2002)
Los Guantes Magicos (Martin Rejtman, 2003)
Killed His Family, Went to the Movies (Julio Bressane, 1969)
Batalla en Cielo (Carlos Reygadas, 2005)                            
Enamorada (Emilio Fernandez, 1946)                                   
Throw Me A Dime (Fernando Birri, 1960)
Maria Candelaria (Emilio Fernandez, 1944)
LBJ (Santiago Alvarez, 1968)
Funny Dirty Little War (Hector Olivera, 1983)
The Penal Colony (Raoul Ruiz, 1970)
Drifter (Cao Guimaraes, 2007)
Accident (Cao Guimaraes, 2006)                                      
Fresa Y Chocolate (Tomas Gutierez Alea, 1994)               
Awakening of the Beast (Jose Mojica Morins, 1970)
The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin (Julio Garcia Espinosa, 1967)                                                                                   
The Strategy of the Snail (Sergio Cabrera, 1993)


  1. Im wondering if you like/love Rocha's last film: Age of the Earth. :) Ive seen the trilogy: black god, entranced, and antonio, but age is so lovely :)

    Anyway, i also recommend Sanjine's Courage of the People aka Night of San Juan (1971). its a great film from Bolivia. :)

    Nice list, btw, ill check some titles from here. I especially love your inclusion of Khouri's Men and Women. its one of the loveliest films ive seen last year.

  2. I have not seen Age of the Earth. That shouldn't be the case. I happen to like Rocha a lot.

    The two films by Sanjines I've seen blew me away. They are unapologetic and unabashed in their sense of social outrage and advocacy. I believe I have another Sanjines somewhere here; it could very well be Courage of the People. I hope.

    Men and Women is a stylish film, almost like a European film. Great choice! It reminds me of how the Russian Marlen Khutsiyev is like a Nouvelle Vague director.