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Women filmmakers in Mexico: the country of which we dream.

Women Filmmakers in Mexico: the country of which we dream, by Elissa J. Rashkin. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001

In this intelligently conceived, well-researched study, Elissa Rashkin traces the development of cine de mujer, or "woman's cinema" in Mexico during the last decade of the twentieth century. As late as the mid-eighties, there were few professional Mexican women directors, but in the late eighties a new generation emerged. Rashkin analyzes the work of the most acclaimed of these: Marisa Sistach, Busi Cortes, Guita Schyfter, Maria Novaro, and Dana Rotberg. She concludes with an excellent annotated filmography and bibliography, making this book a particularly useful research tool.

The release in 1988 of two feature films by women, Cortes's El secreto de Romelia (Romelia's Secret) and Sistach's Los pasos de Ana (Ana's Steps) marked the beginning of a new era. Two more significant films by women debuted in 1989, Novaro's Lola and Rotberg's Intimidad (Intimacy), followed, in 1991, by Cortes's Serpientes y escaleras (Serpents and Stairs) and in 1992, by Schyfter's Novia que te yea (To See You a Bride). During this period two films by Mexican women went to Cannes, Novaro's Danzon (1991) and Rotberg's Angel de fuego (1992). Not only were women directing films, but they were challenging the female archetypes of the suffering mother and the treacherous "evil woman." Rashkin stresses that representations of women had actually never been as one-dimensional as commonly believed. But with the emergence of women directors, women were telling their own stories and creating new female identities, developments that would have far-reaching ramifications beyond the realm of cinema.

The emergence of the "other" cinema both nourished and was nourished by the increased participation of women in the intellectual sector. While few women studied film in the sixties, by the end of the eighties their representation in film schools was equal to men's, a phenomenon that mirrored the increased participation of women in other spheres of intellectual life. The new women directors were products of universities, not of the film industry. They had assimilated sophisticated political ideas, including feminism, as well as the elements of their craft. They became agents of change in that their films questioned the status quo and promoted new ways of thinking and new visions of Mexico. Rashkin's purpose in writing Women Filmmakers in Mexico was not to celebrate certain directors, she explains, but to "address the contributions that women have made through the cinema to projects and processes of cultural reconversion and democratization in a complex historical moment."

During the early and mid-eighties Mexican cinema was in the doldrums. Thanks in large part to the proactive policies of the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia (IMCINE), which offered increased support for independent filmmaking, things were changing by the end of the decade. At least some of the revitalization of Mexican cinema must be credited to the emergence of a generation of women directors with new ideas. These university-educated women, like their male counterparts, constituted a second, or alternate, film sector in Mexico, one not tied to the commercial form of production that dominated the industry. These were filmmakers who infused their creations with a personal vision and who dared to propose a more just and democratic society. They raised questions about "female" issues such as single motherhood, abortion, and female sexuality. Their films forced movie-goers to see their society from a new perspective.

However, the economic and political crises of the mid-nineties dealt a serious blow to the emerging "other" cinema. In addition, IMCINE found itself plagued with a number of unfortunate irregularities. How the new cinema will emerge from this tumultuous period is a story still to be written.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mujica, Barbara
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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