Wide Angle 21.3 (1999) 70-175
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Toward a Fourth Cinema
Towards a Fourth Cinema:
FOR OFELIA MEDINA
Panorama in 8mm
After barely three years of existence as a Movement, 8mm cinema in Mexico is acquiring its own physiognomy and surprising development, though not without certain difficulties.
During its first phase, the viewer faced a bombardment of hard-to-assimilate images, due to the intensity with which they were presented, and also because of lack of control of the camera.
After this phase, and now with greater technical mastery, we see what has been called the typical 8mm has learned to walk—that is, less bombardment of short images but rather slower pacing and pans which give rise to a variety of moods.
At present, and now with greater resources (thanks to practice), 8mm cinema is managing to create its own language, even when the freshman filmmakers would appear to be repeating what their predecessors did.
The 8mm Movement in Mexico, unlike that of other countries, has been characterized by a critical concern of a political and social nature (though unpolished); there are also, though to a lesser extent, existential problems and, with few exceptions, real trivialities.
Unlike other countries (Japan, Australia, France, or Belgium), where festival competitions are the culmination of great technical achievements, and in which themes are mostly totally subjective, in America there are hardly any 8mm cinematographic movements (except for Mexico): in the north, because of the low cost of the 16 mm format; while in the south, an 8mm movement is just beginning to appear. [End Page 83] [Begin Page 85]
A camera and sometimes a tripod are the basic elements of over a hundred filmmakers, who have come to express their problems and those of Mexico with total freedom.
They are experimenting and are, in many cases, true masters.
Independent cinema in Mexico hardly existed before 1953, when a group, encouraged by Carlos Velo and Manuel Barbachano, produced the film Raíces [Roots], which was directed by Benito Alazraki.
Inspired by their success, in 1956 they filmed Torero [Bullfighter], which was directed by Carlos Velo.
By 1958, Giovanni Korporaal, a Dutchman residing in Mexico, filmed
El brazo fuerte [The Strong Arm], a political film which is a denunciation of caciquismo.
Sergio Véjar made his film Volantín [The Kite] in 1961. [End Page 85] [Begin Page 87]
THE S.T.P.C.'s I EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA COMPETITION 1965
Everything seemed to suggest that a cinematographic movement, which would come to renew the already and forever starved Mexican cinema, was being conceived in Mexico: the I Experimental Cinema Competition was to be held, organized by the Section of Technicians and Manual Workers of the S.T.P.C.
The success was surprising, the audience and critics voiced warm praise and people talked familiarly of La fórmula secreta [The Secret Formula], Viento distante [Distant Wind], Tajimara, Un alma pura [A Pure Soul], Amelia, En este pueblo no hay ladrones [In This Town There Are No Thieves], and also of Juan José Gurrola, Alberto Isaac, Manuel Michel, Salomón Laiter, Ícaro Cisneros, Rubén Gámez and Juan Guerrero, among others.
However, that sweet panorama disappeared as certain numbers of these makers entered the film industry, into which the majority became absorbed and were thus limited; other filmmakers were never heard of again.
THE S.T.P.C.'S II EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA COMPETITION
In 1967 the second competition of experimental cinema was held, organized again by the S.T.P.C.
For dubious reasons it was declared that no prizes were to be given, arguing that the quality had been below that of the first competition.
This action, and the fact that there were no further competitions, meant this attempt at renovation was tendentiously crushed, thus provoking logical frustration on the part of new filmmakers and indeed maintaining the stagnation of Mexican cinema.
It should be said that all the above-mentioned films were made in 35mm. [End Page 87] [Begin Page 89]
THE STUDENT MOVEMENT gathered more force every day. The awakening...