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Hidden Chicano Cinema

Film Dramas in the Borderlands

A. Gabriel Meléndez

Publication Year: 2013

Hidden Chicano Cinema examines how New Mexico, situated within the boundaries of the United States, became a stand-in for the exotic non-western world that tourists, artists, scientists, and others sought to possess at the dawn of early filmmaking, a disposition stretching from the silent era to today as filmmakers screen their fantasies of what they wished the Southwest Borderlands to be.

The book highlights “film moments” in this region’s history including the “filmic turn” ushered in by Chicano/a filmmakers who created new ways to represent their community and region. A. Gabriel Meléndez narrates the drama, intrigue, and politics of these moments and accounts for the specific cinematic practices and the sociocultural detail that explains how the camera itself brought filmmakers and their subjects to unexpected encounters on and off the screen. Such films as Adventures in Kit Carson Land, The Rattlesnake, and Red Sky at Morning, among others, provide examples of  movies that have both educated and misinformed us about a place that remains a “distant locale” in the mind of most film audiences.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-4


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pp. 5-6

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-xiv

...once a set of cultural encounters between filmmakers, film as a technology, and the people of the communities that became the subjects for various film depictions. Thus, the “film drama” I reference in the subtitle also refers to “the drama of filmmaking,” something which is as much about what happens onscreen and as what happens offscreen...

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Borderlands Cinema and the Proxemics of Hidden and Manifest Film Encounters

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pp. 1-30

...More than once I have recalled an exchange among graduate students in my seminar “Critical Regionalism: Discourses on the Southwest.” Early one semester students brought forth their ideas regarding the ethnic and cultural make-up of the Southwest. From the discussion that ensued I learned that some newcomers to the region were working from the assumption that the American Southwest was a region...

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Ill Will Hunting (Penitentes)

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pp. 31-52

...moment Christ was nailed and left to die on the cross. The year is 1888, nearly two millennia after that crucifixion. Charles F. Lummis is the man with his head draped by the black cloth of a Prosch camera obscura. He has just completed a successful New Mexican safari hunt in search of elusive evidence of penitents having bagged the “first ever...

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A Lie Halfway around the World

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pp. 53-80

...at the Metropolitan Syndicate to let him go to New Mexico and uncover the secrets of the Penitentes. Unmoved, Mack’s boss is skeptical that the United States could harbor the kind of “wild, primitive men” the Penitentes are said to be. Mack’s insistence grows as he declares that the government is about to do an investigation that will “root them out” and that he knows of a vagabond cameraman who shot footage of...

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Lives and Faces Plying through Exotica

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pp. 81-112

...In contrast to Native Americans, who have been the subject of a great many ethnographic films and photographic surveys, there is a comparatively small amount of ethnographic materials related to the Mexican Americans of the Southwest before the 1960s. As a rule, the visual ethnographies that do exist, at best, are ad hoc assessments of Chicano material culture (i.e., photo surveys of religious iconography, shrines...

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Red Sky at Morning, a Borderlands Interlude

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pp. 113-145

...Governor David F. Cargo, a Republican who began his first term in office in January 1967, was largely responsible for the creation of the New Mexico Film Commission in 1970. Cargo had long been an advocate of selling New Mexico as an ideal location for Hollywood to make movies, and the Film Commission provided numerous inducements...

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The King Tiger Awakens the Sleeping Giant of the Southwest

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pp. 146-186

...Land loss has historically been the latent grievance of the nuevomexicano. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the Chicano movement of the 1960s, a broad-based social movement aimed at redressing the exclusion of Mexican Americans from educational and employment benefits—and a myriad other social concerns—would become closely identified...

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Filming Bernalillo

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pp. 187-215

...Danny Lyon arrived in New Mexico around the same time John Nichols was making his way to Taos. Like Nichols, Lyon emigrated from New York after having spent ten years working as a staff photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). His time at SNCC involved Lyon in a number of major actions in the civil rights...

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Toward a New Proxemics

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pp. 216-241

...The commitment to record the group experience of Chicanos from an insider vantage point and in the service of a documentary impulse represents a decided turn in the cinematic representation of Mexican Americans, a move which also makes it appropriate to speak of a number of documentary and independent film projects ushered in by the Chicano...

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pp. 242-246

...It has come time to ask what might be profitably learned from stringing together a comparison of a handful of difficult-to- locate films and proceeding to analyze them on account of two elements: first, they happened to be filmed in the Southwest Borderlands, and second, they present and in some instances re-present mexicano/Chicano/Hispanic stories...


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pp. 247-256


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pp. 257-264


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pp. 265-272

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About the Author

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pp. 273-274

...is a professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico and was the department chair from 1999 to 2008 and again from 2010 to 2013. Meléndez’s teaching and research interests include Borderlands cinema and critical regionalism. He has authored a number of books and scholarly articles on Mexican Americans and Borderlands expressive culture. Hidden Chicano Cinema combines his interest in film studies...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813561080
E-ISBN-10: 0813561086
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813561073

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 862367858
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hidden Chicano Cinema

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Subject Headings

  • Mexican-American Border Region -- In motion pictures.
  • Mexican Americans in motion pictures.
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