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4 Decolonial Visuality and New Latin American Cinema As a continent, we had begun to recognize our own voice, our own image, and though our response to this discovery was somewhat extreme, it was also a necessary stage of our development. Humberto Solás, in Burton and Alvear, “Interview with Humberto Solás” 32 In the concluding words to his coedited volume Empires of Vision (2014), Martin Jay reminds us that integral to the multilayered forms of imperialism are the uses of vision, visuality, and “the visual to achieve its ends. The spectacle of imperialism is always a screen behind which a far less attractive process unfolds. Although resistance to that process also can draw on visual practices, it too is never predominantly an affair of the eye or the gaze” (Jay 618). In making these remarks, Jay is aware that the visual was only one of the ways in which European empires sought to control their colonies and that any partial attempts at resisting “the spectacle of imperialism ” certainly subverted, reinvented, and contested the very aesthetics of the visual that empires employed and introduced to control and subject the colonized. Any discussion of decolonial visual aesthetics, particularly in relation to the language of cinema, must begin with an acknowledgement that cinema and its various aesthetics emerged from the United States and Europe and rapidly made their way to other parts of the globe, including Latin America. Much of the early cinema in Latin America engaged and closely mirrored both European and Hollywood sensibilities and film aesthetics.1 It is in this sense that the epigraph to this chapter emerges as Humberto Solás’s reflection on New Latin America Cinema x Decolonial Visuality and New Latin American Cinema · 143 filmmakers’ efforts to shift and resist the “spectacle of imperialism,” to borrow Martin Jay’s words. If the work these filmmakers produced was “somewhat extreme,” and yet necessary for the undoing and challenging of Western film aesthetics, as Solás admits in this 1978 interview with Julianne Burton, it was because of the pressing necessity for new, if imperfect, cinematic practices to contest the coloniality of vision and visuality.2 By this I mean the Western/Eurocentric framing of visual practices and aesthetics , which had widespread repercussions elsewhere in the world. As Nicholas Mirzoeff has succinctly put it, “The authority of coloniality has consistently required visuality to supplement its deployment of force. Visuality sutures authority to power and renders this association ‘natural’” (Mirzoeff 6). It is precisely this “natural” association that links authority and power by using visuality (or the right to see) that the New Latin American Cinema filmmakers sought to undo, contest, and reconfigure through a decolonial gesture characteristic of their aesthetic propositions and films. As a response to the co-opting of visuality to justify the use and abuse of power through imperial designs, one may consider countervisuality as a way to engage in a decolonial delinking and undoing of the historical embedded and naturalized nexus connecting power to visuality. In this sense, Mirzoeff argues that “Countervisuality is the assertion of the right to look, challenging the law that sustains visuality’s authority in order to justify its own sense of ‘right.’ The right to look refuses to allow authority to suture its interpretation of the sensible to power, first as law and then as the aesthetic” (Mirzoeff 25). To reframe countervisuality as the right to look necessitates a reexamination of the articulations that subsume sensing, the sensible, and the sensuous into structures of power, which have been normativized and embedded in scientific, legal, and artistic discourses . Inherent in Mirzoeff’s argument is the need to redefine and rethink the aesthetic from a decolonial perspective leading to countervisuality . It is in this way that the aesthetic propositions emerging from New Latin American Cinema can be considered an archive of countervisuality, which needs to be reconsidered as such. To revisit the work of this generation of filmmakers with a particular eye to their respective visual aesthetic propositions, it becomes important to turn to Michael Chanan’s seminal assessment of their work. In his introduction to Twenty-Five Years of the New Latin American Cinema (1983), 144 · Sensing Decolonial Aesthetics in Latin American Arts Chanan argues that the various cinematic articulations taking place in Latin America during the period he studies comprised a heterogeneous movement bearing the name of New Latin American Cinema. This movement starts with Fernando Birri’s documentary film school in Santa Fe, Argentina, in the...


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