- Hispanic Lusophone Women Filmmakers: Theory, Practice and Difference ed. by Parvati Nair, and Julián Daniel Gutiérrez-Albilla
This edited collection examines Hispanic and Lusophone women film-makers from the 1930s to the present day. It includes analyses of films by directors from Portugal, Spain, and Latin America. It is also good to see the US included in this conceptualization of the Hispanic world, albeit in limited form, through a chapter on cinema of the important filmmaker Lourdes Portillo by Rosa Linda Fregoso. The focus of the book is on aesthetic, theoretical, and sociohistorical analyses of gender and sexual politics with particular attention paid to cultural representation. The introduction appears in part aimed at a specialist readership and in part aimed at undergraduates and non-specialists. It presents useful and well contextualized accounts of Catholic patriarchy, the history of Hispanic conquest, the development of gender models, and a brief overview of the Franco regime and its impact on women (with colonial histories, Catholicism, and dictatorships providing the common points in the Hispanic and Lusophone societies). The editors, Nair and Gutiérrez-Albilla, demonstrate a clear awareness of the complexities involved in gender categories. To their credit, they avoid the trap of attempting to define women’s filmmaking, an endeavour that has too often occupied feminist literary and film critics. The editors also acknowledge the dangers of ghettoization in the label. Nonetheless as they say, there is work to be done within academia and within the industry to address the lack of attention given to women directors and the fact that “women directors remain a relatively rare breed” (6).
The methodological approaches are rightly heterogeneous, but there are unifying themes. Part 1 is organized around memory and history; part 2 has culture and conflict as the focus; the essays in part 3 concentrate on the themes of migration, transnationalism, and borders; part 4 considers women’s subjectivity through their filmmaking. These categories could, of course, also be applied to an exclusively male canon of filmmakers; however, the contributors highlight the relationship between their themes, gender and genre, and thus avoid essentialist applications of the “woman” question.
The particular strengths of this collection are found in the ways in which it seeks to develop the critical field of Hispanic and Lusophone Women’s cinema, and through the quality of the contributors. All of the authors are, as the editors note, “emerging and internationally renowned scholars,” and they bring their expert knowledge of the Hispanic and Lusophone countries of their focus to the films and filmmakers under examination. The chapters are theoretically sophisticated, and well informed in terms of cultural and political context. The volume is also very comprehensive and broad in its scope. My only reservation in terms of structure is the decision to separate out Paul Julian Smith’s chapter “Transnational coproductions and female filmmakers: the cases of Lucrecia Martel and Isabel Coixet”: it appears after the introduction and before the three parts. While this chapter, as would be expected of Smith’s work, is excellent and locates the work of Martel and Coixet very well within transnational circulation, and within frameworks of auteurism, [End Page 597] film industry and art and indie cinema, it is unclear why it takes the position of a foreword when it is not really. Nonetheless, the division of the book into three parts works better and has a clear thematic structure with helpful introductions to each section.
In Part 1, as would be expected, there is a broadly archeological approach in a number of the essays to the work of women directors, who have often been neglected and written out of film histories. This can be seen in the work of Patricia Torres Martin and Catherine Benamou and Leslie Marsh, and in Melero Salvador’s important critical interventions on Rosario Pi, the first woman filmmaker of the pre-civil war period. All of the essays in this section link women’s filmmaking to a social agenda; they discuss the formation of women’s social...