- Despite All Adversities. Spanish-American Queer Cinema ed. by Lema-Hincapié Andrés, and Debra Castillo
Despite All Adversities is a much-needed collection of essays that addresses the production, circulation, and reception of LGBTQ cinema in and from Spanish America. Given the popularity of films dealing with these thematics in recent film festivals, award shows such as the Goyas, and academic publishing in terms of articles, Lema-Hincapié and Castillo’s anthology is a welcome intervention for scholars and teachers in the field. Importantly, the anthology follows a path of inquiry first opened by David William Foster in his excellent Queer Issues in Contemporary Latin American Cinema (2003), but which has not been traced since. Thus, published more than a decade after Foster, Despite all Adversities provides an update on the films studied in Queer Issues, in addition to examining several new features that are of utmost importance in this burgeoning corpus of study. [End Page 211]
The introduction penned by the two editors introduces the reader to what may be considered a primer for sexuality studies in the Latin American context. Going over key terms and theoretical counterpoints between the Latin American and Anglo contexts, the introduction problematizes LGBTQ cultural production in Latin America within a wider social and juridical context, specifically the legalization of marriage and/or civil unions in several countries. To note in the prelude to the main body of the book is the framing of the essays around a pedagogical goal. The editors affirm that the project “responds to the need for a work conceived for use by instructors and students of the college and university courses on Spanish-American cinema, as well as survey courses on Latin American literature and culture” (5), and that each essay addresses a particular film instead of a theme or director—I will return to this detail later in the review.
Divided into four sections, the essays examine: commercially successful queer films; films that may be considered as part of an auteur tradition; films concerned with lesbian and bisexual characters and issues; and a group of films that interpellate sexualities with larger social and political structures. As such, the essays broach canonical films (in the field) such as Doña Herlinda y su hijo, Fresa y chocolate, No se lo digas a nadie, and El lugar sin límites, as well as less discussed features such as En la ciudad sin límites, Ronda nocturna, and La venganza del sexo. The anthology, importantly, further addresses films produced after Queer Issues, namely by Anahí Berneri, Lucía Puenzo, and Julián Hernández.
It is quite fitting that David William Foster writes the first chapter of Despite All Adversities. He studies the queering of naturalized categories of marriage and coupling in María Luisa Bemberg’s Señora de nadie, arguing suggestively that the film is “every bit as important ideologically for mid-1980s Argentine filmmaking as Luis Puenzo’s La historia oficial” (27). Cristina Venegas then tackles Fresa y chocolate, providing the reader a chapter that is exemplary in both breadth and depth as it reviews relevant criticism and provides context for the film’s production and reception. This chapter will undoubtedly be of great use in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses. Following is a study by Lema-Hincapié on Plata quemada, where the critic both situates the film’s reception in different academies, in addition to arguing that Piñeyro “masculinizes gays,” as “Argentine, especially Buenos Aires, is receptive to this type of masculine gay that Piñeyro constructs through the homogenizing metonymy of the gestures, physical appearance, age, and dress” of the characters (65). Robert Deam Tobin concludes the first section of the anthology in an essay on Berneri’s Un año sin amor, framing the film around its themes of AIDS and confessional writing, and in connection to global Queer cinema.
The second section opens with a queer reading of La venganza del sexo (Emilio Vieyra), a relatively unknown film to criticism that Esteve Riambau argues “benefits from the...