- Screening Minors in Latin American Cinema ed. by Carolina Rocha and Georgie Seminet
These twelve insightful articles, organized in four overlapping sections on Minors and the Struggle for Agency; Children and Family Dynamics; Migration, Poverty and Violence among Mobile Youth; and Documentary and Neorealist Film represent a needed addition for all university library collections. Perhaps the most memorable film discussed is the documentary La eterna noche de las doce lunas (Priscila Padilla 2013), analyzed in Rachel Randall’s fascinating review of an indigenous Wayuu community coming-of-age ritual for a girl in Colombia. I may not be the best reviewer for Screening Minors, because I found Randall’s insights so thorough, and the topic of subjectivity so well covered, that I read the article without experiencing the urge to see the film. This seems to me the paradox of the thematic of subjectivity as regards film characters: interesting to read in literary review, but perhaps not inspiring to follow up with screen time. It may be that not the theme of subjectivity, but the off-discipline formatting contributed to my lack of continued curiosity and sense of a larger compelling conversation. After a sentence like that, readers of the present review could get the wrong idea and think that I reject Screening Minors. Such is not the case. The project is wonderful. I would be remiss not to grumble about certain, possibly interrelated effects, however. The infelicitous, non-MLA formatting choice requires a section of “Notes” that gives the full bibliographical source for a given line of text, only to repeat this data almost immediately in the alphabetized list of “References.” This ungainly style wastes ink and audience energy, and may discourage a sense of excitement about the films or a more coherent dialogue with other scholars in the body of the articles. I have to wonder if the discipline-inappropriate formatting influences the surprisingly superficial engagement in this project with the previous effort by the same editors, Representing History, Class, and Gender in Spain and Latin America (Palgrave, 2012).
Editors Carolina Rocha and Georgia Seminet’s first collaboration, Representing History, gives the impression of groundbreaking work, in no small part due to the introduction that brilliantly sets up a defense of the study of children in art. The introduction for that first volume draws on 122 sources, and if I exclude film titles from that bibliographical count, a muscular 50 texts remain. The introduction for Screening Minors in Latin American Cinema lists only 17 bibliographic sources—albeit none of them films. As perhaps predicted by comparatively light research effort seen in the introduction to Screening Minors, the “subjectivity” topic of this second volume sometimes seems too comfortable with a narrow focus. Detailed study [End Page 224] of subjectivity, in other words, perhaps best serves the audience already convinced of the merits of a given film. The insistence on answering the question of why critics should care about the handling of the “identity” of a fictional character or documentary subject does not prove an especially compelling reason to seek out the film, because of the “case closed” impression that this angle gives. The twelve excellent articles thus seem tailor-made for citation in other, more broadly focused projects. It is a testament to the high quality of these pieces that other critics will have to read and cite them.
To put my assessment of the effects of the thematic framework of subjectivity another way, after reading Screening Minors from the first page to the last, I began to wonder (unfairly, I think) whether the term “minor” also references the import of the artwork discussed. No “must see” film emerges from the close readings. The fact that the stress on character identity appears to come at the price of larger issues contradicts the explicit concern in the articles for matters of social class and gender, and thus the relatively weak attention paid to a larger conversation, such as the precedent of Representing History, seems truly unfortunate. Exceptions include Amanda Holmes’s keenly sensitive work with Lola (Novaro...