Academic journal article Film & History

The International Politics of Cinematic Coproduction: Spanish Policy in Latin America (1)

Academic journal article Film & History

The International Politics of Cinematic Coproduction: Spanish Policy in Latin America (1)

Article excerpt

Cinema and national identity are easily and often inattentively associated. In many developing countries filmmaking has gone hand in hand with an idea of nation-building and has served as an assertion of a desired level of modernity. In some cases filmmakers acquire an important role in the construction of the national imaginary, becoming its global mediator. At the same time, the extent to which cinematic production has been the fruit of multidirectional, international exchange is overlooked as the determining label remains national. Attesting to these international linkages, film production and consumption in Latin American countries have from the inception been characterised by their transnationality. In the prevailing context of increased globalization and transnationalism there has been a concurrent amount of cinematic coproduction between European and developing nations, which merits attention for political, cultural, and aesthetic reasons.

The association between cinema and national identity provokes questions about the nature of cinematic representation in the context of international coproduction, which I describe loosely as a situation where two or more countries are involved in the financing and production of a film; there are of course many different types and scales of coproduction. The transnational character of coproduction is an ideal site to explore the intersection of local and global identities. My aim is to examine Spanish activity in Latin American film production during the 1990s to uncover some of the structuring patterns of a transnational context of independent coproduction. By connecting policy analysis and aesthetics, I argue that Spanish coproduction policy regarding Latin America has in some cases been conducive to a certain type of cinema. A context of independent, international coproduction does not result in a specific homogenous product; however, a particular cinematographic tendency that elaborates a dialectical tension around cultural difference through a dual homogenizing/differentiation process is evident. Many of these films simultaneously emphasise national and local identities along with a determinate universalising appeal, seemingly aware of the international market and its hegemonic trends. In many ways the films are situated in the precarious balance of the global reach of the mass media and state-supported culture in the French sense.

After some introductory comments I discuss conceptual issues in the cultural politics of cinematic coproduction, then turn to Spain's current film policy and its economic interests linked to cinema in Latin America, ending with a discussion of a number of coproductions.

Building Cinematographic Bridges

Spain has long supported Latin American film production in a punctual manner through personal and institutional efforts. During the 1990s there was a shift toward a more concerted cinematographic policy in Latin America, paralleled by a new period of Spanish economic ascendance in that region. Recuperating from Franco's dictatorship and following through the energy of the Movida, Spain has been intent on constructing a new voice in the international stage--the power of this voice being partially linked to its Latin American relationships. After the United States, Spain is the second most important foreign power and a leading investor in Latin America in key economic sectors such as telecommunications, finance, and energy. This predominant position is subordinated to the hegemonic power of the United States throughout Latin America and, in particular, its domination of film screens, home video, and cable television markets in both Latin America and Spain. This European country navigates an ambiguous affiliation with its Latin American partners in the cinematic realm. Its relationship is dominated by the implicit recognition of mutual needs, which appears to have an equilibriating effect among these economically and politically unequal partners and yet is framed in an imperial triangle with the United States. …

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