Unofficial Stories: Documentaries by Latinas and Latin American Women
The picture North Americans have of Latin American cinema--at its most militant and its most conventional--tends to be overwhelmingly male. Of all the well-known films that comprise what has become known as New Latin American Cinema, 1 only one available in the United States-- Sara Gomez' One Way or Another--was directed by a woman. This perception persists, despite the diverse and growing body of work by Latin American women--including that by Latinas in North America--which has developed over the past 10 years. In the past two to three years in particular, the sheer quantity of work by such women and the increased opportunities to share contacts and experiences across national boundaries has led to an awareness of a movement that is changing the shape and the direction of New Latin American Cinema. However, outside a handful of features-- The Hour of the Star, by Susana Amaral; Patria- mada, by Tizuka Yamasaki; and Camila, by Maria Luisa Bemberg--this work remains all but invisible in the United States.
What little attention has been given by U.S. exhibitors and critics has focused almost exclusively on feature films. Despite some recent exceptions, entry into this sector remains limited to the "exceptional few," and the myriad short experimental and documentary films and tapes made by women have largely been generated at the margins of existing film communities--outside the government-funded film institutes and national television systems. This situation is exacerbated further by the tendency to embalm Latin American cinema in the "great directors" model of foreign cinema; witness the current popularity of the program Dangerous Loves, an internationally co-produced package of six films based on stories by Gabriel García Marquez. Such programs demonstrate the capabilities of relatively high-budget, stu-