In This Review

Latin American Cinema
Latin American Cinema
By Stephen M. Hart
Reaktion Books, 2015, 240 pp

To give some structure to this collection of his brief but insightful movie reviews, Hart argues that there have been three fundamental periods in Latin American cinema: the New Latin American Cinema (1951–75), influenced by Italian neorealism; the “nation-image” era (1976–99), which recorded the brutal military regimes of the time; and the “slick grit” period (2000–2014), when the retreat of state subsidies forced directors to up their games and seek commercial success (think of the popular directors Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu). But there are several themes common to these three periods: the “featurementary,” a merger of fiction and documentary; the use of nonprofessional actors and filming on location; and left-wing politics, sometimes blended into crime thrillers or science fiction, which has distinguished Latin American cinema from the ideologically barren fare Hollywood usually produces. Latin America has given the world so many great movies that one can almost forgive Hart for omitting from his survey such classics as Lucía, a 1968 Cuban film, and Midaq Alley, a 1995 Mexican film starring Salma Hayek. He also quickly passes by the stirring Mexican melodramas starring Dolores del Rio and María Félix, although he recognizes in those films the roots of the fabulously popular telenovelas (Latin American soap operas) that have captivated audiences worldwide.