Conference at the Bolivar House, Stanford University


October 25, 2013
3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

582 Alvarado Road
Stanford, CA 94305

Documentary cinema in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay has shown comparable degrees of vibrancy and sophistication since the 1950s, as well as a shared desire to be a key witness to unfolding political events and a protagonist in national and regional processes of social justice. As a result, Southern Cone political documentary cinema today constitutes a substantial body of work that possesses great potential as a source for understanding social change histories in Latin America. 

Gleyzer y Preloran

This event (drawn from the presenters’ recent research published in a special issue of Latin American Perspectives) looks closely at the strategies utilized by Argentine, Chilean, and Uruguayan political filmmakers to document and participate in social change events, as well as to imagine and reflect upon the past and the future of these three South American nations. The motivation to single out the political documentary of these three southernmost countries within the broader Latin American context responds, first, to the specific historical, social, and cultural bonds that connect these nations within the continent and, secondly, to the fact that their documentary traditions clearly reflect these convergences. 

Among key points of correlation one should consider especially these nations’ early industrialization in the second half of the nineteenth century and the attendant formation of a working class, their long, laborious histories of unionism and workers’ struggle, the continuing advancement of popular fronts, their strong socialist traditions and influential leftist organizations, and their histories of military dictatorship, infamously united and coordinated through Operation Condor in the 1970s. Argentine, Chilean, and Uruguayan filmmakers have collaborated and influenced each other at least since the middle of the twentieth century through their documentation of and participation in these closely related political histories. Dr. Crowder-Taraborrelli will present an overview of the topic followed by three short discussions by Drs. Jorge Ruffinelli, Kristi Wilson, and Javier Campo. We allow ample time for a questions following the discussions.


Tomas F. Crowder-Taraborrelli: “Overview and Introduction: Political Documentary Cinema in the Southern Cone”.

Jorge Ruffinelli:The Year of the Political Documentary”

The year 2008 was prolific in terms of documentary film production in Uruguay. This type of Uruguayan cinema, which dates to the 1960s, was interrupted by the military dictatorship (1973–1984), and on the return of democracy it was very slow to recover. In 2008, however, it showed great vitality as political expression and great diversity in the artistic forms it employed in observing and interpreting the reality of the recent past.

Kristi Wilson: The Split-Person Narrative: “Resisting Closure, Resistant Genre in Albertina Carri’s Los rubios”

The Argentine director Albertina Carri’s documentary/docudrama Los rubios confounds the binary between postmodern and neoconservative trends in recent Latin American cultural studies and popular media. It breaks the mold for ways in which the sons and daughters of the victims of political genocide can talk about their memories, inviting a pointedly feminist/postmodernist reading that plays with Baudrillard’s notion of seduction in its challenge to established order. Carri’s apparently postmodern rejection of the truth, facts, and master narratives expected from the politically involved descendants of disappeared activists opens up critical spaces for reflection about the discourse of meaning.

Javier Campo: “Documentary Film from the Southern Cone during Exile (1970–1980)”.

Soon after the establishment of the Southern Cone dictatorships many artists and intellectuals, mostly political activists, had to go into exile. The documentary filmmakers among them continued to work in their countries of exile producing testimonies, denunciations, and reflections with their countries of origin as a central focus. An analysis of the most important works of the period called “film from exile,” from 1973 (Augusto Pinochet’s coup against Salvador Allende in Chile) to the democratic transitions taking place in the subcontinent in the mid- and late 1980s, reveals a progression in themes from militancy through reflection on the condition of exile to the defense of human rights. The documentary films from exile recorded the diversity of resources used by the filmmakers to bear witness to the absent, a rich palette that combined staging, archival material, interviews, and reflection to produce the only traces of free cinema during this period.

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