Thursday, March 21 at 6:30pm
Luisela Alvaray, DePaul
"Claiming the Past: Venezuelan Historical Films and Public Politics"
Respondent: Gilberto Blasini, UW-Milwaukee
Alvaray describes her talk as follows:
In 2000, the most financially successful film in Venezuela was Diego Risquez’ Manuela Saenz: La libertadora del Libertador, a revision of the life of Simon Bolívar’s best known lover. In 2012, famous Venezuelan performer Edgar Ramírez depicts Bolívar himself—a guiding force in the Latin American struggle for independence from the Spanish empire—in the epic Libertador (dir. Alberto Arvelo). Between the release of these two films, at least nine more historical revisionist features and many other short films have come out that take us back to different stages of Venezuelan history—the independence period, the dictatorship of the 1950s, and events of a more recent history in the 1990s.
Without a doubt, this trend reflects a society persistently exploring its past and has to do with the fact that the Venezuelan government has had reconstruction of historical events as an overt policy for its cinematic institutions. This trend is consonant with the wider official discourse evoking history at every level of society to justify present regulations and policies. In example, during the last decade, a national standard for history textbooks was mandated for the elementary school system. Nowadays, there continues to be tremendous public attention to how historical events should be related and transmitted. The group of historical films that have come out is, therefore, part of a swarm of printed and audiovisual representations that organize and are continually weaving Venezuelans collective consciousness of history and strengthening particular visions of the present.
By focusing on the historical film Taita Boves (Luis Alberto Lamata, 2010), I will trace some of the ideological currents that traverse Venezuelan society. As George Lipsitz has asserted, the circulation of ideas through mass media has a crucial role in the constitution of a collective memory and, therefore, in the formation of individual and group identity in the modern world. Following this line of thought, it seems important to formulate questions as to the role of popular culture—and in our case, of popular discourse conveyed through film—in social and political life. Ultimately, my goal is to contribute to the theoretical debate around the constitution of national historical consciousness by stressing history as an articulation contingent upon narratives and social discourses.