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Studying about Latinx tradition, experiences by movie


“We’re all linked in so many various methods,” says UC Berkeley lecturer Raymond Telles. “And movie is a superb approach of bringing collectively these connections.”

Telles is a documentary filmmaker and an adjunct professor in Berkeley’s Division of Ethnic Research. He teaches a collection of three programs that discover the Latinx/Chicanx expertise in the USA and in Latin America by narrative and documentary movie.

This semester, he’s instructing the course, Latino Narrative Movie Since 1990. Within the class, college students watch quite a lot of works that have been produced within the U.S. and in Latin America, from unbiased movies, like Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) and Elevating Victor Vargas, to Hollywood motion pictures, like As soon as Upon A Time In Mexico and Frida.

“I’m making an attempt to reveal college students to not solely movies, however the context wherein these movies have been made — the influences that formed the views mirrored within the works,” Telles says. “Many of those movies that have been made years in the past have themes that also resonate.”

Berkeley Information spoke with Telles, who prefers to make use of the phrases Latino and Chicano, about why he thinks it’s vital to find out about Latin America by movie and the way he hopes his college students come away impressed to additional discover Latin American artwork and tradition.

portrait of a person

Raymond Telles, a lecturer at UC Berkeley, teaches a collection of three programs on Latinx movie. (BAMPFA photograph)

Berkeley Information: What movie programs do you educate at Berkeley?

I educate a collection of three programs on Latino movie — 135A, B and C — that I developed with Alex Saragoza, a professor emeritus of Chicano and Latino research, about 20 years in the past. In 135A, I present narrative movies produced from the Fifties to the ’90s which are about or made by U.S. Latinos — so Chicanos, Mexican Individuals, Puerto Ricans. In 135B, which I’m instructing this semester, we have a look at movies from 1990 to the current, and 135C focuses on documentaries. I additionally educate an American cultures course that examines race and ethnicity in modern American movies.

What are a number of the movies your class will watch this semester? What themes and representations of Latin American folks and cultures do they handle?

We’ll watch the 1994 Oscar-nominated Fresa y Chocolate, set in Havana, Cuba, in 1979. It’s a couple of younger homosexual mental who varieties an unlikely and deep friendship with a conservative faculty pupil. Though same-sex relationships turned authorized that yr in Cuba, being overtly homosexual remained extremely taboo within the nation. It’s actually a coming-of-age story, but it surely’s additionally a movie a couple of nation of nice contradictions and about coming to an consciousness of what it was prefer to be homosexual in Cuba at the moment. It’s actually a stunning story.

I’ll present a movie referred to as The Motorbike Diaries, which is a portrayal of younger Che Guevara earlier than he was a revolutionary. It’s a journey all through Latin America. It’s fantastically shot. We’re spending two hours on this darkish room on a tour, seeing locations in Latin America we wouldn’t usually see. For me, it’s type of like an escape, the place we get to expertise this journey with him.

We’ll additionally watch Una Mujer Fantástica (A Unbelievable Lady), which got here out in 2017 and received an Oscar for Greatest International Language Movie. It’s a couple of love affair between an upper-class Chilean businessman and a trans girl, who’s performed by a trans actor. It’s completely beautiful. I all the time attempt to introduce new movies with new illustration as tradition shifts and adjustments.

One of many movies Telles reveals at school is Una Mujer Fantástica (A Unbelievable Lady), a couple of love affair between an upper-class Chilean businessman and a trans girl.

Why is it vital to you that college students find out about Latin America, basically, and likewise by movie?

The US and Latin America — Central America, particularly — have been linked collectively because the Spanish conquest of the Americas within the late fifteenth century.

I made a movie about 10 years in the past referred to as The Storm That Swept Mexico, in regards to the Mexican Revolution. The U.S. had large investments in Mexico proper up till the revolution, and the revolution was principally about returning these pure sources, these investments, again to Mexico. There have been one million folks crossing the border in 1910 due to that bloody warfare. The identical goes on between Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — the mass migrations of those people coming to the U.S. proper now are a results of the relations we had with these nations going again 100 years or extra.

Telles directed a documentary, The Storm that Swept Mexico, in regards to the Mexican Revolution. “Movie is a captivating approach of historical past and understanding the relationships between the U.S. and nations we take without any consideration,” he says.

Movie is a captivating approach of historical past and understanding the relationships between the U.S. and nations that we take without any consideration. I believe we must be well-informed as residents as to what’s occurring with our neighbors. There’s an enormous hole within the instructing of American historical past, notably the historical past of the Southwest. Till 1848, the Southwest was Mexico. So, I believe we will perform a little bit to fill that hole by movie.

We have now a whole lot of Mexican American and Central American college students at Cal, a lot of whom are residents and lots of who’re not too long ago arrived immigrants. I believe we have to serve them. Plus, our pupil physique has to grasp who makes up this nation, notably California.

You present a number of U.S. movies by Mexican filmmakers. What are a number of of those movies?

There are numerous Mexican filmmakers who’ve labored in Hollywood for a very long time. They bring about a unique perspective than a standard Mexican filmmaker or a standard American filmmaker. They’re bridging, and so they work very fluidly inside each nations and cultures.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, for instance, has directed a whole lot of large movies — 21 Grams, The Revenant, Birdman. He usually offers with themes of alienation and immigration in a lot of his motion pictures. Babel, written by Guillermo Arriaga Jordán and directed by Iñárritu, takes place in Morocco, the U.S., Japan and Mexico post-9/11. It asks the questions on how America is coping with terrorism, and what occurs in a rustic the place American privilege doesn’t matter anymore.

Do you encourage college students to transcend watching a movie at school?

Sure. I’m all the time making an attempt to tie collectively the movies and themes we discover at school to our bigger neighborhood.

After I final taught this course a number of years in the past, we watched the 2015 movie Ixcanul (Volcano), a couple of 17-year-old Guatemalan lady who lives on the slopes of an energetic volcano and whose marriage is organized by her Kaqchikel dad and mom.

After the category noticed the movie, I invited two folks from the Kaqchikel neighborhood in Oakland to talk with the category in regards to the illustration of Indigenous communities in Latin American movie. Then, I organized a digital assembly with an activist in Guatemala, who talked about Indigenous ladies’s points within the nation.

A number of years in the past, Telles’s class watched the 2015 movie, Ixcanul (Volcano), a couple of 17-year-old Guatemalan lady who lives on the slopes of an energetic volcano and whose marriage is organized by her Kaqchikel dad and mom.

Once we watch Frida later this semester, about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, I’ll encourage college students to go to the San Francisco Museum of Fashionable Artwork, which holds a number of works by Kahlo in its assortment and is presenting a serious retrospective about Mexican painter Diego Rivera, a longtime accomplice of Kahlo’s. On Thursdays, SFMOMA is free, to allow them to take the BART to Third Road and see it then.

Movie is simply an introduction, fairly frankly. I hope every pupil walks away with their curiosity piqued, eager to study extra.

What do you hope college students take out of your class?

I hope it should demystify filmmaking and encourage college students, particularly these from underrepresented cultures and communities, to inform their very own tales. One pupil I’m working with proper now could be making a movie about her mom, who’s an immigrant from Japan and married an African American man from the USA. It’s about her mom’s expertise residing in San Francisco.

Making movies is all about storytelling. I inform college students: Sit down and speak to your mom, your father, your grandparents. Get your story out, as a result of nobody else goes to do it for you.



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