Plot: This collage documentary begins with an opposed collection of stereotypes, first of North Americans as seen from Mexico, and then of Mexicans seen from the U.S. (primarily in classic Mexican movie clips). It proceeds to develop an argument directed at Mexicans about the need to re-envision cross-cultural relations, emerge from an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the U.S., assume responsibility for Mexico's own economic problems, and re-imagine--in conjunction with the U.S.--the international arena as a single space mutually inhabited for mutual benefit or destruction. That argument touches on, inter alia, Mexican debt load, the oil crisis, and neocolonialism.
Style: Incorporated into the visual collage of existing materials is an aural collage, including texts by Mexican author Octavio Paz and others and sound effects from popular U.S movies. Particularly striking is the repeated use of clips from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in which the scene is played and replayed from a U.S. and Mexican point of view.
Background on director/film: Gloria Ribe was born in Northern Mexico, and studied journalism and cinematography. Her feature film Monse won an Ariel (the Mexican Oscar) in 1980. She also worked as a television journalist, both in Mexico and in Paris as a foreign correspondent. One of her television documentaries, Tepito, won an award in 1986 from the Latin American and Caribbean Conference. She has also made music videos, one of which also won a Mexican award. She has her own film company in Mexico. She developed From Here, From This Side, as she explained to Pat Aufderheide at the INPUT (international public television) conference in Philadelphia in 1988, when she was working for the presidential television unit. The project began as a simple documentary record of the president's visit to the United States. She wanted to preface the presidential footage with a short introduction framing the question of U.S.-Mexican relations, and used the presidential video archives as well as off-the-shelf copies of U.S. films. The introduction gradually developed into a full-blown film and personal essay of its own; it was held up for release because of rights problems with the U.S. film footage.
In her press material, Ribe describes the intent of the film as follows: "this documentary-collage shows how the North-South relationship...is perceived 'from this side,' the Mexican one. Robert Redford, John Gavin, Paul Newman, Maria Felix [a leading classic Mexican movie star] and Superman are, in a certain way, the stars acting the economic and cultural differences between the 'central' and the 'peripheral' countries. Modernity leads them to a kind of loneliness that they share only with the rest of the world.
"This documentary-collage might Help to see the possibilities that 'peripheral' countries have to express their realities and visions about the 'central' countries, as a necessary exchange for mutual and better understanding."
Film production context: The Mexican film and television industries have a long and checkered history. The state has been intimately involved in supporting both, in different ways at different times. During the '40s and '50s Mexican cinema was internationally dominant throughout Latin America, offering often schlocky, sentimental and occasionally breakthrough and world-class cinema. State funding policies over time encouraged an old-boy network, union featherbedding and formula films. Different policies in the'60s and and'70s attempted to and sometimes achieved the fostering of creativity and independent voices. Mexican filmmakers participated vigorously in the New Latin American Cinema, striving for an aggressively self-critical cinema reflecting the struggle for autonomous cultural identity, although they were not typical within the Mexican film industry. In recent years, financial crisis has wracked the film industry; much studio space and time has been rented to international (especially U.S.) companies, and although many Mexican films were made in the late 1980s, many of them were cheap, quick productions for a U.S. Hispanic market. Television has long been dominated by a private corporation with a tight relationship with the dominant party, producing novelas (soap operas with a fixed number of episodes), variety shows, talk shows and comedies. It has a substantial international reach in Latin America and the U.S. Work like Gloria Ribe's, and many other independent film and video makers, operates on the margin of these industries, benefiting from marginal support programs from the Mexican government, nontheatrical exhibition circuits and international organizations like Women Make Movies, a distribution group that distributes this film.
Importance: The film has been shown widely, e.g. at the Havana Festival of New Latin Americn Cinema, and in the U.S. at the AFI National Video Festival, CineAccion Women of the Americas Festival, and CineFstival, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. It was praised by a leading feminist critic, Ruby Rich, who said, "Ribe updates the critique of neocolonialism with a truly contemporary video vernacular, one that can move viewers beyond already familiar documentary strategies."Further Reading:
Last updated on September 17, 1996
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