Jump in for part 2 of my film reviews for this year’s Spanish Film Festival! All of these films are centred on women and issues of class, as directed by non-Indigenous, non-Black women. But there are other themes of intersectionality that I will draw out.
We start with The Good Girls, a much-celebrated tale about greed and White femininity during the 1982 financial crisis in Mexico. Ana by Day starts from an interesting premise – a White woman comes home to find someone else already in her home: her doppelganger. What to do? We move through risque escapism, as envisioned from a place of class privilege. Two of the strongest films of the festivals follow. For the most thoughtful exploration of patriarchy, sexuality and race I’ve ever seen on film, Carmen y Lola is unsurpassed. It was an engrossing story of a young, lesbian Gitana minority woman in Spain, falling in love in a context where ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ and its complex ties to culture and family are unpacked. Another highlight is a methodical and complex look at the lives of Brown Mexican women who service hotels. If you think that sounds mundane, The Chambermaid will floor you with its poignant study of a woman who has always made herself small to survive. She finds subtle ways to subvert servitude. Finally, with its weighty ideals and harrowing topic of human trafficking, The Longest Night is superb filmmaking but utterly horrific for anyone committed to women’s rights. Let’s find out why.
It’s an exciting season in Sydney, with multiple festivals concurrently keeping us entertained from April to the end of June. First up is one of my favourites, the Spanish Film Festival. I bought a pass to see 10 films, mostly from Latin America and half by non-Indigenous, non-Afro women directors. We have a long way to go with stories reflecting the writing and direction of minorities. The festival has, however, included stories with disabled, queer and/or other ethnic minorities as protagonists. Those are the films I’ve predominantly chosen. The rest are political stories. Today, I bring you the first of two posts reviewing films from an intersectionality perspective. The festival began in Sydney on 16 April and ends 8 May, before travelling to all metropolitan cities.
Let’s take a look at the political thriller, The Realm, which sweeped this year’s Goya Awards (the ‘Spanish Oscars’). Tremors is the compelling but distressing story of a devoutly religious gay man from Guatemala. Champions is a highly successful Spanish movie featuring an ensemble cast of disabled actors playing a famous basketball team. Crime Wave takes a serious premise (an emotionally abusive man is murdered) and turns it into a cascading set of comedic deaths. Yikes! Finally, another political drama, Rojo, swells from the early days of the devastating Argentinean coup. The players ponder: under which local conditions do national tyrants rise? The answer is from ordinary towns, where people are too polite to notice men arguing and boys “disappearing.”
Central Park Mall, where Palace Cinemas Central and Platinum is hosting the Festival
I’ve been away for work for awhile now, and hope to bring you more on this soon. For now, I thought I’d share with you a post I had planned to publish weeks ago, but haven’t been able to finish until now. Let’s talk about the sociology of Indian people in Australia, with a case study of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Melbourne.
Indian migration to Australia has a long history, dating back to the 19th Century, with early records showing the British brought Indian servants (noting this may have included forced servitude). At the time of colonial Australia’s first Census, there were 1,800 Indian people in Australia. Today, Indian-Australians represent our fourth largest migrant group and they are also the biggest growing migrant group next to China, with their population doubling in the past decade, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
This video by Eddie G provides an engaging Mexican-American introduction to El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Eddie G captures how one community celebrates the dead, as just one step in the “pyramid of life.” In describing the symbolism of the colours of a symbolic altar, one woman says:
[In Spanish] “The yellow is the beginning of life. The red is the momentum of the blood. Green represents settling down, starting a family, working, and helping the community. Blue represents the sky. The elders reminiscing and talking about their memories. That’s all we have left. The top is white. That’s death. “
The Day of the Dead has grown in popularity in the United States and in other places outside Mexico. Non-Mexicans may be attracted to the colourful costumes, the skulls, face-painting and the “cool” allure of death. Yet the significance of this spiritual festival is more than just about death. It is a symbol of post-colonial struggles and a celebration of life. Continue reading Sociology of the Day of the Dead
Racism in Latin America is deep and complicated by the way in which colonialism is internalised in national narratives. In Brazil, the official discourse is one of perfect multicultural, multiracial togetherness, however, the fact is that race is intertwined with class inequality. Black and Indigenous Brazilians are treated like second class citizens and their cultures are appropriated and fetishised by the majority groups and elites. Continue reading Race and the Head Wrap in Brazil
Latina actress Gina Rodriguez, star of Jane the Virgin, has won a Golden Globe for Best TV Series Actress – Comedy or Musical! She said in her speech:
“This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”
This win is especially important given the research on Latin people on screen which shows that Latins are relegated to unnamed roles, and playing to the stereotypes of criminals, blue collar workers and sex objects.
In the 2011 Australian Census, there were over 107,300 Latin-Australian migrants. The majority were born in South America (almost 87,700 people); the second-biggest groups were born in Central America (14,900 people); and a smaller proportion were born in the Caribbean (4,7000 people). Continue reading Latin Summer Festival
Framing Protest Music & Ethnicity Studies as “Illegal”
A conservative American head of the State Education Department in Tucson, Arizona, John Huppenthal, has published a letter saying that high school courses that teach Mexican history, Rage Against the Machine lyrics and hip hop lyrics by rapper KRS-One are dangerous because they incite the overthrow of the American government. He also argues that ethnic studies “had bred resentment against Whites.”
In case you were wondering, this is what state-sanctioned White supremacy sounds like, especially given Huppenthal was also responsible for banning Mexican-American studies in Tucson schools. I wrote about this ban in 2012: http://buff.ly/1wilcyN
Huppenthal says these courses should remain “illegal.” Nice choice of words, given this the language used to frame Mexican-Americans – despite the fact that the United Nations charter shows there are, in fact, no such thing as “illegal” people.
According to Huppenthal’s logic, courses that teach culture and history from a non-White-American perspective, even when representing the largest minority group in the state, and music that promotes the end of racism, are a huge threat to White society.
Rage Against the Machine’s Take the Power Back below includes lyrics about the importance of ethnicity studies, as written and sung by Chicano Zach de la Rocha. http://buff.ly/1wildCW
Sociology student Katherine Jensen talks about her research on the race relations underlying the Brazil protests in 2013, ahead of the World Cup. The catalyst for the protests was the increase in public transport fees at a time when the government was spending “an obscene amount of money” on the Olympics. Using the concept of “moral shock,” she finds that the media only paid attention to police brutality during the protests when White women were involved. In some cases, the media even focused on women who had been spectators to police violence and had not been direct victims. At the same time, the predominantly Black, poor people who were being violently removed from the favellas (poor housing areas) in brutal ways were largely ignored.
Instead, the media constructed Black people’s protest as deviant and disruptive, even though they were essentially protesting the same issues as White Brazilians: Government corruption, public spending and lack of social welfare and basic services.