Latin America in Tübingen

In the world of film studies, Germany is a country not much associated with the investigation of Latin American cinema, but here we were, gathering in the small university town of Tübingen for a Spanish-speaking symposium on ‘Encuadrando La Dictadura en el Cine Latinoamericano’—’Framing Dictatorship in Latin American Cinema’.  It’s an odd sensation, going some place where you don’t speak the native language for a gathering that’s conducted in another language altogether. You end up addressing the waitress in the restaurant in Spanish—who then replies in Spanish, and you’re no longer quite sure where you are!

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Convened by Sebastian Thies and intended as the founding event of a new (and peripatetic) Forum for Iberamerican Audiovisual Studies, the range of papers was impressive, with sessions on feminine militancy, testimonial, discourses of exile, violence on the screen, propaganda and power, memory and the archive, and the commodification of memory. Continue reading

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Eduardo Coutinho In Memoriam

Poetic injustice. The terrible irony of it. On the same day, the news that the US actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has died from a heroine overdose, and the veteran Brazilian filmmaker Eduardo Coutinho, has been stabbed to death by his son, who is reported to suffer from schizophrenia. (According to a BBC report, the police told a press conference that the son ‘knocked on a neighbour’s door after the attack saying he had “liberated his father”.’) I learn about the first from the mass media, the second from Facebook, in posts from Latin American friends and colleagues, who over the next few hours register a huge outpouring of shock and grief, for Coutinho was well known and much loved. In Latin America, that is, because Coutinho was a documentarist. Still active at the age of 80, his work was little known elsewhere. The more’s the pity, because he was one of the most original of contemporary filmmakers in any field. Continue reading

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An Encounter with Miklós Jancsó

The Round-Up (1965), The Red and the White (1967), The Confrontation (1969), Red Psalm (1972): the films of Miklós Jancsó were one of the most exciting discoveries of radical cinema in Europe in the late 1960s, but hearing of his death last Friday at the age of 92 brings back a personal memory, for at the very beginning of my career as a film maker, I had a brief but hugely positive encounter with him. I interviewed him when he came to London for the opening of The Confrontation in 1969, and me a young film and music critic just then finishing my first short documentary for the BBC. Continue reading

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New? Latin American? Cinema?

The proper title of Havana’s annual film festival, founded in 1979, is the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema – Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano.  The words mark the Festival’s identification with a movement that was born in the 1960s, in the diverse endeavours of a new generation of filmmakers across the continent. The Festival remains a model of its kind after thirty-five years, the programme not only full of films in cinemas across town but also workshops and masterclasses of all sorts. This year’s centre-piece seminar (in which I was privileged to be one of the panelists) boldly addressed the Festival’s very raison d’être, under the title ¿Nuevo? ¿Cine? ¿Latinoamericano? – ‘New? Latin American? Cinema?’ It went along with perhaps the strangest festival promo you’ve ever seen, beautifully made by Pavel Giroud, in which an old projectionist switches off his projector, takes the reel off and goes and buries it.

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Did Allan Francovich get it right?

A forgotten documentary about Lockerbie

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, Channel 4 News has broadcast a very interesting report claiming that  Abdelbaset al-Megrahi wasn’t the Lockerbie bomber, and Libya wasn’t the country responsible, but that the bombing was actually carried out by a Palestinian terrorist group backed by Hisbollah, to avenge the 290 lives lost when Iran Air flight 665 was accidentally shot down by a US battleship over the Persian Gulf a few months before Lockerbie. The claims were made in recently discovered US court depositions by a CIA agent, Richard Fuisz, at the request of defence lawyers for al-Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah, who were on trial at the time for the bombing, but they came too late to be used at the trial.

This is substantially the same interpretation of events that is put forward in great detail in a forgotten documentary, The Maltese Double Cross (1994), by the American director Allan Francovich (1941-1997), who was also responsible for a number of films about the CIA, including the award-winning  On Company Business (1980). Continue reading

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Havana 35

The Cuban dissenting blogger Yoani Sanchez has written a somewhat cynical blog about Havana’s Film Festival, or to give its full title, the International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema, whose 35th edition closed on Sunday, in which she comments that

“The Festival” (period… as we call it), had a clear ideological focus from the beginning to promote creations filled with social criticism, a reflection of regional problems or the historic memory of the dictatorships that plagued Latin America.

I laughed when I read this because the last of those — well, that’s me, folks, in the shape of my new documentary, Interrupted Memory, which premiered at the Festival. OK, it wasn’t the only film on the subject. All I can say is that I’m very happy to have been screened in such company, even if Yoani didn’t bother to come to the screening. Continue reading

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Putney Debater in Havana

Some reports on my activities at the Havana Film Festival, for readers of Spanish:

There are several reports on the Seminar, ¿Nuevo? ¿Cine? ¿Latinoamericano?

The fullest is Hacia un nuevo concepto de Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano,
but also see


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Havana premiere for ‘Interrupted Memory’

Very pleased to share the news that my new film, ‘Interrupted Memory / Memoria interrumpida’, will receive its world premiere at the Havana International Film Festival, 5-15 December 2013, where I will also be participating in a panel discussion on contemporary documentary.


Come to a preview screening at the University of Roehampton on Wednesday 4th December (Duchesne Lecture Theatre, 4.30pm).

 Check out for information and a teaser (or below).

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Musical and Other Cultural Responses to Political Violence in Latin America

Musical and Other Cultural Responses to Political Violence in Latin America

A really interesting one-day conference in Manchester on 6 December – and not just because I’ll be screening an extract from ‘Interrupted Memory‘.

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