Tropicast: the National Cinema Debate


Cinema Tropical was once again honored to team up with the Americas Society to present the Tropichat “From Buñuel to González Iñárritu: The Pitfalls of the National Cinema Debate”.  Panelists Gerard Dapena, Daniel Loría, and Paul Julian Smith, along with moderator Carlos Gutiérrez of Cinema Tropical, discussed what constitutes national cinema, both the official “rules” of what is defined as national cinema by individual countries as well as how national cinema is perceived by the public, as well as the fluidity of talent moving across the less stringent borders of the world of cinema.  While examples from the past centered on Buñuel and stars from his films, discussion of present day examples was more or less entrenched in the cross cultural cinematic phenomenon represented by Mexico’s “Tres Amigos” (Alejandro González Iñárritu -pictured, Guillermo del Toro, and Alfonso Cuarón). 

The timing of this discussion couldn’t have been more poignant, especially as once again the nomination process for the Academy Award’s  “Best Foreign Film” category sparked controversy over its archaic rules and inspired questions of national cinema.  As Mexico and Spain selected co-productions, González Iñárritu’s Biutiful and Icíar Bollaín’s También la lluvia / Even the Rain respectively, to represent their countries in this category, both the diminishing presence of cinema born of just one nation and the inability of the Academy to recognize the current situation of most productions outside of the United States became evidently clear. The night ended with important questions of distribution and accessibility, processes that the idea of national cinema can sometimes hinder or enhance.  However as the audience expressed their appreciation of these hybrid films it was clear that in the end people enjoy a good film no matter what nationality it claims.

To listen to the audio version of the Tropicast click here.

Gerard Dapena is a scholar of Hispanic Cinemas and Visual Culture. He has published and lectured on different aspects of Spanish and Latin American film and art history and taught at a number of colleges in the U.S.

Daniel Loría. Daniel Loría's writing on cinema and the film industry has appeared in indieWIRE and Not Coming to a Theater Near You. He holds an M.A. in cinema studies from New York University and a B.A. in the same field from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Paul Julian Smith is Distinguished Professor in the Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is the author of fifteen books including: Amores Perros (BFI 2003), Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar (Verso, 2001) and Spanish Screen Fiction: Between Cinema and Television (Liverpool UP, 2009). He is a regular contributor to Sight & Sound and Film Quarterly.

Moderated by Carlos A. Gutiérrez, Director of Cinema Tropical.