Fakultäten » Philosophische Fakultät » Filmwissenschaft, Seminar für » Prof. Dr. Margrit Tröhler » Rohrer

Completed research project

Title / Titel Mexican Low Budget Films in their Transnational Context”
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung The dissertation examines a previously widely ignored group of films: the Mexican low budget productions (wrestling and border films, loser comedies, and dirty movies) made since the 1960s. The aforementioned films have widely circulated on video, film, television, and online across the transnational space between the United States of America, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. To this date, they continue to be popular with working-class Mexican audiences and migrants in the United States. Despite their popularity, they have tended to be ignored or dismissed by film critics and scholars as reactionary and sexist. The dissertation places these Formula Pictures within the realm of popular culture (Fiske) and exploitation cinema (Schaefer). It sketches out their iconography and aesthetics which result from a particular mode of production (extremely low costs and short shooting times, working with family members instead of union workers, etc.). Although a wide set of works will be considered, the main focus of the dissertation is the character type La India María (María Elena Velasco) – a clumsy indigenous woman who is suppressed but in the end always succeeds. Since the 1970s, she has appeared in fifteen features films, as well as in numerous television shows, and in the theater. In the meantime, she has become a cultural phenomenon: she is admired by the audience, and hated by the press. In the course of her career, María Elena Velasco gradually wished to have more influence on the character type she impersonated; as a result she began directing and later producing her own films.
The stereotypical character types (among them La India María) repeated in endless films - reduced to body type, ethnicity and gender - are created by filmmakers and producers who either deride or sympathize with their audience. By considering the political and historical context along with conditions of production, distribution, exhibition, and spectatorship, varying modes of reception emerge. Taking into account different theoretical approaches to production culture and reception (e.g. Staiger, Odin), the analyzed low-budget productions may thus be seen as a form of cinematographic re-negotiation: The films take up pre-existing roles and structures, exhibit them performatively, and – as I argue - bring about resulting shifts in their meaning. Power structures are called into question through a variety of self-techniques (cf. Foucault, Bourdieu, Butler); on the level of the filmic text (the mise-en-scène of bodies and genders); or in processes of appropriation within the community.
Publications / Publikationen Selected Publications:

„Revolution in 35 mm“ (New Tendencies in Mexican Filmmaking) In: Du Kulturmagazin, no. 804, March 2010, 74–79.

„Stereotyping in the Films of La India María»“(peer-reviewed) In: The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies , vol. 3, no. 3, Spring 2009, 54–68.

„Lektüre von Stop-Aids-Spots. Was Präventionskurzfilme bewirken können“ (Reading Stop Aids Spots. Possible Effects of Preventional Short Films). Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2008. (Monography)

„Magischer Realismus im Film“ (Magical Realism in Film). In: Christen, Thomas; Blanchet, Robert (Hg.): Einführung in die Filmgeschichte. New Hollywood bis Dogma 95. Marburg: Schüren, 2008, 229–248.

Keywords / Suchbegriffe Gender, Trash, Reception, Border, Mexiko, USA
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
lic. phil. Seraina Rohrer (Project Leader)
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
Forschungskredit der Universität Zürich, SNF (Personen- und Projektförderung), Others
Forschungskredit Uni ZH (01.09.2008-31.07.2009, 01.08.2010-30.09.2011); SNF, Personen- und Projektförderung (01.08.2009-31.07.2010)
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Mar 2008 to Sep 2012