Puerto Rico Cinema: A Visual Anthropology

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Puerto Rico Cinema: A Visual Anthropology. The creative team of Zaranda Productions developed a documentary about the seventh art that started with some questions: Is there an important cinema industry in Puerto Rico? What does this cinema present? What does it say to the public? And, how have we used cinema as a production medium?

The work looks at the visual and narrative forms of various periods in our nation, while discussing the period of educational filmmaking in Puerto Rico — one of the strongest in our cinema — when documentaries instructed the people about precautions they should take against mosquitoes, for example. It also talks about the later period, when cinema became a method of pure entertainment with romantic comedies and crime films, among which are Correa Cotto: ¡Así me llaman! and La leyenda de Toño Bicicleta.

The documentary presents interviews with an experienced group of filmmakers, anthropologists and historians, such as Manuel Valdés Pizzini, Jacobo Morales, Roberto Ramos Perea and Marcos Zurinaga. The latter, for example, has directed a variety of films, such as A Step Away, narrated by Orson Welles, and La gran fiesta, in which he worked with Alejandro Iñárritu. This amalgam of interviews in various areas of study enriches the documentary with a diversity of perspectives.

At the same time, the documentary presents scenes from iconic films that show Puerto Rico’s social situation, an important anthropological aspect of the production. We see the poverty and those who suffer it, the wealth and those who enjoy it, and the Puerto Rican and U.S. politicians. The documentary, sponsored by the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities, has been shown in New York, New Jersey, at various universities, at the Tapia Theater and at the Metro Cinema, as well as having been broadcast on television.

With the idea that cinema reflects the culture, the project seeks to understand the story of Puerto Rico and its cinematic industry, answering three questions: when and for whom has cinema in Puerto Rico been made, and who has made it. It also reminds us of our shared experiences and times, promoting the development of our own historic sense, which is always necessary for understanding our culture and ourselves.

By: Pedro Molina

 

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