Beyond Documentary?: Archives, Absences, and Rethinking Mexican “Nonfiction” Film, c. 1935–1955

  • David M. J. Wood
Part of the Global Cinema book series (GLOBALCINE)


Mexican cinema scholarship from the 1930s to the 1950s has tended to focus its historiographic and analytical energies on the fiction feature film. Meanwhile the history of Mexican documentary film is largely unwritten or at best exceptionalist and canonical (save some notable exceptions, such as the silent period and the “new cinemas” of the 1960s and 1970s). Recent research, however, has begun to dig around the edges of established ways of conceiving and periodizing Mexican cinema, with film and media historians taking an increasing interest in previously little-known filmmakers or production agencies. This is due partly to changing relationships between scholars and archivists, and partly to an ongoing transition in the ways in which cinema and media scholarship define the criteria and limits of their objects and methodologies of study. It also responds to an ongoing dialogue between researchers and archivists that recognizes the precarious material basis of much film scholarship (the fragility of the archival artifact, the fragility of historical narratives), and seeks to address this scenario by placing non-canonical film materials center-stage. This chapter intervenes in this emerging field, asking how future research might take on board the expanding range of types and genres of moving image production, supports, and media, including cultural/geopolitical identification, to sustain a potential alternative analysis of the Mexican “documentary” or “nonfiction” tradition. This theoretical and methodological mapping will help frame future research aiming for a deeper understanding of the historical dynamics of film production in Mexico.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. J. Wood
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAMMexico CityMexico

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