CSRC Newsletter - December 2006
CSRC Newsletter Volume 5, Number 3
In late November, I had a chance to see the first advance screening of the completed version for Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, which will be released this month. The film is being promoted as the first Hollywood film in an indigenous language, set in the pre-Colombian era, and shot on location using local talent both in front of and behind the camera. Likewise, the marketing of the film reflects a strategic alliance between Latino business and Latinos in the entertainment industry. We would appear to have the makings of a "perfect storm" with the convergence of a Hollywood "A" list actor-director's production with Latino demographics, income generation (for Latino business), employment opportunity (for Latino actors and behind-the-camera positions), and media representation (of the Latino population). So, how do we reconcile Gibson's apparent altruism toward Latinos with his recent drunken tirade against women and Jews? Is the latter just an aberration that now undermines the former? Or is there a larger logic, or dare we say Conspiracy Theory (to reference a Gibson film), at work? I turned to Apocalypto for an answer.
The film appears to be set 500 years before the Conquest, and yet it ends with a shot of ships setting anchor. It depicts the Mayans, and yet shows them engaging in ritual sacrifice—which was the Aztecs. So in terms of historical detail, the film—co-authored by Gibson—has enough faults to negate it as an accurate depiction of the Mayans. Instead, it must be seen as doing something else: offering an allegory about the evil of any societal organization beyond the familial and (small) tribal. It is the big city—with its slave trade, free markets, government, and organized religion—that results in the downfall of the Mayan civilization (and the small tribes it enslaves). When the Spaniards arrive, it is clear that things will only get worse. Whatever the film may say about Mayans, or Latinos, it clearly makes a general statement against modernity. In other words, the film argues against the very type of higher-level organization that Latino groups are undertaking to market the film! Therein lies the paradox of Gibson's appeal: his message has been that of the loner who suffers great pain, yet triumphs, even in death and even as the entire world is going to Hell. But that appeal depends upon and is a commodity within a global news and entertainment industry—which is to say, modernity.
In the end, Apocalypto is the Chantico of Hollywood cinema. You may remember Chantico as that short-lived Aztec chocolate drink from Starbucks, the one whose marketing I found problematic on several fronts, and yet whose taste was sublime…. Well, Gibson knows and excels at the most fundamental thing about cinema, the moving image, such that Apocalypto could easily have been a silent film, and not just a subtitled one. Beautifully shot and edited, the film visually conveys physical movement and broad characters and emotions within a simple chase narrative. The performances, like Gibson's own roles, are more pantomime than "realistic" or dialogue-driven. I could not help but be impressed that, as I picked apart the holes in the story and its message, the film-as-film captivated me. Alas, as with Chantico, consumers may want more….
Chon A. Noriega, Director and Professor
A Ver Artist Awarded Grant
The Joan Mitchell Foundation awarded Maria Brito, an artist with the CSRC A Ver series, a grant from the 2006 Painters & Sculptors Grant Program. These grants, dedicated to supporting artists who are under-recognized for their artistic achievements and whose careers would benefit from the $25,000 grant, acknowledge painters and sculptors creating work of exceptional quality.
Guillermo E. Hernandez Fund
Professor Guillermo E. Hernández , Director Emeritus of the CSRC, passed away this past summer. To keep his memory and spirit alive, the Hernández family and the CSRC have inaugurated a scholarship fund to support graduate and undergraduate students who are doing research in Chicano or Latino culture, literature, or music. You can contribute to the fund by going online to CSRC Giving. An exhibition on his life and academic works will be in the CSRC Library through the winter quarter; a selection of his writings is available online.
Lecture on Jay Leno's Mexican Jokes
Otto Santa Ana, Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies, will present "Late-Night Racial Politics: Jay Leno Jokes About the Great May Day Marches of 2006” on this Thursday, December 7 , 2006, 4:00-5:30 pm in the UCLA Young Research Library, 11348 Presentation Room. For more information, please visit the UCLA Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies or call 310-206-7696.
UCLA Professor Directs Latino Theater Company Production
Jose Luis Valenzuela , Professor in the UCLA Theater Department, will direct the Latino Theater Company in La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin (The Miracle of the Four Apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe). The show will be held Thursday, December 7, and Friday, December 8, 7:30 pm, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 West Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Free admission. For more information, please call 213-489-0994 or visit the theater's website.
Diversity in Hollywood Policy Brief
Hollywood “breakdowns” often specify a preferred race/ethnicity or gender for a role—a hiring practice that gives an overwhelming proportion of lead roles to white male actors. The new Latino Policy & Issues Brief written by Russell Robinson of the UCLA School of Law and titled Hollywood's Race and Ethnicity and Gender-Based Casting: Prospects for a Title VII Lawsuit examines the potential for lawsuits that challenge this practice and discusses viable alternatives. The brief got substantial press coverage including stories in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.
Aztlán Is Online
To read all issues of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, from 1970 through 2006, please go to the journal hosting site. If your library subscribes, and you are accessing the site through your university network, you should be able to read articles right away. If not, this may mean that your library has yet to turn on its access. Why not email your librarian and ask him or her to do so? All subscribers will continue to get a print copy of the journal.
CSRC Store Online
To buy any CSRC products, please go to our new CSRC Store ! All friends of the center have a one-time 40 percent discount on all books, DVDs, and t-shirts. Just browse the products, add them to your shopping cart, enter the discount code “launchdeal,” and pay with your credit card. If you have any problems at all, please email us at CSRC Store.
Café Press Store
A variety of products with our con safos logo can be purchased at Cafepress, an online marketplace that allows organizations to create unique print-on-demand products. We earn a portion of the proceeds, so check it out!
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CSRC Library & Archive
Jose Luis Sedano Papers
The physical processing of this collection of one hundred years of correspondence, photographs, and artifacts related to a Mexican American family is now complete. The archive is entering the data into a finding aid.
Call for Postdoctoral and Graduate Fellowship Applications
The CSRC and the Institute of American Cultures (IAC) offers fellowships to graduate/predoctoral and postdoctoral/visiting scholars to support research on Chicanas/os. All fellowship applications are due by 5:00 pm, Friday, January 12, 2007. Submit to Assistant Director Carlos Manuel Haro, For more information on applying or to access the application forms , go to the IAC website .
Call for Faculty and Graduate Student Research Grant Applications
The CSRC, the IAC, and the University of California Committee on Latino Research are offering research grants in Chicana/o Studies and Latino Policy Studies. The deadline for UCLA faculty and student proposals is April 27, 2007 . Visit the IAC website for details and application forms. Please submit complete proposals to Assistant Director Carlos Manuel Haro.