Students in the Hispanic Studies Latin American film course (HSPT 323/423) recently visited the George Eastman Museum, in Rochester, N.Y., home to an important celluloid film collection.
The course, which treats a broad gamut of film from Latin American and Latino filmmakers with a focus on gender, race and ethnicity, invites students to consider the material nature of film (celluloid, video and various digital formats) and how these material elements influence different ways of seeing and diverse spectatorship experiences.
During the visit, the students viewed key works in the canon of Mexican American Hollywood film from the George Eastman archives. The museum’s curatorial assistant Sophia Lorent screened experimental Technicolor material from the Douglas Fairbanks film, The Gaucho (1927), in which Mexican American film star Lupe Vélez made her name as a young star working in Hollywood, reshaping U.S. visions of national and transnational identity.
They also viewed a 35mm print of the 1934 short musical La Cucaracha in the Dryden Theater.
Students then toured George Eastman’s climate-controlled celluloid vaults where they found films from the likes of Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee.
Mattie Seamans ’18 called the visit her “discovery of film,” while Denise Meza Reyes ’16 added, “Not only did we have the opportunity to see the films El Gaucho and La Cucaracha, but we also learned about the care of the film negatives.”
Sophomores Rachel Alatalo and Jessica Castellanos, however, said they were troubled by the losses that celluloid’s degradation implies, especially in Latin America and in Cuba, Castellano’s home country. “I couldn’t stop thinking about all the films lost here and in the rest of the world,” explained Alatalo.
The HSPT 323/423 student blog (in Spanish) has student-authored photos and more student reactions.