Concrete Realities: Youth Politics and the City of Super-8

Friday, January 7, 2011: 9:50 AM
Defender Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Jennifer L. Boles , Indiana University
This paper is a social, cultural, and urban history of a grassroots cinema movement called the superocheros that formed in the shadow of 1968 and one of its most violent manifestations: the massacre of student demonstrators at Tlatelolco in Mexico City. For these young, radicalized filmmakers, portable and inexpensive 8mm cameras became a tool of subversion and an alternative strategy of political and cultural expression and identity construction as the context of the 1970s shifted the locus of political agitation beyond the institutional boundaries of the university and the organizational structure of the student movement to the realms of culture, representation, identity, and everyday life. The superocheros adapted to these changes with new technology and the power of representation in a way that allowed them to continue to participate in the counterculture and “class struggle” and package it as a cultural and political tool. Empowered by their possession of “reality” and history and the creative potential of cinema for individual and collective expression in an atmosphere of censorship, the superocheros projected a creative blend of gritty narratives and visual contradictions that spoke to debates about the counterculture and changing radical identities and their relationship to rapid urbanization and the contradictions of Mexico's "modernity." That is, the filmmakers’ questioning of their lived reality and cinematic “reality” was an exercise that required a self-examination of their role as cultural “vanguards” and agents of democracy and of modernity, debates that reflected the plurality and ambivalence that characterized the New Left. In this paper, I argue that cinematic representations of the city were one way that global processes were placed in dialogue with local experiences and concerns and where their politics were rendered “real” and thus subversive.