ISM ISM ISM: Experimental Films in Latin America /
ISMO ISMO ISMO: Cine Experimental en América Latina

10.12.19 & 10.19.19

Ism, Ism, Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America (Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Cine experimental en América Latina) was organized by Los Angeles Filmforum as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Ism, Ism, Ism surveys Latin America’s vibrant experimental production from the 1930s through today. More information here.

Ism, Ism, Ism is accompanied by a bilingual publication, Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Experimental Cinema in Latin America (Jesse Lerner and Luciano Piazza, editors, University of California Press, 2017) placing Latino and Latin American experimental cinema within a broader dialogue that explores different periods, cultural contexts, image-making models, and considerations of these filmmakers within international cinema. Available here.

Lead support for Ism, Ism, Ism is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation. Significant additional support comes from the The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.

(Various Artists, 1980-2016, Various Countries, digital, 73 min total)

In person: Ism, Ism, Ism co-curator Jesse Lerner

Military coups; civil wars; authoritarian regimes; U.S. led invasions: experimental cinema in Latin America has not escaped the impact of such ongoing forms of social upheaval. In many of these contexts, resistant social commentary can be a precarious, even dangerous, project. Tonight’s program unfurls a roster of defiant expressions so hazarded.

The curators write:
In the war-torn El Salvador of 1980, the collective “Los Vagos” shot documentaries and one fiction film, ZONA INTERTIDAL, a poetic treatment of the politically motivated assassination of a leftist professor by death squads. In 2014, in the town of Iguala, in Southern Mexico, 43 students from a rural teachers’ college were detained by the military and handed over to a local criminal organization. Forensic specialists have only been able to identify the remains of two of the students among the numerous mass graves excavated during the ensuing search for clues to their disappearance, a process which Bruno Varela comments upon in MATERIA OBSCURA. Zigmunt Cedinsky takes a satirical approach in LA GUERRA SIN FIN (I’M VERY HAPPY) while the Colombian filmmaker Camilo Restrepo’s IMPRESIÓN DE UNA GUERRA visits textile factories, tattoo parlors, print shops, and punk rock concerts to offer up an essayistic reflection on the lasting legacies of decades on his homeland.

El cine experimental en América Latina no ha escapado del impacto de distintos levantamientos sociales y diversas formas de violencia. En muchos de estos contextos, la resistencia, e incluso el comentario social, puede ser un proyecto precario y muchas veces peligroso. Este programa explora algunas de estas expresiones.

En los ochenta, durante la guerra en El Salvador, el colectivo Los Vagos realizó varios documentales y una película de ficción: Zona intertidal, un tratamiento poético del asesinato político de un profesor de izquierda perpetrado por los escuadrones de la muerte. En 2014 en el pueblo de Iguala, al sur de México, 43 estudiantes de la Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa fueron detenidos por los militares y entregados a una organización criminal local. Un grupo de especialistas forenses solo ha podido identificar los restos de dos de los estudiantes desparecidos, de entre las numerosas fosas clandestinas que se descubrieron durante la investigación. Bruno Varela hace un comentario sobre este proceso en Materia oscura (2016). Zigmunt Cedinsky crea una pieza satírica en La guerra sin fin (I’m very Happy) (2006), mientras que en Impresión de una guerra (2015) el cineasta colombiano Camilo Restrepo visita fábricas textiles, tatuadores, imprentas y conciertos de punk rock para ofrecer una reflexión ensayística del legado de décadas de guerra en su tierra natal.

Zona intertidal (INTERTIDAL ZONE)
(Grupo Los Vagos, 1980, El Salvador, digital, 14 min)

Tristezas (SORROWS)
(Paz Encina, 2016, Paraguay, digital, 7 min)

Materia oscura (DARK MATTER)
(Bruno Varela, 2016, Mexico, digital, 8 min)

(Bea Santiago Muñoz, 2014, Puerto Rico, digital, 11 min)

La guerra sin fin (I’m Very Happy) [THE UNFINISHED WAR (I'M VERY HAPPY)]
(Zigmunt Cedinsky, 2006, Venezuela, digital, 7.5 min)

Impresión de una guerra (IMPRESSION OF A WAR)
(Camilo Restrepo, Columbia/Francia, digital, 26 min)


(Various Artists, 1990-2015, Various Countries, digital, 82 min total)

A critical look at cinematic investigations around issues of languages, translation, and communication. Language is a site of social, cultural and geographic agency. Hundreds of languages are spoken in Latin America, beyond the Spanish and Portuguese imposed with the Conquest. In the context of the Conquest of the Aztec Empire, the role of la Malinche, Hernán Cortéz’ translator, interpreter, and lover, was a central one, and she remains a potent and contested figure. This program explores the movement between languages as a manifestation of identity pluralities. Unleashing the multiplication of heritage and affiliation in our contemporary landscape, these films reveal language as a will to power. In her monograph Bilingual Aesthetics the failure of language only makes language's success all the more sweet, Doris Sommer observes.

This program ranges from explicit negotiations about land ownership in The Land Belongs to Those Who Work It (Chiapas Media Project, Mexico, 2005), in which the dialogue switches between Spanish and Tzeltal, to a more abstract exploration of a religious Inca celebration of change and new beginnings in Pawqartampu (Felipe Esparza, Peru, 2015). The chief of the Guarani Mimbiá tribe narrates the extinction of the Tupinambá tribe in Sérgio Péo’s Ñanderu Panorâmica Tupinambá (Brazil, 1991). Vincent Carelli and the Centro de Trabalho Indigenista have for many years used video as a tool for activism and intercultural communication in remote Amazonian regions, as the short documentary A arca dos Zo’é illustrates vividly. Mexican media artist Ximena Cuevas takes a humorous approach with a poolside language lesson for a North American tourist. The sarcastic humor of Puerto Rican artist Poli Marichal in Dilemma I: Burundanga Boricua turns the official representations of Puerto Rico as a shining star into a shining scar, combining animation, documentary footage, and hand-painted film.

Este programa explora el movimiento entre idiomas como una manifestación de las pluralidades identitarias en América Latina. Estas películas revelan el lenguaje como una voluntad de poder. La sesión abarca desde negociaciones explícitas sobre la propiedad de la tierra en La tierra pertenece a quienes la trabajan (Chiapas Media Project, México, 2005), en la que el diálogo cambia entre español y tzeltal, hasta una exploración más abstracta de una celebración religiosa inca sobre el cambio y los nuevos comienzos como Pawqartampu (Felipe Esparza, Perú, 2015). El jefe de la tribu Guaraní Mimbiá narra la extinción de la tribu Tupinambá en el Ñanderu Panorâmica Tupinambá de Sérgio Péo (Brasil, 1991). Vincent Carelli y el Centro de Trabalho Indigenista han utilizado durante muchos años el vídeo como una herramienta para el activismo y la comunicación intercultural en remotas regiones amazónicas, como lo ilustra vívidamente el corto documental A arca dos Zo'é. La vídeo-artista mexicana Ximena Cuevas adopta un enfoque humorístico con una lección de idioma para un turista norteamericano junto a una ociosa piscina. El humor sarcástico de la artista puertorriqueña Poli Marichal en Dilemma I: Burundanga Boricua convierte la representación oficial de Puerto Rico de una estrella brillante a una brillante cicatriz, combinando animación, filmaciones documentales y películas pintadas a mano.

(Vincent Carelli & Dominique Gallois, 1993, Brazil, digital, 22 min)

Ñanderu Panorâmica Tupinambá
(Sérgio Péo, 1991, Brazil, digital, 8 min)

La tierra es de quien la trabaja (THE LAND BELONGS TO THOSE WHO WORK IT)
(Chiapas Media Project, 2005, Mexico, digital, 15 min)

(Felipe Esparza, 2015, Peru, digital, 8 min)

(Bruno Varela, 2012, Mexico, digital, 8 min)

Estamos para servile (WE'RE HERE TO SERVE YOU)
(Ximena Cuevas, 1999, Mexico, digital, 2 min 40 sec)

Dilemma I: Burundanga Boricua
(Poli Marichal, 1990, Puerto Rico, digital, 18 min)


Queer Film Series: Halloween Queer Horror Special


Join us for a night of queer film hosted by Hiromi Ueyoshi, solo curator of Queer Film Series!

"This month Queer Films Series is having our third annual Halloween Queer Horror Special, returning once again to everyone’s favorite, Lesbian Vampires. We’ll be watching DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (1971) and THE HUNGER (1983). As we discussed last year, queerness and the horrific come hand in hand. To be “othered” is considered “not normal” and therefore “dangerous.” The vampire, a creature of the night and celebration of deviant sexuality, is an apt metaphor that not only taps into the fear that one can suddenly be turned into a homosexual but the exchange of bodily fluids, blood, runs with the more real world fear of contagion––the contraction of disease. The two films we’ll be looking at predate the AIDS crisis somewhat, but we can examine the threads laid down for future vampire films, especially those of the late 80s and early 90s that continue to explore the connection between consuming human blood, transformation and AIDS." ––Hiromi Ueyoshi.

by Harry Kümel
1971, digital projection, 100 min

by Tony Scott
1983, digital projection, 96 min

Hiromi Ueyoshi is a multi-disciplinary artist and musician. She is currently the sole programmer of Queer Film Series, a chronological exploration of LGBTQ representation in mainstream film.


The Good Fight


This screening is part of On Whose Shoulders, a multi-media series exploring the impact of American radical traditions, curated by HotHouse. On Whose Shoulders is a major multi-arts festival of films and other cultural content coinciding with the 100th Anniversary of the CPUSA (Communist Party USA). The curators of the series have partnered with arts presenting organizations around the city to explore through film, oral histories, music, poetry, photographs and other documentary ephemera the legacy of the "party" and related events.  

Twenty-one feature films and documentaries look at 20th century communism and related movements. The programs are presented across the city in five separate screening venues in collaboration with our partners; The Rebuild Foundation; Chicago Film Society; Co-Prosperity Sphere; the Illinois District of the Communist Party USA, filmfront, South Side Projections and CANTV. Special thanks to Peter Kuttner, co-curator, and to Judy Hoffman and Eric Torres for their contributions to the project.

This documentary examines the experiences of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, using interviews with survivors more than 50 years later. First, the film sets the context with the rise of Fascism. Then, in 1936, Spain's military revolts against the elected government, and the U.S. and Europe agree not to intervene. In response, volunteers eluded border guards and entered into Spain to fight with the Republicans.

Narrated by Studs Terkel, The Good Fight explores a significant gap in our history through its use of newsreels, photographs, interviews with Lincoln veterans and Depression-era music. The eleven surviving veterans of the war who appear in this tough, stirring film share a common pride in their sacrifices of seventy years ago when the rise of world fascism crushed the spirit of democracy in a tragic rehearsal for World War II.

by Noel Buckner, Mary Dore, and Sam Sills
1984, digital projection, 98 min

Introduced by Jerry Harris. Jerry Harris will speak about his father's (Syd Harris) experience of growing up in a Jewish orphanage in Chicago, and joining the Lincoln Battalion to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Jerry Harris is a historian who wrote "The Center Cannot Hold: The Communist Party 1957-58". His latest book is "Global Capitalism and The Crisis of Democracy."