Cinemascape : Durango

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Date

2005-12

Authors

David, Erica Lynne

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Abstract

Cinemascape: Durango is a portrait of “cinema” from the ethnographic perspective of Durango, a state in northern Mexico whose identity as Tierra del Cine is based on its history as a "location" for both Hollywood Westerns and the low-budget, Mexican action films known as churros. From the globally "marginal" vantage of Durango, it looks at how "cinema," as a mobile signifier transects and transforms seemingly disparate topics and spaces and becomes part of new cultural configurations and flows. These flows are both concretely economic, as in the transnational traffic in media products, and imaginary, as in changing senses of meaning and identity. It addresses cinema's manifestations and meanings in a variety of institutions and practices locally regarded as cinema-related. It includes chapters on everyday space and imagination; genre and "authoritarian" visual form; national and regional ideologies; and the specific careers and artistic production of two Durango filmmakers. Although production has diminished since the mid 1980s, due to the waning popularity of movie Westerns and the rise of video, "cinema" remains a powerful presence in Durango, palpable in discourses of nostalgia, hope and patrimony, as well as in material artifacts. It "exists" in bumper stickers that say "Durango, Tierra del Cine" and movie sets of Old West towns in various states of decay. One set has become a "real" town, with people living and working behind facades that say "Saloon" and "General Store." Another is now an amusement park. Others stand as decaying ghost towns. John Wayne had a ranch in Durango, and his image appears everywhere. The state tourist office is called "The Office of Tourism and Cinema." The particularity of Durango's cinematic terrain is evoked through a representational strategy of montage, organized by piling up "scenes" from everyday life, films and film history. Its aim is to show "cinema" as a point of connection within a broad social imaginary, working at different levels of specificity, and also "leaking." The dissertation is interdisciplinary in that it links culture to imagination (thus philosophy), media, art and literature (thus art history, cultural/film studies) and global capitalism (thus political economy, history, area studies).

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