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Teaching film in modern languages. University of Bristol 19 th June 2009 Dr. Miriam Haddu Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico. Mexican Filmmaking. Research: Books, articles and papers Teaching: Hispanic Studies

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Teaching film in modern languages

University of Bristol

19th June 2009

Dr. Miriam Haddu

Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico


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Mexican Filmmaking

  • Research:

    • Books, articles and papers

  • Teaching:

    • Hispanic Studies

    • Modern Languages (co-taught courses running within the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures)

  • New teaching subject – documentary filmmaking: coincides with new research project.


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Mexican Visual Arts and Film

  • Second year course – half devoted to analysing the still image (photography, murals) and other half to Mexican film.

  • Film component is introductory exploring:

    • key moments in Mexican filmmaking history

    • filmic movements

    • formulas from Golden Age

    • Stylistics and social concerns from Golden Age, Generation of ’68 to the Contemporary period (1990s and beyond).

  • Prepares students for the final year option, and develops their analytical skills in relation to a variety of visual texts.


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Contemporary Mexican Cinema

  • Contemporary Mexican Cinema: History, Space and Identity

  • Final Year Course ‘Contemporary Mexican Cinema’

  • Course content:

    • Mixture of filmic material (some written on, others not).

    • Each year new material added – keeps novelty value, allows progression through film history.

    • At times films being worked on are taught (En la mente del asesino / In the Mind of a Killer)

    • Subjects covered:

      • Characteristics of filmmaking

      • Women filmmakers

      • Genres

  • Seminar room becomes a forum for learning, interpreting filmic texts, discussion and the investigation of new ideas.


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Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico

  • Modern Languages co-taught course

  • Second year level:

    • Spanish studies students

    • Film studies with a modern language

  • Aims and Objectives:

    • Introduce students to a selection of documentaries from the region

    • Expand analytical skills acquired elsewhere on the course

    • Contextualise and interpret visual constructs

    • Address the issue of genre when applied to documentary.


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Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico

  • Teaching in Practice:

    • Teaching of some principles of documentary filmmaking:

      • Basic principles:

        • Distinction between ‘fiction’ and ‘reality’ filmmaking. Some myths addressed.

        • Issues of representing ‘reality’

      • Theoretical framework for reading these outputs

        • Types of documentary: observational, reflexive, interactive, etc.

        • Primary text to exemplify generic definition: En el hoyo / In the Pit.


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Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico

  • Teaching Practice:

    • Theoretical framework for reading these texts

      • Documentary modes of representation:

        • Expository Mode

        • Observational Mode

        • Interactive Mode

        • Reflexive Mode

      • Primary text to exemplify generic definition: En el hoyo/In the Pit


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Juan Carlos Rulfo’s En el hoyo / In the Pit (2007)

  • Example of ‘observational mode’ documentary

  • Tagline:

    • Starting point for exploring issues of reality in documentary

  • Methods of documentary filmmaking

  • Role of the director.



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Documentary filmmaking from Mexico

  • Pedagogical challenges:

    • Knowledge of cultural context (theoretical tools not sufficient)

    • ‘Re-training of the eye’ – build upon skills developed from other courses/modules

    • New discipline for modern languages students.


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Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico

  • Methodological issues / Teaching in Practice:

    • Accessibility:

      1. Distribution within the film industry

      2. Language (target language)

      3. Secondary sources (reference material)


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Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico

1. Distribution:

  • Documentaries shown at film festivals:

    • Access and Delivery of teaching material

    • Limitations on student viewing

  • Resolution:

    • Contact filmmakers directly

    • Film Institutes


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Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico

2. Language:

  • Effect from poor distribution is limited subtitled material – excludes non- Spanish speakers.

  • Lack of subtitles limits the audience to a certain level of Spanish speakers only.

  • Local problem – accent – Mexico City’s chilango presents problems of reception.


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Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico

3. Secondary Sources:

  • New films – little publication available

  • Most written form of criticism in the target language

  • Possible solution:

    • Newspaper reviews from archives in Mexico City

    • Study packs for students (internet resources and reviews)


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Documentary Filmmaking from Mexico

  • Pedagogical benefits of research-informed teaching:

    • Cutting Edge teaching

    • Expert knowledge

    • Forum for discussion and exploring of new ideas – works both for the researcher and the student.


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