The success of New Mexican Cinema (Nuevo Cine Mexicano) has been a long time coming.
For many years after the golden era of Mexican cinema in the 1940s and ’50s (when stars like Maria Felix, Pedro Infante, and Jorge Negrete were the toast of Hollywood), Mexico’s film industry was largely dead in the water.
However, starting in the 1990s, independent filmmakers began to challenge the old guard with their unique visions.
In fact, New Mexican Cinema as a movement has been so successful that it won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, which was filmed in Mexico City.
New Mexican Cinema (Nuevo Cine Mexicano)
What Is New Mexican Cinema (Nuevo Cine Mexicano)?
New Mexican Cinema, or Nuevo Cine Mexicano, is a film movement that began in the early 1990s and continues today.
It is influenced by the French New Wave and Neorealism, and it attempts to portray an honest portrayal of Mexico, including its truly dark side.
It is characterized by the use of handheld cameras, postmodernism, and ‘stranger’ characters.
The Nuevo Cine Mexicano movement can be seen as a reaction to the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, which took place during the 1940s and 1950s.
The films are characterized by their naturalistic style, rejection of melodrama, and themes such as drug trafficking and immigration.
What Is New Mexican Cinema?
Known as Nuevo Cine Mexicano (or NCM), this burgeoning film movement is challenging the way Hollywood thinks about Mexico.
Starting in the 1990s, Mexican filmmakers began calling for a cinema that discussed contemporary issues and themes, as opposed to relying on tired clichés or focusing on the past.
The result was a new wave of Mexican films that displayed a more realistic look at life in modern-day Mexico.
In the years since, NCM has made an impact both south and north of the border. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, it opened up new avenues for homegrown talent to explore what it means to live in present-day Mexico.
In the U.S., it’s given American audiences a window into modern Mexican life, as well as providing cinéphiles with a new source of exciting movies to discover.
While some critics see the movement as a resurgence or renaissance for Mexican cinema, others believe that it has been detrimental to the industry.
In later years, Mexico’s film industry lost much of its luster when a number of filmmakers moved to Hollywood after being offered lucrative opportunities there.
The Beginning Of New Mexican Cinema
In the last decade or so, Mexico has been known for two things when it comes to cinema: telenovelas and action movies.
Towards the end of the 20th century, Mexican audiences were introduced to a new type of film that was unlike anything they had ever seen before.
It was a film that didn’t shy away from taboo issues such as poverty, drug abuse, domestic violence and corruption. But it also had a sense of humor. This was New Mexican Cinema.
New Mexican Cinema was founded in the work of directors like Arturo Ripstein, Carlos Carrera and Guillermo del Toro, who each made masterpieces that touched upon elements not usually seen in Mexican films.
There is some dispute as to whether Nuevo Cine Mexicano is a distinct movement or simply part of the larger Latin American independent cinema movement. In truth, Nuevo Cine Mexicano is both of these things and neither.
That’s because Nuevo Cine Mexicano represents a cinematic movement that may be confined to Mexico but has definite influences from other Latin American countries, particularly Argentina and Brazil.
Until 1992, Mexican cinema was dominated by huge budgets and big stars. The government owned the country’s largest film studio, which meant that all major films had to be approved by the government.
Many were financed through drug money — sometimes inadvertently — but no one seemed to mind as long as the people stayed entertained.
Everything changed in 1992 when President Carlos Salinas de Gortari decided to sell off the state-owned film studio and deregulate the industry.
Suddenly, there were no more restrictions on what could be filmed or who could make movies.
Of course, with deregulation came a new problem: there was no money for productions because drug dealers weren’t stepping up to finance anything anymore.
Until filmmakers figured out how to fund projects on their own, they had free rein over their ideas — but not necessarily their budgets.
The result was a new genre of lower-budgeted films that focused on gritty realism rather than glamour and escapism.
Nuevo Cine Mexicano
The term “New Mexican Cinema” was created by critic and novelist Rafael Rodríguez-Torres in an article published in 2001, when he referred to the recent emergence of a group of new filmmakers who were making their first films, thus defining their works as “new” in contrast to the already consolidated Mexican Cinema.
It is also intended as reference to the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism movements.
Tales of corruption and crime are a staple of Nuevo Cine Mexicano.A recurring theme involves the difficulties Mexico faces with its endemic poverty and inequality, particularly in its border regions, which serve as an escape route for many Mexicans.
Nuevo Cine Mexicano stresses the violence found in Mexico. This violence is reflected in the country’s police forces, which are often portrayed as corrupt or inept in their attempts to maintain order.
In addition, much of the narrative takes place on Mexico’s border with the United States where drug cartels have considerable power, and where much smuggling occurs. Many Nuevo Cine Mexicano films feature gritty portrayals of urban life, often focusing on lower-class protagonists struggling to survive in a harsh world.
The films often focus on marginalized groups such as illegal immigrants living within the US.
Essential Films From The Mexican New Wave
You might not be familiar with the Mexican New Wave, but you should be. During the 1960s and 1970s, a group of relatively young directors changed the landscape of Mexican cinema.
Toward the end of the 20th century, Mexico was in political turmoil. The 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, in which Mexican army and police forces fired on thousands of students demonstrating against government corruption and authoritarianism, left an indelible mark on the country’s history.
The movie directors involved in this movement were responding to these events and trying to explore their identity as Mexicans. Their films are about their nation, their culture and themselves as children of that culture.
They questioned social norms and explored the legacy of colonialism. They created a new cinematic language to express the complexity of their country’s identity.
Here are some essential movies from this movement:
El Espejo (The Mirror), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (1973)
El Espejo (The Mirror) is one of his most experimental films, a surrealistic parable that mixes magic realism with autobiographical elements.
It is an allegory about the creation of art that deconstructs the creative process through different points of view represented by different characters who are all connected to each other by a rather mysterious sense.
Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu – 2000)
Watching Amores Perros, you never have the sense that director Alejandro González Iñárritu is trying to be clever or show off. Certainly the film is gorgeously shot and edited, but it’s not very ostentatious about it.
This is a movie that tells its story through images, though not necessarily with words, as we follow three intertwining stories of characters who are all, ultimately, looking for love in increasingly desperate ways.
Told in three parts but with a single, continuous narrative arc from beginning to end (though the first third of the film has no relation to the second), Amores Perros is the story of how people try to deal with their problems when they feel like life has left them no other options.
Iñárritu makes it clear that these are flawed human beings who make bad decisions and perpetuate their own misery by doing so, but he also shows us that at their core there is still some small piece of them that wants what’s best for themselves and others around them.
It’s just buried deep under layers of pain and anger, or maybe it never existed at all. The first part of the film introduces us to Octavio (Gael García Bernal).
Dust To Dust (Juan Carlos De Llaca – 2000)
Mark Twain wrote: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
Truer words have seldom been spoken. We are all born into this world crying, and we leave it the same way.
And in between those two bookend events, we get to choose how we want to live and what we want to do.
But even with that choice, our lives are so fragile and transient that it is hard not to think about the inevitable end and wonder what else there could have been.
El Último Matador (The Last Matador)
This is a 2000 Argentine drama film that explores these themes through a story of a dying matador.
The film’s story opens with two men entering the ring on horseback while the crowd cheers in the background.
The matador Juan (Juan Carlos De Liña) draws his sword as he prepares for the kill, but his attempt is interrupted by another bull entering the ring behind him. Juan watches as his assistant is gored by the bull before he has a chance to put down the bull with his sword.
His life flashes before his eyes as he realizes that this is it; this is how he is going to die.
Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón – 2001)
A couple of teenagers get into a lot of trouble with an older woman when they take a road trip together.
documentary set in a Massachusetts insane asylum, where conditions and treatment of the patients are appalling.
The film portrays the inmates as victims of the system and shows their dehumanization through close-ups and uncut footage.
The Crime Of Padre Amaro (Carlos Carrera – 2002)
After an affair with his sister-in-law, a priest loses his faith and becomes a corrupt alcoholic. The movie is based on the novel, The Crime of Padre Amaro (Spanish: El crimen del padre Amaro), written by Mexican author and journalist Carlos Fuentes.
The Crime of Padre Amaro is a 2002 Mexican drama film directed by Carlos Carrera. The film is set in the late 18th century and details the life of a young man who was raised in a convent but ends up becoming a notorious criminal.
The Crime of Padre Amaro is a Mexican drama film from 2002. It stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna.This movie was directed by Carlos Carrera (Frida, Y Tu Mamá También).
The Crime of Padre Amaro is based on the novel by Fernando del Paso, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie.
The story takes place in 1911 in a small Mexican village called Santa Lucia. Padre Benito (Gael Garcia Bernal), the young priest of Santa Lucia, is an upright and idealistic man with clear moral principles.
He strives to promote education and social responsibility among his parishioners while fighting against corruption, injustice, inequality and superstition. Many people consider him too naive and idealistic for his own good which often leads to conflict with his fellow citizens as well as his superiors in the church hierarchy.
History Of New Mexican Cinema
New Mexico has a long cinematic history. In fact, the first silent film was shot in New Mexico in 1898 and featured Billy the Kid as a villain.
Although that movie wasn’t successful, it did set the stage for future filmmakers to create movies based on real events and people living in this beautiful state. Some of these films were good, while others were not so good, but they all show the importance of cinema in New Mexico culture.
The following are some of the most important movies filmed in New Mexico:
1941: “The Outlaw”
Director Howard Hughes shot his movie about outlaw Billy the Kid (portrayed by Hollywood’s number one cowboy at the time, Jimmy Cagney). The movie set many box office records and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
1956: “Lust for Gold”
This was a classic Western featuring Glenn Ford as a prospector searching for gold during the Gold Rush. The location shooting took place all over New Mexico, including at real mines near White Oaks and Santa Rita.
The outdoor scenes were also shot there.
- 1967: “A Man Called Horse,”
- “Two Mules For Sister Sara,”
- “Villa Rides”
These three movies were made by Hollywood actor/director, John Wayne.
Essential Filmmakers Of New Mexican Cinema
The history of New Mexican Cinema begins in the early years of the 20th century, with the opening of the first commercial movie theater in Albuquerque on March 27, 1905. In the following years, traveling vaudeville performers became a common spectacle in many towns throughout New Mexico.
The 1930s saw the creation of two studios: one in Santa Fe and one in Albuquerque, as well as a number of important events that would define future developments. The introduction of sound pictures was a major breakthrough for filmmakers; it also led to an increase in film production, which created new job opportunities for New Mexicans.
In 1937, Thelma White became the first woman producer-director in Hollywood when she made “The Gaucho”, which was filmed entirely on location in New Mexico. By 1939, nine films had been shot here and showed great promise for future productions.
In July of that year, White brought together a group of filmmakers from Hollywood who were interested in making movies about New Mexico and Arizona. This group included actors Robert Taylor, Gilbert Roland, and Bruce Cabot as well as directors William Dieterle and Lewis Seiler.
In 1940, two state-of-the-art studios were created: Albuquerque Studios and Coronado Studios, both equipped with the latest.
Importance Of New Mexican Cinema
New Mexican Cinema is a film movement that has been going on for more than three decades in Mexico.
The term “New Mexican Cinema” was coined to refer to the films that came out of Mexico during the 70’s and early 80’s, which were an original and distinct style of filmmaking.
Although it is named after New Mexico, where many of its films are set, the movement is not directly associated with this state or its culture.
The movement started in the late 70’s when filmmakers like Luis Valdez and Arturo Ripstein made films with a new style and a new direction, one that showed Mexico as it really was, instead of promoting the usual economic propaganda that had been shown before.
Today, there are several important movies being produced by this generation of directors. Their work is characterized by social realism with a touch of magic realism, gritty violence and a stark look at Mexican society.
The most well-known directors are Arturo Ripstein (La Casa del Angel), Guillermo Del Toro (Cronos), Carlos Reygadas (Japón or Battle in Heaven) and Alfonso Cuaron (Y tu mamá también).
There are many other directors who follow in this style, including Jorge Fons.
The End Of New Mexican Cinema
New Mexican cinema is dead. How can I be so sure? Because there has been a new, exciting development in the past few years: all the good movies were made back in the ’80s and ’90s.
And if you’re a fan of New Mexican cinema, as I am, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that The End has come in every way that matters.
Don’t get me wrong: There are still filmmakers working in New Mexico making traditionally low-budget movies with independent spirit.
The state still has an active nonprofit filmmaking community and a vibrant regional film festival scene.
But the mainstream industry is gone. There are no more films being made on 35mm film with actual film crews, film stars, and theater distribution.
That world of big studios with big budgets just disappeared — not because of lack of demand for films about New Mexico and its people, but because of a real, painful lack of financial resources. And so now all we have left is nostalgia for what was lost.
Because this wasn’t just about films: It was about an economic ecosystem that was completely unique in American history.