Authorship and Authority in Latin American Indigenous Film and Video

  • Gleghorn, Charlotte (CoI)

Project: Research

Project Details


This research project forms part of a large transnational project, ‘Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: Performance, Politics, Belonging’, hosted at Royal Holloway, University of London. As Postdoctoral Researcher on the team, I am investigating the diverse and at times competing interpretations of authorship and authority in Latin American Indigenous filmmaking. If, as Beverley Singer (2001) suggests, dominant approaches to Indigenous film are intrinsically related to Euro-American models, then authorship and its embeddedness in patriarchal and colonial discourses of ownership is perhaps the area which most keenly illuminates how Indigenous film and video challenges established frameworks of cultural production.
Integral to this research are the multiple layers of interpretation distilled in the videos by way of their content, and the ways in which directors and communities frame and negotiate these productions. As a number of critics and practitioners have already observed (Córdova & Salazar, 2008; Himpele, 2004; Schiwy, 2003; Smith, 2005), the dominant conception of film authorship is considerably debased by the emphasis on the negotiated and collaborative decisions among those involved, and the refusal to attribute the term ‘director’ to s/he who oversees the project. The tension that is often perceived between a Western-oriented notion of the film auteur, privileging the lone creator, and the community-driven initiatives associated with much Indigenous video from Latin America, however, requires further nuancing. Given the complex social responsibilities of the comunicadores towards communities and cultural material, as well as the consolidation of certain directors as auteur videomakers in their own right (Dante Cerano, P’urhépecha, Mexico, is a case in point), I seek to explore ‘the production, the image, and the viewer as a circuit through which culture is constituted’ (Deger, 2006: 151).
Focussing on works produced principally since the surge in activity in the 1990s, the Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Cine y Comunicación de Pueblos Indígenas (CLACPI), the umbrella organisation that coordinates and promotes Latin American Indigenous film and video, provides a framework through which to approach such a diverse range of material and approaches. Whilst every context has its attendant specificities and complexities, comparative studies and praxis enables social networks and the exchange of ideas and aesthetic practice, as the bi-annual CLACPI festivals themselves attest. The multiple renderings of authorship and authority are here interpreted as structuring principles that shape the productions and inform the interpretation of the videos and the cultural work they instigate, reminiscent of Faye Ginsburg’s notion of ‘embedded aesthetics’ (1993), the co-constitutive nature of aesthetics and socio-cultural practices.
The formal analyses of the films will be supplemented with a thorough contextualisation of the issues at stake for the filmmakers and their perceived ‘communities’, whether at the local, national or transnational level. Indeed, these films often problematize the authority to both produce videos and the right to interpret them, underlining that critical reflection is an experiential tool borne of particular cultural frameworks. The project, then, seeks to tease out some of these concerns in a consideration of the dynamics of (cross-cultural) collaboration, property, authorship, cultural transmission, ownership, copyright, distribution, royalties, and not least the engaged appropriation of the films by the viewing public(s), grounded in particular cultural logics.
Effective start/end date1/07/091/07/13