FQ’s new books editor Carla Marcantonio reflects upon her experience serving as Netflix’s official translator for Yalitza Aparicio, the Indigenous Mexican woman who plays the housekeeper in director Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Marcantonio explores themes that emerged over the course of the film’s promotional campaign, ranging from the expected (the film’s social impact and depiction of a makeshift matriarchy) to those less discussed, such as the film’s significant political context and critique of patriarchy, masculinity, and violence. In closing, she offers a counter-argument to the interpretation that Cuarón denies Cleo her agency by limiting her spoken lines, arguing that Cuarón’s masterful use of cinematic language allows Cleo’s voice to come through loud and clear.
FQ Columnist Amelie Hastie offers a unique and personal meditation on cinema’s affective qualities, particularly the sentiment of love. She traces Cuarón’s exploration of cinema’s fundamental humanism back to Jean Renoir and continues through the Italian Neo-Realists, particularly Vittorio de Sica. She discusses Cuarón’s intellectual formation as a student of cinema, and finds a consistent emphasis on women’s experiences throughout his films. Introducing Cuarón’s description of Roma as an “inquiry” into the relation between “foreground” and “background,” she delves into scenes where character and social environment converge.
Paramount was so nervous about the on-location production of Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1956) that dailies filmed in the South of France were flown first to London for processing at the Technicolor lab and then to Los Angeles. After executives had reviewed the footage, a cable was dispatched back to France: Hitchcock’s shallow-focus closeups were playing to the weaknesses, rather than the strengths, of the studio’s new and expensive wide-screen format, VistaVision. It fell to the local production manager, C. O. “Doc” Erickson, to mediate the request for wider shots and sharper focus, which would also allow the camera to take in more of what they were all there for: the sunlit French Riviera.
Film Quarterly can hopefully, with your help, contribute to the imperative to provoke, build, and revitalize the field of film and media studies beyond the acceptable and parochial, to push it to aim higher and think more creatively. Surely this is a time that demands not retreat, but the imagination to push forward and unsettle old assumptions. Where are the films and television and web series that can do that? FQ will keep looking, stay on the prowl, keep alert, and continue to bring reports and salutations, analyses and revelations, back to its readers.
Sergio de la Mora reviews Roma’s reception in Mexico and reflects upon the film’s intimate relationship with the nation’s political history. Situating Roma with the broader trend in Latin American cinema for films that explore servant-employer relations, he examines how Roma visualizes the ways in which Indigenous domestic and intimate labor has been historically racialized and gendered in Mexico. He discusses the controversy surrounding Cleo’s voice and agency in the film along with the aesthetic debates prompted by Cuarón’s decision to film in black and white.
Racquel Gates and Kristen J. Warner are colleagues and soul twins who enjoy applying their expertise in race and media to popular culture debates. One such conversation arose —inevitably—around the release of Marvel’s Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler.
“FQ” the Film Quarterly podcast presents SUNDANCE EDITION 2018.
To many men and women of color, as well as many white women, meaningful diversity occurs when the actual presence of different-looking bodies appear on screen. For them, this diversity serves as an indicator of progress as well as an aspirational frame for younger generations who are told that the visual signifiers they can identify with carry a great amount of symbolic weight. As a consequence, the degree of diversity became synonymous with the quantity of difference rather than with the dimensionality of those performances. Moreover, a paradoxical condition emerges whereby people of color have become more media savvy yet are still, if not more, reliant on overdetermined and overly reductive notions of so-called “positive” and “negative” representation. Such measures yield a set of dueling consequences: first, that any representation that includes a person of color is automatically a sign of success and progress; second, that such paltry gains generate an easy workaround for the executive suites whereby hiring racially diverse actors becomes an easy substitute for developing new complex characters. The results of such choices can feel—in an affective sense—artificial, or more to the point, like plastic.
This special dossier for Film Quarterly comprises a selection of essays that share the central idea that the work ahead for scholars in the current moment must be to appreciate what has been an ever-increasing complication of the idea of black film and media over the last ten years. This dossier considers significant trends, film and media objects, and clusters of work related to issues of blackness and questions of aesthetics, historiography, industrial practice, collectivity, politics, and culture. It is compelled by a shared belief that requires scholars to remain open to contemporary and future enactments while at the same time recognizing the momentum of the past.
Film Quarterly has been interested for some time in establishing a critical approach to works made in Virtual Reality (VR). Homay King had begun conducting interviews with Shari Frilot to that same end. FQ then invited them to make that dialogue public with a conversation on stage at UC Santa Cruz on the implications of the VR platform to be shared with FQ readers.