This course explores the ways in which Mexico has featured on film.  It examines both Mexican national cinema and US and European cinema from the 1930s to the present.  But the aim is not to present a simple contrast of native (or, even worse, “authentic”) portrayals of Mexico versus foreign (and presumably “inauthentic”) representations.  Rather, the point is to analyze the multiple different Mexicos constructed through the cinematic gaze.

Set texts:  You will have to buy a course reader of critical essays.  (One essay will be distributed separately, later.)  Film screenings will take place during class time on Tuesdays.  Most of these films are also available either via Amazon or in good video stores such as Limelight or Videomatica.

Aguila o sol (1938)
Los olvidados (1950)
Mecánica nacional (1972)
El callejón de los milagros (1995)
Batalla en el cielo (2005)
¡Que viva México! (1931)
Touch of Evil (1958)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Three Amigos (1986)
Traffic (2000)

Blog: You will write a c. 400 word response to each film and/or the critical reading on a blog (either one you already maintain, or one you set up specifically for the class); your entries are to be tagged “span404.”  Blog entries must be ready by Wednesday morning.  You will also comment on at least two other students’ blogs by Thursday morning.

Assessment: One mid-term paper of 4-6 pages (30%) and one 6-8 page final paper due at the end of the semester (45%).  Blog entries and comments, plus attendance and participation, will constitute the final 25% of your grade.

Course convenor: Jon Beasley-Murray (jon.beasley-murray@ubc.ca).  His office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12pm to 1:30pm, in Buchanan Tower 808.  Be in touch if you have queries or problems.  Deal with problems when they arise; don’t just hope they’ll go away!

My expectations:

Above all, what you are expected to do in this class is to engage with (that is to think critically and creatively about, and be prepared to discuss) the films.  The main aim of all the various forms of assessment is to test the extent of your engagement, and to encourage you to articulate the results of that engagement in a variety of formats.

The more effort you put in to thinking and writing about the texts closely and critically, and formulating your individual responses and arguments in a manner that can be presented persuasively, the better your final grade is likely to be.

All I want you to do is watch the set films carefully, think about your reading, and take your own position as a result.

Here, therefore, are my golden rules:

1.    To engage, you must be present.  So attend, attend, attend.  And turn up on time.
2.    You must also have covered the material.  So watch the films and do the reading.
3.    You must also be prepared to articulate your thoughts, questions, uncertainties, opinions, likes, dislikes etc.  So write your weekly blog entries.  These should be between 400 and 500 words.  Spend no more than half an hour on each response: but be sure to spend that half an hour.  Forcing yourself to reflect on your reading will prepare you for class and kick-start revision.
4.    Finally, you must keep at it.  But do not expect to grasp everything immediately.  (If you did, there would be no point to the class.)  So communicate any questions or problems you may have, either in class discussion, or via email, or in my office hours.

The golden rules again: 1) attend, 2) watch, 3) write, and 4) communicate.

You must have written your blog post by Wednesday morning, and commented on two of your classmates’ blog posts by Thursday morning.

Good luck.  And just do it.

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