06 October 2010

An Exhibition of 1980s Latin American Video

Oliver Stone's 1986 film Salvador might remind some viewers of just how often the reading of Latin American experience in North America has to slog its way through the troubled characterizations of self and other alive in the minds of many North Americans, of whatever political stripe. Stone's leading men traverse a dark night of the soul in El Salvador, using the political circumstances of that country to determine just who they are and who they are not. However favorable or controversial the film's political take on El Salvador might be to the viewer, the film remains in its essence a feverish meditation on the state of mind among some North American white males - presumably a marketable way to introduce the consequences of U.S. interventions in the the Third World to the public at large. A pragmatic approach to U.S. media politics might suggest that those of us interested in justice in Central and Latin America should be pleased at Hollywoodish renderings of situations south of the Rio Grande that cast any favorable light on combatants swathed in the the U.S. government's red paintbrush. The other hand suggests that such renderings are a surreal usage of complex, succinct political realities - like the circumstances of the rape and murder of Jean Donovan and three other American nuns in El Salvador in 1980 or Charles Horman's demise as portrayed in the 1982 Costa-Gavras film Missing - to heighten the horrors experienced by U.S. expatriates. The assumption is that we won't understand it or be interested unless it happens to our anti-heroes.