USC’s Latino Student Assembly, School of Cinematic Arts and Political Student Assembly kicked off the weekend with a series of Mexican film screenings paired with panel discussions called “The Renaissance of Mexican Film and Soft Power.”
The event was part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The goal of the screenings and discussions were to explore film as a medium of understanding political power in Mexico. More specifically, the event highlighted “soft power,” which describes the ways that a country can seduce and attract power in contrast to using coercion.
Recently in Hollywood, films such as Amores Perros, and Y Tu Mamá También have created narratives that usually concern drug wars and those who migrate for economic reasons, offering a multiple perspectives on Mexico.
“I believe that by doing something visual and bringing that to people, they sort of learn more about the culture and all that Mexico has to offer,” said Samantha Galaz, a junior majoring in international relations.
According to Latino Student Assembly Executive Director Valerie Fernandez, “[The event] ushered this great idea to bring Mexican cinema that revolutionized the way people saw a mixture of the politics, the myths about drug wars and the structure of Mexican society in recent years.”
Fernandez said the aim of the event was to point out that more social barriers exist within Mexico than people might initially perceive.
“One thing we saw through the cinema, specifically, was that Mexico doesn’t have one face,” Fernandez said. “I think yesterday, during a movie called Nosotros Los Nobles, we took a look at how, taking it way back, there was division between the European conquerors and Mexicans. You still see that today, and that’s something that we definitely wanted to highlight. Having people who aren’t familiar with Mexican culture realize that there are many faces and many issues intertwined within many social divisions even within Mexico is our goal.”
On Friday night, films including Nosotros Los Nobles were shown, followed by a Q&A with Gaz Alazraki, the film’s writer, director and producer who graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2001. The film is about a successful construction mogul, Herman Noble, who decides to teach his spoiled kids a lesson. His directorial debut has become the highest grossing Mexican film of all time in Mexico.
The panel discussed topics that provoked widely different opinions among the panelists and the discussion became very heated. The fiscal policies of the Mexican government were prominent subjects during the discussions.
Many audience members said they were inspired by different aspects of each film.
Latino Student Assembly Director of Political Affairs Andrea Guisela, a junior majoring in international relations (global business), said that the event made her realize that discrimination still exists today.
“I’m reminded that there is racism within cultures. If you’re lighter skinned, have blonde hair and have light eyes, that signifies wealth. Anything else is not. It’s more indigenous,” Guisela said. “It’s supposed to be more lower classes and it’s a reminder that racism doesn’t only exist in America. It exists within [other] cultures as well.”
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