Public Spectacles of Violence: Sensational Cinema and Journalism in Early Twentieth-Century Mexico and Brazil
Staging Spectacles of Modernity in Brazil
In the period of national reconstruction following the Mexican Revolution, the production of adventure films converged with efforts to forge a distinctly national culture that spanned regional, ethnic, and class divides. Incorporating scenic landscapes shot on location and incipient national icons like the charro (cattle wrangler), adventure films figured prominently in emerging discourses of film criticism. Journalists presented the staging of onscreen violence as a newsworthy spectacle while debating portrayals perilously close to stereotyped images of Mexicans in Hollywood films. In the latter half of the decade, El tren fantasma (The Ghost Train, 1926) and El puño de hierro (The Iron Fist, 1927), directed by Gabriel García Moreno in Orizaba, Veracruz, reworked the conventions of imported serials to highlight the dark underside of urbanization and expanding transportation networks. Imaginaries of violence and technological disaster in Mexican adventure melodramas highlight tensions within postrevolutionary modernization and deep ambivalence regarding U.S. entertainment culture.