This book provides a comprehensive overview of film consumption during the early twentieth century in the cities of Santiago and Buenos Aires. Offering nuanced detail about audiences, screenings, and neighborhoods, it also reveals how municipal governments appealed to public decency via cinema as a way to discipline potentially unruly new citizens. Gatica Mizala offers an original interpretation of early national film economies and an excellent side-by-side comparison of these two cities’ film cultures.
Cinema can both reflect the world as it is and offer escape from it. In Modernity at the Movies, Camila Gatica Mizala explores the ideas of reflection versus escapism and examines how modes of understanding the current moment emerged through the practice of going to the movies in Santiago and Buenos Aires between 1915 and 1945. Using cinema and variety magazines published in both cities, she analyzes the technology, architecture, attendance, behavior, language, censorship, and overall experience of cinema-going. These publications regularly engaged with important topics such as morality and urbanization and helped build a cinematographic audience. Gatica Mizala brings together the perception and reception of cinema as a modern art form, shifting the focus from the production of films to the experience of the audience when viewing them. By focusing on the audience instead of the films, this study is able to articulate the ways that cinema, as a modern activity, was incorporated into everyday life and discuss what it meant to be modern in early to midcentury Latin America.
The strength of this book is how it brings new material to the table. An examination of the materials that flesh out cinematic life in Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile is extremely useful and fascinating to watch develop.
Camila Gatica Mizala is assistant professor at Universidad de Chile’s Department of Historical Sciences, where she teaches modules on contemporary history of the Americas and images in Latin American history. Her research focuses on film reception in urban contexts and cultural diplomacy.