Common ground: Film cultures and film festivals in Central America

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisExternal


In the first 20 years of the 21st century, Central American film production has increased exponentially, despite a persistent lack of state support after decades of armed conflict. The relatively recent professionalisation and visibility of the ‘small’ and ‘precarious’ cinemas of Central America has coincided with the development of film festivals. In the ongoing emergence of regionally embedded film cultures, film festivals have assumed particularly mediating and enabling roles, in terms of education, promotion and distribution of local cinemas. These initiatives are contained within traditions that can be traced back to the heyday of New Latin American Cinemas during the 1980s, the Havana Film Festival and the educational ideology of the EICTV Film and Television School in Cuba, which emphasise creative solidarity and collaboration across borders. Since the signing of the last regional Peace Agreements in 1996, events responded to the broader cultural sector’s call to set up networks for cultural production on a regional scale, due to an emphasis on commonality, and the need for a larger audience. Through immersive and reflexive ethnographic fieldwork at film festivals in the region and a network analysis of film production relations, this study illuminates film-cultural developments during the postwar moment, a time especially marked by the active processing of past conflict and trauma through the socially cathartic experience of cinema. This results in a threefold thematic analysis of respectively film festivals, filmmaking communities and the creative use of the ‘postmemory’ phenomenon in the Central American film landscape. In absence of strong national support structures, film festivals have surfaced as multipurpose interfaces that facilitate the exhibition of Central American films, the transnational mobilisation and networking of film professionals, and the mediation of a conflicted past. Against economic, social and political odds, filmmakers in Central America share a common energy to strengthen and expand the region’s small cinemas for both cultural and economic reasons.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Antwerp
  • Meers, Philippe, Supervisor, External person
Award date19 Apr 2021
Place of PublicationAntwerp
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

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