While looking around for ghost stories from North, Central, South American and Latinx communities I ran into the article, “Horror films are highlighting human rights abuses in Latin America” by Deborah Shaw. The Conversation. August 20, 2020.
Starting from Guillermo Del Toro’s influence, Shaw writes about some recent jaw-dropping films that have succeeded in delivering apt social commentary via the horror genre,
“Drawn in by the supernatural story and the promise of horror and fantasy, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and The Devil’s Backbone (2001) by Guillermo del Toro brought an awareness of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) to an international audience. …Del Toro’s genre-bending and -blending approach to filmmaking allows him to reach a large and varied audience while also providing sharp social and historical commentary on Spain’s fraught past. …Despite their Spanish setting, the Mexican director’s Spanish language films have influenced a swathe of recent Latin American movies that combine realism, fantasy and the supernatural to reach wider global audiences and shine a light on social ills and human rights abuses.
…Two such films, showcased on the horror streaming platform Shudder, are Tigers are Not Afraid by the Mexican director Issa López and La Llorona (The Crying Woman) by Guatemala’s Jayro Bustamante. Both films point to a growing genre of Latin American supernatural and magical realist films which also draw attention to political corruption and human rights abuses.
…La Llorona and Tigers are Not Afraid are compelling ghost stories that have all the trappings of the brilliant horror movies we know and love. They cleverly employ the universal appeal of scary stories to teach their viewers about overlooked Mexican and Guatemalan social realities. These films show that while we all love a good scare on our screens, the real horrors are all around us and deserve to be remembered and seen.”
Even though I’m still watching and researching Thailand’s ghost films, this article is so intriguing I’m going to take some time to watch these films as well. Understanding how horror film makers from Mexico and across Central and South America are commenting on social and political events through their work may help me understand the subtext beneath Southeast Asian films.
It’s always amazing when we can learn more about an event, a place, or people from beautiful artwork they created and yet it’s wise to remember that these are technically fictional stories. These artists are using the Horror Genre as a way to point to reality by bending and expanding particular elements of history. While they might be based on actual events these stories are not the actual reality, they aren’t a news broadcast or a documentary. The artists who made these films took “poetic license” not in order to mislead an audience (like the Tucker Carlson’s of the world), but to play with social narratives in ways that can help their audiences process and understand complex and nuanced realities by thinking about issues from a new lens. By watching stories where actors playing characters find their way through horrifying narratives stemming from distorted and twisted realities we can step back and think about what of these tales is scary to us personally and socially and then we can consider what of these fears applies to our realities. This tactic might help us name our fears/anxieties and better understand where we can relieve tensions causing real social terrors.
The aforementioned films in B. Shaw’s article show us that what scares us continually evolves based on our individual and collective experiences. This means the Horror Genre will always be able to serve us by providing perspectives on who we are.
Like Love, Fear is a complex emotion that we all feel and drives many of our actions. By understanding what we are afraid of we can understand pathways towards peace and more love– or maybe not, it’s just a hypothesis.
As always thanks for reading with your eyes, ears, and hands.
Happy Earth Day and Raise hell peacefully,