Cinematic Journeys in Latin America

Geography Through the Lens of Exploration and Discovery Films


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About the Book

This book critically examines how movies that feature real or imagined explorers and expeditions creatively feature the geography of Latin America. It focuses on how locales are scripted into film plots and artistically depicted, and demonstrates that place is as important as any character in a film, especially in this genre.
Nineteen key films are analyzed. Some, like Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, The Other Conquest, Embrace of the Serpent, and The Lost City of Z are based on the exploits of real explorers. Others are fictional, including Apocalypto, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Dora and the Lost City of Gold. The author also discusses the evolution of exploration-discovery films, including trends that will likely be found in forthcoming movies.

About the Author(s)

Over the last fifty years, geographer Richard Francaviglia (professor emeritus, University of Texas at Arlington and associated scholar, Willamette University) has studied varied places and published 14 books about them. He lives in Salem, Oregon.

Bibliographic Details

Richard Francaviglia
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 265
Bibliographic Info: 87 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9252-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4967-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments: A Personal Journey into Film 1
Introduction: A Geographer’s View of Latin America and Observations about Filmmaking 7
One. Apocalypto: Exploration Before European Contact 27
Two. The Other Conquest: An Indigenous View of the Encounter 38
Three. Cabeza de Vaca: Exploration at the Margins of Empire 49
Four. Aguirre, the Wrath of God: Missteps in Sixteenth-Century Colonial Exploration 62
Five. The Mission: Religious Expeditions in Eighteenth-Century South America 74
Six. Zama: Colonial Expansion and Its Discontents 83
Seven. Aire Libre: The Humanization of Scientific Exploration and Discovery 91
Eight. Walker: Adventurism and Anachronism in Central America 104
Nine. Fitzcarraldo: The Foreign Entrepreneurial Capitalist as Explorer 116
Ten. Green Mansions: Exploring the Geographical Dimensions of Fantasy 128
Eleven. The Lost City of Z: Obsession and Exploration 139
Twelve. Secret of the Incas: Romanticizing the American Explorer-Archaeologist 148
Thirteen. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Orellana’s Revenge 157
Fourteen. Embrace of the Serpent: Explorations into Deeper Meaning 165
Fifteen. Anaconda: Cinematic Exploration of River-Spawned Horrors 173
Sixteen. Green Fire: The Prospector as ­Explorer-Discoverer 184
Seventeen. The Motorcycle Diaries: Exploration in Search of Reform 195
Eighteen. Nostalgia for the Light: The Filmmaker as Explorer of Memory 204
Nineteen. Dora and the Lost City of Gold: In Search of New Cultural Frontiers 213
Conclusion: Reflections on the Changing Significance of Exploration-Discovery Films 225
Chapter Notes 239
Bibliography 249
Index 253