Laura Jaramillo

Student

My dissertation, "You can change yourself into gold": Ritual and the Senses in Cold War Latin American and Spanish film, takes up the problem first proposed by Walter Benjamin in “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility,” that film is a double-edged technology, dangerous in its ability to commodify the world in the form of photographic images and, potentially reparative because of its immersive sensuous properties. As Benjamin provocatively argued, film was a technological medium capable of training the senses to adapt to the shocks of a modernity riven by industrialization and mechanized warfare. The paradox at the heart of Benjamin’s writings on film is that though he links film’s mechanical reproducibility to the decline of art’s cult or ritual value, in rooting the medium’s reparative qualities to its affective and collective dimensions, Benjamin actually sets the stage for film’s resurrection of cult value. My dissertation tracks the revivification of film’s cult value across works by José Val del Omar (Spain), Alejandro Jodorowsky (Mexico), and Manuel Octavio Gómez (Cuba). In these countries the transposition of ritual onto film was facilitated by popular Catholicism’s existence as a syncretic practice, as well as by the church’s attribution of an auratic status to its representational arts like painting and sculpture. The transformation of film into a space of ritual occurred in the context of a growing trans-Atlantic concern in the 1960’s that media technologies would further reproduce the historical domination of the “peripheral” nations in the global system by those of the hegemonic nations, Northern Europe and the United States.