Pedagogies of Progress: The films of the Puerto Rican DIVEDCO
Friday April 3rd, King Juan Carlos I Center, NYU
12:00 - 1:30
El puente [The Bridge] (Amílcar Tirado, 1954) 50 min.
This film won an honorable mention at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1954. It portrays a rural community’s struggle to cope with the devastating events of an overflowing river in Barrio Botijas II, Orocovis, which threatens to derail the children’s schooling.
El yugo [The Yoke] (Oscar Torres, 1959) 44 min.
The fishermen’s community of Las Cabezas, Fajardo, founds a cooperative to fight the middleman’s stranglehold on wholesale prices. With a script by Pedro Juan Soto, it is one of the few DIVEDCO films to feature the coastal region of Puerto Rico.
15 min. break
1:45 - 3:30
El de los cabos blancos [One Lucky Horse] (Willard Van Dyke, 1957) 33 min.
The blacklisted American documentarian Willard Van Dyke filmed this tale about tobacco workers in the heart of the Puerto Rican countryside. Heeding their wives’ advice, individuals join forces in a cooperative so they can sell their crop of tobacco leaves at fair market value.
Modesta o la huelga de las mujeres [Modesta, or, the Women’s Strike] (Benji Doniger, 1955) 36 min. With English subtitles.
Prize winner, Venice Festival 1956. The DIVEDCO’s most important attempt to depict women’s rights in the context of modernization processes in Puerto Rico. Modesta leads a group of women in Barrio Sonadora, Guaynabo, in a strike against their husbands to demand their rights in a domestic context.
Ignacio (Angel F. Rivera, 1956) 34 min.
One of the DIVEDCO’s most representative films, with a screenplay by René Marqués. Recreates the town meetings which were a staple of the DIVEDCO project. True-life residents debate community priorities, in this case the advisability of building parks and roads before dealing with the severe health issues caused by the town’s water supply. Afflicted by personal tragedy, Ignacio, the common man, finds the courage to challenge the reigning leadership.
15 min. break
3:45 - 5:00
Juan sin seso [Juan Has No Brains] (Luis A. Maisonet, 1959) 16 min.
The DIVEDCO tackles the problem of mass culture as the extreme of “progress.” “Juan sin seso” means, literally, “Juan has no brains.” This brief but important film attempts to exercise damage control over the pernicious effects of accelerated modernization, and is emblematic of some of the DIVEDCO’s structuring contradictions. With a screenplay by René Marqués.
El gallo pelón (Amílcar Tirado, 1961) 50 min.
In the Maricao community of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, the main character, played by the esteemed comedian José Miguel Agrelot, buys a washing machine for his wife. However, the town has no electrical power. The movie’s depiction of the jíbaro as naive and comical created a rift among the DIVEDCO personnel, especially its community organizers. With a screenplay by Pedro Juan Soto.
15 min. break
5:15 - 6:00
Un día cualquiera [A Day in the Life] (Angel F. Rivera, 1953/1993) 48 min.
This movie project did not make it past the editing process in 1953. It was released four decades later. Although specialists do not agree on the reason, it’s likely that the movie’s bitter tone and deviation from the dominant, uplifting DIVEDCO narrative were the main reasons. Notable for its portrayal of “El Fanguito,” a San Juan urban slum and of country-city emigration at the dawn of Operation Bootstrap. With a screenplay by Pedro Juan Soto.
15 min. break
6:15 - 7:45
Panel on the Art and Politics of the DIVEDCO Project
“La cabeza propia”: democracia y autoritarismo en el proyecto de Educación de la Comunidad en Puerto Rico
Silvia Álvarez Curbelo (University of Puerto Rico)
“Al aire libre”: el cine de la División de Educación de la Comunidad
Catherine Marsh (University of Puerto Rico)
The panelists will provide English summaries of their talks.
8:00 - 9:20
Los peloteros [The Ballplayers] (Jack Délano, 1951) 83 min.
The first full-length Puerto Rican feature film created an aesthetic that was later identified with the DIVEDCO itself. Directed by Jack Delano, a Ukrainian-born American photographer active in the Farm Security Administration, who settled permanently in Puerto Rico in 1946, and written by Edwin Rosskam. Features the well known actors Ramón Ortiz del Rivero (Diplo) and Miriam Colón. A feel-good movie about the efforts of a group of poor boys to set up a local baseball team. Against all odds, they raise money for uniforms and equipment.
Refreshments will be served during the event. Summaries in English will be provided. All movies are in Spanish without subtitles unless otherwise stated