The history of Mexican cinema goes back to the ending of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, when several enthusiasts of the new medium documented historical events – most particularly the Mexican Revolution – and produced some movies that have only recently been rediscovered.
Silent films (1896-1929)
The "silent film" industry in Mexico produced severalmovies; however, many of the films up to the 1920s have been lost and were not well-documented. The first "moving picture", according to sources by film historian Jim Mora, was viewed in 1895 using Thomas Edison's kinetoscope. A year later, the cinematographe projector was introduced by Auguste Lumière. Mexico's first queues appeared in cinemas in the capital to see international one-minute films suchas The Card Players, Arrival of a Train, and The Magic Hat.
The origins of early filmmaking is generally associated with Salvador Toscano Barragán. Toscano compiled the country's first fictional film, titled Don Juan Tenorio. During the Mexican Revolution, Toscano recorded several clips of the battles, which would become a full-length documentary in 1950, assembled by his daughter. Othershort films were either created or influenced from French film-makers.
By 1906, 16 movie salons opened their doors to accommodate the popularity of cinema in Mexico City. Carpas, or tent shows, were popular beginning in 1911 where lower-class citizens would perform picaresque humor and theatrical plays, a place for training for aspiring actors. Politically affiliated films appearing in 1908,often deemed propagandistic by today's terms. Significant battles were filmed and broadcast during the Revolution which fueled Mexicans' excitement in cinema.
The popularity that cinema had experienced in the early 1900s continued to grow and by 1911 fourteen movie houses were erected from the year prior. It was during this period that the documentary techniques were mastered as is evident inthe Alva brother's production entitled Revolución orozquista (1912). The film was shot in the camps of the rebel and federal forces during the battle between General Huerta and the leader Pascual Orozco.
However, despite the relative advancement of cinema during this period, the moralistic and paternalist ideology of Madero led to his campaign to save the lower classes from immorality throughcensorship. Hence, in late September and early October 1911, city council members appointed additional movie house inspectors, whose wages would be paid by the exhibitioners. Furthermore, the head of the Entertainment Commission, proposed the implementation of censorship; however, Victoriano Huerta's coup d'état in February 1913, prevented the move to legislate censorship.
Although Huerta's reignwas brief, the cinema experienced significant changes within this period such as the further establishment of censorship and a shift away from documentary films to entertainment films. The Alva brothers' production of Aniversario del fallecimineto de la suegra de Enhart is indicative of the change in the aim of Mexican cinematographers.
In regards to censorship, the Huerta government imposed amoral and political decree of censorship in approximately June 1913. This decree was imposed a few days after convencionista soldiers shot at the screen during a viewing of El aguila y la serpiente. The decree stated that films that showed the following were prohibited: "views representing crimes, if they do not include punishment of the guilty parties, views which directly or indirectly insult anauthority or person, morality or good manners, provoke a crime or offence, or in any way disturb the public order (Mora 70)." As a result of the limitations placed on film content as well as the radicalization of the parties involved in the armed conflicts, cameramen and producers began to display their opinion through the films they produced. For instance, favoritism towards the Zapatistas was...