History in Film

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History in Film Introduction [1] Who owns history? When portraying a historical figure, specifically a female figure (of which there is a distinct lack due to either scarcity of existence or insufficiency of acknowledgment in society), film has a responsibility to accurately represent the historical figure whose reputation is at stake. As a medium relating past to present, film possesses the incredible capacity to take ownership of history; the director holds the key to making history real or reel. Film has the power to exalt or distort historical figures to fit the mold of present day ideals. Maria Luisa Bemberg, director of Yo, la Peor de Todas (I, the Worst of All), embraces history and film in an attempt to bring enlightenment to the public. However, this movie has yet to infiltrate mainstream western culture in the United States or abroad. In contrast, Luc Besson, director of The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, manipulates the story of Joan of Arc to fit the demands of a culture that feeds on action-packed, blood-gushing movies. We will take a look at both these directors, the films, how the films present their characters, what manipulation in film does to influence people’s idea of the historical figures, and how the movies are created to fit present-day ideals. History of Directors and Film Intro [2] Herself involved in a field not known for women of her time, Argentinean director Maria Luisa Bemberg tackles the biography of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a narrative much like her own. Growing up during the 1920’s in upper-class Buenos Aires, Bemberg never acquired a high school or college diploma but received an informal education under the guidance of a governess. Surviving in an age in which men still held the dominant hand, Bemberg lived out the first three decades of her adult life a married woman raising four children and suppressing a lifelong dream of delving into film. But at the age of 56, after going through a divorce and becoming a grandmother, Bemberg caves in to the “curse of an inquiring mind” and creates films that document “women that are vertical, autonomous, independent, thoughtful, courageous” (Bemberg as quoted in Bach). After having her life’s path determined for her by her controlling father and after being stifled by her older brothers, Bemberg is able to relate to Sor Juana’s struggle to find an open forum for her voice to be heard.

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