(De)colonial Ecologies in 21st-century insular Hispanic Caribbean film

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Modern Languages


This study asks: what does an analysis of 21st-century Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican film contribute to our understanding of the relationship between coloniality and ecology; and to what extent, and in what ways, can film build decolonial ecologies? This project aims to show that film is uniquely capable of conveying how contemporary ecologies are shaped by the enduring effects of colonialism, and that film, as both form and practice, can construct a decolonial ecology: one that addresses environmental degradation and disaster while building equality and emancipation. It will do so by focussing on 21st-century Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico: island contexts that have considerable historical, political, and economic differences but share certain geographical conditions. The project thus also aims to establish the value of the insular Hispanic Caribbean to refining our understanding of colonial ecologies, in order to respond justly to global ecological crisis.

The research comprises four strands. The first 3 use comparative close analysis and the creative methodology of videographic criticism to focus on how Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican films communicate the complexity of different colonial ecologies in relation to space and place, time, and (im)mobilities. They analyse the aesthetic and narrative choices and creative techniques used by filmmakers to expose and critique the imbrication of colonial legacies with contemporary ecologies. They also show how comparative film analysis can shed light on how contemporary experiences of ecological degradation and crisis are shaped by different (post)colonial, political, socio-economic, and cultural contexts. These strands emphasise how-more than simply representing something-film 'storiates', producing a sense of entanglement that conveys the complexity of lived experience, whilst also speculatively revealing alternative realities.

The final strand examines how these speculative possibilities are actualised in emergent, collective practices through the case study of Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria: a colonial context affected by environmental disaster. Through film analysis, participant observation, interviews, and participatory action research, it examines how individuals and communities are using film to build decolonial ecologies in contemporary Puerto Rico. It thus seeks to illuminate how film production and exhibition are and can be used in the region to respond to ecological challenges in a way that also addresses (post)colonial inequalities and injustices. Thus, all four strands of the research explore the ways in and extents to which film can reconfigure relationships to the human and non-human world, and thus work towards a decolonial ecology, in the region and beyond.

The research aims will be addressed by the following outputs:
1. An open-access monograph that addresses the four research strands.
2. A PDRA-authored, peer-reviewed journal article analysing how a selection of films represent and intervene in the colonial ecologies exposed by Hurricane Maria.
3. A video essay that explores the lived experiences of time produced at the intersection of coloniality and environmental degradation and disaster.
4. An advisory document that serves as a blueprint for the effective creation of community filmmaking projects that pursue decolonial ecologies in the Caribbean. This is one of two co-produced outputs from the Casa Pueblo workshop that will convene filmmakers and community organisations engaged in such projects across the island.
5. A short film about the workshop, produced by Casa Pueblo community filmmakers and co-produced by the PI.
6. A series of public film screenings and roundtable with filmmakers, community activists, and film organisations held at the Festival de Cine Global de Santo Domingo.
7. An online platform featuring the advisory document, short film, video essay, blogs on fieldwork, and invited responses to outputs.


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