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Policing the borders of Chicano cinema: The critical reception of Allison Anders's Mi vida loca/My Crazy Life (1994) by the Chicano community

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While nuanced and sensitive non-essentialist theorizations of Chicano identity have been put forward by key critics working in the field, these same critics still struggle, on occasion, to disentangle themselves from having recourse to essentialist arguments in their own work. The case that I examine here constitutes a prime example of this problem within Chicano critical discourse. It concerns the debates, in Chicano intellectual circles, over definitions of Chicano cinema, focalized via an examination of a film that has provoked a quite particular polemic in this respect: non-Chicana director Allison Anders's Mi vida loca/My Crazy Life (1994). My discussion of Anders's film will centre on its reception with a range of professional film critics, mostly Chicana/os, as well as reports on the reaction of a sample group of the film's subjects Chicana gang members to their representation on screen. It will examine the factors at play in the way it has been received and expose evidence of recursive essentialism in such arguments where apparent.
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Keywords: Allison Anders; Chicana girl gangs; Chicano cinema; Chicano/a film critics; essentialism; identity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Leeds.

Publication date: 2010-11-01

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