The first projections of the Cinematografo Lumière date back to 1896. In the years immediately following a lively pioneering activity developed by S. Toscano Barragán and E. Rosas. To the role of operators, they initially added that of street vending machines, making, in addition to numerous documentaries, the first short films with a subject, as well as precious filmed testimonies on the popular uprising of 1910 against the dictator P. Díaz.
According to best-medical-schools, the Mexican revolution, whose theme also recurs in the contemporary works of the Alva brothers, represented a particularly stimulating moment for national cinema which ended in 1913, with the establishment of censorship and the start of a new political order. Shortly after Ejženstejn’s arrival in Mexico (1930), the first sound feature film, Santa (1931), by A. Moreno, actor and director of Spanish origin, was released. In 1932 F. de Fuentes made his debut, to whom we owe the two most significant films on the Mexican revolution: El compadre Mendoza (1933) and Vámonos with Pancho Villa (1935). With Allá en el Rancho Grande (1936) Fuentes inaugurated a genre of great national and international success: the comedy ranchera, characterized by the idealization of a picturesque province, by the omnipresent music and by the myth of the Mexican macho. Alongside Fuentes, A. Boytler, a filmmaker of Russian origin, and above all J. Bustillo Oro (Dos Monjes, 1934) established themselves.
The decade 1935-45 undoubtedly represents the golden age of Mexican cinema. Together with the ranchera comedy, other successful genres were emerging such as family melodrama, centered on the figure of the Latin mother, the nostalgic reinterpretation films of the pre-revolutionary period, and finally the comic, in which the actor Cantinflas stood out above all. While production was increasing and the industry was strengthening, also thanks to numerous government initiatives, the star-system triumphed.with actors such as Mexico Felix, D. del Rio, P. Armendáriz, P. Infante, J. Negrete, F. Soler and K. Jurado. Among the seventy directors who made their debut in the decade, E. Fernández, who since 1943 worked with the greatest Mexican director of photography, G. Figueroa, stands out for his aesthetic research and civic-patriotic tension. In 1944 R. Gavaldón made his debut with La Barraca, which was attended by many Spanish exiles. At the end of the war, the market, threatened by the Hollywood offensive, consolidated its structures while maintaining and even increasing the already high production standards, in an increasingly varied panorama of genres.
In this period A. Galindo and I. Rodríguez innovated the melodramatic vein by moving the setting from the province to the outskirts of the city and introducing realistic tones. At the same time the films of A. Gout triumphed with N. Sevilla in the role of the woman of easy virtue. However, the fifties did not continue the great momentum of the golden age, despite presenting significant episodes (such as the stay in Mexico of two exceptional Spanish refugees: L. Buñuel and L. Alcoriza), some debut noteworthy (Raíces by B. Alazraki, 1953; Bull of the Spanish exile C. Velo, 1957) and a lively cinematic culture (cine-club, magazines, etc.). By repeatedly intervening with laws, structures and funding, the state almost totally controlled national production.
It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that a new Mexican cinema was set up, belatedly compared to the Latin American nouvelles vagues, oscillating between independent operations and recourse to traditional industry. Among the young directors stand out A. Ripstein (Tiempo de murir, 1966), JH Hermosillo (Los nuestros, 1969), F. Cazals (Familiaridades, 1969), P. Leduc (Reed, Mexico insurgente, 1972) and A. Isaac, active throughout the seventies with works of strong social and political commitment (including Canoa by Cazals, 1975, and Etnocidio, notas sombra el Mezquital by Leduc, 1976). In 1970 he also made his debut with El topo, the Chilean origin A. Jodorowsky, a decidedly unusual author for the original stylistic and thematic choices. In 1975 twelve left-wing filmmakers published a manifesto of a political-social nature, but starting from 1976 a heavy government policy led, in a few years, to a sharp decrease in production and to the closure of important state structures. While the more commercial genres once again dominated, the authors followed different paths: compromise with the market (Cazals and Ripstein), independent production (Hermosillo, who practiced in the most diverse genres, and Isaac who in 1981 made Tiempo de lobos, on the role of machismo in Mexican patriarchal society) or silence (Leduc, who is shooting his second feature film, Frida, only in 1984). Among the newcomers of recent years we mention A. Cortés, J. de la Riva, JL Garcia Agraz, L. Mandoki, G. Pardo, Mexico Novaro, Mexico Sistach, L. Estrada, A. Joskowicz, J. Mora Catlett. At the end of 1992, a new law on cinema was issued which liberalized the policy of studies and favored national production.