History of Art and Film Seminar Series: Mexican man-eaters and American anthropophagi

Posted by jcm22 at Oct 22, 2018 10:44 AM |
14 November 2018 - Dr Marc Ripley compares Mexican and US foundation myths as they feature in Jorge Michel Grau’s Somos lo que hay (2010), and it's US adaptation We Are What We Are by Kim Mickle (2013).

Date: 14 November 2018
Time: 4pm - 6pm
Location: Ken Edwards Fifth Floor SR 527

ContactDr Samuel Raybone


Jorge Michel Grau’s Somos lo que hay (2010) depicts a family’s disintegration following the death of the patriarch, leaving a mother and her two teenage sons and daughter to struggle alone in their poverty. The film attracted substantial attention, owing less to its disturbing portrayal of a Mexican family’s fight to stay together in the midst of their grief and more to its ill-disguised plot twist: the family happen to be cannibals and, in the words of one reviewer, the film ‘[comes] at you like a fistful of flesh-eating dynamite’.

Three years later, Grau’s screenplay appeared reworked by US director Jim Mickle, this time centred on a North American family in the wake of their mother’s death in the isolated Catskills mountains. The tyrannical Mexican mother of Grau’s original functions discursively through national myth and archetype, oscillating between victimised Chingada and vengeful Llorona, prey and predator in equal measure against a backdrop of a dog-eat-dog society. Meanwhile, the puritanism at the heart of Mickle’s US remake owes much to the American gothic aesthetic, offering a comment on the dangers of isolationism and religious fanaticism. This paper will examine these differences in the context of Mexican and US foundation myths.


Dr Marc Ripley completed his PhD thesis, entitled ‘The Best of All Worlds? Representing Space and Belonging in Luis Buñuel’s Mexican Cinema’ in November 2014. The thesis approached the study of Luis Buñuel and that of cinema more widely from a fresh perspective, focusing on the representation of space and questions of belonging, in order to move beyond psychoanalysis and genre analysis, both common in Buñuel studies and Film Studies more generally. This thesis was published as a book under the title A Search for Belonging: The Mexican Cinema of Luis Buñuel, by Wallflower Press in 2017. Marc’s other research interests include Hispanic horror cinema, and I am currently researching the presence of foundation myths of nationhood in Jorge Michel Grau’s Somos lo que hay (2010).

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