Cinema of Puerto Rico
The history of the Cinema industry in Puerto Rico begins with the US invasion of the island in 1898. At that time, the American soldiers brought cameras to record what they saw. It was not until the 1912 that Puerto Ricans would begin to produce their own films.
After this, Puerto Rican cinema has developed at a slow pace. Despite this, the industry has produced several actors and actresses and one Academy Award nominated film (see List of Puerto Rican Academy Award winners and nominees).
Starting in the late 1990s the Puerto Rican film industry saw significant growth and the number of local productions has been on the increase every year.
Early years: 1912-1950
After the early images recorded by the American soldiers in 1898, most of the films produced in the island were documentaries. It wasn't until 1912 that Rafael Colorado D'Assoy recorded the first non-documentary film titled Un drama en Puerto Rico. After that, Colorado and Antonio Capella Martínez created the Film Industrial Society of Puerto Rico in 1916, producing their first film titled Por la hembra y el gallo. Other film companies formed during the time were the Tropical Film Company (1917) and the Porto Rico Photoplays (1919).
The Tropical Film Company was founded by two intellectuals in the National Independence Movement and a veteran filmmaker that immigrated to Puerto Rico from Spain. Even though it is known that this company had produced four films, none of them have been retrieved. This however does not negate the founding base of the Tropical Film Company in Puerto Rican Cinema. It was through Tropical Film Company that the first discourses of educational, cultural, and economic aims were made within the limitations of financial and infrastructural resources that existed then, and still persist, for locally grounded cinematic production, distribution and exhibition in Puerto Rico.
In 1934, Juan Emilio Viguié Cajas produced and directed the first Puerto Rican film with sound titled, Romance Tropical. There is little known of the whereabouts of this film or the ones mentioned above.
The 1950s to 1970s
The first truly Puerto Rican film, Los Peloteros (1953), featured a Puerto Rican cast and was based on a real story. Ramón Rivero (Diplo) starred as the inspirational coach of a children's baseball team. His impoverished team played with old, broken equipment and longed for uniforms. Known as a comedian, the role enabled Rivero to demonstrate his dramatic abilities. The children in the movie were not professional actors; they actually were poor children cast at the shooting locale. Photographer Jack Delano directed the film for the Puerto Rican government's Division of Community Education. Some consider Los Peloteros to be the best Puerto Rican film ever made.
Several films were shot in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. Two were Puerto Rican, the musical drama El Otro Camino (1955), and the drama/romance Maruja (1958). Axel Anderson was a German ex-patriate who became a star in both Puerto Rican television and film. In Maruja, Anderson played opposite leading lady, Marta Romero, and in El Otro Camino he played opposite Rosaura Andreu, future children's television host. A third movie was the American film noir Man With My Face (1951), a thriller centering on Americans living in Puerto Rico. Producer J. Harold Odell shot three films on the island, Machete, Counterplot and Fiend of Dope Island. In 1956, Modesta, a short film produced within the island's Division of Community Education, won the Best Short Film Award at the Venice Film Festival; in 1998, Modesta became the first Puerto Rican film named to the United States National Film Registry.
Within the 1960s, an explosion of filmmaking aroused on the island. About half of the films shot in this period were co-productions between Puerto Rico and Mexico. Mexico also shot a few stand-alone productions, plus a few co-productions with Spain and Venezuela. Puerto Rico hosted a sizable number of U.S. movies throughout the decade, plus one from Argentina and one from the United Kingdom. Although none of the movies from this period received wide critical acclaim, director Leopoldo Torre Nilsson was nominated for the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival for his work on La Chica del Lunes (1967). Also notable are the Bob Hope comedy The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell (1968) when Hawaii was unavailable for Department of Defense cooperation and a film adaptation of William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies.
Filmmaking in the 1970s, slowed down substantially. Among the handful of Puerto Rican pictures (mostly co-productions), only the Jacobo Morales film Dios los Cría (1979) stands out. Morales had a solid background as an actor and writer, going back to the inception of Puerto Rican television in the 1950s. Dios los Cria marked the beginning of his work writing and directing for the big screen. The collection of five comedic tales earned him acclaim, as well as a slot in the 'Un Certain Regard' section of the 1979 Cannes Film Festival.
The United States produced more films in Puerto Rico in the 1970s than any other country did. Most of them were schlock movies typical of the time, such as producer Sydney W. Pink's last movie The Man From O.R.G.Y. (1970). The Woody Allen film Bananas, of 1971, is the only classic American film of the time to be filmed in Puerto Rico. Jacobo Morales played a supporting role on the film.
The 1980s to present
Following up on his previous success, Morales has continued to write and direct his own films. Nicolas y los Demas (1986) and Lo que le Pasó a Santiago (1989) both won audience appreciation. In addition, the latter received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. In 1994, he directed Linda Sara which didn't earn as much respect as his earlier works, although it's generally considered enjoyable. In 2004, he released a sequel to his 1979 hit, Dios los Cria 2.
During the 1980s, Puerto Rican began submitting films for consideration to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Some of the films submitted were La Gran Fiesta and the above-mentioned Lo que le Pasó a Santiago. Despite these efforts, the industry wasn't booming like before.
The early to mid-1990s had Paramount Pictures' A Show of Force, whose cast included Amy Irving, Robert Duvall, Andy García, and Kevin Spacey; La Guagua Aérea, the aforementioned Linda Sara, and El Poder del Shakti as theatrical releases on the island. 1997 brought Robert Zemeckis and his team to the island to shoot sequences for Contact and Steven Spielberg for a 2-day shoot for Amistad. 1998 had theatrical releases for the well-received Héroes de Otra Patria and for the not-as-well-received Mi Día de Suerte, as well as a limited release for The Face at the Window. 1999 had the theatrical premiere, but not a general theatrical release, for the English-language Paging Emma.
In the 2000s (decade), another filmmaking boom began. 12 Horas enjoyed a decent, six-week theatrical run in 2001, and ever since then, the number of films made by Puerto Ricans has increased dramatically. So has the variety, including documentaries, short films, and animation. Voces inocentes (2004) co-produced by Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States, won several international awards. Both the Puerto Rico Film Commission and the Corporation for the Development of Arts, Science and Film Industry in Puerto Rico promote local and international film making, including loans and financial incentives.
Other recent films that have garnered praise are Celestino y el Vampiro, Ladrones y Mentirosos, Cayo, and Jacobo Morales' Angel. Unfortunately, people in Puerto Rico see most of these films as art house material and they don't get the box office reception as many American mainstream films.
One notable exception to this trend of lukewarm reception at the box office occurred with the film Maldeamores. Starting with its sold-out, one-week Oscar-qualifying run in late 2007, this film became a benchmark in Puerto Rican cinema for its combination of excellent critical reception, decent box office reception, and actual theatrical exhibition in the U.S. Nevertheless, in July 2009 the Puerto Rico Film Commission reported that Maldeamores had only recovered about 50% of its costs.
In 2008, director Steven Soderbergh and actor – producer Benicio del Toro filmed most of the first part of Che on the island; and George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey (working in the island once more) shot The Men Who Stare at Goats. Also in 2008, the film Talento de Barrio, a movie based on the life of "Daddy Yankee", became the first Puerto Rican film to sell more than 300,000 tickets during its theatrical run, even though its critical reception was decidedly on the "rotten" side of the spectrum.
In 2009, Party Time: The Movie, directed by Juan Fernandez-Paris, Miente (Lie), directed and production-designed by Rafi Mercado, and Kabo y Platon directed by Edmundo H. Rodríguez, received theatrical releases. Also, Johnny Depp visited the island to work in The Rum Diary and Joel Silver took advantage of available incentives to shoot most of The Losers.
The year 2010 saw theatrical releases for Que Despelote, directed by Eduardo 'Transfor' Ortiz; Elite, directed by Andres Ramírez Molina, and Caos, directed by Raul García, and also saw the island serve as a production hub for a significant portion of Fast Five.
2011 was a somewhat tumultuous year for the film industry in Puerto Rico. It included a decision from the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences which eliminated Puerto Rico's participation in the race for the Academy Award for Best Film in a Foreign Language. Nevertheless, it did yield two theatrical releases: Que Joyitas, directed by Eduardo 'Transfor' Ortiz, which ultimately grossed over $700,000 at the box office, and Mi verano con Amanda 2, written and directed by Benjamin 'Benji' López. Other releases included The Caller (2011 film) and The Witness (El Testigo).
In 2012, the short film Mi santa mirada, directed by Alvaro Aponte Centeno, became the first Puerto Rican short film to compete for the Short Film Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Locally, 2012 marked the two-week theatrical release of the film Los Condenados and the seven-month theatrical release of Broche de oro, directed by Raul Marchand.
Partial list of Puerto Rican films
|29 de mayo||Short Film|
|¿Y si Cristóbal despierta?||2001||TV|
|A life of sin||1979|
|Adiós, New York, adiós||1973|
|Agua con sal||2005|
|Al compás de un sentimiento||1996|
|Alicia Alonso y el Ballet Nacional de Cuba||1979|
|Amores como todos los demás||1999||TV|
|Antes de las 11||2007|
|Antesala de la silla eléctrica||1968|
|Arocho y Clemente||1970|
|Barrios: El bailao de Julia y Berto||2004||TV|
|Barrios: El rumbón de Fepe||2004||TV|
|Barrios: La familia del camello||2004||TV|
|Cannabis Cannibal II: Exodus||2009|
|Celestino y el vampiro||2003|
|Chiquito pero Juguetón: The Muvi||2008|
|Christian y Cristal||2009|
|Con los pies descalzos||1961|
|Contrabandistas del Caribe||1966|
|Correa Cotto: ¡Así me llaman!||1968|
|Cuando lo pequeño se hace grande||2000||Short film|
|Cuando quiere un borincano||1967|
|Cuentos de Abelardo||1991|
|Cuentos para despertar||1998|
|De espaldas al sol||1975|
|De la mano de un ángel||2002||TV|
|Después de la muerte||2006|
|Dios los cría...||1979|
|Dios los cría 2||2005|
|El alcalde de Machuchal||1964|
|El anillo||2004||Short film|
|El beso que me diste||2000|
|El cielo de los ratones||2009||Short film|
|El cuerpo del delito||2005||TV|
|El curandero del pueblo||1969|
|El derecho de comer||1968|
|El fugitivo de Puerto Rico||1975|
|El hijo de Ángela Maria||1974|
|El jibarito Rafael||1967|
|El jibaro millonario||1966|
|El lenguaje de la guerra||2009|
|El milagro de la virgen||1917|
|El otro||2010||Short Film|
|El otro camino||1955|
|El poder del Shakti||1996|
|El ruiseñor y la rosa||1997|
|El septimo ángel||2000|
|El sueño del regreso||2006|
|El tesoro de Cofresí||1919|
|En mi viejo San Juan||1966|
|Entre Dios y el hombre||1960|
|Entre el cielo y tú||2007|
|Flight of Fancy||2000|
|Fuego en el alma||2002||TV|
|Fuera de tinieblas||2009|
|Hay hombres para todas||2008||TV|
|Héroe de Guerra||2007||Short Film|
|Héroes de otra patria||1998|
|Historia de un ganster||1968|
|Iraq en mí||2008|
|Juventud sin frenos||1965|
|Kabo y Platón||2009|
|La caja de problemas||2004||TV|
|La criada malcriada||1969|
|La entrega||2007||Short Film|
|La fiebre del deseo||1964|
|La gran fiesta||1985|
|La guagua aérea||1993|
|La jaula||1999||Short film|
|La leyenda de Toño bicicleta||1975|
|La mujer del cura||1967|
|La Pandilla en apuros||1977|
|La piel desnuda||1964|
|La venganza de Correa Cotto||1969|
|La virgen de la calle||1965|
|La viudita se quiere casar||1917|
|Ladrones y mentirosos||2006|
|Libertad para la juventud||1970|
|Lo que le pasó a Santiago||1989|
|Los cuentos de Abelardo||1990|
|Los días de Doris||1998|
|Los dos mundos de Angelita||1982|
|Los misterios de Cofresí||1917|
|Los panas||2005||Short Film|
|Los que nunca amaron||1965|
|Los unos y los otros||2009||Short Film|
|Lucía, Ignacio y otras historias||2008|
|Luna de miel en Puerto Rico||1967|
|Machuchal agente 0||1966|
|Mafia en puerta de tierra||1917|
|Manuela y Manuel||2008|
|Mas allá del capitolio||1963|
|Mi Borinquen querída||1965|
|Mi día de suerte||1998|
|Mi santa mirada||2012||Short Film|
|Mi verano con Amanda||2008|
|Mientras Puerto Rico duerme||1964|
|Muerte en el paraíso||2008|
|Natas es Satán||1971|
|Nicolás y los demás||1986|
|Not Even the Devil||2008|
|Palés y la rumba de esquina||2009|
|Paloma del monte||1917|
|Palmer a muerto||1961|
|Party Time: The Movie||2009|
|Pasaporte a la fama||2006|
|Por la hembra y el gallo||1916|
|Prohibído amar en Nueva York||1982|
|Que bravas son las solteras||1976|
|Que familia mas normal||2004||TV|
|Que familia mas normal 2||2004||TV|
|Que familia mas normal 3||2004||TV|
|Revolución en el infierno||2005|
|Romance en Puerto Rico||1961|
|Rosa la tequilera||1968|
|Seguros de vida||2004||Short film|
|Sueños a precios de descuento||2006|
|Talento de barrio||2008|
|Taínos: La última tríbu||2005|
|The Absolution||1998||Short film|
|The disappearance of García Lorca||1997|
|The face at the window||1997|
|The tents of Allah||1922|
|The Witness (El Testigo)||2011|
|The woman who fooled herself||1922|
|Todos tenemos un ángel||2005|
|Tres puertorriqueñas y un deseo||1961|
|Tú mi amor||1972|
|Un amanta anda suelto||1970|
|Un drama en Puerto Rico||1912|
|Una aventura llamada Menudo||1983|
|Una historia común||2004|
|Una mujer sin precio||1965|
|Una puertorriqueña en Acapulco||1968|
|Vendedora de amor||1964|
|Virgenes a go-go||1964|
|What I tell the wind||2008|
- Company of contradictions: Puerto Rico's Tropical Film Company (1916-1917). Naida Garcia-Crespo. Film History. 23.4 (Oct. 2011) p401. Word Count: 8053. Reading Level (Lexile): 1730.
- Puerto Rico: The island’s film industry is ready for action! (July 9, 2009)
- Puerto Rico queda excluido de la carrera por el Oscar; El Nuevo Día (October 5, 2011)