Tuesday, June 12, 2007

¡Sí, soy trailera! (Action Heroine Blog-a-Thon entry)

I spent last weekend at a fantastic workshop in Edmonton, Alberta, learning all about the many different kinds of movies revolving around “Latsploitation” – i.e. Latin American exploitation films. I learned a heck of a lot about exploitation films in general (which frankly I knew very little about beforehand) and how Latin America in general fits within the context of the many “genres” of exploitation films. (For the record, my own contribution to this project is on Luis Llosa’s films made in Peru for Roger Corman’s Concorde-New Horizons pictures in the late 1980s, and how they might fit into current definitions of Peruvian national cinema. Also for the record: yes, I actually auditioned for one of these movies. No, I didn’t get the part. Yes, my high school English teacher is in the movie. Enough questions.)

It was also at this gathering that I was introduced to Lola la trailera.

Played by actress Rosa Gloria Chagoyán, “Lola the Truck Driver” is a super-sexy Mexican woman who inherits a big ol’ truck when her father is killed and she has to get to the bottom of things. In the process, she kicks some major ass and takes names. Seriously, she is a very different Mexican woman on screen than anything I had ever seen before: in a bar-room brawl, right after confirming on a date that “sí, soy trailera (yes, I am a trucker),” she smacks people on the head with a beer bottle instead of running away. These movies all take place on the Mexican-American border – part of a sub-genre of cheaply made, popular Mexican films derogatorily referred to as “cine churro” – and stress a different kind of nationalism than what we generally see from the likes of Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu (which actually Mexicans apparently don’t watch anyway – they do watch a lot of Lola, however). She succeeds in working against against narcotrafficking, foils her gringo nemeses and still looks good in a red mini-dress.

Honestly, I’ve only just been exposed to this myself, but I’m already smitten. One of the first things I did when the workshop ended was order a copy of the film Lola la trailera (1983) for my university so I can show clips for class. (Of her many films, it’s the only one subtitled so far.) What’s amazing is that apparently Lola-the-character has now turns the actress Chagoyán into something of a border activist herself. You’ll have to read more when this essay collection comes out sometime next year hopefully, with this article to be written by my colleague (and former advisor!) Catherine Benamou, who gave a fantastic presentation.

Thanks to YouTube (and some guy who apparently has a serious pantyhose-on-Mexican-women fetish), you can get some glimpses of what the big deal is about. Below are two pieces of what appears to be the same scene from Lola la trailera 3 from 1991; look for “Lola,” the actual truck that Lola drives, in the second clip. The other woman, by the way, is her madrina, or godmother.

Clip 1:

Clip 2:

This entry sends a big shout-out to Catherine Benamou (whose presentation inspired this posting), David Wilt (whose Mexican Film Resource Page provides a wealth of information), the Latsploitation Queens Vicki Ruetalo and Dolores Tierney (who put together the workshop and are organizing the larger project) and all the colleagues who I hung out with in Alberta last weekend. The entry is part of the 2007 Action Heroine Blog-a-Thon, featuring a variety of other blogs all talking about chicks on film who kick butt. Thanks again to Nathaniel at The Film Experience for putting this all together. Check this page for all the other participating blogs in this experience.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this!! I am from Mexico and Lola has become a pop icon of the 80's in our country, everybody remembers Lola la trailera. Rosa Gloria Chagoyan rocks as Lola!!


sounds fascinating. and hey... the other actionable LOLA was pretty great --albeit many thousands of miles from Mexico across the Ocean

but on the Cuaron note --i'm sorry but wasn't Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN one of the biggest hits of all time there?

Middento said...

For a commercial film it did extremely well -- and it *still* wasn't seen as widely as this was.

Aldo said...

Y tu mama tambien made around 100 million pesos on Mexican box office. So it ended its year (2001) in the top 10. Cuaron's Azkaban made even more. Other Top 20ers were Amores Perros, Babel, 21 grams, Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone.

It's been years since the last Lola la Trailera was filmed and some of those films were direct to video. I doubt those films could've been BO hits.

Middento said...

Aldo -- You're right, they are not "box-office hits" because we judge box-office almost entirely by what is screened in cinemas. By that measure, Lola isn't even a legitimate film. And yet, the direct-to-video market is big enough that her movies are seen by more Mexicans (and, as I confirmed last night with a student, in Central America as well) than Y tu mamá even will. Please don't get me wrong: this doesn't diminish Cuarón in my eyes at all -- yet I now think that discount the Lola films when talking about Mexican cinema is a mistake.

My statements stand, with one caveat: I mistakenly said that Mexicans would not have seen any of these directors' other films. You correctly point out Harry Potter, which I agree is probably more widely screened than Lola.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget those fearsome ladies in Octopussy1
Patty K

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