Mockumentary as postnationalism: national identity in 'A Day Without a Mexican' by Sergio Arau

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de la Garza, Armida
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Palgrave Macmillan
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The turn to neoliberalism in the 1990s proved decisive for Mexico, as the NAFTA project embraced by the Salinas administration entailed a re-definition of national identity, defined since the revolution as mestizo, Catholic and especially as the Other to the United States. And just as cinema was in those days a crucial discourse for this particular construction of the identity, it was in the 1990s equally instrumental to its redefinition, which largely focused on the role of migrants to the US, presented even as supplementary in the Derridean sense. In 1992, as part of these efforts, Sergio Arau directed a mockumentary which in 2004 became a feature film, ‘A Day Without a Mexican’. As would befit more the seriousness of a documentary than the excess and parody of mockumentary, the stated aim in both was to advance a social agenda, arguing the case for immigrant labour and for Mexican presence in the US more generally. The film charts what would happen in California were all Latino immigrants to suddenly disappear, arguing chaos would ensue. Given the link between cinema and modernity and the relevance of cinema for the nation as an alternative public sphere, this chapter looks at the implications of choosing mockumentary, taken by many to be a paradigmatic postmodern and hybrid form, to discuss the hybridisation of national identity in a transnational film, in the present age of globalisation.
Documentary , Migration , Mexico , Mockumentary , Post-nationalism , Sergio Arau
de La Garza, A. (2009) 'Mockumentary as postnationalism: national identity in 'A Day Without a Mexican' by Sergio Arau', in Haddu, M. and Page, J. (eds.) Visual synergies: documentary and filmmaking in Latin America. New York : Palgrave Macmillan
© 2009, Miriam Haddu and Joanna Page. Reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan. This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. The definitive, published, version of record is available here: