South America

Historically marked first by colonization largely by the Spanish and the Portuguese, widespread slavery until late in the 19th century, and followed by a prolonged series of various dictatorships and military governments throughout the 20th century, South America is a continent of mixed economic conditions. Several nations, such as Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, have relatively low percentages of poor people while others, such as Suriname and Bolivia, have at least 25% of their populations living on less than $2 dollars per day. According to HDI data, Argentina (49), and Chile (41) rank very highly in human development, while Bolivia(113), Paraguay(111), Guyana (121) rank much lower though by world standards are still ranked more highly than many other areas of the world. The continent is also considered one of the areas of the world with a significantly larger economic gap between the rich and the poor: in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Paraguay, the richest 10% dominate 40% of the national income. Brazil is both the largest national economy of the continent as well as the nation with the largest population at over 203 million people. Brazil, while historically notorious for a large economic gap, has, in recent years, a rising middle class and historically low unemployment rates—it was also one of the first nations to make significant recovery following the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, Argentina, a country that was historically wealthy has suffered a series of recessions and debt defaults in the last several decades, including a particularly devastating depression in 2001-2. Suriname, the most recent country to gain independence in 1975 from the Netherlands, has the highest percentage of poor people (over 50% live on <$4/day) and the most significant wealth gap (the wealthiest 20% receive over 50% of the nation’s income). The primary spoken languages in South America are Portuguese (mostly because of Brazil) closely followed by Spanish (both have just under 190 million speakers) though English French, and Dutch are also commonly spoken (reflecting the colonial history of the respective areas).
The film industry in South America is dominated by Argentina and Brazil—ranking highly in the world both in film production (13th and 14th respectively according to 2011 data) and in box-office numbers—followed distantly by Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela. Eugene Py (a French immigrant, 1859–1924) is considered the first filmmaker of Argentina and South America, and who produced films in the early 20th century, beginning with La bandera argentina (1897). Brazil’s film industry is only slightly younger, but no less rich. While Brazil produces almost as many films as Argentina, Brazil has a significantly smaller proportion of film viewers according to both screens per capita, box office numbers, and attendance frequency. Colombia’s film industry, while significantly smaller and younger boasts the oldest film festival of Latin America, Cartagena Film Festival, which began in 1960. The film industry there is picking up speed following a 2003 initiative to incentivize foreign filmmakers to produce in Colombia. There are two important film movements of note. The first is called “Third Cinema” which consisted of 60s/70s Argentine films criticizing capitalism, bourgeois values, and Hollywood. This movement in turn helped influenced “Cinema Novo” of Brazil: a movement in response to social and racial inequalities in the 1960s and 70s. Both movements were influenced by Italian neorealism and French New Wave.

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