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‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ lecturer offers fresh perspective on fascism

Deborah Shaw literally wrote the book on “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro. | Kaylee Dusang/The Cougar

Dozens of students, faculty and staff filled the Student Center Theater on Tuesday for a lecture designed on giving them a fresh perspective on film.

Deborah Shaw, author of “The Three Amigos: The Transnational Filmmaking of Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón,” and film studies lecturer at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., spoke about her analysis of the Academy Award-winning film “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

“The fact that there was so much interest and buzz around the film made me want to see what was new about it, and try to analyze and discuss that,” Shaw said.

Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a fantasy-horror film set in post-civil war Spain that follows a young girl’s journey to become a princess in an underground kingdom.

Shaw said during her lecture that her first argument found the films’ happy ending as a “historical distortion” of the true outcome of the Spanish Civil War, when the country fell to fascism. She said the film still does not contain historical specificity, but it is more a document against fascism that offers hope or resistance to future generations.

“I had to re-read what I had written in the light of contemporary events,” Shaw said. “I think we have seen such a rise in scary populism and right-wing movements, which made me really see the film in the light of this rise and fear of fascism that we think is never going to happen in our lifetime.”

Anthropology junior Adam Payne said he attended the lecture to gain a new perspective on the film.

“You don’t think of the historical fascism with the newer fascism that we seem to see today,” Payne said. “It’s always good to look at film and genres that may not be as mainstream as we’re used to seeing. It’s good to see these more non-traditional genre-bending films from a non-English or non-Western perspective.”

Professor of World Cultures and Literature Marie-Theresa Hernandez said she teaches “The Three Amigos” in her Latin American and Latino film studies course, and thought it would be special for the students to meet the author of the book they are studying.

“We’re trying to find a way for people to actually really enjoy what they’re studying and attract them, and right now everyone loves del Toro’s work,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said she hopes the lecture helped people realize the importance of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and that her students studying Shaw’s book are more informed about the film.

Even though Shaw’s lecture discussed only Pan’s Labyrinth, her book also analyzes films by renowned Mexican directors Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón.

“If I can make people think, and see the film in a new light, that would be really good,” Shaw said. “If I can maybe inspire people to re-watch it and just think about their positions, and maybe not agree with me, but consider some of the things I said.”

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