Carolyn Fornoff, “Mexican cinema as petrocinema”

What if thinking about Mexican cinema in concert with the environment had
implications beyond representation? This article brings ecocritical methodologies into conversation with industry studies to propose that reading Mexican cinema in tandem with energy has sweeping repercussions for the study of Mexican cinema. It highlights several potential avenues of inquiry that consider Mexican cinema as petrocinema. These include the film industry’s funding, infrastructure, material footprint and inextricability from the ideology of energy surplus as the driver of modernity. This capacious approach to energy and environment as an ontological question and not just a question of cinematic representation argues that cultural production should be historicized within the infrastructure of fossil-fueled capitalist modernity.

Between 2009 and 2015 PEMEX (the state-owned petroleum company) invested about 44 mullion dollars in the production of eighteen nontheatrical films ostensibly aimed at improving workplace safety.

The production company CINE TRANSFORMER (run by Julio and Raúl Fernández) produced these didactic melodramas featuring telenovela stars, love triangles and seductively clad women wrecking havoc on oil rigs.  The films were to be shown to workers in mobile cinema units featured in this promo for the company:


Telenovela star Claudia Lizaldi poses in one of the PEMEX cine móviles:







This is the trailer for one of Cine Transfomer’s films , Disciplina Operativa:

And below are two other examples of films made by Cinetransformer in collaboration with PEMEX:

In this article, I ask what it might mean as film scholars to expand the way we think about the ties between Mexican cinema and extractivism. How might unlikely sources, like the corpus of films produced by Cinetransformer in collaboration with Pemex, be taken seriously as sources that shed light on film’s continued operation as a medium for consolidating current carbon intensive energy regimes?

Fornoff, Carolyn (2021), ‘Mexican cinema as petrocinema’, Studies in Spanish
& Latin American Cinemas, 18:3, pp. 377–87,