Landeta, Matilde (1913—)

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Landeta, Matilde (1913—)

Mexican filmmaker. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, in 1913.


(as director) Lola Casanova (1948), La Negra Angustias (1949), Trotacalles (1951), Noturno a Rosario (1991); (as writer) Tribunal para menores (1947), La Negra Augustias (1949).

Born in Mexico City in 1913 and orphaned by age three, Matilde Landeta was reared by her grandmother in San Luis Potosi. Landeta's brother, Eduardo, grew up to be an actor and it was he who introduced Landeta to the film industry in Mexico. Early on, she knew she wanted to be a director, but in Mexico in the early 1930s that door was all but closed to women in the tightly controlled, government-subsidized film industry. Determined to succeed, Landeta took a job as a script supervisor in 1933.

After 12 years and with considerable opposition from the Directors' Association, she was finally allowed to serve as an assistant director. For the next three years, Landeta worked for such filmmakers as Emilio Fernandez, Julio Bracho, and Roberto Gavaldon, all considered to be among Mexico's best. But a career as an assistant director was not what Landeta had in mind. Convinced that her only shot would come as an independent filmmaker, Landeta, with her brother and several colleagues, formed Tecnicos y Actores Cinematograficos Associados (TACMA) in 1947. Landeta had written a screenplay, Tribunal para menores, which she intended to direct. However, her colleagues in the association seem to have betrayed her, because they assigned Alfonso Corona Blake to direct the film. Ironically, Landeta was awarded the prestigious Ariel Award for her screenplay (the Mexican equivalent of the Academy Award).

In 1948, Landeta finally directed her first feature, Lola Casanova. The film, based on a novel by Francisco Rojas Gonzalez, was enough of a success to allow Landeta to direct her own screenplay adaptation of another Gonzalez novel, La Negra Augustius. Considered Landeta's best film, the story, told from a decidedly feminist perspective, explores the tensions between race, class, and gender. Landeta followed with her most controversial film by far. Made in 1951, Trotacalles (Streetwalkers), an attack on the sexual exploitation of women, concerns two women caught in a male-dominated power struggle.

Landeta's work was as powerful as it was critically acclaimed. Unfortunately, her career came to an abrupt halt when she had a confrontation with the director of the National Cinematographic Bank. She was literally barred from working for the Mexican film industry from 1956 through 1962. Though technically allowed to return after that, Landeta's career languished. In the 1980s, she was rediscovered by the next generation of Latin American feminist filmmakers, who exhibited her films at several international festivals. In 1990, Landeta was the subject of a Patricia Diaz documentary, My Filmmaking, My Life. Matilde Landeta took advantage of her new-found celebrity. In 1991, at age 78, she directed the feature Nocturna a Rosario.


Foster, Gwendolyn. Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Huaco-Nuzum, Carmen. "Matilde Landeta: An Introduction to the Work of a Pioneer Mexican Filmmaker," in Screen. Vol. 28, no. 4, 1987, pp. 96–106.

Kuhn, Annette, and Susannah Radstone, eds. Women's Companion to International Film. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990.

Deborah Jones , Studio City, California

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Landeta, Matilde (1913—)

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