The history of film production and diffusion in Paraguay is similar to that of many other countries of the Latin American continent which, unlike Mexico, Brazil, Argentina or Cuba, do not boast a production tradition in the proper sense, and in which the experience film has had a relatively marginal role in national culture, while the economic and political dependence on the major continental powers is decidedly overwhelming. In Paraguay (independent since 1811, after the anti-Spanish revolution that broke out a year earlier in Buenos Aires) the cinema arrived relatively early: the first public screening took place in the capital Asunción on 2 June 1900; but the purely rural economy of the country, despite the very rapid growth of the 19th century, it did not favor the spread of the new art form in the following decades, delaying the birth of stable structures (production houses, cinemas, cineclubs, etc.) and institutional or private bodies for the support and promotion of cinema.
According to baglib, the policy of the Paraguayan governments (often of military formation) also favored, in the first half of the 20th century, the preservation of a landowner economy to the detriment of industrial development. The Paraguay soon became one of the division areas of the film market, through the distribution companies that imported Hollywood films into the country or from other cinemas on the continent. The situation remained virtually unchanged until the mid-1950s, both due to the absence of state incentives for film production is due to a substantial isolation of the Paraguay who never knew the levels of economic and cultural growth, nor the migratory flows that characterized other South American countries. of state of General A. Stroessner established a long military dictatorship in Paraguay (which lasted until the end of the Eighties) which nipped in the bud every form of autonomous cultural expression, first of all cinema, considered a dangerous subversive tool. During the 1950s and 1960s the harshness of the military regime pushed many intellectuals, artists and opponents to leave the country. The economic agreements with Peronist Argentina and the low production costs, however, attracted Paraguay Argentine productions – El trueno entre las hojas (1957) by Armando Bo, an Argentine-Paraguayan co-production, was one of the great successes of the time – which constituted an important experience for the training of workers, actors and directors. Starting from the mid-1960s, during a brief phase of greater political openness of Stroessner’s dictatorship, the cultural and political ferment that had led to the birth of film groups, movements and neo-avant-gardes throughout the continent also had an echo in the country. Carlos Saguier and J. Miguel Muñarriz, young directors trained abroad, in 1964 promoted the birth of a movement for the diffusion of independent cinema through the production of militant documentary short films, aimed at restoring an indigenous gaze on the reality of the country. Saguier’s El pueblo (1969), a documentary on life in an Andean village, quickly became a manifesto for young Paraguayan cinema, whose development possibilities were however limited by the political control of the government. Attempts to make a national production or to create cineclubs and film associations – especially in the 1970s and 1980s – were systematically crushed by the regime, which returned to pursue a repressive policy after the timid openings of the previous decade (the first national Cinemateca, born in the Sixty, was subsequently closed by the government).
Over the years, however, the policy of co-productions with Argentina continued without ever reaching a significant number of films; in addition, some European directors also shot in Paraguay, like the French Dominique Dubosc who made Kuarahy ohecha (1969). The first feature film entirely produced in Paraguay was Cerro Cora (1977) directed by Guillermo Vera and scripted by Ladislao González, who also collaborated in the direction; the film, financed by the military government, however, does not show any originality and does not go beyond the limits of a rhetorical work of mere propaganda.In the nineties, despite the fall of the military dictatorship (Stroessner was ousted in 1989 by a military coup and in 1992 a new constitution was promulgated), the birth of a film industry did not occur, but slowly a new generation of filmmakers and film scholars emerged, consisting mainly of returnee exiles. Despite the scarce state subsidies, institutions such as the Fundación Cinemateca and the Archivo Visual (actually private institutes) were born in Asunción and, since 1990, the Asunción International Film Festival has been organized in the capital. The few films produced (for the most part international co-productions) show, despite the diversity of results and languages, the desire to tell the particularity of the Paraguay, suspended between modernity and economic backwardness – such as the Swedish co-production Miss Ameriguá (1994) by Chilean Luis R. Vera, and O toque do oboé (1999) by the Brazilian Cláudio MacDowell, but entirely made in Paraguay – or the intention to recover the cultural roots of the Andean populations, in a country largely inhabited by Guaraní Indians, as in María Escobar (2001) by Galia Giménez.