Cell phone cinema is an emergent phenomenon well-suited for Latin American independent filmmakers. With technology that is simple to operate and low production costs, as well as open and free distribution via online streaming, cell phone cinema has arguably democratized access to filmmaking. But even as alternative production and distribution avenues liberate filmmakers, they also limit artistic potential and marginalize their films as the work of amateurs. Since cell phone cinema's arrival in the early 2000s, filmmakers have wrestled with a paradox: they have embraced the making of films that are low-budget, transgressive, and independent, even as they strive for a higher production quality to compete with commercial cinema. Efforts to reconcile these seemingly opposing tendencies have profound repercussions on the content and aesthetics of cell phone films-works that are made close-to-the-body and are increasingly hybrid (combining digital and analog elements), characteristic of a post-digital aesthetic of glitch. This essay defines the features of global cell phone cinema and presents an overview of the format. Then, turning to Latin America, it studies three paradigmatic cell phone horror flicks, a genre with a significant presence in mobile filmmaking. Several critical questions are raised: are we experiencing a cinematic format that will change the game, from a cinema made and distributed by the commercial industry to self-produced films created by autodidacts and distributed freely online? Or will these films be co-opted by market forces? I argue that whatever the future of this new format, the Latin American independent film landscape has already been significantly altered by cell phone technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-854
Number of pages34
JournalRevista de Estudios Hispanicos
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • Cell phone films
  • Found footage
  • Horror genre
  • Latin America
  • Online video
  • Post-digital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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