ROSA BLANCA (1961): Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Black and white of a group gathered around a table talking
7 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Thu January 26, 2023
7 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public




(Roberto Gavaldón, 1961, 105 min, DCP)



Adapted from anarchist writer B. Traven’s namesake novel and shot by renowned cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, ROSA BLANCA (1961) is a Mexican Golden era film directed by Roberto Gavaldón, critically depicting the neo-colonial land acquisition efforts of foreign oil companies in post-Revolutionary Mexico. Taking place in 1937, a year before the national expropriation of oil in the country, the film tells the story of Jacinto Yañez (Ignacio López Tarso), a warm and welcoming family man who maintains the Rosa Blanca, a third-generation hacienda and employer to residents of rural Veracruz. Yañez’s plot of land becomes the plot of a larger tale of greed and deceit when Los Angeles-based Condor Oil Company and its cunning president, Robert G. Kollenz (Reinhold Olszewski), set sights on acquiring it in a bid to control the area’s oil-rich supply chain and further cement the presence of foreign multi-national interests in the region. Futile attempts to convince a proud Yañez of selling his land range from overt bribes to veiled threats, finally bringing Yañez to Los Angeles to meet face-to-face with Kollenz himself. La Rosa Blanca concludes in a powerful montage blending documentary footage and audio of President Lázaro Cardenas and his decree to nationalize the oil industry. The film’s uncompromising vision of capital's ruthless political intervention and resource extraction and led to its being banned until 1972—but its themes continue to resonate in the country today.

In Spanish with English subtitles. With an introduction by Carloyn Fornoff, assistant professor of Latin American studies at Cornell University.

Presented in a restored digital version from the Cineteca Nacional México.


About the speaker:

Carolyn Fornoff is an assistant professor of Latin American studies at Cornell University. Her research is situated at the intersection of the environmental humanities and Mexican and Central American cultural studies. She is currently at work on a monograph, Subjunctive Aesthetics: Mexican Cultural Production in the Era of Climate Change. This project examines how contemporary Mexican writers, filmmakers, and artists respond to the uncertainty posed by ongoing and future climate change by activating subjunctive aesthetic modes such as the counterfactual and the “as if.”


About the series:


Across a feast of genres, including melodrama, comedy, thriller, and documentary, the films of Crude Aesthetics: Oil on Film reveal the entanglement of visual culture with the dark progress of the global oil industry during the past century. The power of oil, its predatory optimism, has left a fascinating, contradictory, and sometimes vanishingly subtle record in the history of cinema. Programmed as part of the Kaplan Humanities Center’s “Energies” Dialogues, Crude Aesthetics brings together screenings, talks, and discussions to explore the ways film media of the past century have shaped how we see — or learn not to see — the fuller impacts of our fatalistic dependence on oil.


Co-presented with support from the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the Climate Crisis and Media Arts Working Group, the Department of English, the Environmental Humanities Working Group, the Comparative Literary Studies program, the Department of Radio, Television, and Film, the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, the Department of French & Italian, the Middle East and North African Studies program, the School of Communications Humanities Council, the Environmental Policy & Culture Program, and the Screen Cultures program at Northwestern University.

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at