Department of Spanish

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sandro Fiorin | Daily Texan Staff

Gabriel Mascaro is an installation artist, script writer and up-and-coming documentary filmmaker. He may not be well known in the United States, but his films and installations are popular in Brazil because they provide glimpses into the nature of life in the diverse country.

Mascaro’s films will be the first installment in the Latin American Filmmakers Series hosted by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Brazil Center of LLILAS. On Monday, the center will show Mascaro’s “Ventos de Agosto” at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre, followed by a Tuesday screening of his documentary, “Doméstica,” at the Harry Ransom Center. Both screenings will end with a Q&A session.

The Austin Film Society will co-sponsor the first film screening. “Ventos de Agosto” follows the story of a young girl, her love interest, a hurricane and research of the sound of wind.

Mascaro is better known for his documentaries such as “Doméstica,” a film that captures the real-life perspectives of seven teenagers who filmed their housemaids. Brazil Center coordinator Carla Silva-Muhammad said the film was acquired as a permanent collection for the Benson Latin American Collection.

“It’s a clash of the way they perceive the domestic workers in their house and then the life of the doméstica really,” Silva-Muhammad said. “I think it is a perfect way of synchronizing both things.”

In addition to the film series, LLILAS will host a number of professors for their Faculty Book Talks. Sônia Roncador, associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, will speak about her book, “Domestic Servants in Literature and Testimony in Brazil, 1889–1999,” for the series. The themes of “Doméstica” will tie into the discussion of her book.

“Gabriel Mascaro originally contacted Professor Sônia Roncador and sent her a link to his film because he knew of her book,” said Jason Borge, an associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. “Now, the culmination of that relationship is that he is actually going to be at the book opening as a discussant.”

Roncador’s book focuses on how servitude was portrayed in Brazilian literature and journalism as a privileged sign of social or racial otherness following the abolishment of slavery in 1888.

“Too much of the time, domestic service is ‘invisible’ and maids themselves disrespected, underpaid and even abused,” Roncador said. “I want readers to develop a greater appreciation of the work they do.”

One of the main goals of the film series is to increase community outreach and expose films that would otherwise remain unseen.

“First of all, I’d just like them to develop an appreciation for Brazilian filmmaking in the 21st century,” Borge said. “Also to exhibit the talent and vitality of a new voice in Brazilian and Latin American film generally.”

In accordance with the series’ mission to showcase up-and-coming filmmakers, Mascaro was chosen to showcase his talent.

“Mascaro has been making film for a few years, but he’s not quite famous yet,” Borge said. “He’s really on the cusp of becoming a major filmmaker in Brazil.”

Seven new department chairs have been appointed in the College of Liberal Arts, UT’s largest college. Four are women, making one-third of the department chairs in the University female.

Kristen Brustad, Dan Dixon, Mary Neuberger, Jill Robbins, Christine Williams, James Pennebaker and Cory Juhl were appointed as the new chairs.

Department of Middle Eastern Studies Chair Kristen Brustad said there is still work to be done to achieve racial and gender equality.

“One-third of the chairs at the University are women,” Brustad said. “I think that it is excellent so many incredible women are being promoted. But we still have a long way to go with other minorities. We have made a lot of progress.”

Brustad said big changes are on the horizon in Middle Eastern studies. The department is consolidating its majors to offer one major in Middle Eastern languages and cultures, instead of several in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Turkish.

She said she feels honored that her colleagues are confident in her abilities.

“The support of the department means a lot to me, and I’m excited to be working with a really dynamic and excellent group of faculty,” Brustad said. “That’s what encouraged me to accept this position.”

Jill Robbins was named chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. All chairs receive a pay raise and two months of summer salary, but Robbins said pay was not a deciding factor in taking the position.

“I was driven by my belief in the mission of this department, in the strength of our faculty, students and staff, and in our future as the top department of Spanish and Portuguese in the country,” she said.

Robbins said she is already taking steps to improve the department by setting aside endowment funds for graduate student research, revising and updating the curriculum and expanding the faculty.

The department chair job requires more multitasking and availability to other members of the department, she said.

“Being chair is a heavy responsibility and takes a great deal of time. In addition to more paperwork, I will be spending more time with my colleagues, administrators, staff and students but in a different role,” said Pennebaker, the new chair of the Department of Psychology.

He said he feels honored to be chosen as the chair and is excited for the challenge.

The Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies chair Mary Neuberger said that this new position will require less teaching and more decision making.

“There is a lot of diplomacy involved between faculty, students and administration,” Neuberger said. “It’s more stressful.”

However, her experiences have taught her a lot about how the University is run.

Neuberger’s department is in danger of being cut, but she said she is optimistic in saying “leadership is necessary in a time of crisis.”

“It’s challenging, but I think in a good way,” she said. “We can step up and shine and make things work.”