Cannibalizing the Colony

Cannibalizing the Colony: Cinematic Adaptations of Colonial Literature in Mexico and Brazil

Richard A. Gordon
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    Cannibalizing the Colony
    Book Description:

    The years 1992 and 2000 marked the 500-year anniversary of the arrival of the spa and the Portuguese in America and prompted an explosion of rewritings and cinematic renditions of texts and figures from colonial Latin America. Cannibalizing the Colony analyzes a crucial way that Latin American historical films have grappled with the legacy of colonialism. It studies how and why filmmakers in Brazil and Mexico—the countries that have produced most films about the colonial period in Latin America—appropriate and transform colonial narratives of European and indigenous contact into commentaries on national identity. The book looks at how filmmakers attempt to reconfigure history and culture and incorporate it into present-day understandings of the nation. The book additionally considers the motivations and implications for these filmic dialogues with the past and how the directors attempt to control the way that spectators understand the complex and contentious roots of identity in Mexico and Brazil.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-112-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The 1992 and 2000 quincentenaries of the arrival of the Spanish and the Portuguese in America prompted an explosion of rewritings and cinematic renditions of texts and figures from colonial Latin America. However, such critical and aesthetic negotiations with the colonial past are not simply a recent phenomenon in Latin America.¹ They are an enduring concern.Cannibalizing the Colonyanalyzes a crucial way that Latin American historical films, since the beginning of sound cinema, have grappled with the legacy of colonialism. Mexico and Brazil are the Latin American nations that have produced the greatest number by far of what I...

  5. Chapter One Re-creating Caminha: The Earnest Adaptation of Brazil’s Letter of Discovery in Descobrimento do Brazil (1937)
    (pp. 19-46)

    Coinciding with the quincentenary of the Portuguese arrival in America in 1500, three Brazilian directors bookended the turn of the millennium with reconsiderations of the nation’s colonial past. Luiz Alberto Pereira’sHans Staden(1999), Lúcia Murat’sBrava Gente Brasileira(2000), and Guel Arraes’sCaramuru: A Invenção do Brasil(2001) return to a long-standing tendency among Brazilian filmmakers to re-evaluate national origins and present-day conceptions of identity by probing the symbolic potential of the colonial period.¹ Such retrospective efforts to spark examinations of Brazilianness were monumentally inaugurated in sound cinema in 1937 by one of the nation’s most renowned directors, Humberto...

  6. Chapter Two Exoticizing the Nation in Cabeza de Vaca (1991) and Como era gostoso o meu francês (1971)
    (pp. 47-78)

    In one of the final scenes ofCabeza de Vaca(1991), Nicolás Echevarría’s liberally conceived cinematic adaptation of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s sixteenth-centuryNaufragios(1542 and 1555),¹ the four protagonists of the film—Cabeza de Vaca, Castillo, Dorantes, and his African slave Estevanico—have just arrived at an outpost on the Western coast of New Spain after eight years of migration and captivity, and gather around a campfire with a band of raucous Spanish soldiers who solicit tales of the travelers’ adventures.² The film had begun with the group’s arrival earlier that day and continues with a flashback occupying...

  7. Chapter Three Reimagining Guadalupe in Nuevo mundo (1976) and La otra conquista (1998)
    (pp. 79-108)

    Nicolás Echevarría’s well-knownCabeza de Vacais not alone among recent Mexican films in reformulating national identity through a return to the colonial period. Two other Mexican films that bracket the decade of the 1990s have carved out a corner of this cinematic zeitgeist. Juan Mora Catlett’sRetorno a Aztlán(1990) and Salvador Carrasco’sLa otra conquista(1998) address the suppression of indigenous memory and recuperate pre-Columbian and early colonial indigenous history. If Echevarría’s commentary capitalizes on “the other side of the conquest” in order to combat the residue of colonialism in Mexican society,La otra conquistaconfronts, consumes, and...

  8. Chapter Four Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and the Retooling of a National Icon in Ave María (1999)
    (pp. 109-140)

    Eduardo Rossoff’s filmAve Maríawas released in May of 2000, just two months before the PRI,¹ after seventy years of uninterrupted rule, lost the presidential election to the Alianza por el Cambio (PAN-PVEM)² candidate, Vicente Fox. The film, which was partly financed by the former imperial power thatAve Maríacondemns,³ proposes a hybrid hero who clearly occupies iconic territory within the sphere of Mexicanness. Perhaps ironically, the creator of the script was a woman from the United States, Camille Thomasson.⁴ Like so many other Mexican and Brazilian films of the twentieth century, Rossoff’s film plainly and persuasively amplifies...

  9. Chapter Five Inverted Captivities and Imagined Adaptations in Brave Gente Brasileira (2000) and Caramuru: A Invenção do Brasil (2001)
    (pp. 141-176)

    Brava Gente Brasileira(2000), directed by Lúcia Murat, weaves a fictional story that stems from a historical event: an indigenous rebellion that takes place in 1778 in the Brazilian region of Mato Grosso do Sul. The “Notas de produção” [“Production Notes”] emphasize the film’s historical basis, thus authorizing, like Humberto Mauro’s 1937Descobrimento do Brasil, the message of the movie: “Este filme se propõe a trabalhar em cima de um fato verídico ocorrido em Mato Grosso do Sul, na região do Pantanal, em 1778” (n. pag.) [104]. The “Making of …” segment of the DVD’s extras complements this externally applied...

  10. Epilogue The Unwieldy Dynamics of Anthropophagous Adaptations
    (pp. 177-180)

    The final scene of Eduardo Rossoff’sAve Maríauncovers a risk inherent in anthropophagous adaptations. This case, like several others covered in this book, involves the cinematic reconstruction of a national icon. The film’s protagonist, María Inez (a mestiza transmutation of Sor Juana), has rallied the population against the injustices perpetrated by the colonial apparatus and, for her actions, has been burned at the stake. In the aftermath of her martyrdom, the film depicts a leader of the Catholic Church cynically planning to commission a painting of María as the embodiment of the Mexican people. The priest intends to propagate...

  11. Appendix English Translations
    (pp. 181-196)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 197-234)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 235-252)
  14. Index
    (pp. 253-263)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-265)