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Cinema, Slavery, and Brazilian Nationalism

Cinema, Slavery, and Brazilian Nationalism

Richard A. Gordon
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    Cinema, Slavery, and Brazilian Nationalism
    Book Description:

    A unique contribution to film studies, Richard Gordon's Cinema, Slavery, and Brazilian Nationalism is the first full-length book on Brazilian films about slavery. By studying Brazilian films released between 1976 and 2005, Gordon examines how the films both define the national community and influence viewer understandings of Brazilianness. Though the films he examines span decades, they all communicate their revised version of Brazilian national identity through a cinematic strategy with a dual aim: to upset ingrained ways of thinking about Brazil and to persuade those who watch the films to accept a new way of understanding their national community. By examining patterns in this heterogeneous group of films, Gordon proposes a new way of delineating how these films attempt to communicate with and change the minds of audience members. Gordon outlines five key aspects that each film incorporates, which describe their shared formula for and role in constructing social identity. These elements include the ways in which the films attempt to create links between the past and the viewers' present and their methods of encouraging viewers to identify with their protagonists, who are often cast as a prototype for the nation. By aligning themselves with this figure, viewers arrive at a definition of their national identity that, while Afrocentric, also promotes racial and ethnic inclusiveness. Gordon's innovative analysis transcends the context of his work, and his conclusions can be applied to questions of national identity and film across cultures.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-76098-1
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    This book grew out of a fascination with how cinema represents national communities and the impact of those depictions on audiences.¹ I use the context of Brazilian films about slavery to investigate some of the ways in which films invite viewers to think differently about such communities and the potential effectiveness of those tactics, especially when viewers form part of the social group that the films cinematically sketch.

    Typically, such collective cinematic portraits tend to clothe themselves in plausibility. After all, if viewers fail to recognize their own social group in a film, then the viewing experience will fail to...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Influencing Understandings of Brazilianness in O Aleijadinho: Paixão, glória e suplício (2000)
    (pp. 12-64)

    Aleijadinho: paixão, glória e suplício, directed by Geraldo Santos Pereira, takes place in eighteenth-century Minas Gerais.¹ The film, initially conceived in the 1950s,² crafts a version of the life of Antônio Francisco Lisboa, known as Aleijadinho, the son of a Portuguese man and an enslaved Afrodescendant woman. Aleijadinho was a sculptor who struggled with severe physical hardship during his artistic career. This character has been shaped and reshaped over the past two centuries into a national hero, one characterized as the pride-inspiring epitome of homegrown baroque art.³

    The film begins in 1858 with a framing narrative: historian Rodrigo José Ferreira...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Modeling National Identity on Religious Identity in Cafundó (2005)
    (pp. 65-109)

    Inspired by the life of joão de camargo and a book about him, as one of the opening credits inCafundódeclares, this film brackets with a present-day framing device a story that begins shortly after Camargo gains his freedom as a young adult through the 1888 abolition of slavery.¹ The narrative concludes when he is an old man, the charismatic founder and leader of an Afro-European syncretic church with a thriving and racially and economically diverse congregation. The protagonist would certainly resonate with Brazilian audiences even if they were not familiar with Camargo himself due to his similarity to...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Multiple, Provisional, National Identity Models in Quilombo (1984)
    (pp. 110-157)

    In a behind-the-scenes documentary by renata Almeida Magalhães,Quilombowriter and director Carlos Diegues reveals a goal that we can infer from all of the films studied in this book: to redefine Brazilian national identity. The epigraph above¹ suggests that the object ofQuilombo, which recounts the efforts of a maroon community in the Northeast of Brazil to retain autonomy from European colonial powers during the second half of the seventeenth century,² is not so much to contemplate history as to use a story to help viewers experience “a specific and original way of seeing the world.” The film makes...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Alternative Understandings of the National Community in Chico Rei (1985)
    (pp. 158-186)

    While the 1984 filmquilombosuggests through Ganga Zumba and Zumbi distinct positions on how their protonational community of Palmares should approach one key issue—whether or not to compromise with a dominant, oppressive system—the splintering that their disagreement causes is short-lived. Ultimately,Quilomboproposes a unified understanding of its possible Brazil, even if the attributes that it favors are varied and sometimes contrasting.Chico Rei, on the other hand, maintains two options for how to reconceive of the national group, and these distinct solutions do not converge. The character Chico Rei promotes the solution for which the film...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Flirting with Viewers and Precariously Rethinking Brazilianness in Xica da Silva (1976)
    (pp. 187-216)

    Iconclude the book with the earliest film,xica da Silva(1976). Of the five films that I have examined, Carlos Diegues’s is the most tentative, muddied, and even at times contradictory with respect to the Africanizing of Brazilianness and inviting audience members to embrace a revised understanding of the national community. Some of what we might call hedging probably owes partially to the film’s context of production during the military dictatorship. Nevertheless, it is likely that this box-office hit, seen by more than three million people (Ancine), inaugurated the trend in contemporary Brazilian cinema we have seen inChico...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 217-250)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 251-258)
  12. Index
    (pp. 259-272)