University of Illinois at Chicago
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Transformations of a Hungry Cinema: Images and Visibility of Hunger in Brazilian Cinema 1960s-2000s

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posted on 2016-02-16, 00:00 authored by Juan C. Arias Herrera
This dissertation analyzes the visibility of hunger in film—from the Cinema Novo movement of the 1960s to contemporary productions. It follows the discursive transformations of hunger as a key trope in the development of Brazilian cinema, highlighting hunger‘s role as a central motif—not only as the subject of specific films, but also as a place of reflection on the processes of the representation of marginality. I call hunger a trope to stress that it has not simply been the topic of films, nor an ethereal metaphor to rhetorically describe a socially committed cinema. Instead, the term hunger delineates a complex semantic field that includes several discursive strategies and artistic/political practices: it is a concept as well as a metaphor, a material reality, and an aesthetic principle. Although it seems extremely easy to define something that we all, in different ways, have experienced, I argue that hunger is not a transparent reality, but a flexible notion shaped through a series of discourses and representations that respond to specific needs and interests. In contrast to our ingrained belief in the univocal nature of the term hunger, this word actually designates a complex network of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, and even aesthetic realities. I propose that a series of films throughout the history of Brazilian cinema have preserved that ambiguous and irreducible character of hunger instead of having transformed it into a digestible topic. Through the trope of hunger, Brazilian cinema has created a way to think of that that cannot be digested: the reality of hunger, misery and underdevelopment in Brazil.



Higgins, Hannah


Art History

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Miller, Virginia Lee, Lisa Torres, Maria de los Angeles Skvirsky, Salome

Submitted date



  • en

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