Transformations of a Hungry Cinema: Images and Visibility of Hunger in Brazilian Cinema 1960s-2000s
Arias Herrera, Juan C.
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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.
Cinema and Politics