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Allegories of Underdevelopment

Aesthetics and Politics in Modern Brazilian Cinema

1997
Author:

Ismail xavier

Allegories of Underdevelopment

Examines the centrality of Cinema Novo to filmmaking in Brazil.

Focusing on a variety of filmmaker's use of narrative allegories for the “conservative modernization” Brazil and other nations underwent in the 1960s and 1970s, Ismail Xavier examines the way Cinema Novo transformed Brazil's cultural memory. Includes discussions of Black God, White Devil, Land in Anguish, Red Light Bandit, Macunaíma, Antônio das Mortes, The Angel Is Born, and Killed the Family and Went to the Movies.

Whereas most studies of Latin American national cinemas or the New Latin American cinema have been excruciatingly diachronical (either emphasizing the historical development of movements and slighting close analysis) or ahistorical (stringing close analysis together with little regard for historical determinants), in Allegories of Underdevelopment, the close readings are intricately woven into Xavier’s historical hypothesis. The historical context is present, but dynamically linked to the close readings.

Ana Lopez, Tulane University

“A camera in the hand and ideas in the head” was the primary axiom of the young originators of Brazil’s Cinema Novo. This movement of the 1960s and early 1970s overcame technical constraints and produced films on minimal budgets. In Allegories of Underdevelopment, Ismail Xavier examines a number of these films, arguing that they served to represent a nation undergoing a political and social transformation into modernity.

Its best-known voice, filmmaker Glauber Rocha claimed that Cinema Novo was driven by an “aesthetics of hunger.” This scarcity of means demanded new cinematic approaches that eventually gave rise to a legitimate and unique Third World cinema. Xavier stands in the vanguard of scholars presenting and interpreting these revolutionary films—from the masterworks of Rocha to the groundbreaking experiments of Julio Bressane, Rogério Sganzerla, Andrea Tonacci and Arthur Omar—to an English-speaking audience.

Focusing on each filmmaker’s use of narrative allegories for the “conservative modernization” Brazil and other nations underwent in the 1960s and 1970s, Xavier asks questions relating to the connection between film and history. He examines the way Cinema Novo transformed Brazil’s cultural memory and charts the controversial roles that Marginal Cinema and Tropicalism played in this process. Among the films he discusses are Black God, White Devil, Land in Anguish, Red Light Bandit, Macunaíma, Antônio das Mortes, The Angel Is Born, and Killed the Family and Went to the Movies.

A compelling chronicle of the history of modern Brazilian cinema, Allegories of Underdevelopment brings to light the work of many filmmakers who are virtually unknown in the English-speaking world.


Allegories of Underdevelopment

Ismail Xavier received his Ph.D. in film studies from New York University. He currently teaches at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Allegories of Underdevelopment

Whereas most studies of Latin American national cinemas or the New Latin American cinema have been excruciatingly diachronical (either emphasizing the historical development of movements and slighting close analysis) or ahistorical (stringing close analysis together with little regard for historical determinants), in Allegories of Underdevelopment, the close readings are intricately woven into Xavier’s historical hypothesis. The historical context is present, but dynamically linked to the close readings.

Ana Lopez, Tulane University

Clearly, Ismail Xavier is one of the leading authorities in this area.

Gina Marchetti, University of Maryland