The Retomada and beyond: female narrative agency in contemporary Brazilian cinema (1997-2006)
Since the inception of film production in Brazil, women have been involved in all capacities including directing, acting and a variety of other roles behind the camera. During the 1990s and into the new millennium (a period sometimes termed the Retomada or re-birth of Brazilian cinema), there has been a large increase in films which feature notable female characters in prominent narrative positions and in the number of women directors successfully making their feature-length debut. Despite this, critical attention to such characters and directors, beyond a merely descriptive or numerical focus, is lacking and the established class-oriented social tradition remains the dominant language in criticism. With a view to addressing this relative critical neglect, as well as inadequacies in still embryonic studies, this study suggests new critical approaches relevant to the specificity of women’s experience in Brazil and analyses the representation of female characters in five representative films of the Retomada period. The study further aligns its predominant focus on female characters with the socio-political critical orientation that has established certain films as important cultural markers in Brazil, for example Deus e o Diabo na terra do sol /Black God, White Devil and Cidade de Deus/City of God. For this purpose, it again departs from the traditional emphasis on class and brings, rather, the specificity of the women’s movement in Brazil to bear. In order to critically assess how these specific contextual developments are reflected in the films analysed, it further distances itself from mainstream gender criticism in film and advances the use of the construct of agency, bridging Paul Smith’s notion of subject dis-cerning and Anthony Giddens’ theory of structuration. It also opens perspectives for future work by briefly engaging with the subject of female directors.
AuthorsShaw, Miranda Kate
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