Body/Memory/Identity: Contemporary Argentine and Brazilian's Women Cinema

Charlotte Gleghorn

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the different ways in which Argentine and Brazilian women directors conceptualize the body in contemporary film (1989-2007). The study argues that, as an intensely corporeal medium, cinema is the privileged site for the playing out of anxieties regarding the representation of the body, illuminating the processes of identity formation and memory politics in light of the recent histories of authoritarianism and neoliberalism in both Argentina and Brazil. Specific understandings of the body arise from the legacy of the Dirty War in Argentina (1976-1983), the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985), torture, and social marginalization, all of which have continually crafted women’s cinematic responses.

The Introduction outlines a dual methodology to interpret the body both as a tool in film criticism and as a marker of socio-political context. This is followed by the core of the thesis which comprises four chapters, each offering an in-depth analysis of an Argentine and Brazilian film in comparative perspective. Divided into two parts, the first part of the thesis deals specifically with four films which engage with the politics of self-representation. Chapter I discusses how the Brazilian film Um Passaporte Húngaro (Sandra Kogut, 2001) and the Argentine film Los rubios (Albertina Carri, 2003) both use the family as their departure point to explore notions of identity and memory, particularly questioning the directors’ positioning towards their ancestors. Chapter II considers the tortured and distressed figure as presented in Que Bom Te Ver Viva (Lúcia Murat, 1989) and La fe del volcán (Ana Poliak, 2001), both partially autobiographical films which reference the impact of the recent dictatorships on the representation of the body. The second part of the thesis examines four fiction films which deal with the representation of marginal figures. Chapter III explores the intersection of the body with the institutions of mental health and medicine by analysing the representation of madness and intersexuality, respectively, in Bicho de Sete Cabeças (Laís Bodanzky, 2001) and XXY (Lucía Puenzo, 2007). Finally, Chapter IV investigates the relationship between the body and urban space as portrayed in Um Céu de Estrelas (Tata Amaral, 1996) and Vagón fumador (Verónica Chen, 2001).

This thesis illustrates the variety of representational strategies that women directors draw on in order to explore notions of identity and memory. Diverse in approach, the films selected propose the body as a site of convergence of power relations and cultural encodings, and provide potent comments on the complex interrelationships between corporeality, identity, and societal forces. By offering a polyphonic reading of the body, the study enables a fuller understanding of women’s cinema at the interface of authorship, representation and politics.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Liverpool
  • Taylor, Dr Claire, Supervisor, External person
  • Shaw, Dr Lisa, Supervisor, External person
Award date8 Dec 2009
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009

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