Cinema and Media Studies Brazilian Cinema
Lisa Shaw
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0292


Studies of Brazilian cinema came to the fore in the 1960s and 1970s with the emergence of the avant-garde, politicized Cinema Novo, which dialogued with New Wave cinemas in Europe, particularly France, and in other parts of Latin America. Several landmark studies by scholars such as Ismail Xavier and Randal Johnson analyzed the movement in depth and remain key works. Since then, scholarship in both Portuguese and English has broadened its scope to embrace commercially oriented Brazilian films dating back to the early sound era, including popular genres (such as in the work of João Luiz Vieira, Stephanie Dennison, and Lisa Shaw), as well as the historical evolution of Brazilian cinema, and the relationship between the film industry and the state throughout the 20th century and into the new millennium. Most recently, various scholars in Brazil and abroad, notably Lúcia Nagib, have analyzed the nation’s cinematic output, particularly since its “rebirth” in the mid-1990s—the so-called retomada—from a thematic perspective, focusing on the reworking of themes from Cinema Novo—such as poverty and violence—in nonpoliticized, box-office hits, such as Central do Brasil (Central Station, 1998, dir. Walter Salles) and Cidade de Deus (City of God, 2002, dirs. Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund), or within the wider context of Latin American production. Following in the wake of the seminal work of Robert Stam, issues of race and ethnicity continue to provide a focus for studies of Brazilian cinema, as do questions of sexuality and gender. Scholars are increasingly turning their attentions to questions of the national and the transnational in post-retomada films, and are now looking at Brazilian film history from new perspectives, such as the role and significance of film stars and their marketing, as well as cinema’s relationship with other media and arts.


A range of edited volumes of essays provide an overview of filmmaking in Brazil, some within the wider context of Latin American cinema. Johnson and Stam 1995 (first published 1982) continues to be an invaluable resource for students and scholars, bringing together the writings of filmmakers such as Glauber Rocha, Carlos Diegues, Rui Guerra, and Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, with analytical studies by the likes of João Luiz Vieira and Johnson and Stam themselves. Andermann and Bravo 2013 and Dennison 2013 focus on contemporary production, whereas D’Lugo, et al. 2018 covers an impressively broad chronology. Pinazza and Bayman 2013 is a useful introduction for students to a range of aspects of Brazilian cinema; it includes sections on the representation of Afro-Brazilian and indigenous identities, as well as documentary film. Elena and Díaz López 2003 focuses on key films and—like King, et al. 1993; Shaw and Dennison 2005; and Stock 1997—situates aspects of Brazilian cinema within the wider Latin American context.

  • Andermann, Jens, and Alvaro Fernandez Bravo, eds. New Argentine and Brazilian Cinema: Reality Effects. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    This collection of essays includes informative studies about contemporary Brazilian cinema and related audiovisual forms, including documentary films, by leading scholars such as Robert Stam, Ivana Bentes, and Joanna Page.

  • Dennison, Stephanie, ed. Contemporary Hispanic Cinema: Interrogating the Transnational in Spanish and Latin American Film. Woodbridge, UK: Tamesis, 2013.

    This edited volume includes references to contemporary filmmaking practices in Brazil from a transnational perspective, and a chapter on Brazilian co-productions and finance mechanisms.

  • D’Lugo, Marvin, Ana M. López, and Laura Podalsky, eds. The Routledge Companion to Latin American Cinema. London and New York: Routledge, 2018.

    A multi-authored survey of Latin American cinema, with important sections relating to Brazil, and divided into four parts: (1) Historiographies, (2) Interrogating Critical Paradigms, (3) Business Practices, and (4) Intermedialities. Of particular interest to students and scholars of Brazilian cinema are the essays on Cinema Novo, genre films, media activism, and state agencies. A very useful resource, particularly for comparative work.

  • Elena, Alberto, and Marina Díaz López, eds. The Cinema of Latin America. London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2003.

    This edited collection contains short chapters on the critically acclaimed Brazilian films Limite (Limit, 1931, dir. Mário Peixote) and O Cangaceiro (The Bandit, 1953, dir. Lima Barreto); on two Cinema Novo classics: Rio, 40 graus (Rio, 40 Degrees, 1955, dir. Nelson Pereira dos Santos) and Deus e o diabo na terra do sol (Black God, White Devil, 1964, dir. Glauber Rocha); on Carlos Diegues’s Bye Bye Brazil (1979); and on the Portuguese-Brazilian co-production Terra estrangeira (Foreign Land, 1995, dirs. Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas). A useful introduction for undergraduate students.

  • Johnson, Randal, and Robert Stam, eds. Brazilian Cinema. Expanded ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

    This extensive volume of essays continues to provide the most comprehensive overview of Brazilian film history, with a focus on the post-1960 period up to the mid-1990s. It brings together seminal texts, particularly those of the filmmakers of the Cinema Novo movement, alongside landmark analytical essays of their films by scholars such as Ismail Xavier, Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes, and Jean-Claude Bernardet. It includes an important essay on women filmmakers by Elice Munerato and Maria Helena Darcy de Oliveira.

  • King, John, Ana M. López, and Manuel Alvarado, eds. Mediating Two Worlds: Cinematic Encounters in the Americas. London: BFI, 1993.

    This edited volume includes an important essay on Cinema Novo and its aftermath by the leading film theorist Ismail Xavier, and a chapter by Robert Stam on race and multiculturalism in Brazilian cinema.

  • Pinazza, Natália, and Louis Bayman, eds. Directory of World Cinema: Brazil. Bristol, UK, and Chicago: Intellect, 2013.

    A collection of short pieces by leading scholars, including Brazilian academics such as Ivana Bentes, Sheila Schvarzman, and Consuelo Lins, whose work is not often accessible in English translation. It is an engaging, informative, and up-to-date resource, particularly for undergraduate students. It includes brief introductions to influential filmmakers like Glauber Rocha and Walter Salles, iconic stars like Carmen Miranda, and a range of important films from the silent and early sound eras, as well as Cinema Novo works.

  • Shaw, Lisa, and Stephanie Dennison, eds. Latin American Cinema: Essays on Modernity, Gender, and National Identity. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005.

    This volume contains chapters by the leading scholars Randal Johnson, Ismail Xavier, and Stephanie Dennison on Brazilian cinema. Johnson explores the importance of marketing and distribution strategies to the rebirth (retomada) of Brazilian cinema from the mid-1990s, whereas Xavier and Dennison discuss the film adaptations of the works of the playwright Nelson Rodrigues.

  • Stock, Ann Marie, ed. Framing Latin American Cinema: Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

    This anthology contains a useful introduction by the editor on critical praxis and Latin American cinema as a whole, and two chapters dealing specifically with Brazilian cinema. One, by the esteemed scholar José Carlos Avellar, explores national film production in the 1980s, the other is on Hector Babenco’s Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), with specific reference to homosexuality and the discourse of the maternal.

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