Rex Nielson: Brazilian Migrants in the Cinema

By February 16, 2019News

Every week, International Cinema hosts movies. This past week, Rex Nielson introduced Araby, and told us of the common Brazilian movie trope “the road.”

Prof. Rex Nielson (Spanish and Portuguese) lecturing on the film “Araby” January 2019 at IC.

PROVO, Utah (January 30, 2019) — International Cinema, as one of the few programs of it’s kind around the world, screens intriguing international film throughout the semester. This past Wednesday, January 30, International Cinema showed Araby, directed by João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa. Before the movie started, Rex Nielson gave a short lecture titled “Searching with Sound and Solace in Arábia: Brazilian Migrants in Contemporary Cinema” where he discussed the common trope within Brazilian cinema: “the road”. Nielson said that “The journey of the road often symbolically represents a transition.” He went on to say that the transition can be pretty much anything: whether a child transitioning into an adult, a transition from being single to finding “the one,” or really any transition that is “common in the course of human life”. Apparently, this trope is in almost every Brazilian movie, and reoccurs frequently enough to make it a recognizable theme in movies.

Nielson told the audience that “the genre may represent a search for national identity.” He then gave the statistic that up until the 1920’s, 75% of the population of Brazil (then about 30 million) did not live within a hundred miles of the coast. Then, over the course of the rest of the twentieth century, swaths of people migrated from the interior rural regions to the coastal urban regions with a dream to find work in the cities and better their station in life. At first, it was the women who moved to the cities to find work as domestic servants, then as the ratio of men to women decreased drastically, men have since began to leave the rural areas as well, typically with a dream and a desire to search for work. Nielson goes on to say that the main character of Araby is a member of this male population that traveling to the coastal regions to find work and a better life.

The narrative of Araby “centers on themes related to [the main character’s] search for meaning in life,” Nielson says. Whether that meaning is the role of fate, a search for God, or a search for love, “the journey of the road movie is often one of self-discovery: a search for lost origins.” If you find yourself hankering for a movie of self-discovery that explores the meaning of life, or if you’re just interested in watching a movie that explores a culture you are unfamiliar with, go down to International Cinema and watch a movie, you never know what things you can inexplicably discover about yourself when you’re immersed in a movie of another culture.

—Beverly Unrau (Editing and Publishing ’21)

Find the original article published on the BYU College of Humanities website here.