The Labor of Images: Work and its Discontents in Brazilian Cinema, 1975-Present


ACLS Fellowship Program


Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies


This project analyzes the mutually conditioning relationship between cinema and work in Brazil as a lens into the shifting status, legitimacy, and value of labor on a global scale. Engaging debates in world cinema, labor studies, and cultural history, it charts two tendencies that emerged in the late 1970s and continue to inflect our current moment. In the first, a cycle of documentaries and fiction films sprung up to capture a wave of industrial strikes in São Paulo from 1978-1982, the largest in Latin American history. Yet this same moment also saw the emergence of a cinema of anti-work: an alternative current that questioned the political and moral value ascribed to labor. In tracing the legacy of both tendencies for contemporary film, “The Labor of Images” analyzes how, from the off-screen space of outsourced labor, Brazilian film troubles teleological narratives about the demise of both work and cinema in the present.