Human Rights Abuses and State Violence in Prison Films by Hector Babenco
This chapter engages with Argentine-Brazilian late director Hector Babenco’s trilogy-like prison films: Pixote: a lei do mais fraco/Pixote (1980), O beijo da mulher aranha/Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) and Carandiru (2003). It argues that these films successfully illustrate the engagement of Babenco’s work with issues concerning human rights violations in Brazilian prisons over a period of thirty years, which ended in the current century. By engaging with these three films, this chapter aims to demonstrate that despite depicting different contexts of imprisonment in two different countries (Brazil and an imaginary Latin American nation), Babenco’s work exposes human rights abuse and shows that the respective countries’ correctional systems apply more retrograde means of power assertion and control of inmates than the more sophisticated approach of the panopticon discussed by Foucault.
KeywordsHector Babenco Prison films State violence Panopticon Foucault
- Bergan, Ronald. 2016. “Héctor Babenco Obituary.” The Guardian, July 18. Accessed June 12, 2017. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jul/18/hector-babenco-obituary.
- Carozza, Paolo G. 2003. “From Conquest to Constitutions: Retrieving a Latin American Tradition of the Idea of Human Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly 25: 281–313.Google Scholar
- Darke, Sacha. 2013. “Inmate Governance in Brazilian Prisons.” Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 52 (3): 272–284.Google Scholar
- Darke, Sacha. 2017. “Who Is Really in Control of Brazilian Prisons?” The Independent, January 30. Accessed February 12, 2018. Available at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/who-is-really-in-control-of-brazil-s-prisons-a7549016.html.
- Da Silva, Antônio Márcio. 2010. “Brazilian Women in Prison Film: A Gendered Reading.” Diss. University of Leeds.Google Scholar
- De Moraes, Ana Luisa Zago. 2013. “O resgate da memória do massacre do Carandiru: após vinte anos, o que dizer das prisões brasileiras?” R. Defensoria Públ. União, Brasília, DF 6: 29–51.Google Scholar
- de Leon Villalba, Francisco Javier. 2018. “Imprisonment and Human Rights in Latin America: An Introduction.” The Prison Journal 98 (1): 17–39.Google Scholar
- Dias, Camila, and Sacha Darke. 2016. “From Dispersed to Monopolized Violence: Expansion and Consolidation of the Primeiro Comando da Capital’s Hegemony in São Paulo’s Prisons.” Crime, Law and Social Change 65 (3): 213–225.Google Scholar
- Elden, Stuart. 2017. Foucault: The Birth of Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Foster, David William. 1999. Gender and Society in Contemporary Brazilian Cinema. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
- Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of Prison. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- González, Yanilda María. 2017. “‘What Citizens Can See of the State’: Police and the Construction of Democratic Citizenship in Latin America.” Theoretical Criminology 21 (4): 494–511.Google Scholar
- Madeiro, Carlos. 2017. “Dossiê: Brasil tem um defensor de direitos humanos assassinado a cada 5 dias.” Uol Notícias, July 4. Accessed March 15, 2018. Available at https://noticias.uol.com.br/cotidiano/ultimas-noticias/2017/07/04/dossie-brasil-tem-um-defensor-de-direitos-humanos-assassinado-a-cada-5-dias.htm.
- Marcilio, Maria Luiza. 2017. “Chacina e colapso nas prisões brasileiras.” Jornal da USP, January 20. Accessed February 12, 2018. Available at http://jornal.usp.br/artigos/chacina-e-colapso-nas-prisoes-brasileiras/.
- Mason, Paul. 2006. “Relocating Hollywood’s Prison Film discourse.” In Captured by the Media: Prison Discourse in Popular Culture, edited by Paul Mason, 191–209. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Muggah, Robert, and Ilona Szabó de Carvalho. 2017. “Brazil’s Deadly Prison System.” The New York Times, January 4. Accessed November 10, 2017. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/04/opinion/brazilsdeadly-prison-system.html.
- Ramos, Beatriz Drague, and José Antônio Lima. 2017. “No Brasil 64% dos presos são negros.” Carta Capital, December 8. Accessed January 20, 2018. Available at https://www.cartacapital.com.br/sociedade/no-brasil-64-dos-presos-sao-negros.
- Redfield, Peter. 2005. “Foucault in the Tropics: Displacing the Panopticon.” In Anthropologies of Modernity: Foucault, Governmentality, and Life Politics, edited by Jonathan Xavier Inda, 50–79. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Rogers, Katie. 2016. “Hector Babenco, Director of ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman,’ Dies at 70.” The New York Times, July 14. Accessed June 15, 2017. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/15/movies/hector-babenco-director-of-kiss-of-the-spider-woman-dies-at-70.html.
- Ross, Jeffrey Ian, and Sacha Darke. 2018. “Interpreting the Development and Growth of Convict Criminology in Latin America.” Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (in press).Google Scholar
- Stam, Robert. 2004. Tropical Multiculturalism: History of Race in Brazilian Cinema and Culture. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Stam, Robert, João Luis Vieira, and Ismail Xavier. 1995. “The Shape of Brazilian Cinema in the Postmodern Age.” In Brazilian Cinema, expanded edition, edited by Randal Johnson and Robert Stam, 389–472. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Subero, Gustavo. 2014. Queer Masculinities in Latin American Cinema: Male Bodies and Narrative Representations. London and New York: I.B.Tauris.Google Scholar
- The New York Times. 1981. “I Tried to Show How You Destroy the Innocence of a Child.” The New York Times, September 6. Accessed June 10, 2017. Digital copy available at https://www.nytimes.com/1981/09/06/movies/i-tried-to-show-how-you-destroy-the-innocence-of-a-child.html.
- Turollo Jr., Reinaldo. 2015. “87% querem redução da maioridade penal; número é o maior já registrado.” Folha de São Paulo, April 15. Accessed June 10, 2017. Available at http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2015/04/1616762-87-querem-reducao-da-maioridade-penal-numero-e-o-maior-ja-registrado.shtml.
- Williams, Linda. 2001. “Melodrama in Black and White: Uncle Tom and The Green Mile.” Film Quarterly 55 (2): 14–21.Google Scholar
- Wood, David. 2003. “Editorial. Foucault and Panopticism Revisited.” Surveillance & Society 1 (3): 234–239.Google Scholar
- Xavier, Ismail. 2003. “Brazilian Cinema in the 1990s: The Unexpected Encounter and the Resentful Character.” In The New Brazilian Cinema, edited by Lúcia Nagib, 40–63. London and New York: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
- Zimmermann, Augusto. 2008. “How Brazilian Judges Undermine the Rule of Law: A Critical Appraisal.” International Trade and Business Law Review XI: 179–217.Google Scholar