Child Death in Buenos Aires viceversa, La vendedora de rosas and La mujer sin cabeza

  • Deborah Martin
Part of the Global Cinema book series (GLOBALCINE)


In Latin American cinema, the depiction of street children and slum children has a long history stretching back to Luis Buñuel’s Los olvidados. This chapter examines the representation of street children and severely marginalised children and the common tendency for these representations to end with the death of their child protagonists, in films from the 1990s and 2000s. Whilst in the ‘first’ world child death is rare as a filmic theme (except perhaps in horror), in Latin American cinema, it remains a common way of registering social protest. Indeed, the history of Latin American political filmmaking is littered with the bodies of dead, dying and suffering children. This chapter considers two examples of the proliferation of films about street children from the 1990s, Buenos Aires viceversa (Agresti, 1996), La vendedora de rosas (Gaviria, 1998) each of which ends with the death of its child protagonist, and pays particular attention to the ways in which the deaths of their child protagonists fit within tropes established not only in Buñuel’s classic, but also in the Spanish cine religioso tradition, and especially in film versions of José Sánchez Silva’s novel Marcelino, pan y vino. As well as considering these representations in terms of their power as social and political protest, the chapter draws on psychoanalyst Serge Leclaire’s contention that imagining child death responds to other adult desires, such as the necessary death of the infans, and proposes ways in which the representation of child death in these films also functions to bring about consolidation (of subjectivity or community) or reconciliation. The chapter argues that the deaths depicted in Buenos Aires viceversa are intensely visual and contrasts these with La mujer sin cabeza (Martel, 2008), arguing that whilst the narrative use of child death in this later film shares some motivations with the film’s 1990s counterparts, La mujer sin cabeza’s aesthetic strategies refuse the earlier films’ objectification and sentimentalisation of the child who dies, instead figuring him as a disruptive excess to, and thus as uncontainable by, systems of visual representation.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American StudiesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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