Vargas on Film: From the Newsreel to the chanchada

Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


The screen image of Vargas and the state as depicted in both the official newsreels and the independently produced chanchadas, or popular musical comedies, that came to dominate Brazilian film production between 1930 and 1960 are examined in this chapter. The newsreels logically preached a pro-Vargas rhetoric of national integration, patriotism, and work ethic, as well as seeking to foster the cult of o pai dos pobres, the father of the poor, as the president came to be known. They were exhibited before both imported and domestically produced feature-length films, the latter most frequently examples of the irreverent, carnivalesque chanchada genre. The chanchadas hinged on ironic inversions of societal norms and hierarchies, and often blatantly made fun of the elite and its political representatives. Although both the newsreels and the chanchadas of the 1930–60 period have been studied independently,1 this chapter adopts a fresh, revisionist approach to both by analyzing them within the context of a shared viewing experience. I argue that the juxtaposition of newsreels and these musical comedies would have undermined the self-congratulatory propaganda of the former, and underscored the countercultural messages and mocking tone of the latter.


Popular Musical Comedy Silent Film Cinema Theater Film Version Sound Film 
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© Jens R. Hentschke 2006

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