Citizenship in the Neo-liberal City: Sāo Paulo in two Films by Walter Salles and Daniella Thomas
Abstract: In addition to being a vibrant financial and cultural center in Brazil’s Southeast region, São Paulo is Latin America’s biggest metropolis and an alpha global city. Despite its many museums and transportation infrastructure, 11% of the paulistana population lives in favelas [shantytowns]. In this chapter, I examine the way in which this Brazilian megalopolis has been represented in two films by Walter Salles and Daniella Thomas, Terra estrangeira (1995) and Linha de passe (2008), which are set in the period that led to the instauration of neo-liberalism as well as in the 2000s. In these films, São Paulo appears as an urban center in which anonymity and stark class differences prevail, a portrayal that conspires against male characters’ civil and political rights and exacerbates the tensions brought about by liberalism with its emphasis on individualism. In addition, both films present allegorical representations of the family in neoliberal times, characterized by the absent father. I thus argue that in these two films, Salles and Thomas depict the city of São Paulo as an environment that weakens national belonging and effective citizenship, particularly through the lack of paternal involvement; however, in Linha de passe, the city also allows new forms of belonging, such as soccer and religion, in which male mentors help orient two of the young male characters. By acting as surrogate fathers, these mentors save them from criminality and invisibility pushing them to rekindle some communal ties.