(Dis)Affection and Recognition in Millennial Urban Melodrama: Transnational Perspectives by Women Filmmakers


  • Catherine L. Benamou University of California-Irvine




This essay explores new directions taken by urban social melodrama directed by women in Brazil, Mexico, Iran, and Switzerland at the turn of the 21st century, a period marked by the sudden state divestment of film agencies and distribution (in Brazil and Mexico), coupled with economic instability, political scandals, and attempts at reform. Each of these countries continues to host a robust art cinema in which serious questions are posed regarding the future of the nation-state, gender relations, and the fate of those left behind, or impaired by a neoliberal development model. Rather than cast these questions in epic proportions, or bold social allegories writ large, several cineastes – Tata Amaral, Maricarmen de Lara, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, and Stina Werenfels – have chosen to focus instead on disaffection and alternative sources of recognition within intimate relationships unfolding among the working and aspiring middle classes. My comparison of their films focuses on formal attributes, characterization, uses of architecture and domestic space, and intermediality, all of which contribute to the reworking of screen melodrama while creating opportunities for new subjectivities to emerge.

Biografia do Autor

Catherine L. Benamou, University of California-Irvine

Catherine L. Benamou is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and Visual Studies at the University of California-Irvine, with an affiliation in Chicano-Latino Studies and Latin American Studies. She is the author of It’s All True: Orson Welles’s Pan-American Odyssey (University of California Press, 2007). She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on Latin American cinema and media, including documentary and women’s cinema, and is currently at work on a book exploring transnational media and Latina/o diasporic audiences in four urban areas.