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The Cosmopolitics of Magical Realism in Cinema

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posted on 2023-01-11, 13:57 authored by David Neo
The term 'magical realism' gained international popularity with the boom in Latin American literary fiction in the 1950s and 1960s. More recently, this term has been used in postcolonial contexts, particularly as part of the decolonisation process, because it enables the articulation of a non-empirical (and non-Western) worldview where reality cannot and need not be rationally explained. The term is strongly associated with literature, however, with increasing frequency, it has been applied to cinema. Few studies have been done on magical realism in the medium of film, and film critics often misappropriate the term. This dissertation seeks to better understand the significance of magical realism in cinema by charting its development in relation to the politics of cosmopolitanism, or cosmopolitics. I argue that cosmopolitics is a key to understanding magical realist films in postcolonial and transnational contexts. The phenomenon of cosmopolitanism is the result of the dynamics and power struggle between the colonised and coloniser, still apparent today. Since magical realism became popular in Latin America, the analysis begins with New Latin American Cinema, also described as Third Cinema. Here I explore the minoritarian cosmopolitanism that encompasses the dynamics of postcolonial struggles. From New Latin American Cinema, the analysis moves to the treatment of magical realism in Hollywood, discussed in terms of metropolitan cosmopolitanism in the context of globalisation. Finally, the films of Emir Kusturica are analysed as a case study to explore the increasing significance of magical realist films in the contemporary international scene by focusing on the cosmopolitical situation of the Balkans.

Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy School of Communication Arts and Critical Enquiry Faculty of Cinema Studies.


Center or Department

Faculty of Cinema Studies. School of Communication Arts and Critical Enquiry.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


Rights Statement

The thesis author retains all proprietory rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over the content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis.

Data source

arrow migration 2023-01-10 00:15. Ref: latrobe:33460 (9e0739)

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