In this comparative examination of cinematic representations of American and Brazilian wildernesses, I argue for the necessity of a transnational, postregional, and ecocritical approach to film studies. The way that the deserts of the American West are represented by Hollywood Western filmmakers reveal underlying ecological and political philosophies, and provide a productive contrast with representations of the sertão, a similarly arid biome in Brazil. Among other theoretical approaches, this study uses W. J. T. Mitchell’s idea of “landscape” as a verb to examine the formal devices by which filmmakers and audiences “landscape” these “wildernesses.” Using John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) as an example, I suggest that Hollywood Westerns inscribe the land with a colonial gaze that reflects and perpetuates a dualistic conception of nature, one that sees nature as separate and distinct from humankind. Cinema Novo, the radical anticolonial movement in Brazilian cinema, provides an aesthetic and philosophical alternative. Through an analysis of one of Cinema Novo’s foundational works by one of its founding figures—Glauber Rocha’s Deus e o diabo na terra do sol [Black God, White Devil] (1964)—I demonstrate how the theory and practice of Rocha’s anticolonial “aesthetic of hunger” has an ecological dimension, one that rejects and collapses a binary opposition between humans and nature. By looking beyond borders which too often function not only as national boundaries but to delimit fields of academic study, this project finds common ground for comparison in representations of nature, and demonstrates the political and ecological implications thereof.



College and Department

Humanities; Comparative Arts and Letters



Date Submitted


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ecocriticism, transnational, postregional, postwestern, frontier, rhizomatic, West, Westerns, westness, wilderness, landscape, landscaping, Glauber Rocha, Deus e o diabo na terra do sol, John Ford, The Searchers