This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Dynamics of class, power, and space: Situating High-Rise in the contemporary Brazilian documentary tradition




Monteiro dos Santos, Nicoly

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Communication and Journalism


From the Cinema Novo films in the 1960s to Eduardo Coutinho’s documentaries such as Peoes (Metalworkers, 2004), O Fim e o Principio (The End and the Beginning, 2006), and Babilonia 2000 (2001), many Brazilian documentaries have focused on the working-class to examine the consequences of living in a highly unequal society. By giving a voice to the marginalized, these Brazilian documentarians have tended to question the system which allows such discrepancies to take place in the country from the ground up. However, there is a recent trend of exploring the same issue by focusing on the top of the pyramid — films that investigate the mindset of those who are the most privileged. The purpose of this thesis will be to investigate how power relations are examined in contemporary Brazilian documentary films that feature privileged voices. The study will map how power relations have been explored in modern Brazilian documentary tradition in order to contextualize current trends in the genre. Particularly, I will focus on the film High-Rise (2009), one of the first Brazilian documentaries to bring the elite to the forefront. In High-Rise, Gabriel Mascaro chose to interview only people who live in penthouses in the biggest cities in the country. Through interviews and various visual strategies, the film explores the spatial and political dynamics of the wealthy living in sheltered spaces. Though the subjects are seemingly unaware of the film’s critique of their status, High-Rise is able to foreground issues of power, class, and space.