Elizabeth S. Anker | Bodily Vulnerability, the Human Rights of Immigrants, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful

Written by on September 19th, 2015 // Filed under 27.1 Human Rights and Literature

Abstract

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful (2010) follows the final months in the life of its protagonist Uxbal as he dies from prostate cancer. Uxbal is a middleman who brokers the labor of unauthorized immigrants, yet as he confronts his mortality he also contends with the human rights abuses that have enabled his livelihood. This essay explores how Uxbal’s bodily disintegration and vulnerability foster his growing respect for human rights. As it argues, Biutiful unfolds an “embodied human rights imaginary” that serves to challenge the dual expectations of human dignity and bodily integrity that inform liberal articulations of human rights. Moreover, such an embodied conception of the human is incarnated in the film’s cinematographic form, style, and aesthetic.

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