This book follows the hybrid and contradictory history of magic realism through the writings of three key figures – art historian Franz Roh, novelist Alejo Carpentier, and cultural critic Fredric Jameson – drawing links between their political, aesthetic, and philosophical ideas on art’s relationship to reality.

Magic realism is vast in scope, spanning almost a century, and is often confused with neighbouring styles of literature or art, most notably surrealism. The fascinating conditions of modernist Europe are complex and contradictory, a spirit that magic realism has taken on as it travels far and wide. The filmmakers and writers in this book acknowledge the importance of feeling, atmosphere, and mood to subtly provoke and resist global capitalism. Theirs is the history of magic-realist cinema. The book explores this history through the modernist avant-garde in search of a new theory of cinematic magic realism. It uncovers a resistant, geopolitical form of world cinema – moving from Europe, through Latin America and the former Soviet Union, to Thailand – that emerges from these ideas.

This book is invaluable to any reader interested in world modernism(s) in relation to contemporary cinema and geopolitics. Its sustained analysis of film as a sensory, intermedial medium is of interest to scholars working across the visual arts, literature, critical theory, and film-philosophy.

chapter 1|30 pages


chapter 2|29 pages

Magischer Realismus and the ‘demon fantastic’

Painting, photography, film

chapter 3|31 pages

Ethno-magic-realist documentary

Ecstatic practice

chapter 4|35 pages

Lo real maravilloso americano

Prismatic reality and the screen

chapter 5|23 pages

Magic realism

The prehensile toe – Jameson, Magritte, and affect

chapter |5 pages


‘There are so many different Magics’