The Impact of Globalization and Development in the Film "Burn!"

Globalization and Development in "Burn!"

Majority of scholars that have studied development as a topic agree on the fact that it is not easy for developing countries to jump from underdevelopment to the developed world, and that it goes hand in hand with civilization and globalization. It has also, for a long time, been apparent that the developed countries that offer to help elevate the statuses of developing countries mostly do so because they have something substantial to gain. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, the 1969 film "Burn!" is an ideal example of globalization of colonial countries. It portrays the developed world, as self-absorbed in their conquest to obtain resources and authority that they would be willing to do almost anything. The main actor, Sir William Walker states that civilization belongs to the white people only, implying that all the efforts directed at developing Queimada are for the benefit of the developed nations. Therefore, this paper argues that the globalization and development experience of Queimada, as depicted in the film, was characterized by the exportation of particularism disguised in Universalist slogans by developed nations.

Walker's Deception and the Resistance Movement

In the film "Burn!" Walker is an English agent, sent to cause a revolution that will destabilize the existing Portuguese colonial government, and enable England take control of the sugar industry in Queimada. With the help of the slave Jose' Dolores, Walker manages to overthrow the Portuguese government, while deceiving the slaves that it is for their own good. After this achievement, the slaves realize that nothing has changed except the shift in the government, and Dolores leads a resistance war against the new colonialists in the hope of liberating Queimada. However, the British soon outnumber the resistance movement and capture Dolores, who is later hanged.

Particularistic Civilization Disguised as Universalism

The first instance of globalization is when Walker teaches the slaves to use riffles as modern weaponry (24:05). Walker makes them believe that he is trying to help them get their independence back from the Portuguese. However, he only introduces this aspect of civilization for the sole benefit of Britain, who wish to control the sugar industry. Thus, the initial understanding of Walker, and England at large, as those trying to decolonize Queimada through universalism is only a pretense because it is marred by a particular interest. This also emphasizes on Dolores' sentiment that "...better to know where to go and not know how to get there, than to know how but not know where to go." (01:04:52). At this point, Walker only teaches them how, and not where to go.

Walker also attempts to import particularistic civilization disguised as universalism when he introduces the idea of having paid workers. He questions, "Which, gentlemen, is more important and more convenient? A slave or a paid worker?" (29:49). While addressing the meeting, it is clear that Walker is only after what yields maximum benefits to the colonialists. However, to the slaves, he makes it seem like the new government led by Teddy Sanchez is helping abolish slavery (44:18). Another instance of particularistic development is when Mr. Shelton questions, "And is it not important that my company has already built a hospital and fifty miles of road?" (01:00:56). Industries controlled by the colonialists during such times only had the interest of bringing more wealth to their countries. In most regions, as it was in Qeuimada, the developed nations pretend to care about the underdeveloped and portray universalism by building few infrastructure.

Military Occupation Disguised as Peacekeeping

Additionally, General Prada announces that the additional soldiers brought in Queimada have come to help obtain and maintain peace through killing the resistance movement. "... To the soldiers of England who have so generously come to our aid...peace will return to our beloved country." (01:21:17). However, most deployed armies in those times, as it is even now, only occupied a region for additional interests that would benefit their country. In this case, the England government preach universalistic peace in Queimada, while they only seek to have military control and defeat the resistance movement.


Queimada's experience of globalization and development, as depicted in the film "Burn!" was filled with particularism that came wrapped in universalistic approaches from the colonialists. Many instances in the film reveal that development and civilization, such as introducing new modes of war, building infrastructure, abolishing slavery, and decolonization was to benefit England. Thus, the validity of Frank's dependency theory that, Queimada, and other underdeveloped nations did not remain at their state because of internal challenges, but because of external factors such as colonialism.

Word Count: 739

Work Cited

Grimaldi, A. (Producer), " Pontecorvo, G. (Director). (1969). Burn! [Motion picture]. Italy and France: United Artists.

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