Friday, December 4, 2009

National Cinema

In Halle’s article about transnationalism is included a section on debates within the film industry. At the center of the debate are the term “national cinema” and its transformations in a time of globalization, as movies are viewable across the world no matter where they are made. Postnationalists argue against the term, citing that, for example, the British do not only watch British films. Further, they pose that many state-sponsored films actually have little to do with the culture of that nation. Transnationalists argue, on the other hand, that it is impossible to ignore the influence of national cultural and political affiliations within cinema. Proponents of this side of the debate provide the examples of Schindler’s List and The Patriot as American films that were perceived as very pro-American by German and British critics, respectively. Not only did Germany and Britain think that the film was excessive in its negative portrayal of their actions and history, but they also objected, especially in the case of Schindler’s List, to having an American director telling “their” story.

Two other examples that I can think of that relate to this topic are Slumdog Millionaire and Band of Brothers. Slumdog Millionaire is heavily rooted in Indian culture, as it details the past experiences of the main character as an orphaned child. Ironically, the plot is driven by his participation in an originally American game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” The movie was directed by Danny Boyle, who is British. I wonder what the reaction to this movie was within the general Indian population, as it was heavily decorated and acclaimed by American critics and the American public alike. The article brings up an interesting point in cinema’s role in globalization, both positively and negatively. While films are an outlet of other cultures, as seen in Slumdog (I for one had never seen Indian culture in as much detail), they may also be biased and not accurately portray the true makeup of a culture. Having just recently completed watching the Band of Brothers series and having also watched most famous World War II movies, I can say that Band of Brothers was the most objective and accurate out of the group. Rather than glorifying war, the directors utilized interviews of veterans portrayed in the movie and realistic physical and emotional costs to accurately display the true psychology of war. As I watched it, I did not bask in American victory and rather thought of how the toughest soldiers were crushed by losses and driven to insanity, tears, and hopelessness in many cases. There is an even a scene in the last episode that displays a surrendered German general addressing his troops and complimenting their strength and fortitude, effectively demonstrating that Germans and Americans were not all different and endured the same ups and downs of war. I certainly view the war effort much differently than I did before the series, showing the influence that cinema can have, whether it is nationally biased or not.

The article’s added dimension of entertainment into the globalization argument is just another layer in the debate we have been having all semester. While it seems that there are many ways in which the world is more global today than it ever has been, there are still so many aspects of society and culture that remain nationalistic and maintain boundaries between cultures. I think that gaining historical background on more than just our native country is essential in continuing to break down cultural gaps, as we have discussed. It seems that an effort to eliminate ignorance is essential. I wonder if Hollywood will ever look to globalization as a driving cause within its productions, or if it will cater to American tastes as a business decision. At the same time, I wonder if American tastes will change to want to accommodate a more global perspective, driving directors to include cultural accuracy and remove cultural bias.


  1. I really enjoy how you picked two other relevant films to compare to the ones mentioned in the article. I really enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire and I too have wondered how the Indian community views the portrayal of their culture. From all the press surrounding the movie you would assume that they see it as accurate. Perhaps they just haven't had a chance to speak up?

  2. I have wondered the same thing as you and Mariah, that being what Indians thought of Slumdog Millionaire. I truly enjoyed your reference to Band of Brothers. I have seen the entire series and found it to be the most realistic, but then again I have not been in war. Also, my question was similar to yours, whether or not American tastes will learn to accommodate other country and cultures films. Personally, some foreign films are my favorite, but I believe that in order for foreign films to succeed in the United States, people must be exposed to them at a young age. Such as in Europe, even the cartoons for kids can be foreign!

  3. At this rate, I don't think Hollywood is going to become more internationalized in the near future. Of course there will be glamorous international destinations and maybe mysterious significant others from foreign countries, but to reflect other cultures and ways of life is a far reach. I think with films like Slumdog Millionaire, we're getting closer but films with such messages go mainstream very rarely. Hollywood is still making millions with unoriginal romantic comedies and huge-budget action films. Hollywood is still content just serving American taste and a great portion of the rest of the world follows this American pop culture as well, so I don't think they'll globalize further too soon.