National Cinema the Cinema and 'Literature Review' chapter

Excerpt from 'Literature Review' chapter :

In the fifth place, some English language cinemas compete directly with Hollywood within its own playing field. The sixth and seventh cinema types are interesting, since they attempt to retain a singular identity without external influence. One of these is the cinema that exists entirely within a state-controlled industry, which is often subsidized by the same state. Finally, there are those national cinemas that hold such a specific identity that they distance themselves, in terms of language or culture, from the nation-states within which they exist.

Having identified these categories, Crofts also points out the importance of recognizing their permeability. The author uses the example of French, Australian, and Indian films to demonstrate this point. The French, for example, would operate in the fields of differing from Hollywood, not competing directly with it, but occasionally delivering critique on its films and practices. On exceptional occasions, French cinema would also venture into the field of specializing in terms of specific market sectors. The Australian cinema, on the other hand, would generally create English language films to compete directly with Hollywood, although it could also enter the first category, where it does not compete. On rarer occasions, it would cater for specific specialist markets, which could be cultural in nature. Indian cinema, on the other hand, would be in the fourth category, i.e. ignoring Hollywood with relative success, while also entering the first category, where it does not compete directly, and the second, where it caters for a specific market segment. Many national cinemas use their second category films to enter the first category as art cinema.

In terms of art cinema, Hollywood has however also played a role in significantly blurring the boundaries. By developing its own art sector, the American cinema has blurred the boundaries between deep art and pure entertainment in film, not only in its own market but also abroad, in other national cinemas. This trend started during the early 1960s, when Hollywood experienced significant interchange with European art cinema and used this as inspiration for its own art cinema. This new trend occurred along with the existing entertainment genres on offer by Hollywood at the time, including the spaghetti Western, gangster genres, romantic dramas, and the like. The insecurity created by these new Hollywood ventures into the art world has further resulted in greater difficulty within the international film market to distinguish itself at the same level as before. This is particularly so at platforms such as the Cannes film festival, which has been dominated in the past by European cinema.

Another trend that has significantly influenced both Hollywood and other national cinemas is the disintegration of the nation-state, homogenising discourses, political sanctions, globalizing forces. Many of these trends have created situations in which ethnic and linguistic minority markets have not been able to create regional or national cinemas as a result of funding and infrastructure shortcomings (Crofts, 2008, p. 52). Some examples in this regard include the Welsh, Aboriginal, Maori, and Native American cinemas, which have been marginalized and subverted under the main stream as a result of a lack of resources and infrastructure. On the other hand, some marginalized markets have managed to overcome these challenges to nonetheless achieve success in a market so dominated by the mammoth that is Hollywood. On the other hand, within Hollywood, regional cinema such as Afro-American cinema has achieved success with leadership by directors such as Spike Lee and others

The Challenges and Opportunities Presented by Globalisation

Globalisation as a constructive and destructive force for the concept of national cinema has been mentioned briefly above. According to Hedetoft (2000, p. 262), international contemporary cinema, like all other forms of entertainment and business, is not exempt from the sweeping force of globalisation. Indeed, there is necessarily some influence, however small, that results from the changes brought about by globalisation. Not all these changes are unfavorable, and some have even encouraged survival of the national cinema concept where it would otherwise not have been possible. The author, however, also points out that, despite the hegemonous implication of the word "globalisation," the phenomenon itself is wrought not only with tension, but also with paradox and contradiction. The influencing factor of external forces have penetrated even the most tightly closed local markets, which necessarily influences not only the concept of nationality, but also translate to changes in the concepts of national cinema.

In terms of Hollywood itself, Hedetoft (2000, p. 265) points out that, even in its stance as global producer of international-themed films, this cinema is nonetheless primarily national, adhering principally to the American ideal of film and using its cinema to globalise ideals and viewpoints that have originated in the United States. Ironically, the author notes that it is globalisation that helps us revisit the idea of Hollywood as primarily national in spite of its drive to become truly international.

The author follows this by pointing towards the further challenge implicated by this. If Hollywood can be regarded as primarily a form of national cinema, how are other national cinemas to be defined and identified? Traditionally, the perimeters of this kind of cinema have been relatively simple, with locus and ownership of production at the heart of requirements to identify specific concepts of national cinema. If Hollywood, however, is to be identified as national, then neither locus nor ownership of production any longer provides a clear indication of what this concept should mean. This is the challenge of globalisation.

Some have risen to the challenge by using international influences to create a new local flavor in cinema. This has created a new unique culture, locally bound, but nonetheless connected to the international arena in more intrinsic ways than have been possible in the past. The danger here is that many cinemas that pose as national, regional, or local, could become no more than Hollywood influenced, reworked themes and viewpoints, with very little left that is in fact local.

To demonstrate this process by means of a Hollywood example, Hedetoft (2000, p. 276) refers to the film "Saving Private Ryan," in which an "allhuman" and universal spin is given to fundamentally American concerns and viewpoints. In other words, the film includes the privileged, elite viewpoint in terms of self-image and the concept as the other. There are also period-specific ideals concerning war, peace, national identity, values, humanitarian ethics and the like. The value system displayed in the film is primary Western, as is the concept about transatlantic cooperation. Hence, American values are at the heart of the film that focuses on American characters as its main vehicles for presenting the narrative within the film Hedetoft (2000, p. 276). Hence, regardless of the universal nature of loyalty, love, or self-sacrifice, the way in which Hollywood presents these is necessarily American, where the Hollywood industry originates an operates. This is the nature of national cinema, not only in the United States, but especially also elsewhere in the world.

The Concept of Nationality and Cinema

In this regard, Sorlin (1996, p. 1) mentions Italy and its involvement in the First World War since May 1915. This War, along with subsequent violent conflicts, have created a sense of nationality that is strong enough to inspire killing and dying in its name. The author uses the war and history as examples of phenomena that influence the common concept of nationality. During the war, nationality meant one's individual origin within the borders of a certain country, growing up here and learning to communicate in a certain language, and finally being willing to fight to the death for these symbols of the national feeling. Rooted in history and ideology as the concept of nationality is, it is little wonder that the film industry has become similarly subject to concepts of nationality. Sorlin refers to this concept as a "semi-mythical" ideal. Since this ideal is rooted in a common concept of national history and growth, Sorlin states that art historians have similarly sought the history of the film industry within national borders, and hence this is where the concept of national cinema originates; in a history that is tightly woven into the common concept of politics and national cultural history. It follows that the idea of film and cinema forms part of the idea of a national culture, governed by the traditions of a certain country, much in the same way as the above-mentioned idea of genre influences and is influenced by the nation within which it develops. When one considers more specific nationalities when it comes to cinema, Europe is a useful area of initial investigation, having been at the heart of the cinematic development for somewhat longer than Hollywood. The continent can therefore, as it were, be considered as the parent of cinematic development throughout the world.

European Cinema and National Identity in Cinema

Elsaesser (2005, p. 13) points towards the paradox that is the concept of European cinema. First, the author shows that there is no collective European cinema per se, but that on…

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