World Cinema: Why I Love It!
Watching The Bourne Identity will not bring you any insight into Paris. Hollywood wouldn’t care about the learning disabled grocer with a heart of gold enough to fool his boss into shame and even give him his own spin-off. No Californian cinematography would engineer such beautiful arrangements as House Of Flying Daggers or Hero. Name an American film that would dare make a 240-hour long movie (Danish filmmakers are torturing audiences this year!)? Which LA studio would come up with a script which weaves fantasy and reality as meticulously as Pan’s Labyrinth or Oldboy (which Spike Lee plans to remake in America). World cinema has variety, artistry, bravery, heart and uses the endless inventiveness of the billions of people around the planet!
Aside from expanding awareness of different cultural perspectives; for me, the most fulfilling thing about watching world cinema is its real humanity. People are shown with warts, failings, difference, and somehow treated with more tenderness and respect by foreign film. World cinema’s not just an exclusive club for gorgeous, nice people. It’s for everyone.
First World Cinema Experience
Visiting family friends in Naples, the teenagers were shooed away and ended up in front of the TV. It must have been an afternoon matinee on the public channel. Usually, I would have baulked – I wasn’t the most patient or cultured of 14 year olds. The film was black-and-white. It hardly had any dialogue, and the scant conversation present was in Italian – and obviously not subtitled. But the humanity, elegance and compelling story drew me in and, after a gruelling two hours, I was tearing up. It was Fellini’s La Strada. I’ve been a stickler for foreign film, especially Italian, ever since.
The Hollywood Alternative To World Cinema
I think Hollywood is obsolete in all but finances. Creativity has vanished. Difference has been steadily suffocated. Usually, behind a good Hollywood film lurks a novel or plundered foreign film. Bi-monthly rom-coms are repeats in all but name (if you missed Friends With Benefits, why not go and see No Strings Attached?). There are constant desperate re-makes of films that weren’t even good in the first place (Another Footloose?). Superhero franchises are constantly rehashed (Spiderman take two – already?!). Already weak films are diluted into trilogies, quadrilogies, pentalogies…
What’s Missing For World Cinema?
I think – from personal experience and laziness! – that after battling through the mental and physical stress of a working week, Hollywood is the easier option. It fulfils our need for escape in the deepest sense – you can fully switch off. No thinking. No reading.
There’s a bit of pretentiousness around subtitled film.
There’s a bit of pretentiousness around subtitled film that just won’t budge and makes it’s inaccessible. Especially to those of us who enjoy eating popcorn in a darkened room!
World cinema’s remote in a practical sense. Most people are closest to a cinema where there might not even be one subtitled film. I think this comes from companies’ fear to take risks outside traditional viewing tendencies. Companies underestimate audience’s openness, capacity to be challenged, and interest in world cinema.
I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom. Despite the lack of money in publicising and marketing world cinema, the rise of social media and with it the autonomy of the viewer, means audiences will grow!
What’s On Offer For World Cinema Fans?
Edinburgh’s two major players in foreign-language film are The Cameo Picture House and The Film House. Both dedicate a major part of their programme to foreign film, with a quick rotation rate. The Film House hosts the French Film Festival. Every June since 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival screens a programme mainly devoted to international feature films and documentaries. The Take One Action Film Festival screens one-off UK premiers of documentaries from a plethora of countries from The Central African Republic to Mongolia. I occasionally trip over to Glasgow, especially when that city’s international film festival is on. They show great subtitled cinema, old and new, at the GFT and ECA.
Favourite World Cinema Country
For me, Italian cinema really does what film should. Film is embraced as art, sometimes mistaken for a melodramatic tendency. For me, it keeps that essential central theme of art as beauty – so you can trace a line from Da Vinci through Puccini to Fellini. The scope is unlimited – Italian film embraces miniature studies of love but, at the same time, is not afraid to tackle grand themes. In fact, in times of banking crises, Italian cinema succeeds in frank attacks on socio-political power structures (Il Divo, Gomorrah). In a country where the small screen is controlled by Berlusconi, this fearlessness is vital on the cinema screen. This genre-busting continues to produce surprises – Michelangelo Frammartino’s latest offering, Le Quattro Volte, defies even genre in its study of a goatherd’s transubstantiation.
Favourite World Cinema Director
Every time I watch Kim Longinotto’s work, I feel educated. It reminds me that there’s a bigger world outside the confines of countries with major film industries. Her docu-films study important issues around Africa. She gets under the skin of the community and finds inspiring human stories in countries usually either forgotten or regarded as hopeless causes. Pink Saris and Sisters In Law are great examples.
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