National cinema

Published: 2021-09-29 11:15:03
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The concept of national cinema in the age of globalization has several aspects to be debated upon. The matter demands attention specifically to be justified from the cultural point of view as well as commercial point of view. Firstly, the relationship between National identity and Cinema needs to be clarified. Each Nation or Country has some of its specific or salient traits in terms of its food, attire, language, sports, flora and fauna, country flag etc., which may be classified as the specific traits of a nationality, each of the said traits are restricted within the boundary of a nation and signifies the essence of  nativity.
Cinema has commonly been analyzed as a medium of expression, specific to a geographically situated culture and within Cinema’s taxonomy, privilege has been granted to national cultures. The term National cinema is commonly used in film theory and film criticism to describe the films associated with a specific country, which  is hard to define, and its meaning is debated by film scholars and critics.A film may be considered to be part of the "national cinema" of a country based on a number of factors, such as the country that provided the financing for the film, the language spoken in the film, the nationalities or dress of the characters, and the setting, music, or cultural elements present in the film.
To define a national cinema, some scholars emphasize the structure of the film industry and the roles played by " forces, government support, and cultural transfers. But, as cinema holds its root in the trade industry and it may be expressed in terms of exhibition and consumption, it calls for the importance of its trans-national exposure in this era of globalization.

As a sequel, Cinema being an Industry, may be defined explicitly on economic terms, concerning basic infrastructures of production, distribution, exhibition on the capitalization and integration scale, as has also been depicted by Andrew Higson, 1997. It also involves patterns of ownership and control, size and constitution of workforce of the production unit, the size of domestic market, the degree of penetration of foreign markets , extent of foreign intervention ( from economic or cultural perspective) and the relative economic health of the industry.
Thus, the history of ‘national’ cinema turns out to be portrayal of the history of a business seeking a secure position in the financial market with a view to maximize profits and generation of employment and hence, it is improper to assume that Cinema and film culture is bound by the national or state limits (Higson, 1997).  Ideally, any commodity when labeled national is bound to be primarily confined and positively contribute towards its place/state of origin.
But in today’s era of liberalization /globalization, classification of Cinema cannot be restricted to any nation’s boundary. It would not be imprudent to mention here that ‘cinema’ originating from a specific country can only be termed as ‘national’ in true sense, when it projects the theme of nationhood, highlighting some national specific characters, ideologies, culture, traditions etc., without any sort of deviation from the same. But, in today’s world how many such films are released in the whole world is a million dollar question.
The ultimate motive of Cinema which essentially goes transnational is to attain the status of popular Cinema, which is grossly different from so called, national theme cinema, hardly worthy of critical appreciation. Thus, it becomes imperative that it is not at all feasible to use the term national cinema in today’s global era where everything is transnational. Actually, there is only one Cinema of vertical integration, or the cinema which facilitates the production, distribution and consumption of films.
Demarcation of  Cinema as ‘French’, ‘American’ or ’British’ concedes far too much to the misguided ideal of national culture. Although, all moves need not be portrayed of a nation, it is proved that when cinema goes global, at least up to some extent, it reflects the culture of its country of origin, the traditions, the economic and political scenario, across the transnational boundaries there by enriching the knowledge of the target audience across the global boundaries facilitating wider acceptance of the same.
For instance, as per Scott MacKenzie, University of Glasgow, Canadian cultural and film critics have long debated how Canadian national cinema can be defined, or whether there is a Canadian national cinema. Most of the films shown on Canadian movie screens are US imports. If "Canadian national cinema" is defined as the films made in Canada, then the canon of Canadian cinema would have to include lightweight teen-oriented fare such as Meatballs(1979), Porky's (1983) or Death Ship (1980).
Other critics have defined Canadian national cinema as a "...reflection of Canadian life and culture." Similarly, France's national cinema includes both popular cinema and "avant-garde" films. French national cinema is associated with the auteur filmmakers and with a variety of specific movements. Avant-garde filmmakers include Germaine Dulac, Marie and Jean Epstein.
Poetic Realism filmmakers include Jean Renoir and Marcel Carne. The French New Wave filmmakers include Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. The 1990s and 2000s "postmodern cinema" of France includes filmmakers such as Jean-Jacques Beinex. German national cinema was influenced by silent and sound "Bergfilm" (this translates to "mountain film").
During 1920s and early 1930s, German national cinema was known for the progressive and artistic approaches to filmmaking with "shifted conventional cinematic vocabulary" and which gave actresses a much larger range of character-types. During the Nazi era, the major film studio UFA was controlled by Propaganda Minister Goebbels. UFA produced "Hetzfilm" (anti-Semitic hate films) and films which emphasized the "theme of heroic death."
Other film genres produced by UFA during the Nazi era included historical and biographical dramas that emphasized the achievements in German history, comedy films, and propaganda films as quoted by Sabine Hake (2002). According to film scholar Marek Haltof, the Polish School of directors made films which can be described as the "Cinema of Distrust." In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi and Barbara Sass made influentual films which garnered interest outside of Poland.
At times, it proves highly tarnishing for the image of the country of origin of the Cinema, when the original piece of work is either, dubbed, subtitled or remade in the local languages, which attributes to wrong portrayal or misinterpretation on the part of the target global viewers and its impact may not be the same in all the nations, as foreseen.
Thus, the national cinema need not be the best way to portray the nation trans-nationally. At the same time, if a cinema does well, internationally, its popularity and acceptance hold the nation high and sometimes it becomes a marketable brand. On the contrary, we may view the traveling of cinema effortlessly across the national borders as a powerful means of celebrating cultural diversity, transnational experiences and multinational identities. Even the impact of global cinemas falls on the production of local films, which definitely calls for a better standard, as far as the technical aspects are concerned.
For example, reportedly, Boot-legged video cassettes of Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) were available in subway stations in Moscow the day before the film was released in United States. Many Americans, as well as audiences in other nations, have developed a taste for Japanese anim’e and martial art films from Hong Kong. Hong Kong Cinema has influenced the style of Hollywood movies, ranging from the works of  Quentin Tarantino to the Wachowski brothers, if certain elements of American crime films have been appropriated by Hong Kong directors, ninja choreography is at home in Los Angeles, not only in movies but also in dance moves on MTV.
Increasingly, we are seeing the emergence of hybrid. Indian films are screened in Africa, England and even United States often catering to diaspora audiences. But at the same time, there lies a risk of the local indigenous cinemas promoting national identities to be displaced. It may be inferred that though it is not feasible to categorize cinema as ‘national’ cinema in this era of globalization, it would certainly culminate to the fact that as cinemas goes trans-national the cohesiveness among the nations based on the portrayed common platform of thoughts or ideologies being conveyed through films/cinema.
Also, the cinema personalities, figures happen to become popular and acceptable worldwide. If the concept of ‘modern nation’ is referred, we consider the entire area of reach of a film under the jurisdiction of one single nation, which reaps the benefit of the cinema. Hence, we may consider the national cinema as a global brand in the age of globalization, which enriches, entertains and caters to the intellectual needs of the target audience globally.

Author : Andrew Higson (1997) - ‘Waving the Flag’ : Construction a National Cinema in Britain, Publisher :Clarendon Press, Oxford Publication.
Cinema and Nation , Contributors : Mette Hjort (2000), Editor, Scott Mackenzie, Publisher : Routledge, London Publication.
Theorizing National Cinema, Edited by Valentina & Paul (June, 2006)
Scott MacKenzie, University of Glasgow. National Identity, Canadian Cinema, and Multiculturalism. Available at:
German National Cinema, by Sabine Hake. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. Trade paper, ISBN 0-41508-902-6. Reviewed by Robert von Dassanowsky. Available at:
^ Shelia Skaff. The cinema that is Marek Haltof's Polish National Cinema. Review of Marek Haltof's book Polish National Cinema. Available at:
World Cinema Critical Approaches, Edited by Johnhill and Pamela Church Gibson, Oxford University Press Publication

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