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Cinema Melting Pot

March 16th, 2010 by btrachtenberg100

Cinema has developed its own discourse, allowing native audiences to process cues unconsciously and follow a story. A visual language, film’s dialect differs depending on the country. Grammatical rules set up by the Hollywood system have given western movies a distinct stylistic flavor. The tone of which as Robert Stam suggests carries nationalistic tendencies reflecting imperialism and racism as the typical Hollywood film features the “civilized” man versus the “native” beast. I feel that the early pre-WWII films of America reflect a perfect world and distrust for the savage. (After all look how African Americans were treated in films like Birth of a Nation) The beauty of the cinema is that it does not exist solely in the realm of the exploitative filmmaker. Film has grown to serve many functions, escapism being one of them. The ability to compare one countries film with another allows us to get a sense of their perceptions and values. European cinema (the 2nd cinema) sought to defy these set conventions of the Hollywood system, and in doing so has been regarded as avant garde. Films by Godard and De Sica are regarded as being an aesthetic that challenges the viewer, imposing him/her the task of active critical thought. As we make our way down to the Third cinema, the artist moves further away from the commercialized stereotype. This includes cinema that is created in response to suffering. As Julio Garcia Espinosa states, “truth is purged by suffering”. While he believes in an impartial cinema where everyone is permitted to create their own artistic expression, I feel this is not possible. While people may suffer, not everyone can express their torment in the spiritual aspect of society. If films like Battle of Algiers represent the view of one man on behalf of a nation of oppressed people, what would the masses hear if everyone made a film depicting their version of suffering? Not everyone can pick up a camera and make a cogent piece of art. Granted, today with technology as accessible as it is, we can access thousands of videos, all consisting of expressions of the individual, all falling under the definition of imperfect cinema. The question is does anyone really care? Part of the satisfaction that comes from artistic expression is the acknowledgment of that struggle, and connecting with people who understand. The only reason third world cinema is of any importance is because it has gained an international audience to respond to it. In today’s world, acknowledging it in terms of primitive nostalgia is simply ignorance. Film is a controversial medium and to use it as a weapon against the oppressor for the sake of waking up the majority (cinema novo) is third cinema in its purest form, and therefore the most noble.
The medium has evolved to the point where every nation integrates pieces of other nations’ cinemas. Making others aware of these conventions makes us more able to interpret international cinema in their proper context.

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6 Responses to ' Cinema Melting Pot '

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  1.   elliotzahler said,

    on March 16th, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Hey Ben,
    I really like reading what you write and you are talented but as I told you in class, it is not always easy to respond to your writings because it is not controversial.
    I do like how you emphasize the importance and the beauties of film making. For those who are not educated and/or do not study film and art, will not appreciate what goes on “behind the scenes” in making a film. You call it ignorance, which I can agree on. The political message that the film and its maker are trying to send to the viewer can only be interpreted if that person has the intellectual capabilities to understand and comprehend the meaning. I was thinking, in places like dictatorship Cuba, media is censored and a film maker will have to alter his ways in film making or he will be sent to prison. Film is truly an open and expressive literature.

  2.   jarrodlabine said,

    on March 17th, 2010 at 2:25 am

    I found Stam’s reading to be a frustrating affair. Not because of it’s honesty or insight into colonialism, racism, stereotypes, and the white perspective, but because there’s too much safety in its political correctness. Yes, stereotypes can be a bad thing, but unfortunately stereotypes also project an identity. I was watching a documentary concerning Australian cult films, and there was an Australian cinematic character who personified all the worse traits associated with Australians. Yet in an interview one man remarked that if you cannot create a stereotype of a cultural identity… the culture has no identity. Dangerous as stereotypes are, I agree with the statement. I’ll also agree when Stam points out that the “bending over backwards not to be racist attitude” is just as suspicious and adds a “lack of confidence in the group portrayed.” Race in film is a very delicate issue, and one I do not claim to be an expert on. Maybe it’s extremely questionable that Hitchcock did not include African Americans in prison in the film “The Wrong Man.” Yet, an over saturated image of African Americans associated with crime and prison grossly makes up for Hitchcock’s lack of inclusion. There’s no balance, but extremes. Yet, I’ll admit that every new politically correct film that features the newest and hottest Hip Hop Rapper turned actor always smacks of a con to get every diversity to see their film (good actor or not). Stam makes a point criticizing the film “Wild Geese” where white mercenaries are brutally killing African soldiers, yet Stam refuses to even acknowledge the plot of the film, which has white mercenaries saving an African political leader for progressive change, nor does he mention the white racist soldier who has a change of heart and understanding of African culture. Stam also criticizes the film Burn! by Gillo Pontecorvo for using Europeanised chroral music on it’s Third World setting. Yet the film features a European (Marlon Brando) who comes to a island and instructs a Native to lead a revolt upon their oppressors. The mixture of European influence on a Third World island seems a suitable reason to mix two types of music as a meshing (or blurring) of cultural thought. By the way, the Ennio Morricone soundtrack is awesome! Stam writes an extremely insightful piece, it’s just a little tailored for his argument. By the way, the film that Stam seems to champion, the extremely rare (I was able to hunt down a black and white version of tthis color film) “Der Leone Have Sept Cabecas” is an absolute bore fest. Nice discussion thread by the way!

  3.   Amy Herzog said,

    on March 17th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    This is a really nuanced discussion. Ben, the issue of democratic access to the means of production v. artistic competence is key for us to discuss. If the objective is political transformation, the most effective means of communication may not lie in the hands of “the people” en masse.

    And Jarrod raises an excellent point about the power of negative stereotypes (both positive and negative) as well as the stranglehold of well-meaning liberalism– lots for us to talk about this week.

  4.   Michael Fried said,

    on April 14th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I agree that a completely “impartial cinema” is not possible, because not everyone has the talent to express their views clearly and artistically. However, I think video sharing websites like Youtube bring us a step closer to impartial cinema. Not everyone makes their own videos, but anyone can comment on videos, or share videos that they like. Good videos that represent the views of the masses become popular, while bad videos get down-rated and buried. Controversial videos encourage other people to make response videos, and eventually the views of the masses become apparent. A similar example outside of cinema would be Digg, a news website where people can vote for stories they like, and view a list of the most popular stories.

    Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work, but obviously it’s not a perfect system, and good videos don’t always become popular. Nonetheless, it brings us a little bit closer to a world where ideas are exchanged quickly and the voices of the masses can be heard. As new and better websites become popular, it may bring us even closer to an impartial cinema.


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