"Global Cinema: Cinéma Engagé or Cinéma Commerciale?" Special Issue of SITUATIONS

Framegrab from Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu , 2006)

Babel sets out to be a new sort of film that attempts to create a “world cinema” gaze within a commercial Hollywood framework. I examine how it approaches this and ask whether the film succeeds in this attempt. I explore the tensions between progressive and conservative political agendas, and pay particular attention to the ways “other” cultures are seen in a film with “Third World” pretensions and U.S money behind it. I frame my analysis around a key question: does the Iñárritu-led outfit successfully create a paradigmatic “transnational world cinema” text that de-centers U.S. hegemony, or is this a utopian project doomed to failure in a film funded predominantly by major U.S. studios? I examine the ways in which the film engages with the tourist gaze and ask whether the film replaces this gaze with a world cinema gaze or merely reproduces it in new ways . [Deborah Shaw, “Babel and the Global Hollywood Gaze”, Situations, 4.1, 2011]

Film Studies For Free is delighted to announce the publication of a new film issue of the Open Access journal Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination. The special issue is entitled “Global Cinema: Cinéma Engagé or Cinéma Commerciale?” and it contains ten essays on modern international films and cinemas, including those of Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, Romania, France, China, Argentina, and India as well as on contemporary film festivals and on films documenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As the editors write:

The issue has a global reach in its coverage of countries and regions of the world ranging from Hollywood’s own “Global Gaze,” to a placement of Nigerian Cinema as the equal of Africa’s modernist cinema, to Venezuela’s difficult negotiation of a Bolivarian cinema in a neoliberal context, to a questioning of the radical othering of Eastern European cinema whose concerns now seem much closer to those of the West, and, finally, to a tracing of a complex multiperspectival fashioning of the image of the Chinese peasantry in a moment when the distinction between city and country are rapidly fading.  The global reach of the issue extends as well to the range of theoretical positions used to examine contemporary global cinema, be it:  structural-materialist aspects of the questioning of the Israeli-Palestinian problematic; the integration of economic and aesthetic methodologies in a post-Adornian examination of the Cannes Film Festival; feminist and subaltern theory utilized to critique the patriarchal aspects of what is sometimes viewed as India’s most politically progressive cinema; a rereading and deconstruction of French radical workerist post-1968 cinema; and a linking of feminist and anti-colonial perspectives to highlight the way that in Iran Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten spotlights Muslim women’s emancipation.

Below are direct links to the contents, as per usual here at FSFF.

Situation homepage  Archives

Vol 4, No 1 (2011) Table of Contents PDF

  • Terri Ginsberg, Dennis Broe, “Whither Globalization? An Idea Whose Time Has Come or Whose Time Has Come and Gone?” PDF
  • Deborah Shaw, “Babel and the Global Hollywood Gaze” PDF
  • Dennis Broe, “The Film Festival as Site of Resistance: Pro or Cannes” PDF
  • Hossein Khosrowjah , “Neither a Victim nor a Crusading Heroine” PDF
  • Jonathon Haynes , “African Cinema and Nollywood: Contradictions” PDF
  • Terri Ginsberg, ” Radical Rationalism as Cinema Aesthetics: The Palestinian–Israeli Conflict in North American Documentary and Experimental Film” PDF
  • Paul Douglas Grant, “Just Some of the Ways to Shoot a Strike: Militant Filmmaking in France from Arc to the Groupe Medvedkine” PDF
  • Noah Zweig, “Villa del Cine (Cinema City): Constructing Bolivarian Citizens for the Twenty-First Century” PDF
  • Ping Fu, “Encircling the City: Peasant Migration in Contemporary Chinese Media” PDF
  • Gayatri Devi, “Between Personal Cataclysms and National Conflicts: The Missing Labor Class in Malayalam Cinema” PDF PDF
  • “Eastern European Cinema on the Margins” by Meta Mazaj PDF
  • Contributors, Film Issue PDF

What Time Reflects: In Memory of Mani Kaul, 1944-2011

One of my major influences was the French film maker Robert Bresson. Bresson’s films reflected a particular brand of Christian belief called Jansenism which manifests itself in the way leading characters are acted upon and simply surrender themselves to their fate. I believe that cinema is not so much visual as temporal. But most filmmakers concentrate on the spatio-visual aspect. This has led to certain problems. What time reflects is more contemporary than the arrangement of a set of visuals. I do not want to focus on this visual aspect in my films, but want to make the temporal primary. [Mani Kaul, ‘Interview’, ARC, November 15, 2005]

[Mani Kaul] has been described as a formalist. But the term does not do justice to the intense emotional stories that [reverberate] from the images that make up his interpretations of myth, music and [architecture]—although often they are more like collaborations with those cultural pratices and forms. He defies categorisation: to call his work non-narrative does not account for the detailed and complex narration that his camera work offers within any single scene. Even to call him an Indian film maker does not seem useful since Kaul refuses to locate his work within national or cultural subjectivities. [Ian Iqbal Rashid, ‘Asian and Asian Diaspora Programme’, RUNGH, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1995, p. 36]

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=1997968097332260460&hl=en&fs=true

Apologies for the very poor quality of this video;
its inclusion here can only be very insufficiently indicative of the film’s actual brilliance

The Indian filmmaker Mani Kaul, who grew up artistically in India’s subsidized ‘‘parallel cinema’’ (i.e., parallel to commercial cinema) in the 1970s, has worked repeatedly with Indian song traditions, including Dhrupad (1982), which mesmerizes with the sound and image of one classical music performance style designed to facilitate spiritual meditation. Such work highlights the way in which we often take sound for granted as a convenient emotional conductor.
Pat Aufderheide, Documentary Film – A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 17

Film Studies For Free was saddened to hear, via film scholar Surbhi Goel, of the death of the great Indian filmmaker Mani Kaul. Last week, it posted a list of links to studies of the works of another legendary director from that country – Ritwik Ghatak, one of Kaul’s most important teachers at the Film and Television Institute of India. But Kaul was a genuinely pioneering and deeply unconventional film artist in his own right who also became a hugely influential teacher and writer on cinema. He will be greatly missed.

Tributes:

    "Born in a dream": studies of Ritwik Ghatak

    Subarnarekha (lit. “Golden Line/Thread”, Ritwik Ghatak, India, 1962-65)

    All motion, in fact, has the same origin. The camera moves, so do men. Then everything comes to rest, or, various integral compositions made out of these create a whole design born in that dream.
    Ritwik Ghatak [Ritwikkumar Ghatak, Rows and rows of fences: Ritwik Ghatak on cinema (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2000), p. 65]

    Every film is going to be more than you can see… Where the real cinema takes place is in your head.
          […]
    The notion of a film born in a dream that then manages to figure that dream in all of these movements, in all of these modulations, in all of these articulations is at the heart of Ghatak
    Adrian Martin, ‘Seven and a Half Minutes with Ritwik Ghatak (An Apprenticeship in Magic)‘, Film and Television Studies ‘Under Construction’ Seminar Series, Monash University, June 8, 2011(mp3: 1:40:38, mp4 – Video version)

    Very recently, in a much-discussed Film Comment article by David Bordwell, and in the project of a fascinating book titled The Language and Style of Film Criticism ([eds. Alex Clayton and Andrew Klevan] Routledge 2011), an old-fashioned line has been redrawn, separating the work of criticism proper (evocative, descriptive, evaluative, lyrical, etc) from the so-called ‘formalism’ of close, textual analysis (frame and audio analysis, structural segment/part breakdown, etc). I reject this distinction.

    In the lead-up to the WORLD CINEMA NOW conference this September at Monash, I propose taking seven and a half magnificent minutes – one complex scene in three parts – from Ritwik Ghatak’s Subarnarekha (The Golden Line, India, 1965) – and seeing how deeply we can dig into its sharp audiovisual beauty. Ghatak (1925-76), only now receiving the full international recognition he deserves, is a key figure for any history of cinematic forms: using the melodramatic tradition as his pivot between classicism and modernism, he elaborated a moment-to-moment style that was a form of fluid mise en scène shot through at every moment with the kind of disruptive ‘intervals’ beloved of his Master, Eisenstein. In Ghatak, scenes do not simply unfold: they open up into multiple, contesting worlds, man versus woman, old versus new, feeling versus reason, body versus song …

    Along the way of this demonstration, I hope to offer a model of how film analysis might be done, or at least how I try to do it: its possible protocols, procedures, pay-offs. Seven and a half cinematic minutes with Ghatak, plus around two musical minutes with Abdullah Ibrahim, amounting to around sixty minutes … Adrian Martin, ‘Seven and a Half Minutes with Ritwik Ghatak (An Apprenticeship in Magic)

    Today’s entry here at Film Studies For Free — a list of links to openly accessible studies of the work of the great Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak — was very much inspired by the online availability of a podcast of a lecture by Adrian Martin, Associate Professor in Film and Television Studies and co-director of the Research Unit in Film Culture and Theory at Monash University. In the lecture Martin discusses a scene in Ghatak’s Subarnarekha (lit. “Golden Line/Thread”, India, 1962-65).

    The sequence discussed by Martin may be found at 7:40 in the first of the two clips embedded above, continuing up to around six minutes through the second clip. As the above lecture abstract indicates, along the way, Martin says many important things about the practices of film criticism/analysis, and, indeed, about Film Studies more broadly. Great work, and thanks to Arts at Monash University for making it available. [Update: August 2011 – here’s a link to the video recording of the lecture. Right click on the link to save to your computer for viewing later).

    >Journal of the Moving Image: Indian and South Asian cinema and media studies

    >

    Image from Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (Anil Sharma, 2001). 
    Film Studies For Free just came across a really good e-journal that it hadn’t bumped into before: Journal of the Moving Image, an annual publication of the Department of Film Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. 

    It was launched in print format in 1999, but its print and online versions now co-exist. As its mission statement puts it,

    JMI seeks to represent critical work on the state of contemporary screen cultures. There are many regions in the world with large viewing populations, often with vast production infrastructures for film and television; but corresponding institutions or forums for critical engagement with such audio-visual regimes are still highly inadequate. JMI seeks to address a broad set of issues ranging from formal properties of the moving image to the social foundation of its production, transmission and reception. There will be a special focus on India and South Asia, and on issues of transnational media transactions, but we would like to offer a wider range of discussion on film and television from various parts of the world made from different perspectives.
    FSFF wanted to share its contents with you promptly, so direct links to all items so far online are pasted in below, with the most recent issue first. The first three issues of JMI are also being prepared for online publication. 

    There are some excellent items here (you might try out Ravi Vasudevan’s The Meanings of ‘Bollywood’ just for starters). So FSFF heartily recommends that you subscribe to JMI ready for its next issue in December. 

    (Also, please check out, if you haven’t yet, FSFF‘s own related entry: “Bollywood” for Beginners and Beyond: Introductions to Popular Hindi Cinema Studies)

    >"Bollywood" for Beginners and Beyond: Introductions to Popular Hindi Cinema Studies

    >

    Kajol and Shahrukh Khan in  Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge / The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride (Aditya Chopra, 1995)

    With a wary eye on the fast-approaching (in many places at least) and not-so-mellow fruitfulness of a new academic year, Film Studies For Free today brings you its handy guide to online introductions to popular Hindi cinema.

    Not all of the wonderful, openly accessible resources linked to below the embedded video are designed for those new to this core academic film studies subject, but all are clearly written, and thus very accessible, as well as highly informative to those at many different stages in their scholarly fascination with this most popular of world cinemas.

    Talking of fascination, a nice place to start might be Jonathan Torgovnik’s wonderful online portfolio of photographs: Bollywood Dreams (Phaidon Press, 2003).

    Discussion between author Anupama Chopra, leading filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and Bollywood expert and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at NYU Tejaswini Ganti. The discussion is moderated by Richard Allen, Chair of Cinema Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts.

    Cinephilia celebrated and explored in IndianAuteur

    A Film Studies For Free quickie first-off today, just to bring you news of the new issue (no. 7: November 25- December 25) of the IndianAuteur  E-magazine. In particular, FSFF wanted to flag up its fascinating series of articles on film festivals and cinephilia, crowned by a truly fantastic interview with one of the most prodigiously talented and productive cinephile film-writers out there, Adrian Martin.

    You can read the issue online by clicking here; and you can download it by clicking here (for the .zip file). The magazine’s great e-archive of past issues is here. Below, FSFF has pasted the table of contents of direct links to all those articles from the new issue which available online:

    AUTEUR
    COVER STORY
    Paradise Lost: Kshitiz Anand
    Cinephilia in India: Nitesh Rohit
    Seeing is Believing: Supriya Suri
    Winds From The East: Sagorika Singha
    Multiplexes, Multi-Million AND Multi-Wood: Anuj Malhotra (there’s a problem loading this page so far)
    Interview

    A Heart of Gold: Pakeezah and the Hindi Courtesan Film


    Click on the image of Meena Kumari, above, to link to the ‘Chalte Chalte‘ sequence in Pakeezah (music by by Ghulam Mohammed, lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Kamal Amrohi, Kaif Bhopali, sung by Lata Mangeshkar).

    One of the favourite films of Film Studies For Free‘s author is Kamal Amrohi‘s Pakeezah/Pure Heart (1971), a magnificent Hindi melodrama and one of the most accomplished and beautiful films in the transnational ‘courtesan with a heart of gold‘ film genre.

    As one of FSFF‘s favourite scholarly film weblogs is Michael J. Anderson‘s Tativille, you can possibly imagine how delighted it was to find that the centrepiece feature of Indian Auteur‘s third issue is Anderson‘s remarkable essay on Pakeezah. (IndianAuteur is an excellent online journal edited by Nitesh Rohit, Supriya Suri and others).

    What better way to celebrate the felicitous conjunction of all of these elements, then, or to encourage FSFF readers to explore them all, than a little list of Friday links to online and freely accessible studies touching on Pakeezah, Kamal Amrohi, Meena Kumari (pictured above) and the Hindi Courtesan Film.

    >A Heart of Gold: Pakeezah and the Hindi Courtesan Film

    >


    Click on the image of Meena Kumari, above, to link to the ‘Chalte Chalte‘ sequence in Pakeezah (music by by Ghulam Mohammed, lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Kamal Amrohi, Kaif Bhopali, sung by Lata Mangeshkar).

    One of the favourite films of Film Studies For Free‘s author is Kamal Amrohi‘s Pakeezah/Pure Heart (1971), a magnificent Hindi melodrama and one of the most accomplished and beautiful films in the transnational ‘courtesan with a heart of gold‘ film genre.

    As one of FSFF‘s favourite scholarly film weblogs is Michael J. Anderson‘s Tativille, you can possibly imagine how delighted it was to find that the centrepiece feature of Indian Auteur‘s third issue is Anderson‘s remarkable essay on Pakeezah. (IndianAuteur is an excellent online journal edited by Nitesh Rohit, Supriya Suri and others).

    What better way to celebrate the felicitous conjunction of all of these elements, then, or to encourage FSFF readers to explore them all, than a little list of Friday links to online and freely accessible studies touching on Pakeezah, Kamal Amrohi, Meena Kumari (pictured above) and the Hindi Courtesan Film.