'The film world is changing and the most exciting films are often being made outside the English-speaking world...'
Roy Stafford, author of The Global Film Book, considers film studies from a global perspective. Read his guest blog here today!
The film year always starts with what I think of as ‘awards films’ – prestigious films jostling for a public profile and nominations for BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Oscars. These mainly American films attract attention across the globe. They dominate cinema screens here in the UK and distributors of films not in English are forced to retreat. This is a shame because the film world is changing and the most exciting films are often being made outside the English-speaking world. China, South Korea and Mexico are the countries where cinema audiences are growing fastest while North America is static and Europe is generally declining. Those new audiences often choose American blockbusters but over 50% of the audience in China and South Korea is for locally-made films – and what is an ‘American’ film anyway? Life of Pi, for instance, was made by a Taiwanese director from a Canadian book. The lead actors are Indian and the film was shot in Taiwan, India and Canada.
There are thousands of films produced across the globe each year (UNESCO suggests 7,000). In the UK around 550 are released and perhaps 150 appear in most multiplexes. What are the other films like? Why aren’t we offered the chance to see them? Two of the other emerging film nations are Nigeria, whose films are now watched across Africa, mostly on TV, and Turkey, now exporting films and television serials depicting different views of a modern Muslim society. Some of these films are shown in Germany and in selected London cinemas but mostly they are unknown in the Anglo-Saxon world.
The UK, North America and Australia are amongst the most important markets for Hindi and Tamil films from India and Hindi is the second-biggest film language in UK cinemas. Yet only very occasionally is an Indian popular film ever reviewed in the mainstream press or on TV. But things are changing, even in Hollywood. The biggest film at the worldwide box office this year was Iron Man 3 – a Disney film jointly produced with a Chinese company. Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón are both Mexicans who have become directors of transnational films. Del Toro’s Pacific Rim was deemed a flop in North America but was ‘saved’ because of its Chinese success. Cuarón made Gravity in the UK. The film features a Chinese space station and again its biggest ‘overseas’ audience has been in China.
I think it’s time to start thinking about film studies much more from a global perspective. What are South Korean filmmakers doing to attract audiences, how has the Nigerian video film become so popular in Africa, what does it mean to open a new cinema in Palestine? The Global Film Book can’t answer these questions directly but what it can do is put them in context and explain the background. It can analyse the international film market and identify the changes taking place. Perhaps it can also persuade its readers to consider watching a whole range of different films?
– Roy Stafford, Jan 2014
Roy Stafford has taught film in further, higher and adult education in the UK. He is now a freelance lecturer working in cinema-based film education. He is author of The Global Film Book (2014) and co-author of The Media Student’s Book (5th edition, 2010). He has written widely on film including Understanding Audiences and the Film Industry (2007) and study guides on La haine (2000) and Seven Samurai (2001).
Read more about Stafford's latest title The Global Film Book or visit his full blog at globalfilmstudies.com .
The Global Film Book is an accessible and entertaining exploration of the development of film as global industry and art form, written especially for students and introducing readers to the rich and varied cinematic landscape beyond Hollywood. Highlighting areas of difference and similarity in film…
Paperback – 2014-01-10
The Media Student's Book is a comprehensive introduction for students of media studies. It covers all the key topics and provides a detailed, lively and accessible guide to concepts and debates. Now in its fifth edition, this bestselling textbook has been thoroughly revised, re-ordered and updated…
Paperback – 2010-05-27