Featured Content: World Cinema

How has cinema helped shape national identity?

Screen Studies brings together a wealth of content addressing the many forms of filmmaking in national and regional cinema contexts as well as cinemas of migration and diaspora. In the introduction to her book World Cinema and the Ethics of Realism, Lúcia Nagib addresses the term ‘world cinema,’ arguing that it should not be seen as the ‘other’ of ‘mainstream’ or Hollywood cinema, but when approached from “a positive, democratic and inclusive” perspective, as a diverse phenomenon with “peaks of creation in different places and periods.”

The Cinema of Jia Zhangke

Cecília Mello builds on Nagib’s idea of world cinema as enjoying “peaks of creation” in her study of the contemporary Chinese director Jia Zhangke. Mello explores how Jia tackles questions of realism and memory in films made from the 1990s onwards, identifying his recurrent aesthetic and thematic preoccupations. Returning to the question of national identity and cinema, she considers the contexts of Jia’s creative practice in China’s political and artistic history, but also how he has been influenced by other traditions of making, writing and thinking about cinema.

Contemporary Peruvian Cinema

Many national cinemas developed in the 20th century alongside their country’s path to a modern nation state. Sarah Barrow considers the part played by cinema in forging a Peruvian national identity in Chapter 1 of her book Contemporary Peruvian Cinema. She draws attention to the tension between the state’s desire to use cinema to tell a unifying story about national history, and the desire of filmmakers and thinkers to represent difference and minority voices – for example, the Third Cinema movement which emerged after the Cuban Revolution, which was committed to social and cultural emancipation.

Ethics and Aesthetics in Contempoary African Cinema

Filmmakers in Africa have often charted a path between a pan-African cinema, asserting an ‘African’ fellowship across national borders, and the desire to create a national cinema as part of the development of a post-colonial national identity. In a conversation with Valentina Vitali and Paul Willemen for their book Theorising National Cinema, the filmmaker John Akomfrah discusses this tension in post-war African cinema and cultural politics, with reference to directors such as Ousmane Sembène and Suleymane Cissé.

The responsibility of cinema to foster political and cultural change is explored by James S. Williams in his Ethics and Aesthetics in Contemporary African Cinema. Williams discusses how the 1960s generation of black African filmmakers and critics, wrestling with the legacies of European colonialism, believed that cinema had an urgent imperative to create idealizing myths of nationhood, modernity and cultural revolution. Williams shows how, in representing subjects such as the eroticised male body, the new African metropolis, and questions of migration and transculturalism, more recent filmmakers such as Abderrahmane Sissako, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Fanta Régina Nacro, Alain Gomis, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Katy Lena Ndiaye and Mati Diop are helping to redefine ‘African cinema’ in ways that are no longer tied to the ideals of pan-Africanism.

Homepage banner image: Mbissine Therese Diop in Black Girl, directed by Ousmane Sembène (1966) (Photo courtesy Everett Collection/Mary Evans)

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