thoughts on cinema as a world wide phenomenon

Saturday, January 14, 2012 3:07:52 PM
film making, film
We often forget that while cinema was “invented” in the Anglo-French world it reached the rest of thew world pretty much at the same time. The first film screening in the world, by the Lumières, was in Dec 1895; by the end of the following year, films had been screened in Bombay, London, Montreal, New York, Alexandria Egypt and Buenos Aires.
We think the history of cinema is the history of Hollywood, but it isn’t. Or at least, that’s not the whole story. Mark Cousin’s book and TV series The Story of Film is the best account of the real history of cinema yet produced, while David Puttnam’s Undeclared War has a great account of the rise of Hollywood form a European (UK) perspective.
But too often film industries in English speaking countries believe they have to do the impossible: compete with Hollywood. We can’t. Ever. Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand… we can never play the Hollywood game. We can’t make the kind of films they do. If we want to, we have to go there. And we do.
But is that what we are: breeding grounds for Hollywood – supplying them with the creative and technical people they need to make more US-focused US-market Hollywood films?
What is the role of cinema: is it just a business, where the return on the investment is all? Or is it a valid and important (even crucial) form of creative national expression? It’s so expensive to make films that it’s hard to put cinema in the same category as literature – which after all is just not as costly to produce. Nobody can argue the importance of literature as creative national expression (imagine Russia without Bulgakov, England without Orwell, America without Ginsberg). Yet cinema touches more lives these days than literature does. We understand the world though storytelling and always have. And today our stories are mostly told in the form of moving images.
So, how do we as English speakers, create valid national cinemas that don’t compete with Hollywood but deserve a place in world cinema?

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