March 26, 2013 – FILM LECTURE
Today’s Topic: Film and the Nation
So far in this section of the course we have looked at films relationship to certain social
movements (feminism, anti-colonial relations). Today, we will look at film and the social
formation that is the nation. We will think of the national cinema. National cinema is a
field of inquiry. Why is the study of national cinema a complicated matter? First, it is
hard to determine to which nation a film belongs. For example, a film’s national identity
could be determined by any of the following:
Financing (A film can be funded by a single country or can be financed by
multiple countries, multiple financial sources. Orlando is an example of this;
money came in from 5 different countries).
Subject Matter (Orlando has to be called British because one of its most central
projects is engaging with British history and to revise British history.)
Personnel (The identity of the film can be associated with the identity of the
personnel. Orlando has a British protagonist, a British director, and many other
famous British artists. The film’s cinematographer is Russian, however, like many
of the crewmembers. Based on this fact, could Russia claim Orlando as its own?
We can also think about how American films are made in Canada for lower costs.
How Canadian are these films?) A good example of the dilemma of a film’s
identity is Lore.
Audiences (Where was the film well received? Where did it receive major
recognition? Who identified with it?) If one particular national audience responds
to a film, then it can claim the film as its own. This is by implication what one of
this week’s authors says in the reading this week.
The dominant practice is to identify a film by the country in which its production
companies are found. Financing is the dominant practice, but this is not the only practice
we can entertain. When studying a national cinema, we need to bear in mind differences
as well as commonalities. We need to think about the flow of capital, flow of personnel,
flow of ideas communicated to international and national audiences.
Two issues that the study of a national cinema can illuminate:
The means by which that nation imagines itself. The way we have been using
nation runs counter to its traditional meaning. Nation is defined by a collectivity
based on a number of shared things, the most important of which are ancestry,
language, and cultural heritage. Meanwhile, state is defined as an institutional
structure charged with exercising authority within a definable and limited
jurisdictional purview, which is typically territorial in nature. At this time, the
nation-state emerges, which brings together the nation and the state to make them
coincident. It brings together a land and a culture. Today, we tend to talk about
states as nations, even where their populations include a wide array of cultures.
The nation and state have become interchangeable. This can be seen as sloppy, or
it can show that nations have been constructed (as says Benedict Anderson).
Rather than putting stock in a natural bond, Anderson claims that the state
produces a sense of coherence, unity, of a common past and a common future.
The state depends on the notion of coherence and unity. Otherwise, how could it