March 19, 2013 – FILM LECTURE
Today’s topic: Film and (Post)Colonialism
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Go back and look at the weekly lecture outlines.
Let’s start by revising the title and studying Film and Colonialism, removing the “post”.
We bumped against psychoanalysis last week with feminism. Psychoanalysis was a
common theme last week. The references to psychoanalysis are only a tip of an iceberg.
Psychoanalysis has impact cinema very importantly. There is a sense in which the cinema
and psychoanalysis are implicated in each other. They are rooted in the same historical
moment, and are tied to each other. They can explain each other in some ways. Today,
we are devoting our attention to the heights of European colonialism (the European
empire) that juxtaposed the birth of cinema. Many European powers were the first to
establish infrastructure for the production of films on a large scale at the same time they
ruled over the rest of the world.
Travel logs = very popular form of early cinema. The Lumiere brothers pioneered these
types of films. They started to produce a series of travel logs. Initially, the Lumiere
Brothers turned their cameras on various events happening in the world around them. The
name of these captures were “things happening now”, or “actualites”. For example, they
filmed workers leaving the factories, and then screened these films in cafes. After, they
started sending cameras around the world and filmed events, that were mundane or
special like coronations. These travel logs allowed for people to see the world without
having to leave their homes. The Lumiere brothers made “Indochina, the village of
Namo”, which allowed to bring Indochina into the grasp of French viewers. This allowed
the French to be more than virtual tourists, and even more than armchair conquistadores.
The French could assume the position of virtual colonial authority (at the time, Indochina
belonged to France).
Ethnographic cinema (another kind of film like travel logs) depicted human diversity
(much like anthropology). When film began, anthropologists thought cinema would
transform ethnic relations. Early ethnographic films are very similar to “Nanook of the
North” (regarded as the first documentary film). Flaherty’s film was creative in its
aspirations and execution. It wanted to scrutinize the people who were supposedly dying
out because they could not compete with the developing world.
Early colonialist films served…
To institutionalize certain looking relations that have endured into the present.
The shore up certain assumptions about racial difference that were already in
circulation when cinema was invented (Such as white supremacy. The rational
giving by colonial powers was that of the “white man’s burden”, the idea that
White Men were to civilize the rest of the world. The goal was to uplift others