The Hybrid(e) and Prejudice

Looking at the Transnational film industry, this week as brought us back to the ever appropriate topic of hybridity. Before we delve into that however let us look at what actually defines a film as being transnational. A transnational film encourages itself to not be limited to one specific nation, rather comprising of ‘globalisation… and the counter hegemonic responses of filmakers from colonial and third world countries (Ezra and Rowden, 2006, p.1).

I bet you can list up to five films that all contain transnational elements! One of my personal favourites is the 2006 film, Babel (trailer below):

  • Mexican Director – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
  • Narrative set/ and filmed in Morocco, Japan and the United States
  • Languages used: English, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Japanese Sign Language, Berber and French
  • Multi-Nation Cast, ranging from American , Australian, Japanese and British
  • Array of funders from France, Mexico and US – Predominately  USA – Paramount  Pictures (from IMDB)

The collaboration, assembling and influences of people from different nationalities makes for an interesting mix of hybridity.  To clarify, cultural hybridity is a mutual inter-mingling that comes from the European (explorer) nations and the Explored nations, which results in a ‘third language’. This is certainly apparent in the evolving state of movie content.   This week’s lecture was interesting in its exploration of the ways that cultural influence becomes apparent in the film industry.

In particular, the modern flow of Bollywood (the second largest film industry in the world) into western cultures demonstrates perfectly the hybridity in transnational film and the implications it faces for various audiences. The reading for this week Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows (which, despite its name, is quite a succinct and to-the-point article), discussed the modern flow of Bollywood styling into western culture.

The  Bollywood – Hollywood hybridity at play is demonstrated in the 2004 Bollywood take on the 19th Century Austen classic Pride and Prejudice – Bride & Prejudice.  The elements this movie borrows from the Bollywood style – over-the-top-ness and musical numbers, is what makes Bride & Prejudice stand out from other romantic comedies.

Now, Western audiences might see Bride & Prejudice as a piece of Indian cinema, due to the Bollywood-style musical numbers and setting, whilst on the flip side, Indian audiences will observe the obvious western influences – after all, it is based on an Austen novel.   Whilst this movie did fairly well in Western cinemas, the reception in India was lukewarm at best. Below are some reviews of IMDB that highlight the mixed responses to the transnational film.

negreview

 

This is an interesting case of cultural flows operating opposite to the expected system of the U.S to… everywhere else influence – or ‘Hollywood’s hegemony’ (Karan, Schaefer 2010 p.310).  This can be compared to the ‘Eastern’ film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which was hugely successful in the West, but not so much in China – the country where it was perceived to have originated from.

This may stem from the attitude of audiences in India and China that these movies portray Westernized versions of their culture – and while the hybridity of Bride and Crouching Tiger are exotic to the Western audience, the stereotypical portrayal of their culture come across as stale to the ‘local’ audiences.

In the end however, I personally think it is great that on a global scale we can all appreciate the art of story-telling through film and the ability it has to bring communities/ cultures/ groups/ people together. You cannot underestimate the power of film in this globalised world and how transnational film, in particular mirrors the eclectic mix of cultures throughout the globe .

Reference List:

Ezra, E., & Rowden, T. (2006). Transnational Cinema: The Film Reader. London: Routledge

Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’ Global Media and Communication Vol 6: 3, pp. 309-316

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