Chapter 9: Transnational formations

Transnational Formations 

◉ Cinema has been a transnational medium from the very beginning, from immigrant talent in Hollywood to cross-border influences of directors on one another. But the concept of transnationalism has gained particular relevancy in the global age, even though it has often been deemed banal an privy to easy appropriation in marketing 

◉ Economic, political, and cultural relationships that underlie cinematic production, distribution, and consumption are increasingly transnational. Discrete national frameworks, clearly defined national policies, economies, and cultures are no longer a valid point of reference. Financing is multinational and cultural political bodies that provide funding for film are no longer bound within a nation-state. Networks of distribution and exhibition are transnational, as are flows of circulation enabled by new technologies such as digital media and online streaming

◉ A film viewer’s encounter with film is more transnational than ever: the incredible rise of film festivals and the increased mobility of and access to films have given rise to a cosmopolitan cine-literacy, spectators with rich visual currency capable of reading films beyond their nationally and culturally specific frameworks. 

Transnational cinema 

◉ Addressing various components of the interconnected world-system with a high degree or elasticity, the concept of transnationalism “enables us to better understand the changing ways in which the contemporary world is being imagined by an increasing number of filmmakers across genres as a global system rather than as a collection of more or less autonomous  nations” (Ezra & Rowden, 2006: 1)

◉ Transnational cinema studies address numerous manifestations of this reality: some examine the transnational flows that define the interactions between cinematic output and the consumption patterns of the diaspora; others study the mobility of filmmakers and their transnational mode of work; still others explore the new dimensions of global cinephilia, or transnational critical approaches

◉ As Higbee and Lim point out, perhaps the biggest danger in deploying the concept of the transnational is its pervasiveness and popularity as a descriptive marker, so that it tends to be used as “a shorthand for an international or supranational mode of film production whose impact lies beyond the bounds of the national,” often dismissing the intricate and always contextually specific dynamic and implications of the term (2010: 10).

➞ Because of the generalizing tendencies of the term, they urge for a “critical transnationalism” as a methodology that is mindful of the specific and historically-situated interplay in a filmic production between local and global forces that may not always fit the abstract conceptual model of transnational , and usually extends beyond the mere transnational circumstances of production 

➞ Considering the transnational as a methodology should also imply a self-reflexive examination of our subjective position vis-à-vis the cinematic text, the “cross border looking relations” defined by unequal power relations, different historical contexts, and different systems of knowledge. 

Diasporic and postcolonial cinema 

◉ As a term, postcolonial has been widely adopted since the 1980s to designate work thematizing issues that emerge from colonial relations and their aftermath. Denoting the stage after the demise of colonialism, it is associate with Third World countries that gained independence after the Second World War, but also refers to Third World diasporas within the First World. 

Diasporic filmmaking, which constitutes a vast transnational film movement and film style located within multiple sites of diaspora space, broadly refers to a diverse spectrum of filmmaking of any dispersed community living away from its country of origin, including imperial/colonial and cultural/hybrid diasporas: German emigres to Hollywood in the 1930s, beur cinema in 1970s France, contemporary Turkish-German cinema, Maghrebi French cinema, black and Asian British cinema, or cinema of Indian diasporas, among many others. 

Transnational women’s cinema

◉ Even though the presence of women filmmakers in world cinema is anything but new, the expanding festival network, shifts in global production, circulation, and reception of films and new financing and marketing structures have markedly widened the opportunities and strengthened the visibility of a new generation of women directors, resulting in an increased awareness of the representation and participation of women at all levels of the film industry 

◉ Alison Butler proposes women’s cinema as”minor” cinema, a term used by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari when speaking of literature of a marginalized group written within a major language

➞ Butler’s concept aligns with the concept of transnationalism, as it considers women’s cinema outside of ghettoized, interstitial, and marginal spaces in the national context, and opens up a more heuristic play of transnational configurations. Further, it foregrounds the issues of borders, belonging, otherness, and displacement as inherently gendered issues. 


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