World Cinema: Introduction



“The term ‘world cinema’ merely names an indisputable reality of the experiences of film practitioners, viewers, critics, students, teachers, and scholars. It is a complex cultural and commercial phenomenon with the power to create and connect disparate worlds… This book develops a method of studying world cinema, a method of mapping a truly multi-centered world that not only makes room for divergent perspectives, traditions, and positions of world cinema, but also charts their interconnectedness and relationships of meaning… The current phase of world cinema begins sometime in the late 1980s, when tectonic changes in geopolitical situations affect filmmaking industries in profound ways, and when in new technologies and global networks of distribution and exhibition radically alter the landscape in which films circulate.” (Deshpande and Mazaj 1-4).


Three levels of approaching world cinema:

Polycentric Level 

◉ Shows the comparative strength and influence of five cinematic centers. The polycentric perspective defies the idea of a single center (most frequently Hollywood or European art cinema), presenting a field of uneven and constantly shifting “hot-spots” that gain prominence at different points of history

◉ A center in world cinema presents substantial activity in its comparative influence on other cinemas, characterized by the following distinguishing features:

➞ A high level of cinematic activity, and a significant strength in the annual film production

➞A formation of of their own spheres of influence; substantial cultural and/or cinematic influence outside of its borders

➞ The creation of independent perspectives and scholarship on their own cinemas, a distinct theoretical-philosophical-cultural approach to the image, thus representing de-centering also in terms of Western film studies and philosophy

◉ 5 centers: Hollywood, Indian cinema, Asian cinema, Nigerian cinema or Nollywood, and European cinema 

Polymorphic Level

◉ An interconnected assemblage or various forms: national transnational, postcolonial, diasporic, small and minor cinemas. These traditional paradigms, far from being obsolete, still provide a necessary framework but now have to be reoriented or reconfigured from different vantage points and within the larger context of world cinema

◉ The polymorphic level of analysis recasts some of the existing models in film studies to orient them to a systemic, interconnected vision of world cinema, where various parts are related to a totality that is grasped as a complex, uneven and dispersed formation –not a generalized university

◉ Employment of critical transnationalism, which allows for a clearer delineation of relationships on various axes of identification such as colonialism, ethnicity, race, or gender 

➞ Moving away from the once-dominant national cinema model to focus on cinemas that struggle to maintain a distinct identity in the age of globalization 

Polyvalent level

◉ Requiring an understanding of how each film is viewed and interpreted differently in different parts of the world.  A film that travels across national and cultural borders is not dictated by a definitive or dominant interpretations, let alone one produced by Western theoretical models

◉ Polyvalence is not so much about uncovering suppressed voices, either in the filmmaking or academic sphere, as it is about reorientation, seeing the world from a different perspective to bracket commonplace assumptions about meanings and relationships between films

➞ Given both the dominance of Western academic discourse in film studies and the difficulty of gaining access to scholarship on some academic discourse in film studies and the difficulty of gaining access to scholarship on some of these cinemas (often due to lack of translation), the task of allowing for the full articulation of these polyphonic voices is an essential part of world cinema 

➞ Part of this exercise includes not privileging any readings of films or cinema over others and tuning into the vibrant but often ignored voices in other parts of the world


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