Against the narrowly commercial and homogenising term ‘world cinema’ that lumps together a diversity of ‘foreign’ films as a category, the notion of ‘the local’ relativizes the idea of the ‘national’ as a singular entity. It suggests the pivoting around each other of ‘there’ and ‘here,’ thereby avoiding precisely fixed locations and calling on the dynamism of their relationship. The local, captures not only particular geo-political locations but historical relationships, which, interacting with changing conditions, produce the shifting frameworks of thinking, feeling, experience, and aesthetic perception that shape local practices, traditions, and cultural forms. However, this specificity is often called on to endorse an authenticity uncontaminated by metropolitan sophistication or global uniformity, enabling local products to travel to an elsewhere beyond national boundaries. The value of ‘world’ over ‘global’ lies in its call on the space shared by many different nationals, whereas ‘global’ suggests the homogenisation enforced by multi-national corporate and neo-colonial Western powers. As an alternative concept, ‘trans-national’ applied to cinema has the virtue of acknowledging the existence of nationally defined geo-historical and cultural differences as well as the reality of cross-border migration of personnel, technologies, and films, along with the complexity of international co-production. However, if the term keeps the idea of the ‘national’ in place, the boundaries it marks are neither natural nor fixed. If local film genres and narrative forms function as public sites in which aesthetic histories, cultural frames of reference and social experiences feed and negotiate with each other, the question arises how far the trans-national intensification of this activity now produces a new space for an emergent ‘world imaginary’: the idea of a shared ‘world’.
The answers below touch on three different meanings of world cinema. First, world cinema is the acknowledgement of an existing cinema originated in the diversity of geographical and cultural contexts from all over the globe and expresses the rise of multiple local cinemas on a common international scene. Second, world cinema denotes to the films that proved to be recognizable as artistically valuable through these channels (festivals, critics, niche distributors) and conveys the idea that only certain types of films would be accepted on the international scene. And third, world cinema relates to a more specific type of films, that are not so many but gives a particular visibility to an immensely vast phenomenon with films that are either “without borders”, or mixing various origins and references. By keeping these in mind, the research on world cinema should be issue based, acknowledging de vast rainbow of various ways to make cinema, related with socio-economical and cultural contexts, political environment, inscription in various aspects of history of cinema aesthetics and other artistic and cultural means of expressions, local, regional and global. The films of world cinema are, or at least should be objects of research, objects of thinking, but also if not primarily objects of love.
The world envisioned by the idea of world cinema is often tied to a conception of the planet in terms of the global circulation of films and networks of production, consumption and distribution. This article argues for the need to confront the world as a representational and aesthetic category in and of itself.
This article examines the term ‘World Cinema’ by comparing it to ‘world literature’, as understood by two German thinkers of the Romantic period: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Karl Marx, who attributed universal appeal to it. It argues that World cinema, like world literature, testifies to the unequal distribution of economic and cultural power. World Cinema refers to cinemas of peripheries, cinematic production of ‘developing’ or Third World countries or non-Hollywood. Moreover, it does not encompass everything which is produced in the peripheries, but only that part, which lends itself to the gaze of (broadly understood) western scholars. Inevitably, such gaze privileges ‘canonical works’, which have already received national recognition and which due to their subjects, forms or ideologies, align themselves with the production in the centre. However, there are also films created in the peripheries which transcended national boundaries despite being openly local and even hostile to the idea of competing with other films on the global market, especially films made in Hollywood or modelled on Hollywood, such as Third Cinema, whose analysis concludes the discussion.
The article explores the concept of world cinema as an other to global cinema from a marketing perspective. Special attention is given to the way the world cinema universe is presented on video-on-demand platforms in Western markets. To demonstrate that the stories, scope and concerns of this universe vary according to marketing objectives, the article compares presentations on three platforms with contrasting business models and marketing algorithms: Netflix, Filmin, and FilmDoo. This leads to an important conclustion: presentations on platforms with an apparently more ethical business model are not necessarily more progressive and more advantageous to world cinema in terms of avoiding its “genre-fication”.
In this essay, I engage with the concept of ‘world cinema,’ identifying ways in which the term ‘world’ might always already come loaded with masculine and, in particular, white connotations, such that a turn to ‘world cinema’ runs the risk of reaffirming the centrality of masculinity and whiteness—at a time when, perhaps it is of utmost importance, for the sake of the continuation of human and other life, to challenge and perhaps even to negate that centrality. What applies to ‘world’ (which may be a shorthand for white masculinity) may also apply to cinema, and so it is that cinema and white masculinity alike that must be abandoned for human life on Earth to progress. To propose a turn to world cinema may thus not ‘work’ as a means to develop film studies in an ethical, more inclusive direction, since both world and cinema are by nature exclusive, rather than inclusive.
This paper argues for the political urgency of the project of World Cinema, and an understanding of World Cinema as a dynamic totality. Totality here is not a generic, macroscopic lens, but a system that accounts for the co-existence of all cinemas as well as the uneven power relationships that determine the relative visibility or invisibility of cinemas in the global system. This structural inequity, a condition that underlies the differentiated cinematic flows, is also a methodological ruse in that it can only point to unequal relationships in discourses that define the current conceptions of World Cinema. An awareness of totality, we argue, makes it possible to return to films themselves as nodal points from which to begin the mapping of World Cinema through its complex networks of financing, distribution, and its circuits of legitimation (film festivals, academic discourses) which shape world cinema as a body of knowledge.