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.