Transnational Film: Cultural Appropriation

What is transnational film?

A transnational film is one that incorporates aspects of many different countries, and that cannot be defined as belonging to a single nation. Motion Pictures (Films), originated in France around 1896, where the Lumiere Brothers produced a film of a moving train. It was new and exciting form of entertainment. When they showed it to a live audience, they all screamed and went to exit the theatre as they thought a train was actually coming towards them. Films were the latest and greatest form of entertainment yet. However, it was not long before this phenomena took off and went global. By the 1930’s, Hollywood was responsible for 80% of films screened world wide. Most of these films contained many western themes. Films were everywhere.

Different countries saw films as a key source of entertainment and felt a need to control what was culturally appropriate for their audience.  An clear example of this is the Chinese film industry. In 1927, the Chinese film industry established a film censorship board. Any film that portrayed a Chinese person in a negative way was censored and banned. Although as time went on, the Chinese film industry eventually let other films back into their country. Furthermore, the Australian film industry also took off at an incredibly rate releasing 163 films in the 1910s. However, over the years Australia has found it difficult to penetrate the film entertainment market. In 2014, Australian films accounted for barely 2.4% of the box office. In hindsight however, this does make economically sense. The Australian economy isn’t exactly “booming” at the moment and the film industry is very demanding. Expenses that Australia cannot afford, but ones the US can afford. An average cost of a major film in the US is $100 million. It is incredibly difficult for Australia to compete with all the High Definition and Graphical ingenuity that other industries can afford. With all these films being produced and circulated around the world, it is hard to be respectful to every culture.

Many have been offended by the content of films, as some films have been based off cultural stories of other countries. Also, some films contain stereotypes that are definitely insulting to other cultures, for example, “Iron Man 3”. The character, “The Mandarin” was originally very insulting to Chinese culture. Making fun of the Chinese by only adhering to the stereotypes. Hence, in the actual film they had to adjust the character of the Mandarin in order to please all crowds. This is called “Cultural Appropriation”. Taking an idea from another culture and using it at the principal idea for something that is belongs to someone else. This is not always a negative thing. In the film “O Brother, Where art thou”, the director appropriated Homer’s Odyssey in order to provide an interesting and engaging film that would entertain audiences. For example, there is a cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey. So in order to appropriate this to film, the director simply inserted a big tall strong man with an eye-patch. This film was a huge success and was enjoyed by many.

Therefore, cultural appropriation does not always have negative impacts. Films play an instrumental role in our entertainment industry and are an essential part of society. They are an exploration of the imagination as they explore creativity through a virtual realm.


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