WRITING HISTORIES OF "PERIPHERAL" CINEMAS
During the half-century after World War II, empires dissolved and new nations emerged. Fresh boundaries were established and often disputed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Eastern Europe continued to fracture, with both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia splitting in two. Some nations that had become decolonized renamed themselves: Burma became Myanmar, Ceylon became Sri Lanka. Hundreds of thousands of people found themselves living in newly formed countries and cities, with new neighbors and often tensely maintained borders.
It was hardly surprising that themes of identity—national, cultural, racial—should emerge in filmmaking around the world. The idea of Third Cinema, arising in the 1960s and 1970s, was one effort to understand this process in an international way. (See Notes and Queries for Chapter 23.) But Third Cinema carried militant, even revolutionary, implications. What about other aspects of film culture within societies that were undergoing radical changes? The question is hard to answer if we assume that these new societies were operating according to principles familiar from the dominant forms of filmmaking—that is, American and Western European cinema.
Some historians approached the problem through the concept of multiculturalism. The idea is that typically no nation possesses a single culture, one unified heritage that can be neatly summarized as, say, Anglo-Saxon, or white, or Christian. Each nation, its regions and traditions, are shot through with influences and traces of various cultures. The situation is evident in postcolonial nations, where cultures have been remade in response to migration and conquerors. The society of Mexico, for instance, was deeply changed by the Spanish conquest and the expansion of U. S. power.
The lesson of postcolonial cultures is quite general. Every apparently homogenous nation, we can say, turns out to be multicultural. Modern Italy seems clearly to descend from the ancient Romans, but it was settled early by Greeks, conquered by Byzantine and German forces, and was highly influenced by other Western European nations, and the U. S. A. Even countries dominated by a single ethnic group tend to absorb outside influences, as Japan has from India, China, and Korea.
The idea that every culture taps into others, creating hybrids and mixtures, becomes especially evident in modern media. Multiculturalism confronts us every time we listen to an MP3 player or go to a movie. Africans and Europeans see American films, while Americans listen to music influenced by African culture and see films remade from European ones. But what happens to each national culture as it is swept up into the mix? Ella Shohat and Robert Stam argue that modern media can "deterritorialize" a culture, shifting its traditions away from its geographical locale, peeling away its specific qualities—which include its own distinct mix of influences. For discussions of this process, and an argument against taking European-North American culture as central or superior to others, see their wide-ranging book Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (New York: Routledge, 1994). Shohat and Stam have contributed later thoughts to Rethinking Third Cinema, ed. Anthony R. Guneratne and Wimal Dissanayake (New York: Routledge, 2003), in which several essays consider the relationship of Third Cinema to multiculturalism.
Another way to study the diversity within international cinema has been proposed by Mette Hjort. Like Shohat and Stam, she is concerned to overturn generalizations based only on the dominant forms of filmmaking found in Hollywood and Europe. She argues that we can grasp the multicultural variety of cinema through the concept of "small nations"—countries who are self-consciously aware of their relations to bigger and more powerful nations. How do filmmakers in small nations try to differentiate their work from American movies, or copy them, or selectively borrow from them, or borrow from other small nations? How might a small nation's films respect its own hybrid culture, or skew it in expressive directions? And how do the different strategies play out in an age of globalization? Hjort explains her ideas in Small Nation, Global Cinema: The New Danish Cinema (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). Wider implications of the idea are outlined in The Cinema of Small Nations, ed. Mette Hjort and Duncan Petrie (Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press, 2007).
Writing history from a multicultural perspective is relevant to several later chapters of this book, most directly Chapters 27 and 29. The Further Reading sections of these chapters and the General Bibliography list several more works tackling the problem.
PINNING THE TAIL ON PINOCHET
Miguel Littín, director of The Jackal of Nahueltoro (1969; p. 522), was one of 5,000 exiles whom Piochet's dictatorship forbade on pain of death to return to Chile. In 1985, posing as a Uruguayan businessman, Littín returned. His goal was to make a secret film documenting life under the regime, with the hope, as his children put it, of "pinning a great long donkey's tail on Pinochet."
Littín oversaw three European film crews, each working unknown to the others, and several young Chilean teams. They shot twenty-five hours of documentary footage, including scenes in Pinochet's palace. After several narrow brushes with the authorities, Littín escaped and produced a four-hour television film and a two-hour documentary, both called Acta general de Chile (1986). His state of disguised exile—unable to visit friends and relatives, fearing that a passerby would recognize his identity—is engrossingly told in Gabriel García Marquez, Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín, trans. Asa Zatz (New York: Holt, 1986). Pinochet's forces seized 15,000 copies of the Spanish edition and burned them.
STORYTELLING STRATEGIES OUTSIDE WESTERN CINEMA
During the 1980s, "narratology" led many film scholars to reflect on how cinema mobilized basic patterns and strategies of storytelling. For overviews of these developments see David Bordwell, Narration in the Fiction Film (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), and Robert Stam et al., New Vocabularies for Film Semiotics (New York: Routledge, 1992).
The issue of how to tell stories on film had a particular pertinence for filmmakers in the developing world, where rural populations still recited or sang folktales. Filmmakers in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa explored ways in which films might appeal to audiences through an integration of film technique and oral narrative. As yet there exists no broad study of how oral storytelling techniques have been applied to cinema, but some critics have made valuable forays into the area. Karl G. Heider studies folklore plots in Indonesian Cinema: National Culture on Screen (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991). As our chapter indicates, African cinema has made extensive use of oral techniques. Some significant studies are André Gardiès and Pierre Hafner, Regards sur le cinéma négro-africain (Brussels: OCIC, 1987); Manthia Diawara, "Oral Literature and African Film: Narratology in Wend Kuuni," in Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, eds., Questions of Third Cinema (London: British Film Institute, 1989), pp. 199–212; and several essays in "Cinémas noirs d'Afrique," CinémAction 26 (1983). Lizbeth Malkmus and Roy Armes offer useful general discussions of oral strategies in their Arab and African Film Making (London: Zed, 1991).