Transnational cinema refers to films that contain blended elements of many nations. The films cannot be easily defined as belonging to one nation; for example; the 2002 Chinese film ‘Internal Affairs’ became transnational in 2006 when Hollywood appropriated the film into ‘The Departed’.
You may be thinking, ‘what’s the point?’ Why make a film transnational? It already exists; wack on subtitles in various languages, and the film, belonging to one nation can be enjoyed by an array of audiences across the world.
Now this isn’t an answer, simply my opinion, but I believe the reason being is one word: ‘Hollywood’. Hollywood is the principle center of the United States movie industry and what is Hollywood’s aim? To make money! When something is popular, in demand or desired it is going to make money. Hollywood gives the people what they want, to take back what they need to continue the cycle. For example; popular books such as Fifty Shades of Grey and an abundance of Nicholas Sparkes novels… the public wanted to see them brought to life so Hollywood made it happen.
When a movie is successful in another part of the world, such as Internal Affairs in Hong Kong, Hollywood is able to cash in on its popularity by making an English speaking, culturally relatable version for western audiences. When Hollywood, or on a broader scale, America as a nation do this they are ‘culturally appropriating’ foreign film. This isn’t to say that America is the only country appropriating and transnationalising cinema, they are however doing it at the largest scale.
Cultural appropriation is the act of taking something (in this case a film) from one culture, that you do not belong to (American’s taking from other nations) and using it outside that cultural context, usually not recognizing its original cultural significance. Often times the cultural relevance and meaning are changed, this may be because in the culture that it is being appropriated too, there are different social norms and culture is undertaken in a different way.
This meme depicts the cultural appropriation of young white Americans wearing the traditional Native American headdress. It is unlikely that they have permission to wear the headdress as a fashion accessory and probably do not understand the cultural meaning behind the item. They’re appropriating it as something that looks good, an accessory with no meaning or cultural relevance behind it.
If you haven’t heard of or seen my Internal Affairs/The Departed example in regards to film, you may be familiar with one of the following transnational film remakes:
|Country of Origin||Title||Country of Remake||Title|
|France||‘Cible emouvante’||America||‘Wild Target’|
|Germany||‘Der Himmel uber Berlin’||America||‘City of Angels’|
|Germany||‘Bella Martha’||America||‘No Reservations’|
I do have to make clear; there is a difference between a remake and cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when the original meaning is changed and the culture of the appropriating country is evidenced in the new film. If the cultural significance remains the same and it still relevant to it’s country or origin then it is simply a remake.
I myself am one who contributes to the gross revenue of Hollywood made films, I love English speaking, American cinema, and I will pay to watch! I think it is amazing that we are given the opportunity to be introduced to culture and ideas through this appropriation, that we may not have found interest in or have been exposed to if it was never taken past the original production. Do you think it is wrong for movies to become transnational? To be remade, appropriating the culture? Or do you enjoy that you are introduced to these storylines and ideas that you may have otherwise had no exposure to? Think about it.
marinashutup, What is Cultural Appropriation? | Feminist Fridays, online video, 05 December 2014, marinashutup, viewed 30 August 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT1sTYpOJ04
Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Global Media and Communication, 6: 3, pp. 309-316
Khorana, Sukhmani, Lecture 4 ‘Transnational Film & The Politics of Cultural Ownership’ powerpoint slides, BCM111, presented 19 August 2015