All 4 entries tagged Globalisation
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January 11, 2008
Globalisation & Representation in European Cinema: Hub Page
(From BBC Website April 2007)
This page is a hub page which can direct you to specific films covered in this blog which have as one of their core themes the representation of the processes of globalisation and migrant labour which may be legal , 'illegal' or undocumented or varieties of slavery including sex trafficking. There will also be a range of useful external links provided. The focus films are currently mainly British ones with some exceptions. Sadly there seem to be few current European films dealing with these issues although of course they may be 'out there' but just not well distributed. The availability of these will be monitored and added to this page as and when they are released / discovered. Whatever else there are a fantastic number of stories of human endurance, stoicism, tragedy and success out there. It is time these were represented far more strongly and effectively than they are and also they should be represented with some recognition at the meta level of what has created these conditions in the first place. Links are also provided to useful pages or references about trafficking, migrant labour, Shock Therapy etc.
A Paucity of Representation
On a Google search of a couple of terms I'm rather surprised that there is very little work on the web concerned with the representation of the processes of globalisation in particular cinemas and their outcomes at the level of narratives either fictional or more documentary style. British cinema is barely touched upon with the only recent film with any serious coverage being The Last Resort by Pawel Pawlikowski in a PDF of an academic conference held under the auspices of the Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe research group. Many other subjects which came up through the search focused on such things as the domination of global cinema by Hollywood, a process which has been happening since the end of the First World War so is hardly news.
What this particular page is concerned about is not the responses of Hollywood's 'other' ie the now, to my mind, inappropriately named World Cinema to this economic domination, although it is of concern. Rather I was hoping to find serious work linking the underlying processes of politcal economy and the global flows of migration into Europe and attempts to represent this process. In the conference refered to above there was a useful looking body of work developing around recent Italian cinema. Sadly I'm not familiar with most of the films mentioned and haven't seen them promoted here however I will be checking them out. Even as late on as 1997 in a city like Vilnius in Lithuania one could see many beggars often old and with bad disabilities out on the streets in desparate straits. in the process of gaining nascent democracy the price was being paid by the weakest in society.
Amongst others an entrepreneurial streak was established, cowboy economies ruled, various criminal gangs grew up and gang murders were frequent. A range of dodgy companies trading in cross-border deals with Russia in metals started up. These countries became entrepots for sex trafficking and migrant labour now being sucked into the burgeoning and quite deregulated economies of countries like Britain.
Globalisation: The Neoliberalism of Thatcher & Reagan
When discussing globalisation it is obviously a huge concept to come to terms with. I'm taking globalisation to mean the development of a dominant discourse of neo-liberalism which started with the nearly simultaneous election of Thatcher and Reagan in 1979 / 1980 after the crisis of capitalism in the 1970s which saw the rate of profit sink in both countries and other leading Western economies, furthermore the 1970s was a decade of severe industrial strife as well as other political upheavals in Europe. Globalisation went on for about a decade which saw the enforced collapse of the Soviet Union through a door that was already half open. To get to this point required the breaking of the trade union movements in Britain and the USA through a process of deindustrialisation in these countries and the installing of an infrastructure which could develop an informationally based economy. At the same time the Soviet Union which was the main external pole of resistance to gloablisation came under increasing pressure. Undoubtedly the war in Afghanistan in which the current Taliban and al Quaida networks were supported by British and American special forces training helped to sap the energy of Soviet forces who were a relatively untrained conscript army at least as unwilling to be fighting as a lot of young Americans in Vietnam.
Shock Therapy & Diaspora
A core part of the strategy of the Anglo-American axis of power after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - a symbolic and real signifier of the collapse of the Soviet Union - was the institution of the so-called 'Shock Therapy' economic regime in the former Soviet block. This prioritised an effective destruction of the economic infrastructure of these countries which were often internally linked by creating a range of tarrifs which made it impossible for the old system to function as effective economic competition for Western economies. It also opened up the system to takeovers by Western companies.
The system of Shock Therapy also managed to wipe out the savings many people had made which were held in Roubles. The collapse of the Rouble which became almost worthless meant disaster for many older people in the ex-Soviet Union such as the Baltic States as well as people under the influence of the Soviet regime in countries such as Poland. At the same time the welfare system which had ensured that everybody had housing, health and work largely fell apart. The newly emergent states were unable to afford anything like this.
Of course this doesn't explain other sources of cheap labour pouring into Southern Europe from Africa or into the United Sates via Mexico. Historically massive phases of economic expansion have sucked in labour from other parts of the World. Migration into Britain to build the transport infrastructure in the 19th century largely came from Ireland, the railways system in the USA was based upon Chinese labourers. Post-war European expansion was fuelled with labour from different parts of the world depending upon the imperial past: Britain from the West Indies, India and Pakistan; France from Algeria and various African colonies; Germany had its Gastarbeiter system using labour from Turkey, Spain, Morocco and the then Yugoslavia.
On this basis one can either argue that the growth of capitalism as an economic system is a form of globalisation which is a direct response to the collapse of empire as a result of the 20th century 30 Years War 1914 - 1945 or as I have done here take it as the outcomes of a specific moment in which the years of 1979 / 80 were a key political turning point which allowed the establishing of a truly globalising economy with a series of outcomes one of which is mass diasporas into the more advanced economies.
Representing Globalisation the Strength of British Independent Cinema
In general the repesentation of the multi-faceted aspects of globalisation have been weak however it is argued here that British cinema has been possibly the best national cinema in representing the underlying political economy of globalisation as defined above. Some of the work of Ken Loach has been concerned with the de-regulation of British industry and the dodgy outcomes of economic liberalisation from the early 1990s until now. Riff-Raff, The Navigators and It's a Free World have certainly covered many of these issues as they have unfurled underpinned by the director's understanding of political economy. Ae fond Kiss also saw Loach take on board the issue of ethnicity and identity very directly. Independent British cinema has certainly been strong on both the concerns of migration and diaspora and also on the issues of hybridity and the changing cultural identity of Britain in recent years. Arguably it could have been stronger but that is an issue well beyond the desires of individual filmmakers who have done an excellent job in the face of an industry which provides little in the way of marketing and promotion, distribution and exhibition.
I consider that the issue of representing ethnicity in British cinema frequently relates to the period of pre-globalisation in films such as East is East. The waves of immigration into the UK predated globalisation on my working definition and representation and ethnicity can often relate to several generations of British people and the hybridity stemming from that embeddedness. The representation of ethnicities from temporary migration and recent migration as a direct outcome of globalisation are treated differently although there are clearly crossovers and overlapping as in the case of the representation of those who are British but become caught up in post 9-11 resistance to globalisation as represented in films like The Road to Guantanamo.
Other contemporary British films which deal with the issues of Globalisation currently include:
11-09-01; Collected shorts including Ken Loach. A series of responses to 9/11
For an overview about these films and their contribution to contemporay British cinema please go to Representing the World Locally.
Non-British Films Representing the Forces of Globalisation
Lily 4-Ever: Lucas Moodysson (Sweden, the economic Shock Therapy regime helps promote Sex trafficking to better off Western Economies)
Cache: Michael Haneke (France) (An allegorical tale of French repressed memory of the murdurous treatment of Algerians in the 1960s)
Code Unknown: Michael Haneke (France) (The breakdown of communications in the contemporary world)
Babel ( 2006) Alejandro González Iñárritu (Japan/ Mexico / USA). Another powerful allegory of miscommunication and such things as arms dealing. At Cannes 2006 many lauded the film as the first great film about globalisation.)
Shock Therapy and its Consequences in Transition Economies (Requires institutional access)
Mervyn King as reported by the Daily Telegraph on the way wages have been kept down by immigrant labour.
From a different political pespective The Worker outlines its case on Migrant Workers and their exploitation
The UK signs a European Convention on trafficking. Will regulation finally catch up with the situation?
January 01, 2008
Please note currently under construction
For further Kinoeye reference pages please go to the: Kinoeye Reference Hub
Globalisation is a very important concept which helps to explain the state of the contemporary World. Media and Communications theorists have played an important role in developing the theories of globalisation going back to the work of Marshall McLuhan in the early 1960s. Globalisation itself can be broken down into several distinct spheres for the purposes of discussion. These spheres of course overlap in practice but it is useful to identify the spheres as economic, political, and cultural. If you have found this page and others associated with it as they are built, you are likely to have come from a films page. The importance of this more abstract work is to try and gain a more anchored understanding of what it is the fim makers are representing at the level of the underlying process which position particular human actors in these sorts of positions and which the film actors are portraying.
From Rocco and His Brothers 1960. Arrival in Milan carrying migrant labour from the Mezzogiorno
Whilst contemporary British cinema is currently perhaps the best in the World when it comes to representing these issues it should not be forgotten that other films have represented the economic and political processes which force migration and diaspora. Notable amongst these are Visconti's Rocco and his Brothers (1960) which charted through representing the developments in a single family the massive internal migration in Italy from south to north which was the basis of the Italian postwar 'economic miracle' , and Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul (1974) about the infamous Gastarbeiter economic system which existed in Germany and was crucial to its postwar economic re-development. By comparison Britain and France were reliant upon their colonies and empires which as they were breaking up also provided much needed labour upon which their postwar restructuring and development was based upon. Another film which shows the brutal exploitation of ordinary people especially women is Lucas Moodysson's Lilya 4-Ever based upon the true story of a Lithuanian teenage girl who gets trapped into the global sex-slave trade as the former Soviet Union is economically devastated by the shock therapy regime imposed by the Thatcher Reagan neo-liberal planners.
Image from Fassbinder's powerful film Fear Eats the Soul (1974) examining the Gastarbeiter sytem and also tackling ageism and attitudes to mixed race relationships in society.
Globalisation and Economics
In talking about globalisation and economics what is meant is the transformation of the different styles and types of economies into an integrated system in which each part becomes increasingly interdependent with the other parts.
The most important area of change has been the globalisation of financial markets. This is apparent in the flows of capital around the world with money being exchanged electronically. The money is used to finance international trade and for a range of investment purposes. Thiese could range to the investment in physical goods especially by Multinational companies (NMCs) or else by financial institutions using financial instruments such as the 'carry trade'. The carry trade is where institutions buy a currency such as the Japanese Yen which is at a very low interst rate. They then reinvest this money in a fairly safe currency like the US Dollar which pays a much higher interest. The finacial company concerned pockets the difference. (Mad or what?).
Financial globalisation really got under way once information technology had improved. Global markets can now operate in real time and funds can be transferred instantaneously.
another key aspect of economic globalisation is the continuing increase in wealth and power of Multi-National Companies. They are largely responsible for the massive increase in global trade since the middle of the 1980s. The largest ones have economic turnovers and earn greater amounts of money that far exceed many smaller nations. As a result say Abercrombie et al MNCs:
...are largely beyond the control of any national government (Abercrombie et al 2000 p 153).
With the increasing intensifcation of the networked society Castells identified a tendency for the increasing power of criminal networks which have a global reach.
Globalisation and Culture
It is argued that there is an increasing globalisation of culture especially through the:
- The increasing power and extended global reach of Mass Media Companies - which are often MNCs. Some argue there is a form of cultural imperialism being operated through mass media companies
- Mechanisms of mass tourism
- Increasing flows of migration as a response to economic change
- An ideology of consumerism which some argue is 'debasing' local cultures
- The marketing activites of Multi-National Companies (MNCs)
In the field of culture these influences and processes have lead to the theorisation of hybridity which refers to the ways in which these processes are articulated in tensions and changes concerning local customs and practices in relation to emerging standards and ideas often present in the cosmopolitan mega-cities or megalopolis.
Globalisation and Politics
In the realm of politics but with strong overlaps to economics there has been a rise in the importance of powerful international agencie such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). These are in an increasingly powerful position to regulate the World economy and thus limit the powers of national states.
Political sociologists have identified a number of issues which appear to be eroding the power of national states. These include environmental issues, citizenship rights and definitions, migration and inter-ethnic / inter-racial conflict.
Abercrombie, Hill and Turner. 2000 (4th edition): The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Globalisation A BBC Hub Page
December 30, 2007
It's a Free World. 2007. Dir Ken Loach
(See also the Kinoeye Reference Section: Globalisation)
IntroductionThis entry is currently going to be limited to being a webliography rather than a full critique and analysis. It is part of an ongoing analysis of contemporary British cinema and its responses to the processes of globalisation and diaspora which are a major feature of contemporary networked society. As such it is cross linked to this entry: Contemporary British Cinema: Representing the World Locally
It's a Free World (2007)
From the persepctive of the successes of British cinema and the importance of their film makers this is a prize winning film gaining an important award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival of Best Screenplay, Venice Film Festival 2007 as well as Best Film, Seville Film Festival 2007. Yet again the British cinematic system prefers to recognise profits rather then prophets so this did not appear in a multiplex near you despite the accolades.
The film has a title which is steeped in irony for what it is seeking to do is to represent at the level of the individuals who play their part how these parts link up to the wider scheme of things. The fact that Angie and her mate Rose don't have any form of secure work to go to as a matter of providing for everyday existence means they need to become entrepreneurial. when you have nothing behind you in terms of financial or cultural capital (a combination of education and contacts to work with) then people become attracted to the 'cowboy', 'shadow', 'underground' or 'black' economy. Angie and Rose establish a recruitment agency for migrant workers, who come to Britain because conditions have become so bad for them in their original countries of residence. combined with the entrepreneurs who are a bit further up the scale actually providing the underpaid and deperate conditions in which the migrants get recruited into form the other link in the equation. The migrants form an essential part of what Marx called the 'reserve army of labour' and what Loach is doing here is introducing audiences to this palpable aspect of globalisation.
Success abroad and straight to DVD in the UK
As is frequently the case this British film received accolades at a prestigious film festival however because of the distribution and exhibition in the UK being so weighted against more independent films this film was distributed differently.
(Sept. 9th 2007) Paul Laverty won the "Osella" for the Best Screenplay for "It's a Free World" (directed by Ken Loach) at this year's Venice Film Festival. Besides the drama was awarded with a EIUC Human Rights Film Award and got a special mention a the Signis Awards.
Review from Amanda Palmer of It's a Free World as part of a film review programme from Al Jazeera
Director: Ken Loach
Producer: Rebecca O'Brien
Screenplay by: Paul Laverty
Music by: George Fenton
Cinematography by: Nigel Willoughby
Editor: Jonathan Morris
Production Design: Fergus Clegg
Angie: Kierston Wareing
Rose: Juliet Ellis
Karol: Leslaw Zurek
Geoff (Angie's father) : Colin Caughlin
Jamie: Joe Siffleet
Webliography for It's a Free World
The Sweet Sixteen Website It's a Free World This website is a core resource for anybody interested in or studying the cinema of Ken Loach. Not only does it provide details of the film but in depth production note, external links and extracts of interviews form the actors are included.
Webliography for Migrant Labour conditions in Britain
May 08/2008: "Gangmaster Stripped of License". The BBC reports on real life exploitation of Polish workers. Loach is not exaggerating!!
BBC Video on migrant labour conditions:
March 23, 2007
Ghosts: 2007: dir Nick Broomfield
For those of you following the theme of 'British Cinema's Reaction to Globalisation and Global Events' it is an important film to note and should be seen at the earliest opportunity in order to compare with the other British films which have been covered.
Below there are a range of links to good quality reviews plus official sites, blogs and interviews. There is the facility to hear an interview with the director amd to see a short extract on the BBC film Network site as well as the trailer on the official site. There is also a brief contextual overview relating Ghosts to other British and European films which are examining the forces driving diaspora and some of the unpleasant outcomes for those who do emigrate.
Link to Official Web Site
Click here for BBC Film Network Site. Video interview and a short scene from the film are accessible here. (You will require Realplayer)
Click here to access Nick Broomfield's Guardian Blog
Much of the film is taken from the work of journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai:
born in Taiwan and now lives in Britain. She writes for the Guardian newspaper, specialising in stories about the Chinese community. She also writes for UK-Chinese publications. Her latest Chinese-language work is Hidden Assembly Line: Undocumented workers in Britain, published in February 2006. (From Open Democracy site see webliography below).
Contextual Overview of British Cinema's Responses to Globalisation
In early April 2007 Tartan Video are releasing Ghosts which is a film bearing witness to the pain and danger endured by the undocumented workers from China who form a major part of Britian's hidden economy which has thrived under ten years of 'New Labour'. It also functions as a critique of neo-liberal economic policies at the expense of social policy. It also important to note the EU has failed to take the measures necessary to stop this trade. This includes such policy areas as agricultural policy. As such the much vaunted 'joined up thinking' aspired to by New Labour ten years ago has failed to materialise.
Ghosts bears witness to the dreadful night in February 2004 when 23 Chinese workers died on the sands of Blackpool. It was an event which finally brought the dreadful situation of undocumented workers into the limelight. It is well known that London runs on the sweat of undocumented labour in clothing, low value services such as sweatshops and the so-called 'sex industry' a name which appears to legitimise the 'new' slave trade of the 21st century of women being brought and held against their will to service British sexual fantasies (presumably mainly male). It is a subject touched upon by British cinema but to my knowledge best dealt with in Lucas Moodysson's Lilya 4-Ever (2002, Sweden). Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things (2002) effectively exposed many of dodges in London as well as the apalling trade in body parts. Pawlikowski's Last Resort (2001) dealt with the way in which British men exploit and mislead women in vulnerable positions in Eastern Europe. Michael Winterbottom's In this World (2002) and Ghosts can be more strongly linked with Lilya 4-Ever in that all three seek to represent the powerful forces which push people into desparate migrations often right across the World.
Of the British films dealing in differing ways with the pressures of globalisation upon the weaker countries of the World dirty Pretty Things (BBC), Last Resort (BBC) and Ghosts (Film Four - See note 1) were all backed directly by TV. This is laudable as it is clear that a Public Service Broadcasting remit has gone beyonf the artificiality of national boundaries to explore problems n the World in relation to Britain which is as it should be.
1) Wikipedia suggests Film Four were involved in backing the film however I haven't found any other evidence to corroborate this at present. This will be updated when this is confirmed.
Please note these sites were pop-up free when visited. The Times review has a pop-up and is not included.
May 08 2008 Gangmaster loses licence. BBC Report on mass exploitation of Polish Workers in UK.