All entries for Tuesday 25 December 2007
December 25, 2007
Contemporary British Cinema: Representing the World Locally
If you have arrived here from the Chronology of European Cinema page the reason is that the film you are interested can be understood as part of the theme above. You will find a link below which will take you to a specialist page. See also Globalisation and Cinema Hub Page
Introduction: The Misrepresentations of Global Cinema
As an important media form Cinema as a whole functions through systems of representing the world . How it represents the world and what it represents are extremly important in terms of influencing opinion. The whole global economy is currently in a phase which Manuel Castells has described as a 'Networked society' others call it 'information society' and the 'information economy'. Whilst some consider that the Capitalist system underpinnng this phase is 'Late' Capitalism this comment is more speculative and / or polemical than proven. What is the case is that liberal, largely uncontrolled and deregulated, free market capitalism as an economic system has never been so powerful as it is in its current phase. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc of Eastern and Central Europe from 1989 onwards has been a central part of this process. The economic regime institued by the Thatcher / Reagan coupling was called "Shock Therapy" in which vast numbers of citizens in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc lost their savings and their jobs. The old style communict China becoming increasingly isolated it has been changing its internal model of the economy and the political management of this to accomodate capitalism. As a result it now plays a hugely important role in world markets as it has taken over the mantle of 'workshop of the world', a mantle that was a British one for much of the 19th century.
The human cost of this process has been and is horrendous but much of this process has been largely unrepresented in the popular media. where it has been represented the outcomes of these vast global changes has been represented as a threat from the desperate victims who have been placed in camps in France whilst trying to gain access to the UK by both legal and illegal means.
The reality which many especially those in the middle and controlling elites choose to ignore is that large cities operate largely on the basis of this informal economy of undocumented labour who through this process lose many of thier human rights. It is a process which has been going on longer in the United States and the theorist Mike Davis in his book City of Quartz out in the early 1990s reported on whole shanty cities full of undocumented workers from Latin America as satellite cities of Los Angeles. Naturally Hollywood cinema has not seen fit to represent these social and cultural issues at a serious level.
Contemporary British Cinema: Representions of the Oppressed
British cinema, even in Britain itself, is on the margins of the dominant systems of representation (see The Irresistable Rise of the Multiplex) in recent years it has developed a proud tradition of representing the underdog and ensuring that at least a few people gain a different understanding to the process of real life away from the pathetic populist celebrity glamour that dominates so many media forms.
As can be seen from the list of films below the themes of diaspora and migration and a range of different perspectives upon these processes give us a chance to gain a better understanding of the world. Of the various subthemes which this important response led by British cinema has neglected perhaps the organised criminality associated with sexual exploitation and the sex trade is the most important. It is dealt with partially in Last Resort and Dirty Pretty Things but the film which most powerfully represent this deeply nasty trade is Lilya 4-ever. Finally the British government is in the process of creating legislation to clamp down on this social evil:
Do we think it's right in the 21st Century that women should be in a sex trade or do we think it's exploitation and should be banned (Harriet Harman in BBC report)
This is of course controversial but should not be cosidered as creating a prurient regime rather as removing a mechanism of exploitation in society. Despite the outrage - mainly from men - in the BBC comments box, sexual commodification deeply degrades and denases humanity. Most of those who are victims of it are forced in by economic circumstance, other pressures or through a childhood of sexual abuse. As such the sex trade reinforces and reflects the unequal relationships of economic and gender power within society.
British Cinema and Diaspora
The list of recent British films which have diaspora and migration as a strong underlying theme include:
- The Last Resort: 2000. Pawel Pawlikowski
- Dirty Pretty Things: 2003. Stephen Frears
- In this World:2002. Michael Winterbottom
- Ghosts: 2007. Nick Broomfield
- It's a Free World: 2007. Ken Loach