BCM 111

International Media and Communication

Cinema for Nomads

Just as Nollywood is an example of cultural production reflective of and adding to the notion of “home”, a great number of culturally and geographically displaced peoples can find comfort in diasporic or inter-cultural cinema. People are dislocated for a variety of reasons: war and oppression, such as with the Jewish fleeing Babylon (the origins of the term, diaspora) , something we see now in the refugees fleeing Syria; or the acceleration of immigration to industrial worlds (Tölölyan 1996).

Daniela Berghahn (2006) discusses the notion of Heimat in the films of Fatih Akin, a Turkish-German filmmaker who reached critical and commercial success with Gegen die Wand/Head-On in 2004. Heimat is a German term with no direct translation in European languages. It essentially refers to “home” or “homeland” with social connotations beyond pure geography. It is a uniquely German cultural and cinematic tradition however Akin’s exploration is based around a homecoming journey more closely associated with accented cinema as opposed to the convention of protagonists rooted in one place found in most Heimatfilm (Berghahn 2006 155-156).

The preoccupation with the home space is one constantly thrown in flux by global media. Diasporic film attempts to remedy racial stereotyping found in dominant global media by reflecting the lived experiences of those who have been displaced. As an umteenth generation Australian, I can with some difficulty try to relate. Australia had a very emphatic push towards immigration throughout the 20th century, as well as the diasporic nature of all White Australians being three centuries new to the country.

A recent Australian film that explores some elements of diaspora and displacement is The Sapphires (2012). Four indigenous women form a singing group and perform for troops in Vietnam during the war. Aboriginal communities are portrayed, family relationships, reference to the White Australia policy and racism based on white-passing indigenous children. The film won a number of awards and reached 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, evidence of its cultural value. The following clip shows evidence of diaspora experienced by a white-passing Aboriginal woman during the 60s.

Academic references:

Berghahn, D 2006, ‘No place like home? Or impossible homecomings in the films of Fatih Akin’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 141-157.

Tölölyan, K 1996, ‘Rethinking Diaspora(s): Stateless Power in the Transnational Moment’, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 3-36.

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Did you know films exists outside Hollywood?

Growing up in the Western culture of Australia, heavily influenced by USA in the wake of political and military agreements following the Great Depression and WWII, Hollywood is my dominant film culture. In recent years I have realised there’s a shocking lack of reality to conventions that make up Hollywood cinema though. It’s less relatable from an Australian perspective, even a white female Australian such as myself. (This may be because the USA is becoming less relevant to the rest of the world. See this article one why their lack of diversity affects the Australian film industry. Global media and information communication technologies expose us to other cultures more diverse than the commercial forces driving Hollywood productions, but that’s for another blog post.)

For BCM 111, a course at University of Wollongong, I was asked to read ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption’ by Onookome Okome. This is literally the first time I’ve come across the notion of Nollywood, the cinematic phenomenon reported to be the “second largest movie industry in the world“. Unfortunately, Okome’s article is 21 pages and does not at any point actually define Nollywood, simply assuming I would know that it is a slang contraction of Nigerian Hollywood in the same style as that of Bollywood (Bombay + Hollywood).

[Nollywood audiences] are both defined by a strong desire by those left out of public narrative of life in Nigeria to be part of the story of the city and the nation (Okome 2007 17).

Nollywood films go straight to video without cinematic release, allowing them to produce 1, 844 films in 2013 alone and grossing $3.3 billion (Bright 2015). I have learned they characteristically look “inward”, discussing their own culture, which may be why it has not previously gained my attention. Form and content of these narratives inadvertently reflects the influence of global media (Okome 2007 3), something that need not be stated since art is not made in a vacuum. Overall the prevalence in film festivals and profit margins of the industry as proof of its success and cultural relevance. The article includes thorough media analysis of Domitilla, a 1997 example of Nollywood film.

I’m not sure if this is an example of Western mediation but, upon trying to actually watch a Nollywood film, most examples found in a YouTube search were low budget, relationship dramas that bordered on pornography. The following documentary as well as Okome’s article contradict these results.

Basically, as an outsider to the culture, even in this age of global media, it’s difficult for me to experience and understand Nollywood authentically. There is quite obviously a disconnect between Nollywood and the global film industry due to shoe string budget and what could be described as an over-saturated market (high production numbers mean a lot of content to sift through). Global media may inform Nollywood but Nollywood seems to be an example of a culture being absorbed into the homogenisation of globalisation.

Academic reference:

Okome, O 2007, ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption,’ Postcolonial Text, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 1-21.

Home is where the Globe is?

Globalisation as a concept is aptly introduced by Pico Iyer’s TED talk on “Where is home?” Thinking about where you come from and what you identify as in comparison to so many other people is a product of the lived globalisation experience.

Post-colonisation and global media mean an individual’s experience of “home” and the world at large is both saturated and mediated by technology. O’Shaughnessy and Stadler identify developments in information and communication technology as “increasing levels of global interrelatedness, ultimately prompting questions about the legitimacy and defensibility of national borders” (2008 458). This process of breaking down borders previously held in place by geographical distance through means of communication has resulted in an amalgamation of homogenised world cultures as well as opportunities for hybridisation and multiculturalism.

It began with the printing press and has grown exponentially with the proliferation of the Internet. So for those with access, globalisation is many cultures at your fingertips and your choice (within circumstantial constraints) as to how deeply you experience them. Unfortunately, without Internet access, “media globalisation can be a powerful mechanism of social exclusion” (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler 2008 464-465).

Last year, Netflix brought its subscription service and vast library of audio visual content to Australia’s shores. This year they went global. However, Internet access is a must, whether by cable or mobile data. It’s a fair assumption that people of lower socio-economic status can’t afford the subscription and requisite GBs of data to access the library. Once those circumstances are overcome, the library varies depending on the geographic location of the IP used. That is, Netflix Australia has significantly different licensing deals to Netflix USA and they both differ from Netflix UK, and so on. So Netflix is a legal means of accessing copyrighted material for viewing but it is by no means comprehensive in terms of what a subscriber may access nor is it really available to all.

Academic Reference:

O’Shaughnessy, M & Stadler, J 2008, ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition), Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.