In Europe, the 'racial film' accompanied what Pierre Leprohon has called 'a violent upsurge in exoticism' during the years 1920-25, a phenomenon also reflected in literature, in the triumph of Gauguin, and in jazz music (labeled in France 'la musique negre'). Probably the most famous French 'racial cruise' film was Leon Poirier's La croisiere noire (The Black Cruise; 1926), a long travelogue which followed a Citroen motorcar expedition traversing Africa from the north to as far south as Madagascar. An explicitly colonial film, La croisiere noire was a grand motorcar adventure designed to give witness to France's 'civilizing action.'
26 November 2013
11 November 2013
The portrayal of Arabs and Arabic culture in American films changed to reflect broader sociopolitical contexts in recent U.S. history. In the early 1980s, the image of a Russian enemy served as a convenient articulation of foreign fear--a kind of xenophobia that makes for good film as well as for reinforcement of cultural boundaries. As U.S. foreign policy shifted from involvement with the Soviet Union following the end of the Cold War, the characterization of Arabs as a threat to American interests intensified. Though Hollywood movies have included anti-Arab sentiments throughout moviemaking history, the fall of the Soviet Union, corresponding roughly with the Gulf War in 1990-91, brought a rapid escalation of the demonization of Arabs in American film.
28 October 2013
08 October 2013
To write a Marxist history of an art form or a cultural process in a time designated as postmodern--or at least with the logic of postmodernism dominating cultural debates--is one of the central challenges of our time. In Europe, three responses from a Marxist perspective have been put forth as the dominance of poststructuralist theory begins to ebb. Italian architecture critic Manfredo Tafuri has argued convincingly that the essential task of today is not so much writing a history of modern art forms as writing a modern history of those forms. In his discussion of the politics of history writing, French philosopher Louis Althusser has theorised the imperative of producing a dialectical concept of the history of an art form rather than merely presenting a narrative account of its history. And in England, writing about the history of structure of the State, Perry Anderson has postulated that history writing should be theoretical and analytical as well as factual and descriptive in order to be adequately comprehensive.
24 September 2013
‘Ayurveda: Art of Being,’ a 2001 documentary film by Pan Nalin, opens with an elderly man collecting and washing plants by a riverside, begging pardon from the Lord for uprooting them, saying that they are necessary for medicine. That single scene encapsulates the main message of this film, echoing Hindu cosmology, that for Ayurveda ‘everything in and around us are one and single existence.’ Dr. G. Gangadharan of the Medicinal Plant Conservation Centre in Kerala, India, elaborates on this principle: ‘The microcosm, the body in which we are living, or that of all the living beings, and the macrocosm around us, are all part of one unit. And the role of the physician is merely the role of a conveyer belt between these two, where he may be processing something so that the body can easily assimilate it. Other than that, there is nothing. He is doing nothing other than substituting things which are lacking in the system by things which are available externally.’
09 September 2013
Trinh T. Minh-ha is a Vietnamese independent filmmaker, post-colonial theorist and feminist thinker whose work is widely shown internationally, and who has taught at various universities in the United States, and also in Japan and Senegal. Her work as an artist, teacher and writer consistently engages questions of hegemony, methodology and patriarchy. Her 1982 film 'Reassemblage,' made as part of her ethnographic research in Senegal, challenges the dichotomies of self/other, object/subject, and maker/viewer. Rather than reproducing the authoritative narrative voices and linear story lines of documentary film, for 'Reassemblage' she offered virtually no narration and employed a disorienting editing style of constantly shifting images, musical snippets and occasional silences that challenge the conventions of representation. In this essay, she uses her films as a point of departure for a discussion on the necessity of making films politically, the task of interrogating various forms of repression, and the ongoing struggle to move across and beyond boundaries so as to work, think and act differently.