08 April 2014

The Linguistic Mediation of Film Subtitles

The challenge of film translation took on special complexity with the advent of sound. Major film industries experimented with diverse approaches; initially, dubbing, subtitles and native language translators were tried. In 1929, MGM embarked on an expensive programme to replicate all its feature films in three different linguistic versions and in 1930, Paramount established a studio near Paris to create foreign films in five languages. The British, French, and German industries, meanwhile, followed Hollywood's lead in multiple versions, albeit on a smaller scale, as noted by Douglas Gomery ('Economic Struggle and Hollywood Imperialism; Europe Converts to Sound', Yale French Studies, Cinema/Sound, no. 60, 1980). In Czechoslovakia, Josef Slechta invented a 'sound camera' which sharply reduced dependence on German and American sound equipment. Eastern European audiences flocked to the movie theatres to hear local stars speak and sing in their native language. In Latin America, similarly, local industries were encouraged by the arrival of sound.

20 March 2014

Under the Skin of the City

Rakhshan Bani-Etemad's 'Under the Skin of the City' animates an essential question of political filmmaking: how to balance fidelity to social reality with the often more compelling and convincing dictates of dramatic fiction. In the opening scene of the film Tuba, a late-middle-aged woman, stares with bewilderment into the lens of a documentary crew's camera and is unable to answer their questions about an upcoming election. She and her fellow gray-haired, shawl-covered factory workers are too involved in the problems of their everyday lives to be concerned. She says that she hopes the politicians will address these issues. Her coworkers' voices join hers, creating a cacophony that seems to chase the image away as the screen fades to black. We continue to hear their voices while the opening titles roll. When the image returns, it is in the midst of a fictional world, or at least a world where the camera does not acknowledge its own presence.

06 March 2014

Black African Cinema and the Legacy Colonialism

The failure to build a black African film industry during the 1970s and into the 1980s--despite the valiant efforts of individual film-makers and a number of governments--is hardly surprising in view of the fact that modern industry of any kind in Africa dates only from World War II when, as John Iliffe points out in 'The Emergence of African Capitalism' (London, Macmillan, 1983, pp. 64-65), 'several circumstances came together to change the old pattern of exported raw materials and imported manufactures': colonial governments seeking to diversify their economies, local European settlers aiming for greater autonomy and foreign firms seeking commercial advantages. As late as 1950 in Nigeria, which was later to become something of an economic giant in black African terms, Iliffe notes (p. 65) that the manufacturing sectors still provided 'only 0.45 per cent of GNP, (the smallest proportion of any country producing statistics).' To the problem of late capitalism was added that of foreigner control: since the initial industrialisation occurred under colonial rule, early industrial enterprises tended to be owned by foreign capital. All Third World film industries have been created by indigenous capital attracted by the profits to be derived from catering to the entertainment needs of the new audience composed of those drawn into the cash economy by urban industrialisation and the rural exodus.

19 February 2014

Two Ethnographic Films on Muslim Music

Ethnomusicologist John Baily researched, directed and edited two films during a two-year Leverhulme Film Training Fellowship at The National Film and Television School (NFTS) in the United Kingdom. 'Amir: An Afghan Refugee Musician's Life in Peshwar, Pakistan' was made in 1985 (with photography by Wayne Derrick), and 'Lessons from Gulam: Asian Music in Bradford' in 1986 (with photography by Andy Jillings). In each film Baily worked with a student cameraman who was in his last year of studies. The films are very much in the documentary style of the NFTS, forged by its director, Colin Young. The film making process is acknowledged in the films rather than hidden, and the (short) commentaries are spoken by the film maker in the first person. While editing the films, Baily was able to benefit from feedback by other film makers at the NFTS during regular weekly screening of the work in progress.

02 February 2014

C. K. Raju interviewed by Claude Alvares

TV Multiversity is proud to present a five part series featuring Professor C. K. Raju interviewed by Claude Alvares. Professor Raju brings to bear his immense knowledge of mathematics, history, and philosophy in providing a systematic deconstruction of the Eurocentrism of mathematics as currently conceived and taught. Beginning with a discussion of why mathematics has become so difficult to learn, the interviews proceed through the myths surrounding the 'heroes' of Western science, from Euclid to Einstein. They also cover the transmission of mathematical knowledge from India through the Islamic world into Europe, where it was initially misunderstood but then coopted and corrupted by the Holy Roman Empire. One of his most startling conclusions is that mathematics is essentially religious or spiritual in nature, but he offers a way to think about and practice mathematics shorn of its theological assumptions and Eurocentric historical accretions. Professor Raju has developed this material over a series of books, ranging from 'Time: A Consistent Theory' (1994) to his latest work, 'Euclid and Jesus' (2012). Conducted in Penang, Malaysia, during June 2013 and totalling over nine hours of material, these exclusive new interviews were produced and distributed on behalf of the Multiversity Project for the Multiworld Network and are presented here for the first time.

22 January 2014

Images of Native Americans in US Cinema

The handling of American Indians and American Indian subject matter within the context of commercial U.S. cinema is objectively racist at all levels, an observation which extends to television as well as film. In this vein it is linked closely to literature, both fictional and non-fictional, upon which may if not most movie scripts are at least loosely based. In a very real sense, it is fair to observe that all modes of projecting concepts and images of the Indian before the contemporary American public fit the same mold, and do so for the same fundamental 'real world' reasons. This essay will attempt to come to grips with both the method and the motivation for this, albeit within a given medium and examining a somewhat restricted range of the tactics employed. The medium selected for this purpose is commercial cinema, the technique examined that of stereotypic projection. The matter divides itself somewhat automatically into three major categories of emphasis. These may be elucidated as follows.

10 January 2014

Racial Stereotypes in American Entertainment

The documentary film 'Ethnic Notions' played on American Public Television in the late 1980s and quickly sank into the limbo reserved for fine works of broadcasting that happened not to have stirred some sort of splashy attention. Curiously, in a supposedly post-Gutenberg era, the moving images intended to convey important ideas as printed texts never could have done are quickly lost from the view of all but 'media' specialists. This is a particularly sad fate in the case of 'Ethnic Notions' because not only was it a neat piece of television but also it remains a sharp teaching tool.

24 December 2013

The Nature of Tibetan Buddhist Medicine

A 2006 television documentary, ‘The Blue Buddha: Lost Secrets of Tibetan Medicine,’ introduces the Tibetan Buddhist medical tradition and the relationship between Buddhist teachings and medical knowledge, emphasizing that the founder of Buddhism considered himself as a healer, rather than as a god or a prophet, and that he presented his teachings not as doctrines but as remedies intended to heal the body and mind. These teachings form the basis of Buddhist oriented medicine today, with regional variations, and so the documentary begins by surveying its historical development in Tibet.

12 December 2013

Religion and Indian Cinema

Since the early 1990s Indian society has undergone some of the greatest changes it has seen since Independence in 1947. Several key events at the beginning of the 1990s inaugurated the processes that occurred during the decade. These years saw the rise and fall of the political parties who support Hindutva or policies of Hindu nationalism, while economic reforms brought in a new age of consumerism and liberalism that has taken root across the Indian metropolises. While other major social transformations also took place during this decade, such as the rise of lower castes, this period can be said to be one in which a new social group, 'the new middle classes,' rose to dominate India economically, politically, socially and culturally. The impact of these new groups was felt outside of India as they were part of transnational family networks and the diaspora that became increasingly important as a market for Hindi films, alongside other global audiences.

26 November 2013

The 'Racial Film' as Expedition

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.'