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.'

11 November 2013

Terrorist Films and National Events

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.