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The Cinema of Small Nations

The Cinema of Small Nations

Mette Hjort
Duncan Petrie
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Cinema of Small Nations
    Book Description:

    Within cinema studies there has emerged a significant body of scholarship on the idea of ‘National Cinema’ but there has been a tendency to focus on the major national cinemas. Less developed within this field is the analysis of what we might term minor or small national cinemas, despite the increasing significance of these small entities with the international domain of moving image production, distribution and consumption. The Cinema of Small Nations is the first major analysis of small national cinemas, comprising twelve case studies of small national - and sub national - cinemas from around the world, including Ireland, Denmark, Iceland, Scotland, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and New Zealand. Written by an array of distinguished and emerging scholars, each of the case studies provides a detailed analysis of the particular cinema in question, with an emphasis on the last decade, considering both institutional and textual issues relevant to the national dimension of each cinema. While each chapter contains an in-depth analysis of the particular cinema in question, the book as a whole provides the basis for a broader and more properly comparative understanding of small or minor national cinemas, particularly with regard to structural constraints and possibilities, the impact of globalization and internationalisation, and the role played by economic and cultural factors in small-nation contexts. Key features: * the first major study of a range of small national cinemas* detailed and informative studies of particular small national cinemas from around the globe* an implicit comparative element that reveals major similarities and differences across the case studies * a strong line up of international contributors including a number of major internationally recognised experts in the field* written in an accessible style to appeal to students, academics and the general reader alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3092-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. 1-20)
    Mette Hjort and Duncan Petrie

    Andrew’s concluding remarks reference the recent emergence in film studies of a new critical vocabulary – ‘world cinema’, ‘transnational cinema’, ‘regional cinema’ – while his discussion of world cinema more generally responds to, and thus reflects, the need for fully developed conceptual models that will lend analytic precision to the terms in question. Particularly relevant in the present context is the way in which Andrew’s reference to nations and to their inevitable persistence in film culture also acknowledges, at least implicitly, that innovative ways of understanding national elements must be part of the critical shift that is currently occurring in film studies....


    • 1. DENMARK
      (pp. 23-42)
      Mette Hjort

      Defending the inherent interest of contemporary Danish cinema to non-Danes almost two decades ago involved making much of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ decision to honour Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast (Babettes gæstebud) and Bille August’s Pelle the Conqueror (Pelle Erobreren) with Best Foreign Feature awards in 1987 and 1988 respectively. The indisputable talent of Lars von Trier, as manifested in an early work like Element of Crime (1984), was also important to anyone seeking to affirm the value of Danish film. Yet in the late 1980s von Trier was still very much an emerging figure, both at...

    • 2. ICELAND
      (pp. 43-59)
      Björn Norðfjörð

      The anti-hero of the novel 101 Reykjavik travels around the world by browsing the World Wide Web and flipping through his satellite television channels without ever leaving downtown Reykjavik:

      I watch the Pakistani news, mainly to see if they’ve included Iceland on their world map. The anchor is a ball of hair: hair all over Europe and Greenland. I wait for him to bend his head a little. Iceland isn’t there. That’s the deal with Iceland. Iceland is the kind of country that sometimes is there and sometimes isn’t. (Helgason 2002: 138)

      And very much like the country itself, Icelandic...

    • 3. IRELAND
      (pp. 60-75)
      Martin McLoone

      Between them, the film industries in Ireland and Northern Ireland turn out on average about ten feature films a year and support the production of very many more short films, animations and documentaries. This is achieved through collaboration and co-operation across borders and involves a complex mix of internal sources (state-funded production agencies, the broadcasters, independent producers and the increasing number of schools and colleges that now teach filmmaking) and external provision (larger supra-state funding agencies as well as the international commercial film industry). In this regard the Irish film industry resembles that of most other medium- and small-scale European...

    • 4. SCOTLAND
      (pp. 76-92)
      Jonathan Murray

      ‘I’m going to be just like you.’ These are the final words uttered by anti-hero Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) in the final scene of Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996) as he walks across a bridge in central London armed with nothing but a holdall full of stolen money and a newly unshakable sense of self-belief. His now-famous closing monologue delivered direct to camera, Renton’s image blurs then dissolves as he marches ever closer to the lens, threatening to burst through the auditorium’s fourth wall. At a textual level, both Mark’s warning to the viewer and the manner of its visualisation are...

    • 5. BULGARIA
      (pp. 93-110)
      Dina Iordanova

      The choice of Bulgaria to illustrate the processes taking place in the cinemas of new Europe’s smaller countries is not obvious at first blush. All former socialist countries suffered a drop in film production in the early 1990s, but after the initial disarray previous output levels were restored in some places and the production cycle stabilised, reinforced by the introduction of new legislation and well-regulated funding mechanisms. Bulgaria, however, is nowhere near recovering and the crisis persists.

      The overall political atmosphere in Bulgaria since 1989 has been one of general political instability and persistent economic crisis. Governments have kept changing...


    • 6. HONG KONG
      (pp. 113-126)
      Ackbar Abbas

      Can there be a national cinema in the absence of a nation-state (however small) and, more importantly, without the aspiration for a nation-state? This is the question posed by the Hong Kong cinema, which has become one of the world’s more important cinemas, while Hong Kong itself has never been and will never be an independent nation-state. Before 1997 an economically developed British Crown Colony whose gross domestic product exceeded that of many small nations, and now a Special Administrative Region of China with an assurance that its status will remain unchanged for fifty years, Hong Kong has always been...

    • 7. SINGAPORE
      (pp. 127-143)
      See Kam Tan and Jeremy Fernando

      Singapore on screen testifies to the fact that this small nation has both benefited from, and paid the price for, its historical position as the premier port in South East Asia. As the gateway between ‘east’ and ‘west’ and even ‘north’ and ‘south’, the city-state has long been territory to and for the global traffic in people, ideas, images, cultures and capital, including film. Singapore cinema thus has simultaneously local, national and transnational dimensions, similar to the country’s multiracial, multicultural, multi-religious and multi-linguistic environments. The inherent contradictions result in considerable complexity. In this chapter we limit our discussion to Singapore...

    • 8. TAIWAN
      (pp. 144-159)
      James Udden

      Of all the small national cinemas represented in this volume, Taiwan seems almost out of place. Population-wise it is by far the largest at 23 million, at least 50 per cent higher than the population of Burkina Faso, which comes in at a distant second. More importantly, in this case one has to qualify the terms ‘nation’ or ‘national’ with quotation marks. Taiwan may function, act and in many ways even thrive like a small ‘nation’ should, but most countries in the world do not recognise the island as an independent nation out of geopolitical obsequiousness towards its neighbouring behemoth,...

    • 9. NEW ZEALAND
      (pp. 160-176)
      Duncan Petrie

      In his spoof documentary, Forgotten Silver, Peter Jackson uncovers the story of a lost New Zealand film pioneer called Colin McKenzie whose astonishing achievements – unacknowledged by film history – included the manufacture of a motion picture camera in 1900 at the age of 13, followed by a revolutionary sound recording system in 1908, a colour film process in 1911, and the production of a lost three-hour epic feature based on the tale of Salome and John the Baptist and shot on a huge set constructed in the New Zealand bush. Forgotten Silver caused a minor sensation when it was broadcast on...


    • 10. CUBA
      (pp. 179-197)
      Ana M. López

      By any standard marker, Cuba is a ‘small’ nation. Its national territory occupies only 110,860 sq km, its population is slightly less than 11.5 million, and it has a small economic patrimony.¹ Yet, by other standards, it can also be considered a major nation. In the context of the Caribbean region, Cuba is not only the largest and most populous island; it is also, in many ways, the richest. Because of its strategic location, Cuba has always been the epicentre of the Caribbean — it was always a central node of transatlantic trade and, since the 1959 Revolution, has been perceived...

    • 11. BURKINA FASO
      (pp. 198-212)
      Eva Jørholt

      As complex as it may be in general, the concept of national cinema is even more complicated when applied to film-producing countries in Africa. Most theories of nationhood and nationalism need rethinking in relation to the African continent, where territorial borders and the very concept of nation-states were inherited from the colonial powers. What is more, theories of national cinema need some re-adjustment if applied to film production on a continent where regional, pan-African and international ties tend to be as important as strictly national ones, and sometimes even more important.

      From the birth of sub-Saharan African filmmaking in the...

    • 12. TUNISIA
      (pp. 213-228)
      Florence Martin

      When Khochkhach/La Fleur de l’oubli/The Flower of Oblivion¹ was released in January 2006, the Tunisois flocked to cinemas in the city centre and in the outlying wealthy suburbs of Tunis. Overall, the film received excellent reviews in the local media and attracted more women viewers than men, a good omen for a work by pioneer feminist filmmaker Selma Baccar whose previous productions include Fatma 75 (1976) and Habiba M’Sika/La Danse du feu/The Dance of Fire (1995). On 25 May 2006, Baccar was one of ten Tunisian filmmakers invited to screen her film as part of the ‘Tous les cinémas du...

    (pp. 229-232)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 233-250)