New Argentine Film: Other Worlds (New Directions in Latino American Cultures)
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The United States quickly gained control of the market once sound pictures were introduced; few other countries could afford to modernize their production facilities as rapidly. By the early s, the world produced about 3, motion pictures annually. Although only five percent were of U. This situation has not changed greatly.
One-half of the revenues of these companies comes from abroad. Because of the expense of producing films, it is generally cheaper for a Third World nation to import an American television series or buy a package of US films than to make their own. Moreover, local productions have a reputation of being technically inferior. As a result, many movie-goers in the Third World prefer to see technically slick foreign films than badly shot domestic efforts. In Thailand foreign companies monopolize distribution; for years local producers have had to bribe theatre owners to get their pictures shown.
Many would argue that Third World nations face more urgent tasks than financing filmwork.
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However, indigenous artists and producers in these countries stress the relationship between mass media and economic realities. They argue that films and television programs like Dallas and Love Boat both now popular throughout the world glorify values inappropriate for their countries.
The transmission of these Western values, perceived as antithetical to the traditional concerns of many indigenous groups, will eventually shape the political and economic aspirations of Third World populations and distort their perceptions of life in the West. If such aspirations cannot be satisfied by local governments, many fear political repression will increase.
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Film proffers different messages for every audience and incites unique responses from every individual; thus, few critics have been able to gauge the impact of film either on individuals or an entire audience. Few studies have been able to demonstrate the influence of film on the formation of social roles and interaction in Third World communities, and even less attention has been paid to the use of film in endorsing or changing existing power structures within nations or between ethnic groups or political factions.
What research has been undertaken in these directions has produced uncertain conclusions and contradictory theories. Some observers argue, perhaps naively, that if native culture satisfies the needs of a people, small societies will remain impervious to the values encouraged by foreign media. This theory ignores the impressiveness and novelty of film and television in non-industrialized communities and the potency of film's impact when combined with other Western influences ranging from imports to tourism. Other cross-cultural studies have found that exposure to Western media increases villagers' drive for individual achievement and education and heightens a capacity for empathy.
This finding is significant; for while Third World villages are gaining increased access to Western films and video, most Westerners have little opportunity to view the realities of Third World villages and gain a corresponding empathy. Foreign films available for release in the US are generally made in Europe, often with American financing.
US money is masked in dozens of films that appear to be "British," "French," or "Italian". Lerner and Fry also observed that media-watching made villagers more receptive to the introduction of technological innovations. Many fear that villagers are equally receptive to advertising and have become especially vulnerable to the promotion of Western products. In an attempt to inhibit cultural imperialism, many governments have attempted to encourage national industries and orient domestic filmmaking around national development and ideological goals. Regulating agencies, frequently called "national culture bodies," may be powerful censoring agents or ineffectual symbols of control.
Most protectionist policies include restricting foreign ownership and imports, through taxation, bans and censoring; regulating screen content; and subsidizing local filmmakers. All too often, attempts to control the industry prove impotent. Government subsidies of local production may increase the volume of production, but not necessarily the quality of films.
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Theatre owners may resent government attempts to regulate their screen content. Brazil, for example, requires theatres to show one Brazilian feature for each 8 foreign films, but because no precise length is specified, theatres often screen five-minute local shorts and two-hour-long foreign films. In some cases advertising interests can conflict with government policy. In Pakistan, for example, theatre owners run approximately half an hour of advertising during a feature. Frequently, exhibitors will replace the government-required short news documentaries with more advertising, especially if the government also taxes ticket sales.
But even if screen quotas are filled, another difficulty - that of encouraging original indigenous artistic vision - remains. Many Third World films plagiarize Western formats; even filmmakers with the best intentions absorb a Western aesthetic through study abroad or exposure to the plethora of Western films at home. Movies that do address indigenous concerns may not address the concerns of minorities. For the most part, minority programming cannot be mass produced, causing it to be financially unviable.
As Sidney Head has observed:. There is no mass market for the syndication of serial plays in Kupsbiny, documentaries in Amharic and traditional songs in Tambouri. It is the hard facts of economics rather than neo-imperialist conspiracies or failures of local imagination that account for program importation.
What minority programs are produced usually cater to the dominant, ruling minority of the country in question. Amharic documentaries are a case in point. They would bear little more relevance to most Ethiopians than foreign imports. The most radical response to the structure of the film industry in the Third World has come from a group of Third World artists and producers who make what has been labeled Third Cinema.
Care must be taken, however, when referring to this new wave in unified or essentialist terms. It is true that the film industries in Argentina and Brazil have followed similar paths since the s, as the editors observe in their introduction. Yet while Argentina's ongoing economic crisis has encouraged the majority of filmmakers to privilege an authorial, art-house cinema of modest budgets and limited distribution, Brazil has seen a relatively healthy coexistence between a blockbuster industry led by Globo, the country's largest audiovisual conglomerate, and a steady flow of smaller-budget films aimed at niche markets.
It is to this more independent strain of films that the contributors turn their attention. This heightened consideration of non-canonical works can certainly be regarded as one of the volume's strengths, and one that further differentiates it from the majority of publications on the subject. The prominence of the latter two directors, both veterans of the nuevo cine latinoamericano , helps to reinforce a point made by the editors in the preface: despite representing a break with the past, recent Latin American films establish important points of dialogue with the politically engaged cinemas of the s and s.
There remain, however, some important differences. Unlike their predecessors, recent filmmakers no longer use film as a means to provide full-blown analyses of their country's social and political state of affairs the exception here is perhaps Fernando Solanas, as suggested by Jens Andermann. There are several theoretical issues that connect the thirteen chapters and establish the volume's underlying concerns. One such is how to represent the Other while avoiding stereotypical images of poverty and violence. In fiction cinema, Edgardo Dieleke suggests that this tendency to record and observe the Other unobtrusively is best exemplified in the films of Lisandro Alonso.
His comparison of the diverse modalities of representing a historical event the Carandiru prison massacre across a diverse spectrum of media texts, including fiction and documentary films, articulates another question touched upon in many chapters: the various interrelations and exchanges between these two formats and the increased difficulty of distinguishing one from the Other. Strategies that navigate a border zone between fiction and documentary, such as reenactment and reconstruction through archival material, make this distinction even more slippery, and their recurrence in recent films is the focus of some of the most intriguing chapters in the collection.
As well as offering stimulating responses to debates on cinematic realism, it provides us with a snapshot of how, through their interrogation of the relations between representation and social reality, artifice and transparency, memory and performance, Brazilian and Argentine films have positioned themselves at the innovative forefront of contemporary world cinemas.
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Other Worlds: New Argentine Film
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