Chapter 3: Approaching films from different cultures

The chapter uses four case studies to explore different issues in approaching ‘films from different cultures’. The four films are presented in ascending order of ‘difference’ from Anglo-American film culture

In the first case study the aim is to discuss a film which is ‘unusual’ only in the sense that, the ‘popular’ films of many national  film industries are not released internationally. This is particularly the case for some of the comedies from Spain, Italy and Germany – presumably on the grounds that ‘comedy doesn’t travel (across cultures/language barriers)’. Die Welle (Germany 2008) isn’t a comedy, it’s a ‘youth picture’ with an important narrative about incipient fascism based on a book about an incident in an American school. The main ‘barrier’ to international audiences is simply the need for subtitles. The characters and situations in a high school are familiar to most audiences around the world. The subtitles mean that the film was treated in the US/UK as a ‘specialised’ or ‘arthouse’ film even though the narrative is accessible to a popular audience.

The case study sets out to show how the film is easy to understand on a basic level because of its generic familiarity but that a little extra cultural information is necessary to get the most from the film. Readers are encouraged to do a bit of digging to enjoy the film even more.

The second case study deals with another ‘youth picture’, but  Y tu mamá también (Mexico-US 2001) is a more complex narrative in which the filmmakers, Carlos (as writer) and Alfonso Cuarón (as director) attempt a social and political commentary on contemporary Mexican society in the guise of a familiar Hollywood genre combination of youth picture and road movie.

At 5 in the Afternoon (Iran-France 2003)

Ten Canoes (Australia 2006)

Toomelah (Australia 2011)

Mystery Road (Australia 2013)

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