In Andrew Higsons article, The Concept of National Cinema, he provides some concisely and unique definitions of national cinema and its parameters. He suggests a comparison between films is a better way to define national cinema rather than look at a single theater individually. Most of the comparison indicated is for a given type of cinema and Hollywood cinema or at least films that have become internationally successful and is comparable to Hollywood cinema. (Higson, 38) Connecting Higsons article, secondary articles with Beijing Bicycle and All About My Mother, I discover that independent art films can be very different to Hollywood due to their unique identity, but they need to develop some similarity to Hollywood to be internationally successful without losing its connotation.
Beijing Bicycle and All About My Mother are both valuable films in the international market since they are both valuable records of political and cultural context at the time when they were shot. Beijing Bicycle was directed by Chinese famous 6th Generation director Wang Xiaoshuai, and Spanish director Pedro Almodovar directed all About My Mother. Unlike Hollywoods blockbuster films, Beijing Bicycle and All About My Mother are both small budget independent art films. Both directors blended national identities of their country in their eyes into the movie and both film used on location shooting, which documents the time when they were shot and reflected social realities in their countries.
All About My Mother was shot in Barcelona and Madrid, two landmark cities that represent Spanish identity. Barcelona is the capital of Spanish. Within the largest population of Spain, Barcelona becomes the political and cultural center of the country. Use these two cities as background; the film shows audience freedom is one of the identities of Spain. The Spanish government has given their citizens the freedom of speech and the right to express their feelings through film and media. There are a lot of sensitive topics voiced by Almodovar in All About My Mothers. Such topics include homosexuality, HIV/AIDS, transgender, faith, and existentialism. It will be banned if it was made under mainland Chinas political system. However, the film was successfully launched in Spain and sent out for international competitions.
Similar to All About My Mother, the Beijing Bicycle also set the capital of China - Beijing as the background of the story. The film was a fiction. However, it documented some cultural and political issues in mainland China in 2001, which happened 22 years after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. After the movement of the protests, leading by Deng Xiaoping, Chinas economy finally started to rise. The Communist party sets Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou as four first line cities in China. Therefore, the government will develop these cities faster than others. The developed nations with a cultural identity founded on the need to keep markets of various commodities vis-a-vis the international products of the international entertainment business (Elsaesser, 134).
Follow the open of the market, the growth of the economy and the globalizing of the country, 6th generation directors found more freedom than the 5th generation leaders. They start to make independent films that reflect political and cultural identities of China. Beijing Bicycle is one of the legendary movies made by Wang Xiaoshuai. He uses his digital camera to record the developing landscape and common peoples life in Beijing.
In Higsons article, he suggests four ways to define national cinema and to compare and contrast individual film with Hollywood is one of them (Higson, 36-37). Hollywood is a popular international film factory which has drastically influenced people's lives and their understanding of the movie. Holly wood had dominated the Chinese cinema when China was struggling to change. Instead of producing a film only with a single or mostly homogenous identity, an international cinema must share some similarities to Hollywood to receive international attention. The storyline and family dynamic in Hollywood films is usually patriarchal; a social system in which males are the primary authority figures. Father or man is nearly always given as a stronger and more dominant role than women. Chinese thinker, while drawing subtle distinctions, generalized the role to include the roles of emperor and husband. They made father/son, Emperor/official, and husband/wife relationships essential to the moral order to characterized late imperial China (Hamilton, 77).
Historically, in spirit by Confucianism, Chinese family is mostly running under patriarchy. In this case, family in Beijing Bicycle has developed Chinas patriarchal identity which is very similar to the patriarchal social system in most Hollywood films. For example, Xiao Jians father was the leading character in his family. He controls the money and decides for the family. He tells Xiao Jian that the family decides to use the money to pay Xiao Jians step-sisters school tuition other than buying him a new bicycle. However, in Pedro Almodovars All About My Mother, the fatherly figure had no contribution to the family. For example, Hermana Rosa's family is sustained by her mother while her father had a mental disease. The father does not recognize anyone other than his wife; he rarely talks, and never helps his family. Lola is also an example of an authority figure in Pedro Almodovar's film. As a character of the father, he was not there when Manuela lost her son nor was he there when Hermana died while giving birth to his child. The film highlighted the exalting mother" while the father was used as an apathetic figure.
Traditional Hollywood blockbuster movies are usually leading by significant or rising stars. For example, The Avengers was attached to Robert Downey Jrs name. In Wang Xiaoshuais Beijing Bicycle, he invited two famous Chinese actresses - Gao Yuanyuan and Zhou Xun to act in the film, but as two minor roles. Guo Liangui and Xiao Jian, as the two main characters in the film, were performed by Cui Lin and Li Bin, who is not as famous as the minor actress even today. Wang Xiaoshuai used country people, in reality, to perform as the country population in the film, which makes the film become more realism and affecting.
Most Hollywood stories are mostly being told under a particular political context since films get more attractive and valuable when it deals with the current political situation in their countries and reflects on its historic moments. In this case, Wang Xiaoshuais Beijing Bicycle and Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother both developed similarity to Hollywood films. Pedro Almodovars All About My Mother was shot in 1999; about 20 years after Spanish citizens were liberated from the oppressive rule of Franco. The whole country was celebrating democracy and enjoying their newfound freedom. As in All About My Mother, trans-sexuality is no longer a sensitive topic. For instance, audiences enjoyed Agrado's honest and humorous speech about her trans-sexuality on the stage when Huma Rojo went out to look after Nina.
Similar to All About My Mother, Beijing Bicycle was shot in 2001, after 52 years of developing since Mao Zedong formed New China,' and 21 years after the Tiananmen Square protests. Mainland Chinas national income increased to $1.13 trillion US dollar in 2011 and ranked number 6 in the world, which is a massive amount of economic growth (Data by NationalMaster). The increase of commercial, globalize of the country and improvement of technology has revived the independent film industry. Chinas 6th generation filmmakers found greater freedom and abilities to make political films. Wang Xiaoshuais Beijing Bicycle reflects the cultural and economic situation in mainland China. They edited films on the computer and sending them out for global films to festivals. The film touches some sensitive topics in China such as the gap between wealthy and poor, inequality between country people and city people. For example in Beijing Bicycle, Country people and city people have been separate in the film by their accent and way they choose to solve problems. When Guo Lianguis friend in the grocery store is always stalking the city girl lives in the building and says Look, thats city people, they change clothes every day. However, unlike Spain governments freely policy of film and media, the Communist government of China holds lots of controls on media due to its impact on their citizens and the image of China in the world. Plus the film was sent out to film festivals before it was sent to the censors and being proved by them, it was banned in China.
Back to Higsons article, he stated thatPart of the problem is the paradox that for a cinema to be nationally popular it must be international in scope. That is to say. It must achieve the international standard. (Higson, 58) No matter which cinema is the film coming from, having some Hollywood elements will always help the movie to be seen on an international stage. Once people get a chance to watch the movie, they will start to think and analysis those identities in the film. From Higsons article, secondary sources, screening of Wang Xiaoshuais Beijing Bicycle and Pedro Almodovars All About My Mother, I understand that a film needs to develop its unique identity with international (Hollywood) level elements to become a successful work with significant connotations.
Among the reasons behind Mainland Chinas production of films is their political discourse that has divided Chinese culture. The political issues encountered by the country along-side the Westernization of China as well as the impact from the Japanese are likely to have led the notion of an 'imagined nation.' China is increasingly becoming globalized and more open to the world and hence diversity of its culture that portrays both the contemporary and traditional types of culture. We ought to comprehend the way in which the Chinese cinema creates a sense of identity. Similar to the standard traditional costumes and martial arts of China, history, and politics are also important in remodeling the countrys national identity. Different Dynasties took control over ancient China with various political and economic theories in the country. A significant number of important moments were discerned as inhumane or dictatorial such as the eviction of clans that disapprove the dynasties. However, Chinese cinemas are very useful in telling historical occurrences as they use nostalgia as the necessary material to refurbish history.
It is worth noting that hybrid aspects of Chinese cinema are also penetrating in the film industry. Despite the fact that most of the cinemas are Hollywood directed films that are not categorized as global cinema, they still represent national identity hybrid forms to the audience.
In conclusion, the Beijing Bicycle and All About My Mother among other films act as an allegorical film as there are some political statements which are bought at hand with the application of various cinematic strategies. The Chinese theories generate a complex system yet remarkable perception into the movie, and therefore the film becomes re modeled identity. In a significant number of arguments in the Chinese films, it is certain that such movies depict the Chinese national identity with regards to political, gender and social aspects.
Elsaesser, Thomas. European cinema: Face to face with Hollywood. Amsterdam University Press, 2005.
Hamilton, Gary G. "Patriarchy, patrimonialism, and filial piety: A comparison of China and Western Europe." British Journal of Sociology (1990): 77-104.
Higson, Andrew. "The concept of national cinema." Screen 30.4 (1989): 36-47.
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