Transnational Film: Where Movies Cross Borders

Whilst continuing with the Globalisation theme of the BCM 111 course we arrive at what is known as the Transnational Film Industry. Quite simply, it is a film industry like no other and unlike the international film industry, which focuses on movies produced outside Western nations, transnational films are films that “reach beyond national boundaries”. They are essentially a form of hybrid film that combines elements of different nations and cultures all into one singular media.

This concept is explored by Schaefer et al. claiming that “Scholars are increasingly predicting that Asian film industries, particularly those of India and China will wrestle control of global flows from Western dominance”. Schaefer et al. continues using the hybrid phrase ‘Chindia’ which refers to the “high level of cooperation between China and India as an economic challenge to the West”. Notice the negative connotation Schaefer et al. uses describing ‘Chindias’ soon takeover? If one thing is clear Transnational film is a pressing challenge to the West, and Hollywood apparently isn’t going down without a fight!

Some would argue that Hollywood is as strong as ever with massive hits like James Cameron’s Avatar that grossed $2.7 billion.

But hold on…



Yes, as the DVD-launch spokesperson Rakeysh Omprakash confirmed, “Avatar borrowed from the Indian mythology”. A large part of the Avatar storyline, as Schaefer et al. describes, borrowed elements from the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Schaefer et al. provides explicit examples, such as:

  1. The blue skin of the Na’vi characters is the same traditional colours of the religious avatars Rama and Krishna
  2.  The plot focusing on the avatar-led offensive against foreign invaders
  3. The verbal description of the Na’vi as ‘blue monkeys’, referring to monkey army that supports Rama
  4. The Na’vi use weaponry like bows and arrows in the film Avatar, similar to Rama and his followers.

The increasing incorporation of Indian influence in Western film demonstrates the effect transnational film is having on the film industry, even in America.

Another example is Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ released in 2001. The Australian-American film was very successful, being nominated for 8 Oscars. Try an take a guess of how many different nations/cultures are depicted within this scene of the film.

  1. The first dance scene is obviously Bollywood-esque… so that’s Indian/Hindi
  2. The leads, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor are Australian and Scottish repectively
  3. Baz Lurhmann is also Australian
  4. ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Bestfriend’ originated from the Broadway musical ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’ and popularised by Marilyn Monroe – so that’s American
  5. And lastly, if you hadn’t forgotten, Moulin Rouge is a french cabaret in Paris.

That’s a whopping 5 different cultures/nation influences all in one scene!

In an interview on Moulin Rouge, Lurhmann stated:

“Catherine Martin (production designer and Luhrmann’s wife) and I went to India to work on “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” We went out one night and there was a big poster up for a Bollywood movie. I said, “Let’s go see that.” We did – 2,000 audience members, high comedy, high tragedy, brother kills brother, [they] break out in some musical numbers, all jumbled up together in 4 hours of Hindi. We thought that was amazing. So our question was, “Could we create a cinematic form like that? Could a musical work?” A musical must be able to work in western culture again, and could it be comic-tragic? So then began this commitment of moving toward “Moulin Rouge.” I decided I’d do “Romeo + Juliet” and then a musical film.”

So it is quite evident that Transnational films are impacting quite heavily on the film industry, and in fact without the “wrestle” or “challenge” that Schaefer et al. claims.


One thought on “Transnational Film: Where Movies Cross Borders

  1. Pingback: What have I learnt so far?.. | Valid Issues No Tissues

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