World Cinema

Film is, (not very) arguably, the dominant artistic and narrative form of the twentieth and (probably) the twenty-first centuries. Film is very much a global art form. The cinemas of different countries tend to have different characteristics, contexts and approaches which shape how we respond to them.

The first step, though, is to acknowledge that there ARE other cinemas out there. There are a few huge cinemas - Hollywood, primarily - which are very dominant in the commercial world and which tend also to dominate our students' viewing and thinking. That's fine - Hollywood makes fine films and we all enjoy watching and studying them - but at some point you need to acknowledge the rest of the world!

Tasks

An Example

Trash (2014, Stephen Daldry) is a Brazilian-British film. Whilst this is not a 'Brazilian' film as such, it bears hallmarks of certain aspects of Brazilian cinema and as such it's good place to start.

You'll need to watch the film, obviously. There are a few things to be thinking of as you do; you might want to take a some notes as you watch, but your main job is simply to enjoy the film. Before that, we need to do a little bit of thinking.

Before Viewing

Have a look at the posters above. What can you figure out about the film just from the posters? Think about:

  • Genre - are there any genre indicators? Is Buscombe's theory of any use here?

  • Plot - can you get a sense of what the story is about?

  • Narrative - can you figure out the main narrative engines of the story? Are our narrative theories - Propps, Todorov's, Barthes', Levi-Strauss' - helpful here?

  • Tone - is this going to be a grim and depressing or an optimistically uplifting story? How do you know?

Now watch the trailer. Obviously you will get more information about the topics above, but you might also be able to start saying something about the AESTHETIC of the film - the style, created through the cinematography, editing and sound. How would you describe the film's aesthetic?

Contexts

Genre

Trash can be viewed from a generic point of view as a coming-of-age drama or as a political drama. Choose whichever of these two genres seems to best describe the film and answer the appropriate questions.

Coming-of-Age Drama

  • Is the central character at an age where dramatic change is likely?

  • Is he or she in a situation which needs to change?

  • Do we basically follow the story from his or her point of view?

  • Is he or she more grown up or wiser at the end of the story than the beginning?

  • What has he or she learned?

Political Drama

  • Do we get introduced to powerful figures from the political world?

  • Do we get a sense of the way in which the country or region is managed?

  • Does the filmmaker appear to have an opinion on the particular methods used to run the country?

  • Do any of the criticisms of the political system seem to coincide with reality?

  • Are there any suggestions about how the system could change? Where do we see this?

  • Now, team up with someone who answered the other set of questions. Seek to convince each other that the film is a coming of age drama OR a political drama. Which seems to fit better?​

  • Find other examples of these genres. A keyword search on IMDB would be a good way to proceed.

  • Do these genres probably appeal to different audiences? Who might those audiences be?

Social and Political Context

It often helps to understand the time or place from which a film came, or when it was set (notice that those are often not the same thing.)​ Trash is set in Brazil in contemporary times.

 

  • Firstly, what do you already know about Brazil? How is it represented in the film? What words would you use to describe it?  

  • Look at some of the links below under 'Social and Political Context.' From what you learn there, does Trash seem to be offering a realistic representation of Brazilian life?

  • People sometimes get annoyed when their country (or religion, or organisation, or whatever) is represented negatively.  Why might this be? Is the representation in Trash fair (you migh need to read a little bit more about Brazil - maybe about parts other than Rio) to decide.

Film History

We can also place the film within Film History.​ Film has been around since about the start of the 19th century, and over that time, different styles have developed and different countries and regions have developed their own styles. In Brazil, one of the dominant styles was CInema Novo. (New Cinema, sometimes called Brazilian New Wave.) You can read about it via the link below, but for brevity some main features are:

  • It deals with the problems of the working class or the very poor

  • It often discusses political corruption or oppression

  • New Wave Cinema in general (it existed in other countries too) often has very noticeable, flashy editing and strange camera angles.

Now, Cinema Novo pretty much ended in the 1970s so Trash isn; tan example of it, but many Brazilian films are still very influenced by it. Here, for example, is the trailer for a very popular Brazilian film called City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002.) Can you see any Cinema Novo influences? And then, can you see any of that influence in Trash?

Auteur Context

Finally, to put the film in context, we might look at other films by the same director; we look to see if that director has a certain style or certain themes that they often use. If they do , we often refer to them as an auteur (an author, which in film terms kind of means an 'artist.') Some people think it's a bit unfair to pick the director out in this way, pointing out that cinematographers, writers, editors, actors, sound designers and so on all have huge parts to play in the making of the film and we should think of considering thema s auteurs also.

The director of Trash is Stephen Daldry. (He's English. The film is actually only partially Brazilian!) He's made a lot of films (and TV, and theatre productions.) Two of the most famous are Billy Elliot (2000) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011.) The trailers are below; it's hard to tell just from a trailer (go watch the films!) but can we see any similarity at all in these films and Trash, whether it's in style or theme or genre or characters or anything? Can we call Daldry an auteur?

TASK

And after all of that, you are an expert on this film. NOW you are in a position to decide whether it is a good film or not and to tell the world about these thoughts - time to review it!

Your review can be written or on video. Aim for 750 words or about three minutes. It' sup to you to decide what to say but very ambitious students will be quoting other reviewers (you can find all the published reviews here) and bringing in concepts like genre, auteur, social context, film history and so on. And, as ever in Media, the BEST students will find a way to make all of that engaging!

Links

SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CONTEXT

Guardian article, focusing on life for real-life trash site dwellers

Daily Mail article about violence in Rio

Wikipedia page about corruption in Brazil

AUTEUR CONTEXT

IMDB page for Stephen Daldry (director)

IMDB page for Adriano Goldman (cinematographer)

IMDB page for Elliot Graham (editor)

IMDB page for Richard Curtis (screenplay writer) 

FILM HISTORY CONTEXT

Cine collage page on Cinema Novo

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