Global Cinema:
A Shadow of Culture

         Film is a mirror; a reflection of a society. It is a blueprint of its culture, its tradition, its problems, and its people. Watching a film is like seeing through the eyes of its people and seeing what it is like to be them. This glimpse into their life can be used as an invaluable tool for a variety of students in a variety of areas. As diverse as film is, so is the possibility of the things you learn from it.

         Obviously, for students interested in seeing native speakers speak, film is a perfect resource. You can see people in real conversations, real dialogues, acting as they would in real life (most of the time), and through this students of a foreign language discipline can see what life is really like and how the talk is really talked. However, for other students it isn’t so obvious the benefits of viewing global cinema.

         Watching a foreign film you can learn about the culture of a people. Seeing English movies like Sharon Maguire’s 2001 Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Chris Noonan’s 2006 Miss Potter, and Shekhar Kapur’s 1998 Elizabeth one can really see what is important to their culture. Their patriotic views and how close they hold their royalty and traditions can help any world traveler. Watching films like F. W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu or Bernardo Bertolucci’s 2003 The Dreamers, one can really get a glance at their respected cultures. As the world becomes more of a global market, knowledge of how these cultures work can be beneficial to any business person.

         On top of that on a more humanitarian side, foreign films often depict the atrocity of what is happening overseas unbeknownst to the American eye. Films like Ruby Yang’s 2006 The Blood of the Yingzhou District document the heinous and atrocious conditions people live in what diseases they deal with on a daily basis.

         Artists from all across time have lived in some harsh conditions and harsh times. They are born from struggle and then through there art you can see their emotion, their life, their wants, and their passions. The same goes for movies. Cinematic artists come from struggle too; and, when they produce these works of art at twenty-four frames a second you get to see their soul. It is as Orson Welles said. as Harry Lime in Carrol Reed’s 1949 The Third Man, “In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

         One might say, “For the artists that’s great, for the thespian it is wonderful; but, what about math students or nursing students or something of that shade?” Well, Watching a Bertolucci film or Kurosawa film will not teach them pi to a thousand places, but it will give them culture, introduce them to things they have never seen before. Global films differ wildly from American films, their thoughts and feeling and approaches are different then American artists today. Seeing these different things adds culture to one’s life. And besides it could be great conversation at the business cocktail party.

         On top of all that look at a movie’s purpose: to entertain and to make you think—if seeing Orson Welles’s movies gives you insight into his artistically poetic mind. “I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That's what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act,” said the poetic Orson Welles. That quotation holds true for so many. For example, if seeing a Woody Allen film lets you see the beauty that he sees, or seeing a Spike Lee or Martin Scorsese let’s you see what it is like in the gritty street; then what would a Bertolucci movie show, or Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s 2006 Das Leban der Arderen, or an Abu-Assad film?

         At face value the benefits of viewing global cinema might not be obvious to every discipline. However, adding culture to one’s life, by learning about places other, then America is beneficial to all: no matter if you study math, nursing, business, or theatre. It is all important.

A. J. Casey

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