National cinema

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National cinema is a term sometimes used in film theory and film criticism to describe the films associated with a specific country. Although there is little relatively written on theories of national cinema it has an irrefutably important role in globalization. Film provides a unique window to other cultures, particularly where the output of a nation or region is high. Countries like South Korea, Russia and Iran have over the years produced a large body of critically acclaimed films. Regardless of the stories or styles of filmmaking the medium inherently contains a dense wealth of information about people and places through which audiences gain knowledge.

Like other film theory or film criticism terms (e.g., "art film"), the term "national cinema" is hard to define, and its meaning is debated by film scholars and critics. A film may be considered to be part of the "national cinema" of a country based on a number of factors, such as the country that provided the financing for the film, the language spoken in the film, the nationalities or dress of the characters, and the setting, music, or cultural elements present in the film.[1] To define a national cinema, some scholars emphasize the structure of the film industry and the roles played by " forces, government support, and cultural transfers..." [2]

Canadian national cinema

Canadian cultural and film critics have long debated how Canadian national cinema can be defined, or whether there is a Canadian national cinema. Most of the films shown on Canadian movie screens are US imports. If "Canadian national cinema" is defined as the films made in Canada, then the canon of Canadian cinema would have to include lightweight teen-oriented fare such as Meatballs(1979), Porky's (1983) or Death Ship (1980). Other critics have defined Canadian national cinema as a "...reflection of Canadian life and culture." Some critics argue that there are "two traditions of filmmaking in Canada." The "documentary realist tradition" espoused by the federal government's National Film Board and avant-garde films.

Scott MacKenzie argues that by the late 1990s, if Canada did have a popular cinema with both avant-garde and experimental elements, that was influenced by European filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Wim Wenders. MacKenzie argues that Canadian cinema has a "...self-conscious concern with the incorporation of cinematic and televisual images", and as examples, he cites films such as David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983), Atom Egoyan's Family Viewing (1987), Robert Lepage's The Confessional (Le Confessionnal) (1995) and Srinivas Krishna's Masala (1991).[3]

French national cinema

France's national cinema includes both popular cinema and "avant-garde" films. French national cinema is associated with the auteur filmmakers and with a variety of specific movements. Avant-garde filmmakers include Germaine Dulac, Marie and Jean Epstein. Poetic Realism filmmakers include Jean Renoir and Marcel Carné. The French New Wave filmmakers include Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. The 1990s and 2000s "postmodern cinema" of France includes filmmakers such as Jean-Jacques Beinex, Luc Besson and Coline Serreau.[4]

German national cinema

During the German Weimar Republic, German national cinema was influenced by silent and sound "Bergfilm" (this translates to "mountain film"). During the 1920s and early 1930s, German national cinema was known for the progressive and artistic approaches to filmmaking with "shifted conventional cinematic vocabulary" and which gave actresses a much larger range of character-types.[5] During the Nazi era, the major film studio UFA was controlled by Propaganda Minister Goebbels. UFA produced "Hetzfilme" (anti-Semitic hate films) and films which emphasized the "theme of heroic death." Other film genres produced by UFA during the Nazi era included historical and biographical dramas that emphasized the achievements in German history, comedy films, and propaganda films.[5]

During the Cold War from the 1950s through the 1980s, there were West German films and East German films. Film historians and film scholars do not agree whether the films from the different parts of Cold War-era Germany can be considered to be a single "German national cinema." Some West German films were about the "immediate past in sociopolitical thought and in literature". East German films were often Soviet-funded "socially critical" films. Some East German films examined Germany's Nazi past, such as Wolfgang Staudte's Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Among Us).[5]

The New German Cinema of the 1970s and 1980s included films by directors such as Fassbinder, Herzog, and Wim Wenders. While these directors made films with "many ideological and cinematic messages", they all shared the common element of providing an "aesthetic alternativ(e) to Hollywood" films and "a break with the cultural and political traditions associated with the Third Reich"(159).[5]

Polish national cinema

After World War II, the Lódz Film School was founded in 1948. During the 1950s and 1960s, a "Polish School" of filmmakers developed, such as Wojciech Has, Kazimierz Kutz, Andrzej Munk and Andrzej Wajda. According to film scholar Marek Haltof, the Polish School of directors made films which can be described as the "Cinema of Distrust." In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi and Barbara Sass made influential films which garnered interest outside of Poland. However, even though Western countries became increasingly interested in Polish cinema during this period, the country's film infrastructure and market was disintegrating.[6]


  1. ^ Jimmy Choi. Is National Cinema Mr. MacGuffin? International Films. The Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, UK. Available at:
  2. ^ Tom O' Regan Australian National Cinema, cited in Jimmy Choi. Is National Cinema Mr. MacGuffin? International Films/ The Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, UK. Available at:
  3. ^ Scott MacKenzie, University of Glasgow. National Identity, Canadian Cinema, and Multiculturalism. Available at:
  4. ^ Susan Hayward. French National Cinema
  5. ^ a b c d German National Cinema, by Sabine Hake. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. Trade paper, ISBN 0-415-08902-6. Reviewed by Robert von Dassanowsky. Available at:
  6. ^ Shelia Skaff. The cinema that is Marek Haltof's Polish National Cinema. Review of Marek Haltof's book Polish National Cinema. Available at:

Further reading

  • Theorising National Cinema. Edited by Valentina Vitali and Paul Willemen. June 2006.
  • Hake, Sabine. German National Cinema. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Andrew Higson. The Concept of National Cinema. Volume 30, Screen, Volume 30, Issue 4, 1 October 1989, Pages 36–47.

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