NECS Conference Panel on Genre Transformation Beyond Bollywood
Daniela Berghahn convened a panel at the annual NECS conference at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan (19-21 June 2014), which explored how the cultural logic of globalisation has fostered processes of intercultural borrowing and fusion and how these have impacted upon the (trans)formation of film genres.
The four speakers (Professor Arslan, Dr Laura Rascaroli, Dr Manishita Dass and Professor Daniela Berghahn) proposed that European and World Cinema have played an important role in revitalising genres including the road movie, film noir and melodrama. Far from being a one-way process in which Hollywood templates are productively appropriated by 'the rest' of the world, increasingly, the multi-sited generic conventions of World Cinema cross over into the mainstream.
In his paper entitled Some Like It Peanut: Hollywood with a Twist, Savaş Arslan (Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul) explored how the 1960s and 1970s popular cinema of Turkey (Yeşilçam) utilized the storytelling conventions of Classical Hollywood Cinema in a creative way in terms of the adaptation of original texts. In this respect, I will focus on two separate remakes of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959), namely Fıstık Gibi Maşallah(Hulki Saner 1964) and Fıstık Gibi (Hulki Saner, 1970), and address these remakes through aspects of cultural transformation and adaptation in a trans-national manner. In this, I will argue that adaptation in the end is informed by various practices of localization and hybridization. In doing this, I will also elaborate on how genres are termed in the popular film industry of Turkey by bringing together elements from theatrical traditions and both Hollywood and French cinemas.
Laura Rascaroli’s (University College Cork) paper Stalled Movement: The Post-Eurocentric Road Movie argued that the critique of Eurocentric cosmopolitanism is a consequence of the crisis of Europe and the radical repositioning on the global stage that the region has undergone over the past few decades. Such a critique has impacted on the European road movie as a genre that depicts the mobility of people across borders. A tendency towards a stalled or refused mobility, for instance, has been noted in Slovenian road movies of the 1990s–2000s promoting an alternative, non-Eurocentric cosmopolitanism. She argued that a number of recent transnational Western European road movies with migratory narratives show a similar tendency, but with different ideological outcomes. While comparably amounting to a critique of Eurocentrism, stalled movement in films like Loin (France/Spain 2001) and Depuis qu’Otar est parti... (France/Belgium 2003) does not result in alternative cosmopolitan projects, but rather gives expression to intense social tensions – and profoundly alters the genre’s established narrative and aesthetic tropes.
In her paper Distant Shades of Darkness: The Noir Sensibility in 1950s Hindi Cinema, Manishita Dass’s (Royal Holloway, University of London) proposed that although the term “film noir” still conjures up visions of a uniquely American phenomenon, recent revisionist scholarship has emphasized the transnational genealogies, migrations, and mutations of the genre. This paper contributes towards an international history of film noir by tracing the appearance and transformation of noir themes, styles, and images in mainstream Hindi films of the 1950s, produced in Bombay, such as C.I.D. (Raj Khosla, 1956), Phir Subah Hogi (Dawn Will Come Again, Ramesh Saigal, 1958), and Kala Bazaar (Black Market, Vijay Anand, 1960). She argued that a noir sensibility was central to post-independence Hindi cinema’s emergence as a site of leftist critique where critical perspectives on mainstream nationalism, on the democratic claims of the nation-state, and on urban modernity merged with a populist approach to entertainment, formal experimentation, and generic hybridity.
Daniela Berghahn (Royal Holloway, University of London) used the NECS conference as an opportunity to share and discuss some of the arguments she has proposed in her forthcoming book on Fatih Akin’s film Gegen die Wand (Head-On, 2004), forthcoming with BFI Film Classics. Her paper Hybridity in Diasporic Cinema drew on Janet Staiger’s influential essay (2003) ‘Hybrid or inbred: The purity hypothesis and Hollywood genre history’, where Staiger suggests that certain ‘films created by minority or subordinated groups’ are truly ‘hybrid genres’, in so far as they are based on ‘truly cross-cultural encounters’ and ‘use genre mixing or genre parody to dialogue with or criticize the dominant’ . Berghahn argued that Head-Onillustrates generic hybridity in exemplary fashion, appropriating the transnational genealogy of the of German émigré director Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s melodramas (notably The Marriage of Maria Braun) while simultaneously drawing on popular Turkish Yeşilçam melodrama, in particular, arabesk singer films.
Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 24 Jun 2014 •