Criss-Crossing Cinema: the risks and rewards of global attention

Global Film: Towards Cross-overs 

The cultural lines between global film have been quite parallel to each other in recent years, and we are just now viewing the onset of these lines intersecting, intertwining and blurring together in the form of “crossover cinema”. This is referring to the interrelation of cultural borders in the conception of film that is producing a new, hybrid form of cinema that doesn’t fit into one category or culture.

(Image: fishandbicycles)

This new breed of film enables the transgression of genre, cultural borders, niche audience markets and stereotypes. Though globalisation and global flows, filmmakers can essentially ‘pick and choose’ elements of cultures they wish to portray and mash together these once separated worlds in a new playing field of entertainment. Sukhmani Khorana in ‘Crossover Cinema: A genealogical and conceptual overview’  implies this notion of cross over cinema will not just be a “passing fad”, but a “major structural shift” in how films will be created, produced, distributed and received. (Khorana, 2013)

Khorana poses the question of what constitutes a cross over film, and which films exhibit its qualities, and not per say those of a transnational film or world cinema, 3 concepts commonly confused, blended and mashed together.  Slumdog Millionare is often exemplified in cases such as these. Kavoori (2009) calls it a “class crossover” film and uses the “specifics of Indian locale to speak to a global concern of personal responsibility in a heartless world, and the importance of agency in an alienated society” Khorona argues this shows the transnational appeal needs to be globally and locally dispersed rather than specifically driven towards targeting the elite Western ideals. Crossover cinema must be understood as the conglomeration of multicultural affinities not for political reasons or borrowing elements of other cultures to make a film seem ‘lucrative’ or oriental, but for personal/poetic reasons aimed to engage the world as a collective audience by collective appeal.

While cross-over films undoubtedly provide advantages for films to engage a wider audience, appreciate and highlight new ways of storytelling and ultimately introduce a new wave in viewing entertainment. Therein lies a risk in when the film actually ‘crosses over’, whether it was intentionally made to will not guarantee its success or that it will be untouchable in terms of what it portrays. One could put forward an example of this is the Australian film “The Sapphires”(Wayne Blair 2012), a film made in one country with the possible underlying intention to appeal elsewhere by bringing in elements they think will draw attention. Be that certain companies, well-known, ‘big name’ actors, ideas/storylines of products. The Sapphires was one of Australia’s biggest box office successes, and produced by the indigenous cinema, Screen Australia, starring and created by an indigenous cast and crew.
What was it that made The Sapphires such an international hit in this crossover cinema genre? It is a tale of triumph for the underdog, as is Slumdog Millionaire, and included topical elements that would draw American attention such as the Vietnam War and ‘black soul’ music style very similar to the well known ‘The Supremes’. Some commented it as a ‘feel good’, musical trope uplifting style of story-telling.

Though the film was an international hit, particularly in America, there existed some controversy in the way the film was promoted. In the Australian promotional poster and dvd cover, the main actresses were pictured in the foreground with the ‘lead’ male actor in the background. Whereas the American version, distributed by the Weistein Company, the male lead and well known name, Chris O’Dowd is centre point. The 3 main aboriginal actresses are behind him in a pale, washed out blue tone fading into the background, with only his name on the poster. Though the film is essentially the same, it has been ‘kidnapped’ and altered in order to accommodate to and fit in with the new culture. Like any language or culture, things get lost in translation. This new notion of ‘crossover cinema’ holds the potential to reprimand and prevent such essential elements getting lost.

(Image: indiewire)

Khorana, S 2012, Orientalising the Emerging Media Capitals: The Age on Indian TV’s ‘Hysteria’, University of Queensland.
“Crossover Cinema: a genealogical and conceptual overview”

Kavoori, A 2009, “Film Review: why the Sun Shines on Slum Dog” Global Media and Communication 5: 259-62.