Creating Culture

Transnational films are everywhere; from Mad Max to Avatar, almost everything we see on the big screen has taken several nations in production skills, actors, and themes.

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But is this blending of culture a step forward to total acceptance and a diverse global culture? Or is it completely erasing the individual culture of countries to create one bland and ambivalent non-culture?

I am of the opinion that transnational film is but one factor of a growing trend towards a ‘glocal’ culture that meshes each of our individual cultures to maintain a heterogeneous new world that every nation’s can see themselves in; and yet out of.

Schaefer and Karan in their article ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular cinema in global film flows’ defines the perceived dangers of transnational film. They use the example of Bollywood being slowly ‘Westernised’, with an 86% to 92% increase of Western content in popular Hindi films (Schaefer and Karan 2010). It is implied that while Bollywood is becoming more Western and enjoying more Westernised films; the same cannot be said for Hollywood with only one Bollywood film making the highest-grossing foreign-language films list in the US (boxofficemojo 2015).

Title (click to view) Studio Lifetime Gross /Theaters Opening /Theaters Date
1 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
SPC $128,078,872 2,027 $663,205 16 12/8/00
2 Life Is Beautiful
Mira. $57,563,264 1,136 $118,920 6 10/23/98
3 Hero
Mira. $53,710,019 2,175 $18,004,319 2,031 8/27/04
4 Instructions Not Included LGF $44,467,206 978 $7,846,426 348 8/30/13
5 Pan’s Labyrinth
PicH $37,634,615 1,143 $568,641 17 12/29/06
6 Amelie
Mira. $33,225,499 303 $136,470 3 11/2/01
7 Jet Li’s Fearless
Rog. $24,633,730 1,810 $10,590,244 1,806 9/22/06
8 Il Postino
Mira. $21,848,932 430 $95,310 10 6/16/95
9 Like Water for Chocolate
Mira. $21,665,468 64 $23,600 2 2/19/93
10 La Cage aux Folles
MGM $20,424,259 $18,709 5 3/30/79
11 Kung Fu Hustle
SPC $17,108,591 2,503 $269,225 7 4/8/05
12 The Motorcycle Diaries
Focus $16,781,387 272 $159,819 3 9/24/04
13 Iron Monkey
(Hong Kong)
Mira. $14,694,904 1,235 $6,014,653 1,225 10/12/01
14 Monsoon Wedding
USA $13,885,966 254 $68,546 2 2/22/02
15 Y Tu Mama Tambien
IFC $13,839,658 286 $408,091 40 3/15/02

Thus Schaefer and Karan determine that these transnational films are unfairly taking advantage of Indian culture, without delivering any rewards in return for the possible abuse and use of culture as a profit maker.

But is this accurate? Is Hollywood truly dominating Bollywood with recourse? And will this trend continue?

I doubt it.

The power of transnational film and thus transnational culture comes from the ebbing and flowing of ideas, themes and skills between nations; the country that seems at disadvantage today, may very well become the tycoon of tomorrow.

In his book ‘The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan’ Michael Baskett describes the tyrannical nature of Japanese film over its surrounding nations of Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, etc. etc. Throughout the early 20th century Japan was ruthless in its promotion of Japanese culture through film studios and theatres set up in Taiwan.


The sole purpose of these films and outlets was to increase tourism, fascination and support for Japan from Taiwan. Which Japan gained in excess, ‘In 1905 Takamatsu [a Japanese film exhibitor] raised over 10,000 yen in donations for the Japanese military through his screenings of short films about the Russo-Japanese War.’ (Baskett 2008)

It seem in 1905 Taiwan, as it does in 2015 India; a powerful empire taking over the culture of a nation through film.

Yet in 2015 Taiwan and Korea, the story is very different from a century ago.

Today; Korea is the powerhouse of culture within the Asiatic region, with its unique dramas, pop music and films sweeping through the region; to even become a sensation in Japan.

Yet we do not fear for the cultural corruption of Japan; it appears that in the face of Korean Wave Japan is trusted to maintain its own cultural integrity. This is the outcome that I foresee for India; which Schaefer and Karan seem not to.

Transnational culture is not a bland amalgamation of the globes most powerful nations; it is an ebb and flow of ideas and themes that we see visually through transnational film.

And it is through transnational film that we gain the sense of a global community; that still retains its diversity.



  • Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Global Media and Communication, 6: 3, pp. 309-316. [Accessed 28 Aug. 2015]
  •, (2015). ‘Foreign Language Movies at the Box Office’, Box Office Mojo. [online] [Accessed 1 Sep. 2015].
  • Fujiki, H. (2009). ‘The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan. By Michael Baskett’. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008. Pp. 216. ISBN 10: 0824831632; 13: 978-0824831639. International Journal of Asian Studies, 6(02), p.244.

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