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Race and Ethnicity in Post-Colonial Zimbabwean and Zambian Cinema  

Oswelled Ureke and Basil Hamusokwe

The article develops a postcolonial history of the cinemas of Zambia and Zimbabwe by examining the political economy of the countries’ screen media industries, as well as how issues of race and ethnicity are portrayed in their cinematic corpora. It employs race and ethnicity lenses to examine Zimbabwe’s and Zambia’s cinema economies. The chapter maps the racial and ethnic composition of the two countries’ cinema economies post–Central African Film Unit (CAFU) when indigenization, Africanization, and decolonization impetuses began taking root in economic enterprises. Informed by political economy and national cinema theories, this study utilizes a review of literature and archival material on post-independence film in Zambia and Zimbabwe, focusing on both structural issues and content. Neighbors Zimbabwe and Zambia are former British colonies that share cross-cultural commonalities, with some of the ethnic groups populating them, for instance the BaTonga, only being separated by the Zambezi River. The film histories of the two countries also have common foundations. During the colonial era, the CAFU operating in the two countries as well as Nyasaland (Malawi), produced films that were shown to “natives.” The films were produced by White officers and shown to Black Africans with the intent of making them subservient to the colonial project. Post-independence, the film industries in the two countries have taken different development trajectories in response to their respective postcolonial social, economic, and cultural specificities. Beyond 1964, the Zambian Information Services carried over the work of the CAFU in Zambia, while in post-1980 Zimbabwe, the Production Services had a similar mandate. However, the international growth of video-based production characterized by affordable technology has democratized the countries’ cinema economies and ushered in numerous experimental and sometimes community-based production initiatives. Those previously marginalized on economic, racial, or ethnic grounds from participating in cinematic production can now produce and disseminate their own art. Yet, the appeal of this demotic turn masks the racial and ethnic diversity (and sometimes inequality) in the countries’ screen media industries, which, in turn, have a direct influence on representational agency. The article also shows that film production endeavors have grown parallel to urban development, such as was the case in Zambia’s Copperbelt region and Harare in Zimbabwe, or sometimes along regional and ethnic lines, although such productions are often unproblematically grouped as national cinemas. The article further explains how racial and ethnic dynamics of the Zambian and Zimbabwean screen media industries influence the focus of their cinemas.

Article

Cinema, Ethnicity, and Nation-Building in the Sakha Republic (Russia) and Kazakhstan  

Adelaide McGinity-Peebles

In the post-Soviet era, ethnocultural identity and nationhood have been dominant themes in the cinemas of Kazakhstan and the Sakha Republic (officially known as the Republic of Sakha, or Yakutia). Despite their different sociopolitical contexts (unlike the Sakha Republic, which remains a federal republic within the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan has been an independent nation for 30 years), both were colonies within the Russian Empire and were later subjected to Soviet rule. Furthermore, both cinemas are keen to project their visions of collective identity to local, national, and global audiences. Sakha cinema seeks to consolidate and promote an ethnocultural Sakha identity against the encroaching presence of Russian culture in the republic, resulting in the manifest absence of Russian culture within its films. The growth, promotion, and success of Sakha art house cinema (which focuses on Sakha history, customs, and folklore) in recent years is a central part of its strategy to appeal to global audiences, allowing it to bypass the national (i.e., Russia), both offscreen and onscreen. Debates around post-Soviet nationhood remain an important aspect of the political discourse in Kazakhstan, which is reflected in the country’s cinema. Despite operating within an authoritarian regime, cinema remains one of the few areas in which sociopolitical discord can be articulated in Kazakhstan. Nation-building narratives have centered around Kazakhstan’s pre-imperial history and the Kazakh steppe, and these have likewise been a preoccupation of state-sponsored cinema and its alternative since the 2000s. While Russia is not such an overt “other” in Kazakh cinema as it is in Sakha film, the fact that debates around post-Soviet Kazakh nationhood and society continue to dominate Kazakh cinema three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union suggests that its colonial past nonetheless remains a significant context against which the Kazakh nation is imagined.

Article

Film and Horror  

Lindsey Decker and Kendall R. Phillips

The term horror film refers to a wide variety of films generally understood to focus on frightening topics like ghosts, monsters, and murder. Horror films have been consistently popular among filmgoers since the earliest days of cinema in part because the genre has developed so many diverse variations in terms of theme, style, and tone. Popular horror films have employed supernatural elements, alien invaders, homicidal individuals, and wide scale apocalyptic themes. In part because of their variety and endurance, scholars from various disciplines have inquired into their nature and appeal. A substantial body of scholarship has grown up around the horror film. Scholars have inquired into the nature of the horror film, the reasons it might appeal to audiences, the evolution of the genre across time, and the relationship between these frightening films and the broader culture.

Article

Brazilian Queer Cinema  

João Nemi Neto

Brazilian cinema is born out of a desire for modernity. Moving images (movies) represented the newest technological innovation. Cinematographers brought to the growing cities of Brazil an idea—and ideal—of “civilization” and contemporaneousness. At the same time, queer identities started to gain visibility. Therefore, a possible historiography of cinema is also a potential for a historiography of queer identities. Nonetheless, as a non-Anglo country and former colony of Portugal, Brazil presents its own vicissitudes both in the history of cinema and in queer historiography. To understand dissident identities in a peripherical culture (in relation to Europe), one must comprehend the ways ideas and concepts travel. Therefore, queer and intersectionality function as traveling theories (in Edward Said’s terms) for the understanding of a Brazilian queer cinema. A critical perspective of the term “queer” and its repercussions in other cultures where English is not the first language is imperative for one to understand groundbreaking filmmakers who have depicted queer realities and identities on the Brazilian big screen throughout the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st century.

Article

Postcolonial Media Theory  

Juan Llamas-Rodriguez and Viviane Saglier

The postcolonial intellectual tradition has proved crucial to articulating cultural, film, and media formations from the geographical and theoretical perspective of (formerly) colonized people and countries. The object of media studies has expanded significantly beyond the screen in the past decades, including a renewed attention to non-visual media and an emerging attention to the material conditions of possibility for media representations. In this new mediascape, postcolonial theories and concepts potentially repoliticize media theory by questioning Western assumptions about technological progress and innovation. Postcolonial theories of media force a rethink of the tenets of traditional media theories while, at the same time, media theories demonstrate the centrality of media, in all its forms, to understanding the postcolonial condition.

Article

African American Queer Cinema  

Victor Evans

African American queer cinema was born as a reaction to the AIDS/HIV epidemic as well as the blatant homophobia that existed within the Black community in the 1980s. It began with the pioneering works of queer directors Isaac Julien and Marlon Riggs and continued during the new queer cinema movement in the 1990s, particularly including the works of lesbian queer director Cheryl Dunye. However, these works were infinitesimal compared to the queer works featuring primarily White lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) protagonists during that time. That trend continues today as evidenced by looking at the highest-grossing LGBTQ films of all times: very few included any African American characters in significant roles. However, from the 1980s to the 2020s, there have been a few Black queer films that have penetrated the mainstream market and received critical acclaim, such as The Color Purple (Spielberg, 1982), Set It Off (Gary, 1996), and Moonlight (Jenkins, 2016), which won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Picture. The documentary film genre has been the most influential in exposing audiences to the experiences and voices within the African American queer communities. Since many of these films are not available for viewing at mainstream theaters, Black queer cinema is primarily accessed via various cable, video streaming, and on-demand services, like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO.

Article

Queer Sexualities in Latin America  

Héctor Domínguez Ruvalcaba

As a field of study constituted by contributions coming from various disciplines and methodologies, queer studies in Latin America can only be understood as a multiplicity of discourses that discipline, regulate, vindicate, or bring into critical view dissident expressions of gender and sexuality. These discursive formations have given rise to moral, scientific, political, and aesthetic conceptualizations through which sexually diverse bodies in this region have been understood. Notable academic texts published since the 1980s have studied the diversity of sexual identities in different modes of representation, including the fields of history, ethnography, and literature, as well as performance, journalistic, cinematographic, and television discourses. The selection for this multidisciplinary review was based on the following thematic axis: colonial studies of Latin American queerness; modern history and literature on sexual dissidence; ethnographies of sexual diversity; and the studies of film, media, and performance.

Article

Decolonization and Collaborative Media: A Latin American Perspective  

Freya Schiwy

The six-month-long occupation of the historic city center of Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 became one of the first social uprisings to be thoroughly intermeshed with the creation of old and new media. Graffiti, performance protest, and independent radio proliferated and found its way into the many digitally recorded activist videos shown in community centers, on occupied television, distributed on DVD, and streamed on the Internet. Such media activism attests to continuities and discontinuities with what has been known as “New Latin American Cinema,” that is, the militant and social realist films made in analogue formats that were gaining world attention in the 1960s and 1970s. Oaxaca’s media activism also signals links among diverse leftist social movements and community and collaborative video in indigenous languages from throughout Latin America and beyond. Often called “indigenous video,” these works, like the New Latin American Cinema, have also spawned diverse scholarly interpretations. Although the Mexican student brigades and Super 8 video movement are not usually included in the critical scholarship on New Latin American Cinema, they, too, constitute important precursors for Oaxaca’s media activism and for collaborative and community media in the region. How to understand media militancy and anticolonial struggle, in turn, has changed. These changes reflect technological shifts from analogue film to digital video and the growing impact of indigenous social movements on the political left. Audiovisual militancy has shifted from the denunciation of U.S. neoimperialism and a Marxist-Leninist vision of revolution to broader, more open-ended, antiauthoritarian alliances among filmmakers, anarchists, feminists, indigenous organizations, and diverse other social movements that embrace decolonization. In contrast with anticolonial struggles, decolonization does not necessarily seek to oust a colonizing military force but aims to change colonial relations and their postcolonial aftermath under settler colonial conditions through prefigurative politics.