The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

in a house of prostitution: the film conveniently reaches a climax when the camera crew is finally thrown out of the door. In Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer ( 1993) Broomfield participates in the media circus surrounding Wuornos, a prostitute who was convicted of killing seven of her customers and was billed as the first female serial killer. Broomfield records his financial negotiations with her lawyer and adopted mother -- both of whom are primarily interested in the large fees they will receive. In the end Broomfield exposes the ways in which justice has been corrupted and Wuornos's case exploited by law enforcement officials eager to make money selling their stories to producers for potential TV movies.

Although Errol Morris does not appear in The Thin Blue Line ( 1988), the film-maker's presence is strongly felt throughout the film due to distinctive choices in lighting, editing, and music, and the introduction of scenes staged in a highly stylized fashion. This powerful documentary proves that an innocent man was wrongly convicted of killing a Dallas police officer, and eventually reveals the ways in which the state allowed itself to be easily fooled by the real killer, an appealing young teenager who went on to kill again. Morris invested much of the considerable cultural capital he gained from this film to revive and reframe the concept of film truth that had fallen in disrepute over the previous fifteen years: that truth is not guaranteed, but it is essential to seek. Likewise in Susana Mufioz 's and Lourdes Portillo's Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo ( 1985), the Argentine military claims that it is not responsible for the 'disappearance' of young students and political leftists; against such pretences, the army's participation in these murders emerges as a damning truth.

In this period, documentaries have developed in two divergent directions. While independent documentaries have flourished on the festival circuit and enjoyed critical attention, the vast majority are commissioned and underwritten by television stations which have tended to see them as programming units that must conform to their needs. In many cases the resulting series are international co-productions which have to satisfy the underlying ideological assumptions of several different governmentfunded/sponsored/controlled corporations, including their somewhat divergent articulated standards for objectivity. This was true, for example, with the twelve-episode Vietnam: A Television History (series producers: Richard Elli sion and Stanley Karnow, 1983), which was done as an international co-production with WGBH in the USA, Central Independent Television in Great Britain, and Antenne-2 in France. Perceptions of the war tended to be quite different in these three nations. More generally, television executives want to build audience loyalty to specific programming slots by maintaining a consistent tone or look from programme to programme and season to season. Documentary has always had to accommodate to the demands of its sponsors. More and more its survival as a valid form depends on finding sponsors who respect its right, and duty, to seek truth first and make accommodations second.


Barnouw, Erik ( 1974), Documentary: A History of the Nonfiction Film.

Ellis, Jack ( 1989), The Documentary Idea: A Critical History of EnglishLanguage Documentary Film and Video.

Hockings, Paul (ed.) ( 1975), Principles of Visual Anthropology.

Mamber, Stephen ( 1974). Cinema Verite in America.

Nichols, Bill ( 1980), Newsreel: Documentary Filmmaking on the American Left.

Rosenthal, Alan ( 1980). The New Documentary in Action.

Solanas, Fernando, and Getino, Octavio ( 1969). Towards a Third Cinema'.

Stoller, Paul ( 1992), The Cinmatic Griot. The Ethnography of Jean Rouch.

Avant-Garde Film: The Second Wave


European avant-garde film was reborn surprisingly soon after the war, from the 1950s, with the provocative neoDada of Fluxus, Lettrisme, and Action-Art. As in the original Cabaret Voltaire, and for similar reasons, mockery and excess were weapons of social and cultural protest. But film as an aspect of 'bomb culture' was often defiantly marginal, even after the aptly named Underground surfaced to public view in the 1960s. Only one film by the Situationist Guy Debord has been shown in Britain, for example, at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in 1952.

Even by then, the lead had passed to the USA, as it had with painting when New York replaced Paris as the cultural capital of modernism. As Abstract Expressionism triumphed in the 1940s, new waves of experimental filmmakers began to explore film as a fine art. More positive than the Europeans about their shared Dada-Surrealist heritage, the Americans wanted to make art, not abolish it. Their hallmark was personal vision, the basis both of


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The Oxford History of World Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Contents xi
  • Special Features xv
  • List of Colour Illustrations xvii
  • General Introduction xix
  • 1 - Silent Cinema 1895-1930 1
  • Origins and Survival 6
  • Early Cinema 13
  • Transitional Cinema 23
  • The Hollywood Studio System 43
  • The World-Wide Spread of Cinema 53
  • The First World War and the Crisis in Europe 62
  • Tricks and Animation 71
  • Comedy 78
  • Documentary 86
  • Cinema and the Avant-Garde 95
  • Serials 105
  • French Silent Cinema 112
  • Italy- Spectacle and Melodrama 123
  • British Cinema from Hepworth to Hitchcock 130
  • Germany- The Weimar Years 136
  • The Scandinavian Style 151
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russia 159
  • The Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés 162
  • Yiddish Cinema in Europe 174
  • Japan- Before the Great Kanto Earthquake 177
  • Music and the Silent Film 183
  • The Heyday of the Silents 192
  • 2 - Sound Cinema 1930-1960 205
  • The Introduction of Sound 211
  • Hollywood- The Triumph of the Studio System 220
  • Censorship and Self-Regulation 235
  • The Sound of Music 248
  • Technology and Innovation 259
  • Animation 267
  • Cinema and Genre 276
  • The Western 286
  • The Musical 294
  • Crime Movies 304
  • The Fantastic 312
  • Documentary 322
  • Socialism, Fascism, and Democracy 333
  • The Popular Art of French Cinema 344
  • Italy from Fascism to Neo-Realism 353
  • Britain at the End of Empire 361
  • Germany- Nazism and after 374
  • East Central Europe before the Second World War 383
  • Soviet Film under Stalin 389
  • Indian Cinema- Origins to Independence 398
  • China before 1949 409
  • The Classical Cinema in Japan 413
  • The Emergence of Australian Film 422
  • Cinema in Latin America 427
  • After the War 436
  • Transformation of the Hollywood System 443
  • Independents and Mavericks 451
  • 3 - The Modern Cinema 1960-1995 461
  • Television and the Film Industry 466
  • The New Hollywood 475
  • New Technologies 483
  • Sex and Sensation 490
  • The Black Presence in American Cinema 497
  • Exploitation and the Mainstream 509
  • Dreams and Nightmares in the Hollywood Blockbuster 516
  • Cinéma-Vérité and the New Documentary 527
  • Avant-Garde Film- The Second Wave 537
  • Animation in the Post-Industrial Era 551
  • Modern Film Music 558
  • Art Cinema 567
  • New Directions in French Cinema 576
  • Italy- Auteurs and after 586
  • Spain after Franco 596
  • British Cinema- The Search for Identity 604
  • The New German Cinema 614
  • East Germany- The Defa Story 627
  • Changing States in East Central Europe 632
  • Russia after the Thaw 640
  • Cinema in the Soviet Republics 651
  • Turkish Cinema 656
  • The Arab World 661
  • The Cinemas of Sub-Saharan Africa 667
  • Iranian Cinema 672
  • India- Filming the Nation 678
  • Indonesian Cinema 690
  • China after the Revolution 693
  • Popular Cinema in Hong Kong 704
  • Taiwanese New Cinema 711
  • The Modernization of Japanese Film 714
  • New Australian Cinema 722
  • New Zealand Cinema 731
  • Canadian Cinema/Cinéma Canadien 731
  • New Cinemas in Latin America 740
  • New Concepts of Cinema 750
  • The Resurgence of Cinema 759
  • Index 785
  • List of Picture Sources 823


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