It may sound like a truism to say that film is a global industry. Bollywood movies play in theaters in Los Angeles, while Hollywood movies play in theaters in Bombay. And many films, of course, are produced outside these two great hubs: pictures made in Thailand, South Africa, Egypt, China, Argentina, Finland, among many other countries, circulate on a global market and through the network of international festivals. But what — if anything — do these films share in terms of theme and content? What is "global cinema"? Does such a thing exist?
NYU Abu Dhabi Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies Seung-hoon Jeong is working on a book project in which he identifies and develops key terms for addressing the idea of "global cinema," which he describes as a new frame in which to examine films that comment on phenomena like cosmopolitanism, terrorism, and global capitalism. This current project follows his previous book, Cinematic Interfaces: Film Theory after New Media, published by Routledge in 2013.
Seung-hoon believes that many contemporary movies, whether they are produced in Southern California or South Korea, share a way of addressing a global community that values cosmopolitanism and cultural difference. "Since we have a global community that is expanding more and more, differences between groups within a community in terms of race, sex, class, ethnicity, is increasingly less decisive because there is more toleration than there was in the past," he explained.
Similarities across cultures also extend to values and ideologies. Concepts such as human rights and equality, ideas that have developed according to their own historical trajectories, have, in a way, become default values shared by many cultures throughout the world. This homogeneity means that some of the most pressing antagonisms today are between the global community and external or excluded forces: "The whole global community wants to be inclusive," Seung-hoon said. "But on the other hand, this globality isn't perfect. There are always examples of exclusion."
Seung-hoon has recently written about how animals and machines are presented as "others" that exist on the boundaries of human society in global cinema. The paper, "A Global Cinematic Zone of Animal and Technology," published in Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities in May 2013, considers how animals and machines can stand in for humans and provide an element of difference that cannot be accounted for by humans.