Editorial: Is Hollywood’s decline really very good news?
by Domenico La Porta
21/02/2012 - “For once in history, it seems that Hollywood’s inevitable domination is diminishing, to the benefit of world cinema ... and this is very good news.”
With these militant words, Mike Leigh, president of the 62nd Berlinale’s international jury, opened a festival whose line-up almost entirely excluded the United States, instead featuring windows onto Europe, Indonesia, Senegal, and even the Philippines. Over 300,000 spectators flocked to the festival, among whom a majority of Berliners, a people reputed for their artistic and political sensitivity.
With this crowd and many prestigious guests — Hollywood was nevertheless very well represented on the red carpet — these 10 days of celebrating cinema really did hold international resonance. Behind the camera, on the not-so-clean nor smooth side of the window glass of those who create the most demanding of cinematographic works, awards were handed out, but what were we celebrating exactly? What perspectives were we really being offered through these windows?
We have to note that this “world cinema” sadly depicts a parade of calamities that the Berlinale, as Cannes and Venice before it, has managed to disguise as a défilé of haute couture. There was the abduction of a child (Coming Home [trailer]), a massacre of Roma (Just the wind [trailer, film focus]), Muslim fundamentalism (Captive [trailer, film focus]), a childhood of suffering in Africa (War Witch) and in Switzerland (Sister [trailer, film focus]), the drama of Fukushima, the drama of 9/11, the drama of the Arab Spring, the drama of the Genoa riots, and the drama of war, in the Balkans or wherever else. Some might see this film selection as confirming the cliché usually associated to the Berlinale, and to European cinema in general, that of an ode to misery and a disturbing sense of guilt. However unclean what happens outside, there will always be a window to observe it through from the clean and comfortable interior of a screening after a red carpet.
Similarly, the reverse of the golden medal awarded to the Taviani brothers for their stunning stunning piece of art is scratched by the Camorra and the drama of prison. We are far away here from the films churned out by Hollywood to make us dream about the American way of life, but also equally as far way from the dream that, before art, gave birth to cinema.
Like Mike Leigh and millions of European professionals, I am delighted by the accused decline of the Hollywood industry, but after the celebration, the world citizen that I am has to question the real merits of the growth of a cinema that breaks ground exclusively by filming the evils of our time. Isn’t it them who are registering the clearest progress? If we associate this state of depression to world cinema further on down the line, then Hollywood will be the one to benefit when the moment comes for revival, and the ensuing regression — ours, this time — will be terrible.
An international festival — one from the A-list — has the power to contrast its selection and the Berlinale does not abuse this power. This 62nd edition has shown us that in the current crisis, one we are all suffering from, happily some artists are playing the role of reporters very well, but it might also be good for a festival with such international impact to not lose sight of the dream merchants — even dream artisans would suffice here — because they always have an important role to play in a society that suffers, that of filming the good, even very good, news.
(Translated from French)