Visitors, cosmopolitans and migratory cinematic visions of a superdiverse city
Keith B. Wagner
This introduction establishes art cinema as the key mode of filmmaking that is analysed in Global London on screen. Rather than cinema telegraphing a city’s domestic and dominant character, its larger-than-life-presence and stereotypical imagery, in this collection many of the films analysed counter this notion. Visitor filmmakers tend to make art cinema–styled films, recognised by their international aesthetic that provides a renewed sense of this global city. These cityscapes honed by filmmakers challenge precise geographical, ethnic and historio-cultural contexts. At their peak, creative worlds in London from 1990 to 2016 corresponded to a high period of media content produced in the capital. One consistent element associated with this boom was British genres, institutions and individuals going global, and this drew significant attention from others from around the world, fans who appreciated the customs, uniqueness and particularity of national specificity that London held as an admirable and fashionable multicultural city. London, therefore, means so very much and so very little to people everywhere, in and outside of the city’s limits. The one consistency regarding this idea of London as a global city is how much it summons a totality about its greatness, inconsequentiality and fallibility, often simultaneously, when it is named.
Globalisation is often depicted as the enemy of ordinary citizens and the destroyer of cities. Global London on screen counters this narrative by exploring high points of cosmopolitan and multicultural worldliness on film, while not neglecting the more troubling migratory histories, exclusionist enclaves and criminal connections that often underpin them. Made by visiting filmmakers from all over the world, these films destabilise and confront conceptions of English or British London. They represent a wide variety of periods and genres, from the 1950s to the present day, and from noir and arthouse films to Hollywood blockbusters. Seldom has a group of London films been conceptualised to challenge universalist assumptions about London’s cultural status to outsiders. Steering clear of British localism, Global London on screen embraces the complexities of this nation and of the world’s most famous city.
Cinematic streaming and the digital happening in globalising London
Michael A. Unger
Keith B. Wagner
As a cinematic-cum-multimodal audio-visual-orbital feat, livestreaming is nothing less than presentational wizardry and a narrative storytelling that works against-the-clock. This type of filmmaking is embodied as premise and constraint in Woody Harrelson’s directorial debut Lost in London (2017). This feature film creates what is referred to as a digital ‘happening’: it situates the profilmic event of shooting a long-take film with the technological caveat that one camera records the entire film as it develops in real time. This single long take premise also required that Lost in London be shot entirely on location and set in the theatre district of London in the early morning of 20 January 2017, while streamed simultaneously into 550 theatres in the United States and one in London. Lost in London’s globality is unmistakable. Its placeness and demographic richness become key tropes to ponder and that complement and reinforce London’s multicultural supremacy. This chapter argues Harrelson’s honest approach to London’s superdiversity in this film is not just an American filmmaker’s appropriation of this global city’s geography but a film that expands London’s global status as a tourist but also multicultural hotspot, unparalleled in our world system of cities. Thus, globalisation in practice is detachable and mediated in Lost in London’s dense material and urban fabric: both in architectural form and in the cast and ethos of its characters found on screen. Most important, it showcases liveness as a performative interaction between filmmaker and viewer to create a cinematic artifact – a one-off moment – that captures both event and experience but also culture and geography with aplomb.