Film, Media and Music

The moral-political undertow of London’s Hindi cinema presence
Shakuntala Banaji
and
Rahoul Masrani

From the now famous culture-clash blockbuster Purab aur Paschim (East and West, 1970) that pits supposedly real and patriotic Indians against the deracinated diaspora, London has appeared in hundreds of Hindi films. This chapter examines how sometimes London is filmed sparsely and with such banality that it is a meaningless and cliched backdrop of consumption and romance (as in the Camden sequences of Mujse Dosti Karoge? which could be set in any city), but with increasing frequency as a metaphor which epitomises the tensions of secular, globalised modernity, longing for home, and identity, for those in the diaspora. In the wake of Aditya Chopra’s phenomenally successful Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The One with the Heart Will Win the Bride, 2001), this chapter notes a significant change that began to take place in Hindi films set in London, with the city playing an ambivalent role as a semiotic marker of personal choice, anonymity and modernity which ultimately sours and leaves the protagonists longing to return to their roots, their homeland and their traditions. At the heart of these films (including Namastey London and Patiala House) lies a desire to attract viewers to London only in order to reject its supposedly ephemeral allure. This chapter asserts that most of the plots end by putting London in its place – a place which is fun to shop in, to walk through, but which has no heart; they end with a re-entrenchment of essentialised Indian characteristics. London’s complex material identity as the former capital of the British empire and now an important global financial centre, in both Bollywood and English-language films, is often reduced to a screen identity centred upon global consumption in late capitalism.

in Global London on screen
London River
Ana Virginia López Fuentes

The increasing mobility of people, goods and information around the globe has resulted in an increasingly interconnected world with a high potential for cosmopolitan encounters. Both dividing lines and borderlands have the potential to either curtail or promote cosmopolitan moments of self-transformation. So-called ‘border films’ structure their narratives around different types of borders, usually highlighting their paradoxical nature. This chapter looks at London River as an example of a border film that can be inscribed within the category of ‘cultural exchange’ narrative as theorised by Deborah Shaw, Tom O’Regan and others. The film tells the story of two parents: Ousmane, a black Muslim from Mali, and Elisabeth, a white protestant from the Channel Islands, looking for their children in the city of London after the 7th July terrorist attacks. The narrative crosses various geographical borders and was filmed in different locations: France, London and one of the Channel Islands. It was a French–British co-production and it features a multinational cast and crew, including a French director of Algerian origin working in the city of London. This chapter looks at the film’s representation of today’s extremely complex borders, in society in general and particularly in global cities. As argued in the chapter, the movie constructs different spaces of the city of London as both dividing lines and as borderlands, emphasising the dual nature of borders theorised by border scholars such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Mike Davis and Anthony Cooper and Christopher Rumford. London River is an accurate representation of the complex social networks occurring in large cities all over the world.

in Global London on screen
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The Brazilian diaspora in London as depicted in Henrique Goldman’s Jean Charles
Stephanie Dennison

Jean Charles (2009) is the work of London-based Brazilian director Henrique Goldman. It is a free adaptation of the story of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian mistaken for a terror suspect and shot dead by British police in Stockwell tube station in 2005. As well as providing a context to the story of Jean Charles and the making of the film, this chapter focuses on the portrayal of London as a space of work and play for the sizeable Brazilian diaspora (between seventy and one hundred thousand Brazilians live in London), in what, at first, is a veritable celebration of Brazilian Portuguese. Brazilians are depicted as being left to their own devices until post-national forces denominated global terrorism spoil this slice of Brazilian life in London, and Jean Charles is shot dead. At this point the language focus notably shifts to English, and London is transformed. Without the safe haven of their language, the Brazilian characters are quite simply lost. Given the difficulties that Goldman experienced in getting this co-production made, this chapter argues Goldman’s film can be just as much read as an exposé of the trials of South American ‘transnational’ filmmakers working in the UK in general as it is a damning critique of the treatment of immigrants at the hands of the UK authorities.

in Global London on screen
Rashida K. Braggs
,
William Murray
, and
Elijah Parks

Music lives and breathes through the spaces of much of James Baldwin’s oeuvre. This article introduces a course that features Baldwin’s musical literature and teaches students to compose music inspired by their newfound knowledge of Baldwin. The course, entitled “James Baldwin’s Song,” was taught in the department of Africana Studies at Williams College in fall 2021. It guided students to listen to Baldwin in a different way—through a musical lens and by relating Baldwin’s wisdom to their own lives. This article takes readers behind the scenes as it shares some of the curricular choices that guided the course and student insights gleaned from it. Though students heard many things in Baldwin’s musical oeuvre, two ideas sang out most clearly: that the blues was not just music but was also a way of living, and that joy differed from happiness. Accordingly, the second half of this article illustrates these key concepts as featured in original songs from the professor and student co-authors.

James Baldwin Review
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Kim Akass

This brief concluding chapter reflects on the book’s findings. Chief among these is that there exists a deep cultural antipathy towards motherhood. For cable and streaming channels especially, the debasement of motherhood and women is regularly used as a way of breaking into a cluttered television universe. Nevertheless, there are occasional positive representations to be found, including Mare of Easttown, Lovecraft Country and Schitt’s Creek. The book’s ultimate conclusion is that we should not take representation for granted, as it is inevitably linked to economic and political positioning. If women are to eventually achieve equality with men, society needs to first address the inequalities associated with mothering.

in Mothers on American television
Kim Akass

This chapter argues that, through an application of Karen Horney’s post-Freudian feminist psychoanalytic theories on the dread of woman, much can be understood about Al Swearengen’s utter contempt for women as he sexualizes while silencing the maternal. The fictional Al Swearengen, like most of Deadwood, is based upon real historical events and characters. Most revealing is that the real Swearengen’s backstory is vastly different from the fictional one and, by looking at both of them, we can understand that the negative male attitudes towards motherhood we see in this short scene are not restricted to the nineteenth century.

in Mothers on American television
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Interiority, claustrophobia and decadence in cosmopolitan London cinema of the 1960s and 1970s
Kevin M. Flanagan

This chapter identifies and surveys a counterintuitive strand of London films made by non-native filmmakers whose thematic and spatial focus is not on the breadth, freedom and possibility of the public city but rather on its private spaces. These ‘inner space’ films dwell on issues arising from the obsessive over-identification with interior spaces (apartments, flats, studios, workplaces), often to the extent that the central characters forsake the city streets in favour of private worlds of their own making. The chapter traces a cosmopolitan strand of inner space cinema that gels with issues explored by key British writers of the moment, but that very deliberately defines the city from the position of the outsider looking inward. American director Joseph Losey and Hungarian writer George Tabori’s film Secret Ceremony (1968, adapted from a novella by Argentine writer Marco Denevi) explores an obsessive, codependent relationship between mother and surrogate daughter that largely plays out inside Debenham House in Holland Park. The other film explored in depth is Tabori and Losey’s Leo the Last (1970), about the coming-to-political-consciousness of a deposed European aristocrat (Marcello Mastroianni) who is exiled to a West London home and who undergoes a personal transformation based on his gradual engagement with the outside world. Taken together, the films explored in this chapter advance an unconventional notion: the inner spaces of London, as represented and explored by those who look at the city from without, are key sites for dramatising and defining a full understanding of the metropolis. With their attention to issues typically outside the remit of urban experience (small-scale observation, confinement), they provide new windows on a frequently studied moment.

in Global London on screen
The Street, gentrification and Brexit
Charlotte Brunsdon

This concluding chapter focuses on Zed Nelson’s 2019 film The Street, filmed in the East London borough of Hackney. The film has a simple project: to track the transformations in inner-city Hoxton Street over the four years of filming. Through this undertaking, Nelson tells a more complicated story than the familiar narrative of the changing built environment of the cinematic city. His achievement is to record a micro-history of the changing street as long-established businesses like Anderson’s the bakers and Lawrence’s the carpet shop close, to be replaced with bars and galleries, in a broader context of the continuing spread of the City of London into adjacent previously working-class areas. Framing the changes in the street within the 2010 coalition government’s austerity project and the 2016 Brexit referendum, Nelson explores, using only the careful editing of his informants’ words, the way in which voting to leave Europe could be understood as a response to the loss of a familiar way of life, a familiar street, to the hipsters and incomers of gentrification. This chapter asserts that the detail of the film’s documentation with the careful contextualisation of so many of its characters is what makes the film vivid and compelling. Individual voices linger on, with their rich registers of emotion and attitude long after the images – and their homes and businesses – have faded. It would be a foolish mistake, however, to understand it as a film which is just about Hoxton Street.

in Global London on screen
A Review of Biographies about James Baldwin
William Henry Pruitt III

This review essay compares the research methodologies and narrative strategies of Baldwin biographies as well as their main claims. Analyzing these books in their chronological order, it seeks to chart a history of book-length knowledge production about the dynamics between Baldwin’s ideas, art, personal life, and public roles. The conclusion of this review essay heralds the future of biographical research in Baldwin Studies. It also proposes two new narratives about Baldwin: a chronicle of his responses to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s surveillance of him and a broader chronicle of his responses to Cold War conservatism.

James Baldwin Review
Kim Akass

This chapter argues that Game of Thrones’ attitude towards its female characters is symptomatic of the commodification of wombs in patriarchal culture. As if to emphasize women’s lack of agency, it is not just that their only significance is in the children they bear and their relationships to them, but that even the modicum of power given them in the source novels is nowhere to be seen in HBO’s adaptation. Through an application of Luce Irigaray’s theories, I argue that women are just a commodity within patriarchy, valuable only for their ability to reproduce.

in Mothers on American television