Identity is an ambiguous thing: Some are born without an obvious place in the world and so wander the Earth in search of an identity they might call their own. Others are born with a very clear identity that is imposed upon them at birth and while these people may know precisely where they are, their location frequently turns out to be under someone else’s boot. The dull ache of ambiguity throbs not only in the identities we receive from society at large, but also from the identities we choose to impose upon ourselves. This is a film about identity and how assuming an identity may very well wind up harming those who have that identity forced upon them.
Earlier this year I wrote a post about the lack of diversity in the films considered for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or. While that post focused principally upon the demographics of the directors considered for the award, I was also concerned by the Cannes-centric feedback loop that appears to be encouraging non-French film directors to begin making films in France. I delve into this idea in a little more depth in my latest feature for FilmJuice entitled French Style – How Economics Turns World Cinema into French Film.
The thrust of my argument is that France has become so good at protecting and encouraging French film that the French film scene is beginning to suck talent from the rest of World Cinema. The most notable examples of this process are the Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami and the Austrian director Michael Haneke:
By providing ambitious filmmakers with an oasis of financial stability, the French state may also have begun a process of cultural assimilation through which non-French directors surrender their distinct cultural identities in an effort to produce French films for the French marketplace.
Aside from the fact that non-French cinematic voices are beginning to acquire a distinctly Gallic accent, there is also the problem posed by these older established voices crowding out younger home-grown talents. France ensures that a certain number of its cinema screens must show French films but why would a cinema chain choose to show a French film by a director like Mia Hansen-Love and Katell Quillévéré when they can show a film by an award-winning star of world cinema?