Post National Cinema Europe

Do these small-scale production units amount to a new post-national basis of European cinema? Certainly not by themselves, since many of these units have a national base and are as likely to cooperate with US firms or Asian directors as with other European partners, but they nonetheless constitute one crucial element in the jigsaw puzzle or network system. The other key ingredient is the film festival circuit, discussed in the following chapter, which is indeed transnational and international. The third element to factor in again arises from a national basis, but increasingly follows a trans-national European logic, more specifically that of the European Union, which obliges member states to cooperate with each other in order to benefit from subsidies or protective legislation. Compared to the political rules of the Union, where nations hand over part of their sovereignty to Brussels, in order for Brussels to legislate transnationally, to negotiate internationally (at WTO level) and to subsidize locally (via various supra-national agencies and programs), cinema production in the European Union is lagging behind. The most evident aspect of filmmaking and cinema culture, where the European Union has had an impact is with regard to questions of co-production, tax regimes, copyright and especially on those vital issues of state funding: the European Union has for years been trying to "harmonize" the various national film subsidy schemes and regulate the terms under which individuals from different countries can work in the member states industries and benefit from these schemes. Without unraveling the long and complex history of the relations between cinema and the state in European countries, one can see that what used to be nationally specific protectionism has now become European protectionism, still mostly directed against Holly-wood.20 In these trade disputes, the national is increasingly being invoked by the European Union itself, usually coupled with the concept of cultural diversity or claimed under the heading of devolved national specificity. Thus, in order to buffer directors against the effects of unrestrained market forces, and to cushion the blows from Hollywood competition, the appeal to a "national cinema" gives leverage to a cultural protectionism that cuts both ways. While it tries to shield film production from the full blast of the market, it also obliges national governments to fund filmmaking: either as part of the national cultural heritage and artistic patrimony, or for somewhat more prosaic reasons as a national skills- and crafts-based (or cottage) industry to support the knowledge society of today and its integration into the global information societies of tomorrow. The "national" thereby acquires a different meaning, in that it is neither "essentialist" nor "constructivist" in the sense discussed above, but "post-national", that is, reintroduced for external use, so to speak, while suspended within the European Union.

Having said this, it is worth insisting on a distinction already made earlier. Much of this applies exclusively to the well-established subsidy schemes in Western European countries. In Central and Eastern Europe, the post-Communist states in the 1990s have not only asserted their nationalism as a motor for their cultural identity and political self-determination after the fake internationalism as well as fake nationalism of the Stalinist past. They have also come to the fore with a renewed concern for a national cinema, shadowing the fact that Western Europe underestimated the degree of militancy still inherent in the nationalism in the Balkans and elsewhere. The break-up of Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania), the re-emergence of the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), the split of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia), and finally the newly independent states emerging from the former Soviet Union (Georgia, Belarus, the Ukraine) have had more or less catastrophic consequences for these countries' respective film cultures. All of them used to have an official film industry centrally administered. The filmmaker was, in certain crucial respects an employee of the state, and thus did not have to pursue his or her production funds either through commercial production companies or via the box office. Since the end of Communist rule, however, this central funding has fallen away, and the profession has been struggling to re-organize itself along market lines. But since no West European country can sustain its filmmaking activities without the various subsidy systems put in place during the 1970s and 1980s, East European filmmakers are at a disadvantage, not having equivalent schemes to fall back on in their respective countries.

While some filmmakers, notably from the countries of the former Yugoslavia often have a very "post-national" attitude to cultural identity, others still prefer to present themselves also in their cinema as "national." They might be seen in a counter-current to what has been said above, but they are also comparable to the various regional, territorial or ethnic movements, which also in Western Europe claim a distinct cinematic identity.21 In this respect Hungarian, Bulgarian, or Romanian cinema, along with Basque or Irish cinema is - mutatis mutandis - comparable with other parts of the world, where the post-colonial period has seen cultural and ethnic identity-politics join forces with nationalism, to assert autonomy and independence, and a return to local values in the face of a globalized world.

This form of retroactive cinematic nationalism would have to be correlated with, but also distinguished from the way the label "national" in the cinema has come back in almost every European country as a form of branding, a marketing tool, signifying the local - maybe here, too, reinventing the national - for external, i.e., global use. The already mentioned regional or metropolitan labels "Notting Hill" Trainspotting (a popular, ethnically mixed district of London) doubling as film title for a tourist romance, the much-discussed "Scottishness" of TrAiNspottiNg, the Berlin-effect of Run Loia Run, the feisty, feel-good movies with regional appeal (The Full MoNTy, BRAssed Off, Billy Eiiiot), the period piece novel adaptations such as The ENd of The AffAm, The English PATieNT and The REmAiNs of The Day are indicative of this tendency. The films' signifiers of national, regional or local specificity are clearly not "essentialist" in their assertions of a common identity, however much they toy with nostalgic, parodic or pastiche versions of such an identity. The films have developed formulas that can accommodate various and even contradictory signifiers of nationhood, of regional history or local neighborhood street-credibility, in order to re-launch a region or national stereotype, or to reflect the image that (one assumes) the other has of oneself. To call these processes of re-assignation of the nation "constructed" would equally miss the point, insofar as the films openly display this knowledge of second order reference. More appropriate might be to compare this ironic-nostalgic

invocation to the tendency towards auto-ethnography or "self-othering" already noted. Compare, for instance, the phrase quoted in the previous chapter from Wim Wenders' Kings of the Road about "the Yanks have colonized our sub-conscious" with the scene in Trainspotting, where Renton despairs of being Scottish: "We're the lowest of the fucking low, the scum of the earth, the most wretched, servile, miserable, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some people hate the English, but I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonized by wankers." Such a double-take on self-loathing is also a double-take on national identity, and marks the difference between Wenders' self-conscious assumption of his role as a German auteur, and Trainspotting's post-national Scottishness. The two films bridge the gap and make the link between the auteur cinema of the 1970s and the post-national European cinema of the 1990s, on its way to becoming part of "world cinema" (also, as I shall argue, entailing some form of self-othering, if mostly less sarcastic). It indicates the extent to which such films now address themselves to world audiences (including American audiences). Post-national pastiche as well as self-othering represent more fluid forms of European identity, appealing to audiences receptive to films from Britain, France, Germany or Spain. They can play the role of the non-antagonistic other, against whom a national (or regional) cinema does not assert its identity in difference, but to whom it presents itself as the impersoNation of "difference."

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