Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Non-Western Films


“Being human signifies, for each one of us, belonging to a class, a society, a country, a continent and a civilization; and for us European earth-dwellers, the adventure played out in the heart of the New World signifies in the first place that it was not our world and that we bear responsibility for the crime of its destruction.”
-Claude Levi-Strauss


The genre called "Non-Western" is a term that was first established in reference to white and Western authority. Global films from India, Asia and Africa have been increasing but in the past, due to limited equipment and resources, films about these cultures came from the West. The older Western lens on to primitive or untouched cultures emphasized the exotic. The film La Vallée from 1972 is a classic Western film about other cultures that suggests naivete and exploration.

Promotion of the film showed the female lead cocooned in nature

A French woman explores New Guinea in search of rare feathers for her boutique and she discovers native tribes. The natives were actual locals and their costumes were created using their own materials in collaboration with the crew.


Colonization destroyed some of the original aspects of global cultures. Black Narcissus of 1947 shows a group of nuns who go to the Himalayas to create a school and hospital to edify the locals but they are in turn seduced by the beauty.

The nuns in white are in strong contrast to darker skinned locals who dress in decorative, bright colored fabrics and adornment


In the contemporary moment, India, Hong Kong and Nigeria are presenting their own films to increasingly international audiences. Slumdog Millionaire from 2006 finally brought Indian film world wide success, obtaining 8 Academy Awards and the top award from the Costume Designers Guild.

Costume designer Suttiart Larlarb represented the basic clothing of the poor, common contemporary clothing and included several subtle cultural aspects such as the scarf above.

Aishwarya Rai is the best known Bollywood actress who has appeared on several covers of the newly established Vogue India

Hong Kong film first rose to popularity with Bruce Lee and kung fu martial arts films. Wong Kaw Wai has also brought recent interest.

Bruce Lee's yellow costume in Game of Death from 1978 has been referenced many times, most notably in Kill Bill. Lee was also considered a stylish sex symbol.

The Last Emperor was a significant global film because it was a collaboration with an American production house, Italian director and considerable support from the Chinese government. It received the Academy Award for best costume in 1987.


The collaborative film features a wide range in costume. Above the traditional Chinese royal clothing and below the Western character in a traditional suit.


Nigeria came into recognition in 1992 for the film Living in Bondage which used contemporary clothing as basic costume. Today they emphasize straight to video films for a $450 million dollar industry.

The Nigerian film industry is termed Nollywood. Most of the films include contemporary themes and utilize available local clothing.

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