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June 1994


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Alison McKee <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 1 Jun 1994 23:05:00 PDT
text/plain (34 lines)
What has been a pretty neutral adjective seems to have acquired
perceived xenophobic overtones only in recent years.  I agree
that it's difficult to use the word these days *without*
sounding xenophobic.  However, the problem lies not in the word
but in the ideological connotations it's presumed to (and
sometimes even does) have.  To me, the problem now is merely that the term
seems imprecise and relative:  what is  "foreign film" to one
group will obviously be another's national cinema.  But once
these limitations -- pretty clear ones -- are recognized, I confess
that the designation itself doesn't trouble my peace of mind.  It's
no longer very useful, but I don't find its mere existence sinister.
Alison McKee
Department of Film and Television
[log in to unmask]
> I too have long been troubled by the designation "foreign". In my experience,
> the usage is largely American and refers to films made in a language other
> than English. English and Australian films, for example, are rarely referred
> to as "foreign" although they certainly fit  that category. I suspect that
> the term is a simplification of "foreign-language" films, at least since the
> advent of the sound era. In the silent film literature, there are many
> references to "foreign" films, although, curiously not so often to films
> produced in English language countries. Of course, in the silent era, it was
> rather difficult to tell, as the primary clue to origin was the inter-titles,
> which were invariably rendered into English on-screen. The whiff of
> xenophobia is all over this odd usage.
> Gene Stavis - School of Visual Arts - NYC