Slumdogged by Bordwell

Sometimes I feel like Tammy Wynette – “it’s hard to be a . . .” film studies teacher/writer when there is a figure like David Bordwell around. For several weeks, I’ve spent odd moments thinking about Slumdog Millionaire, writing a couple of short pieces on the film here and elsewhere and planning for a couple of sessions where I hope to explore with teachers how the film might be used in work on Global Media (on a UK A Level Media syllabus). 

Now I discover that Bordwell has already done most of the research and published it on his blog. There might be a couple of points he hasn’t quite exhausted, but it’s all there otherwise with some great links and references that I’ll certainly be pursuing. I guess what pisses me off is that Bordwell seemingly has access to a print or a DVD of the film since he uses stills extensively. He also references a range of films I haven’t seen, including a neorealist film (Miracle in Milan) which I don’t think is available in the UK, as well as a range of 1950s Hindi films that I should have watched. So, do yourself a favour and read David Bordwell’s piece – you won’t be sorry, but you’ll probably feel that you need to see a lot more films.

One thing that Bordwell suggests is certainly worth recording – the sheer volume of blogging that Slumdog has prompted from a variety of sources and the range of debates that seem to have opened up. This in itself is worth study. The cultural questions that the film’s production and release raise come from an uneasy triangular relationship between India, the UK and the US. In cinema, it does seem to me that the focus has shifted away from India-UK to India-US. I wonder if the intervention of Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy will help to shift the attention back a little?



    Bordwell certainly seems to have become an authority on the intertextual nature of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ but you do raise an interesting point about how it is going to be problematic to categorise such a film; would it be right to refer to it within a ‘world cinema’ or ‘global cinema’ context?


  2. venicelion

    My preference is always to use the term ‘global cinema’, simply because ‘world cinema’ is a contentious term that is often used by writers in the US and UK to refer to any ‘other’ forms of cinema. I use ‘global’ to refer to all of cinema, no matter where it comes from. That said, most films are themselves ‘national’ in terms of identity. I would argue that this is true of Hollywood as well as Bollywood, although these two cinemas attempt to address audiences outside their own national cultures. Slumdog seems to me to be global as much, if not more, than national. This is what needs to be explored. So far, the film has only been released in 12 territories. It will be interesting to see if it works with audiences around the world. France, Australia and Italy all look strong. The Indian opening was solid, but way behind Raaz – The Mystery Continues. But if it is even a modest hit in India this will sit alongside the largest global box office for a film with Indian cast and content that I can think of. The running total was over $100 million on Feb 1.


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