What is Film History? (Group 4)

There is a large topic of debate for what ‘film history’ actually is. Is it one large history across the world? Or is it a combination of many interpreted histories around the globe? There is no clear answer to this as it is shaped by the perspectives of the individual spectators of film. One example of this would be how the western audience conjure an image of Charlie Chaplin as he is the most iconic actor of early cinema to the audiences of the western culture, such as Britain and America. But that is only one interpretation of film history across the globe. Another region that has a different view of Film history is Japan which has a very different themes compared to the western cinema such as ghost films such as ‘Bake Jizo’ and ‘Shinin no sosei’.

Context plays a very important role into film history for the individual viewer, and due to the new introduction of cinema to the public in the 1890-1900, its quickly caught attraction from the public and many people had different reactions on their first viewings. There is never one individual viewer/opinion and history has recorded a great number of  opinions to compliment, criticise and judge these films. Because of the great amount of films and the even larger audience of spectators, there can never be one film history as history is created by the variety of people who lived it and especially those who documented it. because of the wide variety of films and the unique social contexts of those recording the history, there can never be one unique history of film and cinema.

The different companies of film also help with creating multiple histories within film as there would be more likely one history if there were only one genre of film. People can be lead to believe there is only one history as the public may only recognise the more famous companies of the time. For example certain pioneers of film such as the Lumière Brothers have had a significant amount of recognition for their work whereas film-makers such as James Williamson, who had some following but never got a true following. Most companies of the 1890s-1930s used black and white pictures but some companies did use colour, which you would believe would be very innovative for the time period but film companies opted against using colour for two reasons: number 1 being that colour was very expensive to utilise at the time and number 2 being that the audience we happy with watching cinema in black and white. So in hindsight, many film companies didn’t bother with colour as the profit was not worth the time and effort, and this creates another forgettable film history.

On a conclusive note, the answer to this question can never have a definitive answer as only abstract answers are appropriate fore answering the question, but our opinion is that there are multiple types of film history as many cultures have created different film types and genres of film history.

One thought on “What is Film History? (Group 4)

  1. This is a nuanced and detailed response to the notion of what is film history. The post quite rightly flags some salient issues regarding film history, chief amongst them being the need for plurality, i.e. histories in place of history. It also shows awareness of film form (i.e. colour, black&white) and the role of audiences. Context as ever here is vital. With regard to the latter it is worth asking if two people ever truly see the same film? How might we include ourselves as historians within the histories we seek to create?

    Although well-written there are some avoidable typos, while the piece would benefit from some images, links or gifs. The latter in particular can help bring your post to life.

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