Film as Cultural Identity

Not wanting to get political but one aspect of film making which I believe is important is the idea of film as cultural identity. When I look at the list of films made in New Zealand there are some that could have been made anywhere, but there are many that could only have been made here – they are our stories, our culture, our landscapes, our environment and our characters. And as someone interested in other cultures, a means of travelling without leaving home is via cinema – the list of films that I see at the NZ International Film Festival each year is a direct reflection on my interest in the culture of other nations. I didn’t watch eg Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon & then expect to be experiencing it in the streets of Beijing when I went there, but like all art forms film does reveal aspects of culture. So it got me thinking, if someone who had never been to New Zealand was to watch ten films in an attempt to experience some of our culture, what ten would I recommend? What ten would you recommend from your country?
The idea of globalization is often equated to Americanization, and with its all-pervasive marketing power one could easily misconstrue the motives & cultural impact of Hollywood… But it is every persons responsibility to decide what they see and hear and how they interpret it. So I am interested & I would appreciate if you were to comment as to what ten films I should see from your country?

Heres my selection of ten New Zealand films:
1984 Vigil by Vincent Wardtrailer
1987 Bad Taste by Sir Peter Jacksontrailer
1989 Kitchen Sink by Alison Macleanwatch it here
1993 The Piano by Jane Campiontrailer
1994 Once Were Warriors by Lee Tamahoritrailer
2000 The Price of Milk by Harry Sinclairtrailer
2002 Whale Rider by Niki Carotrailer
2003 Perfect Strangers by Gaylene Presontrailer
2005 World’s Fastest Indian by Roger Donaldsontrailer
2010 Boy by Taika Waitititrailer

Your turn?

15 thoughts on “Film as Cultural Identity

  1. Chris Todd

    These films reflect for me something of who we were as New Zealanders. Who we have become is more of a mystery. Going through this excercise reveals to me that intrinsically New Zealand stories were of more interest to us in the eighties. Once Were Warriors may have marked the end of the inward looking period of NZ film by taking us on a way too scary ride through our national psyche. We seemed to have backed off since then.

    In Spring One Plants Alone/1980/Vincent Ward

    Goodbye Pork Pie/1981/Geoff Murphy

    Utu/1983/Geoff Murphy

    Vigil/1984/Vincent Ward

    Sylvia/1985/Michael Firth

    Ngati/1987/Barry Barclay

    Desperate Remedies/1993/Stewart Main and Peter Wells

    Once Were Warriors/1994/Lee Tamahori

    Topless Women Talk About Their Lives/1997/Harry Sinclair

    Out of the Blue/2006/Robert Sarkies

  2. Dan

    Ok, I don’t usually go in for the patriotic, but here’s my Canadian list:

    Le declin de l’empire americain
    The Adjuster
    Highway 61
    Black Robe
    Bon Cop Bad Cop
    The Red Violin
    Away From Her
    The Sweet Hereafter

    I’ve obviously avoided Cronenberg as well as co-productions like American Psycho, The Cube, etc. So it therefore leans towards the artsy side. And films like “Fubar” are only funny to us, so don’t even try if you’re not Canadian.

    Claiming a film as Canadian is actually slightly complicated, since so many Hollywood productions are filmed, and even posted here, but not financed here. Even when stuffed with Canadian actors, like Juno, they’re not really ours.

    There’s that weird Kevin Spacey movie in Newfoundland too…

  3. ShowcaseJase

    Here are ten Australian films:

    Idiot Box
    Mad Max
    Thank God He Met Lizzie
    Love Serenade
    The Sentimental Bloke
    Picnic at Hanging Rock
    Crocodile Dundee
    Ten Canoes
    Puberty Blues
    Two Hands

  4. Enos

    Lately I have really started watching more and more films and I agree with you that each country’s films carries a lot of heritage and cultural identity! Even though I am Finnish Canadian, I grew up in Spain and therefore culturally I consider myself more Spanish than anything else. So funnily, the same goes for the movies I identify myself with. Spain is a country with some VERY talented directors and actors and for a long time now, great cinema has been made there! A lot of the great films in Spain are from the 50’s in black and white. Films like Calle Mayor or Muerte de un Ciclista (Death of a Cyclist)But due to my younger age I identify myself with newer productions from the last 20 years. So here are my top 10:

    Barrio (Neighborhood) By Fernando de Leon
    El Espiritu de la Colmena(The Spirit of the Beehive) By Victor Erice
    Noviembre (By Achero Manas)
    Los Lunes al Sol (Mondays Under the Sun) By Fernando de Leon
    Hector (By Gracia Querejeta)
    Mensaka (By Salvador Garcia Ruiz)
    Hable Con Ella (Talk to Her) By Pedrom Almodovar
    Carne Tremula (Live Flesh) Bt Pedro Almodovar
    Caotica Ana (Chaotic Ana) By Julio Medem
    Los Amantes del Circulo Polar (By Julio Medem)

    There are so many more good films in Spain. I didn’t list some other great Spanish films like The Others, The orphanage or Pan’s Labyrintn as you might have already heard of them.

  5. Robv

    thanks gents, but this is a list about NZ film culture.
    However there is one, while made and set in Au, doesn’t place itself anywhere in particular, would work quite well as a reflection of rural Kiwi Life is “Babe”, the pig that thought it was a dog.

    1. tim Post author

      “this is a list about NZ film culture.”

      huh? its not, its about film as cultural identity, of all cultures…
      I’m hoping someone posts a similar list from Korea, Japan, Thailand etc…

  6. Tom Ackroyd

    Having resisted the temptation to go looking for lists of top ten UK Films, here’s a list of the first ten UK movies that came to my mind. It’s a personal, not-especially-critical choice. Three of these would go on my top ten movies ever.

    A Matter of Life or Death
    Distant Voices, Still Lives
    The Railway Children
    A Room for Romeo Brass
    Billy Liar
    Gregory’s Girl
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    (I cut one out.)

    1. Dan

      Oh come on, Life of Brian is definitely the masterpiece. Far above Holy Grail, no?

      The number of Brits (in my 15 years there) that could imitate a perfect Terry Jones “‘E’s not the messiah, ‘e’s a very naughty boy!” has to be worth something! 🙂

      I miss the UK. Dan.

  7. Stephen

    I would add the following to your already excellent NZ list.

    Bad Taste (1987 / Peter Jackson)

    End Of The Golden Weather (1991 / Ian Mune)

    War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us (1995 / Gaylene Preston)

    Rain Of The Children (2008 / Vincent Ward)

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