According to Laura U. Marks Interculturality can be described as a phenomenon that cannot be categorized to a single culture. It is also characterized by a cycle between two different cultures. This brings about the notion of diachrony and the likelihood of a transformation taking place. Interculturality does not depict the work or property of one dominant culture but derives sentiments from more than two directions. It sets to give an account between two or more cultural organizations based on their structure and knowledge that they represent (7).
This in itself is one of the contributing factors that make an intercultural cinema as it contains a multitude of expressions as well as different perceptions that are in contrast with each other. It can neither be described as utterly non-political as the structure and organization of the different cultures are ruled and governed in their unique way. Neither does it take the form of a dominant culture influencing a minority instead it seeks to elaborate on a more dynamic relationship that exists between a prevailing party which can be the host and a minority who are considered to be the guests. Interculturality in itself as a term also serves as a reminder that we live in a society that is not made up of only one dominant ethnic group but has a cocktail of many organizations that all come from different backgrounds.
Thus, when discussing cinema in this aspect the union of two cultures gives an opportunity for individuals who also include different hosts, power balance, different locations as well as sites to showcase variety. Additionally, intercultural in itself does not necessarily consist of one dominant culture and the other a minority but can also constitute exchanges between two non-dominant groups. With this definition expanded it can only mean that there is no much difference regarding the number of people to make a distinction but just a matter of ideologies which differ across the board.
Cultural diaspora is a productive movement as the experience collected is priceless and as a way to reach a wider audience filmmakers take this responsibility of joining these two or more multitude cultures which contain tons of knowledge and find a seamless way to express the experiences that are garnered out of it (Marks et al 8). During this process, the most common issue that is gender is given center stage as it mainly showcases the different roles that both forms of sex contribute in the knowledge that makes up the culture of a particular community. The process does not have a guidebook to guide on the techniques and procedures of adopting cultural concepts on film and mostly relies on experimental forms which aid in the expression of new knowledge that constitute the intercultural experience.
From the archives of history, it has been presented that intercultural cinema is mainly composed of western as well as non-western sentiments. This is primarily described through a cinematic form which encourages the synthesis of poetics to that of politics which set out to highlight the experience of ethnic minorities as well as the diasporic population. They brought about images of the old system of thought which was mostly propagated by the west on to the racial minorities.
The oppressive representations sought to change their way of thinking instead of embracing an assimilating what they brought with them to the country while at the same time tearing down the same ideologies to make room for fresh approaches to make their way into the cultural space left by the imposed notions of thought. It also set the stage for the communities to loosen their grip from the traditional way of doing things in a society that is blended with different streams of thought. Like we will get to expound on in the film as we encounter how the Chinese family in Canada keep to themselves and only interact with the dominant group during the work session. This internalized the fact that they have to hold on to cultural guidelines in running the rest of their lives in lieu to the fact that having an open mind and accepting the other culture is a much easier way to maintain and even spread their cultural norms to a much more comprehensive audience.
The aesthetics that make up an intercultural film are essential in the art of storytelling if not the adhesive that holds everything together. Blending the intellectual and aesthetic grounds of this particular genre of cinema needs a delicate balance whereby not everything that is presented has to take on a visual nature, and sometimes the art of silence, as well as absence, can be a powerful tool (Marks et al 11). It is not always that information stemming from cultural heritage reaches the filmmaker due to the effects of time and distortion of information. It is therefore essential that the motion pictures presented start from a point where words do not necessarily tell the story, but the visual aesthetics are enough to start interacting with the audience and be able to influence the way that they understand the film. This means any film produced can be able to represent a culture in the best of their capability through visual memory.
It can go as far as having an absence of visual representation which may appear queer or even insubstantial but can lead to the research and exploration of areas of different languages and also encourage the formation of new ways of expression (Marks et al 21). An example of other methods that can be used together with visuals is the sensory of touch and the other senses which all contribute to the function of memory. This approach will, in turn, make the memory functions be experienced across all boards giving it a more of a multisensory experience. This method although restricted to two senses can be used to activate a memory that belongs to the viewer that will help them relate to what is being showcased. This way, representing cultural experiences can be given the ultimate exposure as well be understood by many even if they do not come from the specific ethnic group. This can also be seen by the mingling of different cultures due to the migration to urban cities. When this happens, the possibility of generating new ideas for sensory involvement have a high chance of coming to light as by this action creative ideas of embodying the concept are realized. Emerging configurations will endeavor to contribute to the correct representation of each culture and interpret it in a way that the other individuals can be able to connect with and form a bond with (Marks et al 23).
From the film Double Happiness, we get the above sentiments portrayed as writer and director Mina Shum gives a vision that represents Vancouver as being an area where identity and the case of gender are put to the test. Jade Li is amidst of all this and being an aspiring actress while also getting pressure from her parents to take a suitor from the traditional ways that are native to their home China. Due to this storyline, the film has a vital role in highlighting themes and narrative sentiments that paints a picture of communities that came from the diaspora and settled in North America.
The first narrative structure that brings out the spaces in the movie comes in the form of ethnic differences the Chinese culture being represented by Jade’s family. The interior sets are characterized by confinement and constricted movement within an area. In this area, the Chinese keep their way of life as if they were back home and lived according to the rules that the society had formulated for themselves. The other spaces are shown by different scenes which the other communities interact.
In this, the set is characterized by photographs which have black and dark blue hues to show the contrast between the diaspora and Chinese setting whose colors mainly consist of bright yellows as well as reds. Jade navigates between the two parameters which represent two different environments that she exhibits her true nature. When home she has to keep up appearances as she feels restricted and at odds with her ethnic identity. Whereas when she is in the intermediate environment, she tends to give off a professional stature as she is performing. It is in this work area that we also witness the issue of gender as her progression as an actress is limited by the fact that she is female and racism exists due to her being of a different nationality. These two factors act as barriers to her ambitions and the fact that she is a talented individual (Nagib et al 31). The two spaces are not different from each other as they are analogous to some degree concerning her wish to be herself and not be put under constraints that limit her well-being. The third area Shum creates is a Vancouver that is harmonized. This is a place whereby there is no need of keeping up appearances or fitting into a specific role for a different environment. In this territory, everybody can be themselves and can realize their dreams. These instances are brought into view by exterior scenes where Jade is seen in large open spaces that are synonymous with the hope of freedom at some point in time.
According to Shum, the film was shot after a spike in the number of wealthy immigrants coming from Hong Kong due to the fear that came as a result of their native land being handed over to the People’s Republic of China which happened in the year 1997. When they arrived, they were not met with the hostility and racism that had engulfed the first generation of emigrants that settled in the city. As a result, their presence was immediately felt as they had a lasting impact on the city’s appearance which led to the area being known as Hongcouver. As this did not go unnoticed stories in the local newspapers were issuing warning over the imminent Chinese takeover which claimed that they would ultimately dominate the real estate market. These allegations and many others soon created a climate filled with xenophobia.
During this time Double Happiness was made to tackle the issues of Interculturality as well as the then emerging matters that circulated cultural politics. The film’s primary purpose was to pass a message across to communicate that the Chinese were peaceful people and were similar to the surrounding population. Delving deeper into the meaning of the film we find that its argument is based on a more complex notion since it draws a line between a traditional first-generation and an agile younger one (Nagib et al 43). While both of them are no threat towards the host community, the film suggests that the prevailing ideologies that are shared between the second generation of immigrants and their host counterparts would have been more accessible to see if there were no barriers that existed within as well as outside the community.
Thus, the sensitivity of how the host society perceives of the Chinese minority directly addresses the film’s audience through the use of Jade’s rebellion that seeks to address a non-Chinese audience of the plight that existed at that time that they can also identify with. The film echoing what many before it wanted to voice out gave an insight to a life that seemingly was complicated and hard for cultures to co-exist but in shooting it created a discussion that helped demystify the mixing and coexistence of different cultures.
Marks, Laura U., and Dana Polan. “Introduction.” The Skin of the Film, 1999, pp. 1–23., doi:10.1215/9780822381372-001.
Nagib, Lúcia, and Anne Jerslev. Impure Cinema: Intermedial and Intercultural Approaches to Film. I.B. Tauris & Company, Limited, 2014.
You can order a similar paper here