Updated: 04/03/2013

Film, Radio and TV - 10




Film Production


>>Even though U.S. films account for about 90 percent of worldwide film revenues, the United States produces only about 15 percent of the world's films.

India, for example, produces more than twice as many films as the U.S. However, India's film budgets average far less and films are churned out much more rapidly—sometimes within a few days.  

Bollywood refers to the film industry based in Mumbai, India. India produces more films than any country in the world, although most are comparatively low budget.


The Influence of Foreign Films

>>Hollywood has learned a great deal from foreign (non-U.S.) films.  This started at the earliest possible moment, when in 1903, Edwin Porter, borrowed ideas for the first U.S. dramatic film, The Great Train Robbery, from French film pioneer Georges Méliès.

A number of counties have introduced Hollywood to alternative genres and styles in filmmaking.  These include:

  • German expressionism, from 1919 to 1924
  • Soviet Realism, from 1924 to 1930
  • Italian neorealism, from 1942 to 1951
  • French new-wave cinema, from 1959 to 1960
  • French cinema verite (film truth), 1950s to early 1960s

Because of language barriers and the reluctance of U.S. audiences to read English subtitles, most foreign films don't do well in the United States. 

>>But, there have been major exceptions. La Vita E Bella

The most notable was Italian director Roberto Benigni's La Vita E Bella (Life is Beautiful). This film won the 1999 Academy Award for best foreign film and won Benigini an Oscar for best actor. A scene from this haunting film is shown on the right.

In 1993, Jane Campion won an Oscar nomination for best director, and an Academy Award for best screenplay for The Piano.

The foreign films that have done best in the United States (in rank order) are:

La Vita E Bella (Life Is Beautiful

Italy, 1998

Il Postino (The Postman)

Italy, 1993

Like Water for Chocolate

Mexico, 1993

I Am Curious (Yellow)

Sweden, 1969

La Dolce Vita

Italy, 1960

La Cage aux Filles

France/Italy, 1979


France, 1966

A Man and a Woman

France, 1990

Cinema Paradiso

Italy/France, 1990


France, 1975

Das Boot

Germany, 1982

>>Historically significant foreign films are included in Module 8, "Movie Milestones."

Hollywood, like the U.S. television industry, tends to focus on entertainment. Foreign films are often more subtle and artistic in nature. Even so, most hit U.S. films do well in foreign distribution.

>>Often, the versions of U.S. films that are exported are more sexually explicit than the version shown within the United States. This is because many countries are more accepting of sexual themes. At the same time, some countries are less tolerant of U.S. film violence.

In the United States the NPPA standards give far more NC-17 ratings to sexual content than they do for violence -- even the extreme violence that's not allowed on the movie screens of some other countries.  A NC-17 rating is a kind of "kiss of death" for a film in the United States -- it removes hope of widespread distribution and even recouping production costs.  

Fear of "Foreign Values"

>>Almost every country is to some degree apprehensive of the values communicated through films.  Consequently, many countries limit the number of "foreign" (generally this means U.S.) films that can be imported and shown.

Particularly bothersome to some governments are films that depict their country in a negative way, question their political system, are particularly violent, show highly materialistic values, or espouse freedoms that are not available in their country. As a result, many countries produce their own films—often, only after the scripts have been approved by their government agencies.

Of course, many countries limit "foreign" (primarily U.S.) films for economic reasons. They want their own film studios—if they have them—to stay viable in the face of formidable competition.

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