Temple of Doom- Spielberg as an Auteur

Even disregarding the monkey brain buffet, and the obscene amount of creepy crawling creatures, Indiana Jones Temple of Doom was an extremely cringe worthy film. The depiction of indigenous individuals, women, Indian culture and much more were all undoubtedly problematic. The lack of continuity throughout the film was an immediate indicator on the quality of the film; however, each additional misrepresentation threw an additional punch. I was fully expecting the film to receive an incredible amount of backlash and Spielberg to comment or more appropriately, apologize for the offensive depiction. I was shocked to discover that the only hindsight he offered was that the film was extremely dark and gory. Furthermore, he attributed this quality to his unfortunate circumstances at that time which was his divorce. Essentially, Indiana Jones Temple of Doom was a break up film; exposing the emotions Spielberg was experiencing during the time. In regards to the Auteur Theory, this coincides with the personal filming aspect of the theory, which states that directors produce films based off their own situations or experiences. Obviously, Spielberg never crashed a plane in the mountains or was forced to drink blood, however, the dark demeanor of the film reflected his state of mind at the time.

Marxism and the Third Cinema

“The battle begins without, against the enemy (i.e. bourgeoisie) who attacks us, but also within, against the ideas and models of the enemy to be found inside each one of us” (CV 938).

This quote from Solanos and Getino reminded me of the theoretical writings of Antonio Gramsci, who I posted about earlier in the semester- he was briefly mentioned on page 91 in UFT. In the context of Gramsci, who borrowed from Marxist ideology, filmmakers are to be what Grasmci deems “organic intellectuals”. Similar to the Marxist notion of the proletariat overthrowing the bourgeois, the organic intellectuals of a society are supposed to be the first to understand their subordinate position and motivate others to rally against it, overthrowing their oppressors. In this view, filmmakers are tasked with using Third Cinema as a tool to overthrow ideological oppression that has been historically rooted in Hollywood cinema.

Although Solanas and Getino wrote about Third Cinema in the 60s, they were preceded by the Soviet Montage movement. Corrigan et al. briefly dwell on this in their last sentence of their introduction to “Towards a Third Cinema,” saying, “Like the Soviets in an earlier revolutionary moment, Solanas and Gestino see the cinema as a populist and mass medium that transcends barriers of language and literacy” (CV 925). Dziga Vertov and his Soviet contemporaries, “aimed ‘to place at the centre of attention the economic structure of society,’ ‘to open the working masses’ eyes the links uniting visual phenomena,’ and ‘to expose to workers the bourgeois structure of the world’” (Crofts & Rose, “An Essay Towards Man with a Movie Camera, 1977).

It seems that Solanos and Getino’s idea of a Third Cinema has existed since the early days of the medium, and still continues in the present with documentary films like Roger Ross William’s God Loves Uganda (2013), which provides viewers with an awareness of the ideological oppression still enforced by the bourgeoisie today.



Temple of Doom is Bad.

When I was younger I remember seeing the first two Indiana Jones (for some reason I didn’t see the last one) and I loved them both. Aside from the traumatizing effect of seeing a man’s face melt off had on me, I couldn’t see anything wrong with them.

And now I re-watched Temple of Doom and I feel like a little bit of my childhood has gone away.  The film is just bad in so many ways. The dialog, plot, action is all very bad, however the music is good, thank you John Williams for that. I can obviously see why we’re talking about the film during a section of the course about ethnic representation. There are three white characters in the film (Indy, Willie, and the British General) and they are all portrayed above the “ethnic natives” around them. It felt pretty bad to see Spielberg, who made Jurassic Park, my favorite movie, sink so low with racism and sexism.

I’d like to look a little more at the character of Willie. Who seemed only to be around to nag, complain, and scream. A very sexist view of women in the film, she was probably supposed to be the comic relief of the movie, but was far too absurd to laugh at personally. Short Round was pretty lame too. I can see why Family Guy makes fun of this movie so much .



Accented Cinema

Accented Filmmakers- from the Third World or post-colonial countries that live now in cosmopolitan places; not fully immersed in one country or culture- stuck in between.

  • work independently from the studio
  • Not a film movement or a group of filmmakers as a whole
  • “They have earned the right to speak and have dared to capture the means of representation” (979).
    1. Exilic Filmmakers- banishment for a particular offense (internal or external)
      1. internal- restrictions, censorship, and deprivation in their country-some want to stay to make a difference for the cause and fight
      2. mostly talks about external exiles- left their homeland willingly or forced, and still have a relationship with their people/want to go back.
      3. Memorialize their homeland through film- “Exilic banishment encourages creativity” – authorship
      4. exiles are “both and neither” → hybrid or fragmented
    1. Diasporic Filmmakers- begins with trauma or disruption- and involves the scattering of populations to outside places
      1. different from exile because the dispersion is sometimes because of work, trade, or imperial desire.
      2. collective- a group of people in diaspora – maintain a “long-term sense of ethnic consciousness and distinctiveness
    1. Ethnic Filmmakers- postcolonial are both exilic and diasporic, but differ from the poststudio American ethnics.
      1. immigrants themselves or born to non-white, non-Western
      2. focus more on their racial and ethnic identity within their host country
      3. hyphen- people are subordinate (African-American, Latino-American)- equal but not quite.
      4. the discourse of these films are narrowed- audiences read the films in terms of their ethnic content instead of their authorial vision or style.

“Exilic cinema is dominated by its focus on there and then in the homeland, diasporic cinema by its vertical relationship to the homeland and by its lateral relationship to the diaspora communities and experiences, and postcolonial ethnic and identity cinema by the exigencies of life here and now in the country in which they reside”(983).

  1. The Stylistic Approach- films are classified into categories which can limit the potential meanings of the film.
  2. “ideological constructs masquerading as neutral categories”
    1. “accented style”- the group style- consistent use of technique across the work’s of several directors → this book’s main focus
    2. encompasses characteristics common to the works of differently situated filmmakers involved in varied decentered social formations and cinematic practices across the globe. (986).
    3. components of accented style = visual style, narrative structure, character development, subject matter, theme, and plot, structures of feeling exiled, location, and distribution.

III.  Accented Style- displaced filmmaker’s style shows their dislocation in film as well as shows them as authors. They have a double consciousness- the voices from cinematic traditions and voice from exile and diasporic tradition

  1. Language, Voice, Address- it is impossible to speak without an accent; accent is one of the “most intimate and powerful markers of group identity and solidarity, and difference and personality.
    1. all exilic and diasporic films are accented- pronunciation is to structure- its narrative, visual style, characters, subject matter, theme, and plot.
    2. character’s literal accent in these films is ethnically encoded
    3. accented filmmakers insist on writing dialogue in their original language- loss of accent or language once exiled is a big fear.
    4. often multilingual, with voice-over narration, and subtitles
  2. Border Effects, Border Writing
    1. unpack paragraph starting with, “Since border subjectivity…” (991).
    2. what is a “shifter”? What is it’s relation to accented cinema?
    3. many accented filmmakers are shifters themselves- base films on their border crossing experiences- fear of illegality and conflicted identities
  3. Themes
    1. Journeys are a major theme of accented films
    2. motivation, duration, and direction
    3. types: return journeys or escape journeys
    4. also metaphorical or philosophical journeys of identity
  4. Authorship and Autobiographical Inscription
    1. construction of both the author and spectator
    2. “Accented film authors are literally and figuratively everyday journeymen and journeywoman who are driven off or set free from their places of origin, by force or by choice, on agonizing quests that require displacements and emplacements so profound, personal, and transformative as to shape not only the authors themselves and their films but also the question of authorship” (993).
    3. authorial and autobiographical which makes them unique
  • accented style is not a recognized film genre
  • accented style is not hermetic, homogenous, or autonomous- it evolves and changes

Discussion Question: On page 978

What does Naficy mean  by his suggestion that mainstream Hollywood films are “accent free”?

Ethnographic Misrepresentation through Voodoo Dolls

In our discussion of misrepresentation of indigenous tribes through cinema, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom acts as a perfect example of a complete ignorance to indigenous tribes of India. In fact when I have to admit the first and only time I watched the film, I came in halfway through, and was sure that the indigenous people were from South America. But I digress. Aside from the dinner scene which is just a comical representation of the culture there was something that I couldn’t get over and that was the use of Voodoo Dolls in the film. As we watched it I felt as though something was off,  so I decided to investigate and looked up the culture origins of Voodoo dolls. And the reality is it’s something that comes from New Orleans and can be traced back to Western African cultures. But the film uses as a action ploy to heighten the tension. It’s true that the film does much worse but it’s interesting to note how far the creators of this film takes the audience ignorance in order to create an action packed block buster.

“Towards a Third Cinema” by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino

In this article, the authors begin by stating that films dealt with effect, not cause. There was a belief that revolutionary cinema cannot exist before revolution. With this in mind, the authors set out to establish third cinema, which aimed to break from these norms and transform the masses into a revolutionary group of people.

Before divulging into the goals of third cinema, the authors give a brief overview of what came before it. The type of films described above fall under first cinema, which predominately came out of Hollywood. These films sought to generate ideologies such as neocolonialism and capitalism. The viewer of these films is a passive consumer. Second cinema was in reaction to this first cinema. From what the authors wrote, I gathered that second cinema was “art-house-esque,” in that they were attempts at independent film. However, second cinema was generally devoid of politics. Second cinema also operated within the System’s (meaning capitalists) distribution chains, causing it to fail as a movement. Third cinema (or cinema of liberation/guerilla cinema) arose when artists and revolutionaries began working together. Their meeting ground of the political and artistic vanguards was the struggle to seize power from the enemy.

Oftentimes in first cinema, imperialists and capitalists sought to create images of reality. These images, according to the authors, rarely reflected the actual reality. Instead these images created inaccurate stereotypes of those oppressed in order to justify oppression. Third cinema sought to deconstruct these images of reality and construct narratives that were actually true. Documentary, the authors declared, was the main basis of revolutionary filmmaking, and thus an intrinsic genre in third cinema.

In order to be successful, filmmakers needed to establish their own voice that sought to create a transformative worldview. In the middle of page 931, the authors include a quote from Marx which reads: “it is not sufficient to interpret the world; it is now a question of transforming it.” By creating their own distinctive revolutionary voices, filmmakers could do just that.

At the bottom of 931, the authors include a quote that I feel best summarizes the goals of third cinema. It reads: “The effectiveness of the best films of militant cinema show that social layers considered backward are able to capture the exact meaning of an association of images, an effect of staging, and any linguistic experimentation placed within the context of a given idea. Furthermore, revolutionary cinema is not fundamentally one which illustrates, documents, or passively establishes a situation: rather, it attempts to intervene in the situation as an element providing thrust or rectification To put it another way, it provides discovery through transformation.”

The authors then divulge into the roles that one has within third cinema. As a filmmaking process, third cinema democratizes it. Thus, everyone is expected to be familiar with all equipment. The continuity of making third cinema rests on an underground base structure with a loyal audience. Without an audience, third cinema loses its purpose. Furthermore, unlike first cinema, the audience of third cinema films is expected to be active. They are no longer spectators, but rather actors. Those who watch third cinema films are transformed into revolutionaries.

The end of the third to last paragraph of page 939 best summarizes the power of third cinema. It reads: “The filmmaker feels for the first time. He discovers that, within the System, nothing fits, while outside of and against the System, everything fits, because everything remains to be done. What appeared yesterday as a preposterous adventure, as we said at the beginning, is posed today as an inescapable need and possibility.”

I will also post my discussion question that I thought of for this article. It is: Based on my reading of the piece, third cinema sought to mobilize the masses to enact change that would alter their lives completely (i.e.: no longer operating under neocolonialism and thus no longer subjected to U.S. bourgeoisie capitalism). Do you think this type of third cinema still exists today?

Temple of Doom

I was discussing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with one of my friends from Sri Lanka, who told me that the movie was filmed there. Upon doing some further research, I discovered that it was filmed in Sri Lanka rather than its initial location, India, because the Indian government refused to allow it. The government found the content to be racist and offensive, and even banned its release in the country. After viewing the film, it is no wonder that the Indian government refused to allow filming. Dark skin in this movie equates to a demonized ‘Other,’ with white skin symbolizing civility and heroism.

Here is an excerpt from an article [http://mentalfloss.com/article/56881/20-fun-facts-about-indiana-jones-and-temple-doom] with more information on India’s ban of the film:

All of the film’s locations were found in India—and then they couldn’t shoot there.

Producer Robert Watts and production designer Elliott Scott traveled to India to scout the interiors and exteriors for the film, which had a budget of $28 million. All of the exteriors—including the Maharajah’s palace, which was to be shot at an existing palace called Amer Fortand most of the interiors—including the City Palace in Jaipur, which would also stand in for the Maharajah’s palace—were found fairly quickly. But the local government rejected their permits because they found the script to be offensive to Indian culture.

Some deals were made: The production initially agreed to change the locations in the script to a principality on the border of India, and they wouldn’t use the word “maharajah.” But the Indian government balked and demanded final cut of the film in order to censor what they deemed unworthy, which forced Watts and Scott to pack up and leave.

Later, the team decided to shoot certain exteriors in Kandy, a Sri Lankan city, while others—most importantly, the Maharajah’s palace—would be shot on the Paramount backlot and expanded using matte paintings. Further interiors, like the temple itself, would be constructed on soundstages at Elstree Studios in London.

After its release, Temple of Doom was banned in India, but the ruling has since been rescinded.

Ethnographic Cinema in King Kong and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

In “King Kong and the Monster in Ethnographic Cinema,” Rony discusses the portrayal of native or “exotic” people, specifically relating ethnography and cinema in the context of King Kong (1933). Rony writes that the “Ethnographic is seen as monstrous because he or she is human and yet radically different.” When describing the savage depiction of the Skull Islanders in King Kong, Rony writes, “[they] are dark-skinned, fierce, lustful, and yet childlike, afraid of guns…[and they] are represented as the most Savage of men.”

Like King Kong, Stephen Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) , as mentioned in Chapter 15 of Understanding Film Theory, portrays foreign culture as primitive, unsophisticated, and savage. The most glaring example comes when Indiana Jones, Willie, and Shorty arrive in an Indian village by an emergency raft. The Indian villagers wear robes, sandals, and live in huts. The villagers put there hands all over the three characters as if they are of a higher existence. Indiana explains that the food they are given is “more food than these people eat in a week.” They also hold the belief that Siva sent them there and believe in a magic stone. Although the villagers are seen as primitive people, the Thuggees in the Temple are seen as violent savages. At dinner, these people eat: leaches from the belly of a snake, beetles, eyeballs in soup, and monkey brains. Later in the sacrifice scene, their worship of Khali is perceived as tribal, violent, and demonistic through the ripping of a man’s beating heart out, the drinking of blood, and the misty, red lighting achieved from the lava fire.

The representation of Indians in the film are reminiscent of the natives from King Kong and other stereotypical ethnographic films, problematically contrasting foreign people from Westerners as being violent, primitive, and barbaric.

King Kong, Tarantino Response

Alex brought up an awesome point in his post regarding the Inglorious Basterd’s scene where the SS guard talks about the journey of King Kong to America being synonymous with that of the African American. Heres the link again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIBDomdpK7Y

Thinking about this further, Tarantino makes a really interesting point in just a few simple lines of dialogue. I also found it really interesting that Tarantino makes one of the great modern analogies of Slavery while African American filmmaker Spike Lee claims Tarantino is a racist who throws around the n word without understanding what it means. I’ve always been in the camp that Tarantino could care less about race… he cares about characters. If those characters happen to have a certain racial or religious background, he will use it to his satirical advantage and explain their hardships through absurdist, intricate dialogue that allows the character to be larger than life, break the mold of other similar characters, and point out issues going on in America. Like he did in Django with Jaime Foxx, Django is the protagonist and Dicaprio is the antagonist. Tarantino goes to great lengths to make Django appear smarter, faster, and tougher than his white counter parts, but also juxtaposes images with the brutality of slavery and the fear of slaves who were subjected to torture. Perhaps a better representation of slavery is found in 12 Years a Slave, which takes a hyper-realistic historical approach to the true story of Solomon Northup.

Back to the original point that Alex brought up in his post, Tarantino’s best skills lie in his ability to use dialogue to express his points even more loudly than his images. Words can change the entire conversation. When you look at the simple scene above in Inglorious, a disgraceful SS guard makes such a relevant point about one of the great cinema characters of all time… King Kong is quite simply a 1933 commentary on America’s dark past… traveling to a place they were unwanted and unrightfully taking something pure and subjecting it to indentured pain.