National film is a sacred art, slowly suffocating to the harsh grip of the dominant cultural imperialism of western film industries. Although some nations are developing a stronger and more independent film industry, such as India, other nation states that are less influential are becoming crippled by the Americanisation of film. Domestic film is a valuable asset due to distinct representation of culture, ideology, geopolitical relations and addressing of societal concerns within a respective area. The narrative must retain local tropes and importance in order to relate and engage audiences, to ensure success. However, Western adaptation and manipulation of national film, begs the question;
Does Hollywood Appropriate or Appreciate Nationally Iconic Film?
Cultural exchange and appropriation are inextricably linked and at times difficult to differentiate. Cultural appropriation is defined broadly as ‘the use of a culture’s symbols, artefacts, genres, rituals, or technologies by members of another culture. It is involved in the assimilation and exploitation of marginalised and colonised cultures’ (Rogers (2006)). This contention can be identified within the Americansation of the Israeli film series Hatufim (Prisoners of War) and Homeland.
Awarded the Israeli Academy Award for Television for Best Drama Series in 2010, Gideon Raff wrote, directed and produced Prisoners of War after realising the lack of discourse regarding the mental health and reintegration of prisoners of war post detainment. The series presents the return and readjustment of two prisoners of war, held captive for twice as long as the Homeland protagonist (seventeen years in comparison to eight) after deployment in Lebanon. The series’ cultural significance is evident through its reception as the highest rated tv drama within the national history and the subsequent international distribution of the subtitled version. Considering the restricted budget in creating series, the craft of the film lays with the authenticity of cultural themes and tropes. This budgetary issue has allows the series to delve into the personal experiences of the returned men, whereas Homeland emotionally distances itself by taking a more “action based” approach. An example of this is the representation of the children of the prisoners conscription experiences post high school, which is a distinct occurrence within Israel (Israeli Post Highschool Conscription – Students Prefer Jail).
Homeland on the other hand, is a clear representation of Appardurai’s ideas that ‘most often the homogenization argument subspeciates into either an argument about Americanization or an argument about commoditization, and often the two arguments are very closely linked.’ Homeland has effectively adopted the same story line and Americanised the war, showing the Iraqi conflict, whilst stylistically modifying the series into an action film preferred by western audiences. Gideon Raff co-directed and produced Homeland, which begs the question; how could one director appropriate a central story line, without destroying the validity of both wars and the cultural experiences of audiences respectively (Differences between Hatufim and Homeland). Homeland equally received acclaim, with IGN TV stating that it was an “ace thriller” that also managed to have something to say about the “War on Terror”.
Considering the national importance and the distinct cultural identity displayed within both films, one can see both elements of appropriation and appreciation Hatufim and Homeland. The fine line between the two can be interpreted as either a blatant disregard for one another’s cultural experiences of war, or alternatively the films as two separate entities. Irrespective of your judgements, the importance of locally developed authentic film representing the lifestyle, geopolitical relations and values of audiences, is imperative to ensure the film is a successful vehicle addressing pertinent issues in society.