Analysis and Opinion

The Film Wars: The World’s Endeavor of Motion Picture

Cinema and film industry has long been used as a tool of influencing the target audience’s consciousness. Other than cultural penetration, perception management through cinema and film industry has increased manyfold.

One of Liaqat Ali Khan’s correspondences with Jinnah reveal that the former recommended film to be brought into play as a mode of advancing one’s ideology to the latter, at the same time, futuristically highlighting its commercial potential. Subsequently, a letter penned by Jinnah himself states that he also desired more Mussalmans to enter into the realm of film industry.1 Pakistan is a new state, but an old land with deep-rooted cultural and literary background. Despite all the potential, Pakistan yet strives hard to meet motion picture standards in the country, while certain states diligently persist to achieve world dominance through this medium. Film around the world is considered to be the most influential vehicle of popular culture. It is hard to discourse the beginning of filmmaking in Pakistan, but logically it starts from the advent of the state in 1947. At the same time, this beginning disaffirms the older history of Lahore film studio which was functioning way before 1947, and has produced various Urdu writers, lyricists and directors entwined with Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. The impact of partition was not only on the geographical structure of the region, but this division of united India also affected the film industry manyfolds. The event also parted several famous artists like Saadat Hasan Manto, Noor Jahan, Nisar Bazmi, Khwaja Khurshid Anwar, Afzal Chaudhry and various others who were a part of the Indian showbiz fraternity.2 Before partition, Lahore was considered to be one of the major film producing centers, after Bombay. Although the new country received impeccably talented and renowned artists, yet maintaining the same pace was tough for Pakistan. On the contrary, the Indian cinema generally referred to as Bollywood, continuously grew and attained an arresting status on the globe. Ironically, commercial cinema of Bombay had long utilized poets and screenplay writers who wrote their content in Urdu language. A prominent impression of Urdu literature remained in the Bollywood film industry for over half a century that continued and somehow endures even today. However Bollywood under Modi is greatly becoming a tool of right-wing Hindutva propaganda.
Cinema has always been a source that triggers unusual sentiments amongst the masses. An aesthetically crafted story in a film always activates psychological preferences of public that further cultivates an opinion in the subconscious. It is a cognitive process which persuades people at a massive scale through a single set of visual sequences. Such fostered opinion might be of social, political or military parameters. For over a century, states have been using films as their mass persuasion tool. World War 1 was the first-ever occurrence in history where propaganda films played a significant part in engaging the public minds. Film, as a product, was new to the nations. Consciously tailored agendas through films were injected into public minds and shaped their opinion according to the interests of the respective states. Right at the outbreak of war, Germans poured out a massive propaganda campaign in the form of posters, leaflets and films. This campaign by the Germans was directed towards persuading Americans, in turn persuading the Britain who had to raise the matter in the cabinet. Later, an organization was set up as a counteract to censor the content and produce similar material. In 1917, after three years of neutrality, the United States also entered into the film war.3 Famous actors like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford joined the state-sponsored campaign, persuading Americans to join the war. There was a massive wave of film production that turned into a new front for the states. That was the era when film became a proper tool of war, appearing way more lethal than any arsenal on board. At the same time, the fluency of such film productions let the craft be more improved. Later, war haunted the Europeans, despite the pioneers of filmmaking unable to match the standards that Americans could achieve. In the years to come, American filmmakers would go from adherents to tycoons. Franco-American film history left us with a comparative analysis which explains the importance of filmmaking and the endeavors of the states. 
The Europeans in general, and particularly the French being pioneers, had held a prominent position in the small film market of the world before World War 1. The war reversed the situation in favor of Hollywood, where the U.S. as a state systematically worked on their policies and industrialized filmmaking. All the producers, distributors and exhibitors became well-nested and further associated with the government. As a result, American film industry had acquired a remarkable stature that dominates the world outfit even today.4 During World War 2, a dedicated First Motion Picture Unit was established by the U.S. military in 1942 and was headed by Lieutenant Colonel George Stevens from 1944 to 1946, who produced numerous hits during the wartimes. It is also reported that several filmmakers across America were also called in the aid of military to produce war films. Some of these movies and documentaries also won the Oscar.5 Today, Hollywood controls almost half of the world’s cinephilia that allows the state to exercise their influence over the entire world. At the same time, the cultural and political product through film also enables U.S.’ soft power to influence the whole sphere. Even during the Cold War, the U.S. had well utilized its propaganda vehicle and successfully attained a notable amount of soft-power against Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In the modern world, majority of the world’s perception about the Muslim world, Russians, Arabs and Iranians is also designed by Hollywood. Iran, being one of the biggest adversaries of the U.S., has stringently narrowed the Hollywood content for its public, yet there is a massive amount of Iranians who still wildly turn to internet backdoors like proxies and VPNs (Virtual Private Network) to access Hollywood movies. It is indeed the power of film, a diverse way of war which imposes invisible, yet detrimental state power over other states without exhausting any physical intervention. Other than the soft power’s might, it is estimated that foreign revenue makes 42% of Hollywood, which is more than any automotive or aircraft companies in the U.S. Being a superpower, the U.S. yet relies on most of its revenue from its culture and creative industry. Film is a process which involves several other industries and thus creates more businesses and jobs opportunities. The U.S.’ film and TV industry is attributed for supporting 2.1 million jobs and more than 400,000 local businesses across the country which is one of the key drivers of the U.S.’ economy.6
While analyzing the contemporary world being involved in this war of perception, China has emerged with a standout power that has been budding dramatically in the recent years. It is estimated that China adds ten new cinema screens every year. In 2017, China’s box office hit a record business of $8.6 billion.7
The Turkish cinema, on the other hand, has reestablished its film industry with trailblazing content. It has come up with an innovative genre before the film world which they conceive as Islamic cinema. This new style in Turkish film production elucidates the Islamic antiquity, and at the same time readdresses the western version of world history.8 Turkish films are on a compelling rise, grabbing viewership from all across the world. In 2018, Turkish cinema had come up with record releases of total 441 films in both national and international categories. The momentum remains even today and Turkish content manages to hit the most watched list on Netflix. It is estimated that by the end of 2022, Turkiye could have marched towards $600 million in worldwide film sales.9 Commitment towards uplifting of film industry by Turkiye can be determined through the government’s efforts of investing 65 million lira in young talent from the fraternity. This amount will back the projects that include script writing, short film production and animation which mark a total of 814 projects.10 In the recent years, through its entertainment content, Turkiye has transformed its image globally that has never been introduced in this manner before. 
While analyzing the Indian film industry, we must examine the amount of persuasive content that is released in the form of films. Besides cultural invasion as a byproduct, the Indian film industry is very effectively swapping reality with perception. The Indian film industry, also known as Bollywood, regularly releases military based films with an average of two per year in the mainstream arena. These war based films mostly disseminate anti-Pakistan sentiments. The reality is so aesthetically altered that aids in building up the desired opinion. In 2019, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, himself hosted a special gathering where the country’s film fraternity was invited. The Prime Minister exhorted all the invitees to employ their soft power capability in realigning the perspective of India. He also urged to highlight the ideologies of their historical leaders like Gandhi, Mangal Panday, and Nana Sahib, etc.11 Furthermore, the investors were encouraged and facilitated by the government to invest in films that created a boost in perception building and bringing a great amount of commerce for the country. Such state involvement helped India restore their content and uplift their film industry as a joint force for the national cause. Bollywood has now come up with an expensive trend of producing period films about post-colonial era that divisively show Muslim invasions and other conflicts in the region. These films are very effectively modifying the already proven history of the India by denigrating the Muslim emperors and glorifying Hindu rulers and knights. As per the filmmaking infrastructure, India has established a dedicated Directorate of Film Festival under the keen supervision of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This directorate is aimed to harvest filmmakers and to provide them a platform right from the grassroots. It is amazing that more than 1700 films are produced in India each year.12 Consistency in film production at such an enormous scale stretches opportunity for the filmmakers from every category to develop their craft and at the same time, the content projects the country’s soft image to the world. However, as filmmaking grows, India raises an estimated revenue of more than $1 billion per year.13
For Pakistan, its culture is always the most imperative product to be exported. Hard power might work in the days to come, but soft power of Pakistan certainly needs oceans to boil, especially with the present infrastructure. Pakistan film database estimates that the number of cinema halls in country have dropped from 981 to 135 in the last 3 years.14 According to United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute of Statistics, out of total cinemas functioning in Pakistan, 39.80% are exhibiting with monoscreens, while cinemas with 2-7 screens are averaged at 57.8% and cinemas with multiplexes (more than 8 screens) are only 2.40% of the total cinemas.15 The popular culture in Pakistan has decreased to a feebly unpopular culture where film has become accessible to a very thin fragment of the society. Films are restricted to 2.40% of the superfluity cinemas with luxurious outfits, thus depriving the general audience to draw traffic to the films. Film and Culture Policy seems to be a welcoming gesture about government’s interest and consciousness towards potential filmmaking in the country. However, there is a need to build a concrete will to the cause followed by the practical infrastructure of a film industry. Though, filmmaking costs a pretty penny, yet deliberate planning and more reliance on content quality can definitely make the cut for Pakistan. We may review the contemporary policies where producers, distributors and exhibitors are standardized through systematic means. Nurturing the talent at grassroots level aligned with the country’s dynamics and constraints must also be considered one of the major tasks. National Amateur Short Film Festival (NASFF) in this regard is a great initiative that has been designed to sow the seeds of filmmaking, envisioned to achieve capacity building of our film industry. It is indeed a platform which has encouraged the youth and created optimism amongst the young filmmakers of Pakistan. Now, the sustainability of this platform is dependent upon its institutionalization under a patent umbrella. The realm of filmmaking is a realm that has all capacities to turn the tables in favor of Pakistan and that is the reason why it was the vision of Jinnah.

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