LonCon3 #22: Saving the World. All of it.

Panellists: Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Phillipino living in Singapore), Yasser Bahjatt (Saudi Arabian), Irena Raseta (Croatian), Aishwarya Subramanian (Indian), Naomi Karmi (Israeli)

When aliens invade, why do they almost always hit New York? With a few partially-honourable exceptions, such as Pacific Rim and District 9, the American-led alliances of Independence Day and its ilk are still the norm for SF cinema’s supposedly global catastrophes. What is it like to watch these films outside the Anglophone world? Do attempts to move away from American exceptionalism feel real, or are they just window-dressing? And how do different countries deal with apocalypse in their own cinematic traditions?

Cultural comparisons


The Philippines
As a Catholic people they’re obsessed with apocalyptic movies. They even had a zombie movie that turned you gay.

Israel
There’s no apocalypse fiction in Israel as it already feels like an apocalyptic world, though they do have a mountain called Armageddon.

Croatia
Croatians are a pessimistic and sarcastic people so they embrace the possibilities of an apocalyptic future. Kings Landing in Game of Thrones is filmed there.

Saudi Arabia
There are no cinemas in Saudi Arabia. None.

India
Hinduism means many Indians don’t believe in the end of the world – everything is cyclical. The closest they’ve ever come is through a single book: The City of Devi by Manil Suri.

Films


By setting Pacific Rim in China it appeals to the Chinese market which is now more profitable than the American market.

District 9 was set in South Africa but it’s not really an apocalypse movie though it would seem so for the aliens.

World War Z visited to South Korea and Jerusalem.

End of the world speeches seen in the likes of Independence Day is very much an American thing to give people hope, courage and strength to fight.

As for space operas, Battlestar Galactica was very American, but Firefly and Serenity were different. Mandarin and English were the dominant languages spoken interchangeably and society is heavily influenced by Japanese culture.

Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t even close to realistic in terms of nationality since everyone is American.


Globalization means that we’re exposed to many more cultures than what has been historically represented in blockbuster movies. There’s more to the world than America and anglophone nations. It’s time that the film industry reflected that fact.

*This was the most multicultural and multi-ethnic panel I attended.

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