Colonial Cinema and Imperial France, 1919-1939: White Blind Spots, Male Fantasies, Settler Myths

Colonial Cinema and Imperial France, 1919-1939: White Blind Spots, Male Fantasies, Settler Myths

by David Henry Slavin
     
 

North Africa has captured the French imagination for centuries and shaped it in ways the French themselves have yet to acknowledge. The advent of cinema allowed artists and propagandists alike to exploit a new medium in their romanticized depictions of France's imperial mission in Algeria and Morocco. The films of the 1920s expressed a cautious optimism about the

Overview

North Africa has captured the French imagination for centuries and shaped it in ways the French themselves have yet to acknowledge. The advent of cinema allowed artists and propagandists alike to exploit a new medium in their romanticized depictions of France's imperial mission in Algeria and Morocco. The films of the 1920s expressed a cautious optimism about the prospect of cooperation between Europeans and Muslims—with Europeans dominant. By the 1930s, however, attitudes toward indigenous North Africans had hardened. In response to demands for liberal reform in Algeria, French settlers appealed to racial solidarity and protection of white womanhood. The films of this period warned against the perils of miscegenation and portrayed the Foreign Legion and the settlers as the defenders of white, European civilization's frontiers.

In Colonial Cinema and Imperial France, David Henry Slavin uses such key colonial-era films as L'Atlantide (1921; remade in 1932) and Pépé le Moko (1937) to document how the French cinema reflected the changing policies and values of French colonialism in the interwar period. Slavin is most interested in the "blind spots" within these films, the avoidance or denial of colonial realities that becomes apparent when sound-era remakes are compared with their original silent versions. The reworking of history and the interplay of history and memory evident in this process still hinders France's ability to confront the legacy of its colonial past.

Editorial Reviews

H-France Book Reviews
Slavin takes most of us into unchartered territory, and as such his book represents an important contribution to the study of French colonial culture.

— Owen White

French Review
Exhaustive and insightful... It deftly combines in a single, sweeping breath a thorough discussion of a dozen period films with a meticulous examination of the historical context of their production as seen from often divergent political perspectives.

— Hédi-Abdel Jaouad

Histoire Sociale
In this impressive and carefully researched book, David Henry Slavin shows how French popular culture helped create and sustain the racial hierarchies that colonial rule and the mission civilitrice required... This book will surely serve for a very long time as an indispensable guide to French colonial cinema.

— Michael Provence

Scope: Online Journal of Film Studies

The book's strengths lie in its detailed and informative contextualization of French colonial cinema, especially those films made in or about the Maghreb, and in its ability to reveal general trends and 'blind spots' that characterise these films.

American Historical Review
Slavin's enthusiasm for his topic and his determinedly critical stance toward French racism are admirable. He raises a range of fascinating questions and engages the reader's interest in French colonial history and film.

— Heike Schmidt

Scope: Online Journal of Film Studies
The book's strengths lie in its detailed and informative contextualization of French colonial cinema, especially those films made in or about the Maghreb, and in its ability to reveal general trends and 'blind spots' that characterise these films.
Michael Miller
A thoughtful and valuable work of history that addresses the relationship between imperialism and French film in the interwar years. Slavin forces the reader to reconsider the basis upon which French imperial rule in North Africa was advocated and advanced, resulting in a substantially new contribution to our understanding of French history in these years.
Tom Conley
An important and ambitious book on the history of colonial cinema, one that will be consulted for a good number of years.
Dudley Andrew
An original and substantial contribution to the fields of film studies and social history. His study of the films themselves is marvelously well-researched, up to the very best standards in the contextualizing of movies, many of which are scarcely known and hard to see.
Booknews
Racial and gender subtexts teem more closely to the surface in the slice of cinema history under consideration than in most cinema, says Slavin (history, Knox College). Many of the films were made on location in North Africa, and in return for the crucial logistical support, the colonial officials influenced the content and manipulated the message to promote their policies. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801866166
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2001
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
300
Product dimensions:
(w) x (h) x 0.92(d)

What People are saying about this

Tom Conley

An important and ambitious book on the history of colonial cinema, one that will be consulted for a good number of years.

Tom Conley, Harvard University

Michael Miller

A thoughtful and valuable work of history that addresses the relationship between imperialism and French film in the interwar years. Slavin forces the reader to reconsider the basis upon which French imperial rule in North Africa was advocated and advanced, resulting in a substantially new contribution to our understanding of French history in these years.

Michael Miller, Syracuse University

Meet the Author

David Henry Slavin is a visiting assistant professor of history at Knox College.

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