Future of film

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 15, 2012, Western News celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special edition asking 40 Western researchers to share the 40 THINGS WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEXT 40 YEARS. This is one of those entries. To view the entire anniversary issue, visit the Western News archives.

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In 1995, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French cinématographe, the Lumière Museum gave the original film camera and projector to some of the most interesting and well-­‐respected film directors of our time, inviting them to shoot a film in the same conditions that the pioneers used to do it.

The short experiments are collected in a film called Lumière and Company.

The people from the museum also took this opportunity to pick the brains of these filmmakers asking them a few questions about the ‘nature’ of cinema. One of these questions concerned its death:

Will cinema die?

Mikael Haneke, always as lucid as his films, bluntly argued that, like every other living organism, cinema is meant to die … but, of course, only in the sense it would necessarily transform into something else.

If we think about it, the device crafted by the Lumière brothers and, for that matter, also the one made by Thomas Edison (the kinetoskope), as well as that of every other inventor who, at the turn of the century, came up with a similar piece of equipment, has been mutating ever since its inception.

Looking at the history of cinema in terms of the medium’s technology, we can count its many lives – before and after the advent of sound, before and after the use of color and Technicolor, the impact of digital technologies and CGI (computer generated images), 3D, IMAX and whatever will come next. And something similar could be argued in relation to how much our patterns of consumption have changed since television, followed by the introduction of home video, began to compete for audiences with film theatres.

There are now screens of all sizes, in theatres, at home, in computers and in a wide range of portable devices (from DVDs to mobile phones and tablets). People now enjoy movies – and all sorts of moving images – when and where they want, and the use of the word in plural, movies, is purposeful because the multi-­‐screen mode of audiovisual consumption is becoming ordinary.

Every day, millions of people watch more than one film and/or TV show simultaneously while also discussing them in online forums and social media.

Acknowledged as a fast-­-growing phenomenon, even by the most mainstream sectors of the industry, which, in their aim to maximize profits, are now beginning to conceive new projects in terms of multi-­‐platforms, multi-­‐formats and multi-­‐screens. This new habit is radically changing the way stories are being narrated, images are being produced and, perhaps more importantly, the way we perceive them.

At the same time, never before has so much audiovisual content, from almost every corner of the planet, been readily available for us to watch – primarily, though, if you have an Internet connection, a condition that actually leaves most of the planet’s population outside of the picture.

So, predicting what will be of cinema in the next 40 years is perhaps as difficult now as it was 40 years ago to imagine that something like the Internet was going to change so radically the way humans communicate, the way we learn, the way we read, the way we watch (films and otherwise).

However, having been invited to participate in this kind of fun game of predictions, I would venture to say, in terms of content or stories that we are going to be offered by the films to come in the next 40 years, there will hopefully be a few utopias, or these exercises of the imagination in which human beings transpose the present into the future from an optimistic perspective, and there will surely be even more dystopias, or those tales of hopelessness in which the future appears to be even bleaker than the present.

I would also dare to argue what is currently perceived as a renewed passion for documentary filmmaking will transcend the fashionable to become something more established than a trend, given our infinite interest for humankind, its deeds in all its forms and the world we live in, is being somehow matched by both the technology and the media which, by their very ‘nature’ and the many ways in which they are being used, are gradually and steadily opening up to an increasing democratization in the circulation of contents.

Constanza Burucúa is a Film Studies professor in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.