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Past Forward

French Cinema and the Post-Colonial Heritage

Dayna Oscherwitz

Publication Year: 2010

Oscherwitz argues that heritage in France has been progressively refashioned from a principally ancestral, homogeneous conception of collective identity, to a more heterogeneous, postcolonial model.  Heritage films show a high degree of ambivalence about the prioritization of ancestry and territoriality in expressions of French identity, rather than nostalgic nationalism

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Copyright

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-

There are far too many who inspired and encouraged me along the way for me to thank them all. However, several deserve special attention. I would like to thank everyone at Southern Illinois University Press, particularly Kathleen Kageff, Karl Kageff, and Barb Martin, for the attentive handling of this project from beginning to end. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

In France, the year 1980 was designated the Year of Heritage (L’Année du patrimoine). It was devoted to foregrounding, restoring, and transmitting French cultural and ethnological heritage, reviving interest in French culture, and combating Europeanization and globalization (Blowen, Demossier, and Picard 2001; Citron 1987; Lebovics 2004). Heritage as it manifested in France in 1980 was an accumulation of objects, places, and events that were seen to ...

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1. Constructing Memory: The History of Heritage in France

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pp. 13-32

Heritage permeates contemporary French culture, from advertising to the film industry, from cinema to politics. Heritage is understood as a way of defining the national present through a particular vision of the past. It is seen as relying on glorious narratives about the past that justify seemingly nationalistic conceptions of the nation, and it also references particular cultural monuments, artifacts, historical figures, and historical events from the ...

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2. Family Pictures: Ancestry, Nostalgia, and the French Heritage Film

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pp. 33-63

Andrew Higson first used the term “heritage film” to describe a type of nostalgic British cinema that emerged in the 1980s. Films such as Chariots of Fire (1981), A Passage to India (1984), and Howard’s End (1992) and popular television drama mini-series such as Brideshead Revisited (1981) and The Jewel in the Crown (1984), were, according to Higson, backward-gazing pastiche texts that valorized the imperial past and reinforced notions of British cultural superiority. Such films, Higson argues, emphasized tradition and history and ...

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3. Heritage and Its Discontents: Memory, History, and the Expanding Space of the Past

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pp. 64-99

In her study of nostalgia in French cinema, Naomi Greene asserts that contemporary France has been shaped by “a pre-occupation with the national past and the way it has been remembered” (1999, 191). In Greene’s analysis, French cinema in general and the contemporary heritage film in particular have been characterized by a “landscape of absence and loss” that creates and sustains a nostalgic longing for the past. Greene’s reading of the ...

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4. Memory’s Blind Spots: Immigration, Integration, and the Post-Colonial Heritage

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pp. 100-131

Sociologist and author Azouz Begag asserts, “[A]ll the sociopolitical issues related to the incorporation of French people of Maghrebi origin into mainstream society connect up with constructions of their collective memory. Without memory, one cannot claim to be fully part of a society and its History” (2006, 56).1 Begag’s assessment runs directly counter to the dominant interpretation of such “problems” of integration. Where the dominant interpretation has been that religion and cultural practice block the integration ...

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5. Recovered Memories: Diversity, History, and the Expanding Space of the Past

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pp. 132-164

In their song “J’y suis, j’y reste” from the 2002 album Utopie d’occase, the French rock/rap/ska group Zebda sing about the multicultural reality of the banlieue in Toulouse, where they grew up. Zebda’s portrait of the Toulousain banlieue highlights aspects of the city’s regional identity—the bourrasque wind, the Occitan tradition, and the Basque country—as well as ...

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Conclusion: The Fall of Time and the Rise of Space from the Post-Colonial to the Posthistorical

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pp. 165-169

Many contemporary analyses of heritage presume that there is something fundamentally new about defining individual or collective identity in the present through a connection to the past. Nothing could be further from the truth. The past, in the form of ancestors, names, and histories, has long been the basis of individual and cultural identity, whether in ...

Filmography

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pp. 173-176

Notes

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pp. 177-187

Bibliography

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pp. 189-199

Index

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pp. 201-211

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Author Bio

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pp. 212-

Dayna Oscherwitz is associate professor of francophone studies at Southern Methodist University, where she teaches courses on French and African cinema and francophone culture. She is coauthor of ...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809385881
E-ISBN-10: 0809385880
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329960
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329964

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 6 B/w halftones
Publication Year: 2010

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Subject Headings

  • Historical films -- France -- History and criticism.
  • National characteristics, French, in motion pictures.
  • Imperialism in motion pictures.
  • Collective memory -- France.
  • Motion pictures -- France -- History -- 20th century.
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