What are the Characteristics of Transnational Cinema_

Written By:

What are the Characteristics of Transnational Cinema?

The idea of transnational cinema represents films which extend beyond national boundaries transcending into a world in which they represent more than one national, community, or cultural tradition. These films frequently allude to the idea that people are linked through various institutions across nations despite the national boundaries that exist to otherwise separate. But what are the characteristics of transnational cinema and how can we undoubtable recognize a transnational cinematic production?


What is Transnational Cinema?

Transnational cinema represents a unique means of film in which beyond dominant markets we see a surge in the premise of global circulation beyond national boundaries. Films that represent transnational topics or the idea of transnational cinema would enter film studies in the late 1990s and ultimately lead to a globalization of media and communication. 

Transnational cinema, or the internationalization of cinema, would lead to the internationalization of production capital and audiences worldwide. Instead of audiences being limited to a set of national cinemas or particular productions, people would final have the ability to engage outside the traditional boundaries. Quickly, transnational cinema would morph from something that was positive into a term that was critical.


Today, transnational cinema denotes films that are identified as:

  • Those which are directed at the national vs transnational binary. In this the idea of national cinema can be regarded as a limited approach in which globalization and internationalization of production, distribution and exhibition is limited.
  • Those which represent transnational groups of small nation cinemas that have shared cultural heritage such as Chinese cinemas, Scandinavian cinemas, etc.
  • Those which imitate post-culturalist and postcolonial world cinema.

The concept of transnational cinema is actually a developing concept that has only more recently become evident. It encompasses a wide range of underlying theories on the globalization of and economic impact of film particular that transcends national boundaries. Transnational cinema includes debates around the influences of postnationalism, postcolonialism, consumerism, and third cinema in addition to a variety of other concepts and topics.

Characteristics of Transnational Cinema

So what are the characteristics of transnational cinema and how do they apply to what we understand as the transnational concepts as they have been defined thus far?  Essentially, transnational cinema can be defined by particular characteristics or criteria which make the film transnational. While there are various debates regarding the development and underlying effect of transnational films, and directors which span national boundaries, the concept of transnational cinema represents the following key characteristics or criteria:

  • A shift away from films that have national focus.
  • Films that counter the focus or hegemonic responses of third cinema filmmakers or filmmakers from third world countries.
  • The linking of people across various nations and cultures through cinema.
  • A partnership between several mediums of cinema.
  • Film production who’s impact will go beyond the bounds of the national production.

Characteristically, transnational cinema may incorporate coproduction and partnerships among actors, artists, and crew that transcend boundaries. There is less focus or consideration on the aesthetic, political or economic implications when transnational cinema is employed.

Transnational cinema thus represents a proliferation between the concept of national cinema and a national identity and a cinematic program that transcends certain focuses of communities. Instead, transnational cinema represents not a single social class, economic class, gender, or culture but rather global communication that results in a film that is globally acceptable among the crowd.

Rather than focus on film studies that are nationally accountable, transnational cinema includes film funding, production and distribution that is regarded as shifting towards a multinational approach. 

Concerns with Transnational Cinema

Unfortunately, there are some concerns that come along with the premise or characteristics of transnational cinema. In fact, you can expect the following issues to be talked about particular in regards to transnational cinema:   a need for films to be “western friendly” and films that have familiar genre conventions, global cultural films, and those that can be “easily” accepted on a multinational level.

With all of these key areas of concern regarding transnational cinematic productions, it’s easy to understand that many films simply won’t fall into the category of such an approach. In fact, it’s quite common for a lot of adjustments to storytelling and the underlying values that are included in films that purport to be transnational. However, certain films with particular anthropological conventions will meet the transnational premise. 

Transnational films are likely to strive to meet certain characteristics in order to fulfill the distinct needs across various borders and nations. For instance, transnational cinema must often focus on allowing stories to be told by those that have actually lived the story, or those that are still impacted by the events of the stories. The global community that is formed through transnational cinema is thus possible only when the tools and perspectives involved go beyond that of western film versus “other” nations and instead transcend the boundaries allowing culture, character, and values that are specific to individuals that are less privileged, minority, or otherwise oppressed to come to light. These are key characteristics of transnational cinema.