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Cinematic staging of intercultural encounters

Authors: Elisabeth Sommerlad*, JGU Mainz, Institute of Geography
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: Film, Filmgeography, Media, Encounter, Interculturality, Cinema, Diversity
Session Type: Paper
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Cinematic cities are often staged as places where people from various cultural backgrounds come together and constantly negotiate their cultural differences in the context of everyday encounters. The paper deals with the filmic construction of intercultural encounters in US-American feature films, using the example of the cinematic city of New York. of the core questions of this paper is how films stage and convey intercultural encounters. Questions on the cinematic construction of intercultural interaction contexts are addressed (e.g. in which situations those encounters take place, how they are shaped and on basis of which cultural aspects the characters negotiate cultural differences). Additionally, it will be asked how the analyzed film sequences approach the interactive ‘in-between’ of the encountering characters by certain means. For approaching the phenomenon of ‘intercultural spaces’ from a film geographic perspective, the paper sketches the proposal for a theoretical framework that combines theoretical approaches to geographies of encounter, interculturality and border crossings.
A comparative analysis of 17 feature films leads to six dimensions of intercultural spaces: Intercultural spaces of (1) differentiating labelling, (2) irritating communication, (3) multidimensional discrimination, (4) restrictive border drawing, (5) impossible border crossing and (6) enabling border commuting. Each dimension is characterized by polysemic staging strategies of intercultural encounters. Thereby, New York City functions as the projection surface of a culturally separated society in which everyday intercultural encounters are consciously reflected (and chosen or avoided?) in an intercultural coexistence.

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