Cinema, colour, and cities

Everyone likes movies, and everyone looks forward to seeing one especially if it is packed with good storytelling, good locations and a popular star cast. Movies have come to be an almost inseparable part of our lives and in recent times, movies have become a part of us that we showcase to the world through the camera and the story. American movie industry or more conventionally, ‘Hollywood’, has been right up there and is arguably one of the largest movie industries in the world. It has righteously harnessed a fan following globally on the basis of its high-quality cinematography, script-writing, action sequences, and much more than a movie comprises of. But, as it happens with many things that gain traction and popularity, time and again Hollywood has often found itself in the midst of some heavy controversies and critical opinions from the masses. One can say that Hollywood is now almost ‘Holly-shit-that’s offensive’. Today I take up one such point of observation that I have come across many times, just like many of you must have.

Often in movies and TV series, it happens that the story requires a particular city (or cities) to be an integral part of the whole story. In such cases, the city or the country is not just a mere location, but an integral element of the story. To give an example: Los Angeles and La La Land. It would not have been the same movie had the city been Ohio or NYC. Even then, according to a section of movie fans, Hollywood shows places/cities/countries a tad bit differently than how they originally are, just to fit the overall mood and tone of the story being told. To make things clearer let’s take up the case of a few cities:

1. Mexico

To depict Mexico or any region with a majority of Mexican population like Albuquerque, Texas, a tint of yellowish orange is used by filmmakers to blend in with the story, so that the viewers find it easy to sense the emotions in the environment. Another reason for the usage of the tint of orange is the high temperature in the region, and the abnormal regularity of various crimes. A character’s personality type is also mirrored by using colours for the city. Breaking Bad, Traffic, are popular media where the colour orange is widely used.

2. Russia

The great old rivals of America and the origin of half the antagonists in Hollywood movies, Russia is picturised in American movies by using light blue owing to the chilly temperatures and the widespread snow in the region. Another reason for it may be the stereotyped cold-blooded Russians and their conduct, be it the Kremlin or the KGB, or their spies and the army. Or it could very well be the fact that Hollywood does not like Russians (evidently).

3. The Middle East

The land of oil, money, power, and a little bit of negative emotions and negative activities in Hollywood, the The Middle East also has its own colour! The Middle East, or Arab countries perhaps are the most common victims of the “colour gradient”. American movies and TV series often show places like Iran, Israel, Syria, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern places in a bad light. To put it bluntly, these places are always depicted to be ruined, laden with destruction, terror, backward ideologies, and other dressing and regional stereotypes, when such is not the case entirely. The Arab region is portrayed using a dystopian theme, a little more on the greyish side which gives us a sense of ruin.

4. Asian regions/India/Japan

Asia has been a victim of American stereotyping but it also has been a victim of incorrect portrayal. India in American cinema is depicted quite easily by adding a sunny filter or just by increasing the contrast level of the colours in the frame. Whether it is correct or incorrect, is up for debate. Japan, on the other hand, is shown using a more vibrant tint of pink/purple, owing to reasons only the Americans can understand and explain. The lesser developed countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan are picturised in the same manner as the Middle East. They bear so many similarities that Pakistan is often passed on as the Middle East and no one even notices!

To conclude, however accurate and factual certain things in American cinema may be, there are always certain things that need to be changed, or improved. Cities may have a certain mood or vibe or a particular type of history, but there is a thin line between accurate representation and repetitive clichéd portrayal. Filmmakers must not be foolish enough to try to make people believe in falsely set stereotypes, and the viewers must be smart enough to understand that if the case, it is just a story and real life is different from cinema.

Credits: Bored Panda, BBC, Stack Exchange, Google.