World Cinema between the rock of the unknowable and the hard place of the as yet unknown

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Hypotheses that instigated the possibility of destabilising and de-westernising film theory have inspired a critical framework for analysing World Cinema that demands new and evolving understandings of its construction and fluidity, particularly in relation to its lost pasts and possible futures. Referencing several key works in this field and responding to David Martin-Jones’s Cinema Against Doublethink: Ethical Encounters with the Lost Pasts of World History (2019) in particular, this article questions what is unknowable and as yet unknown about World Cinema. Following Derrida, it argues that the answers lie in how World Cinema gains meaning(s) through the process of différance (difference and deferral of meaning), particularly through genre. Deploying and dismantling genre theory in case studies of Wind River (Taylor Sheridan, 2017), Chung Hing sam la/Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994), Faa yeung nin wa/In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000), Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) and Widows (Steve McQueen, 2018), the article targets the logjam of ethical hesitancy in approaching World Cinema and, holding that impurities in western cinema constitute trace evidence of new paradigms happening elsewhere in World Cinema, posits empathy and its deferral as essential to an understanding of the dynamics of the cinemas of the world.

Bibliographic note

Funding: This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AH/R012725/1]. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalTransnational Screens
Issue number1
Early online date22 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Apr 2021


  • World Cinema, de-westernisation, derrida, empathy, genre, theory