Introduction: The following, extraordinary essay is the extant material for a 2018 lecture prepared by Tom O’Regan (1956-2020), to whom Lisa Bode paid moving tribute in our previous issue (http://www.screeningthepast.com/issue-45-tom-oregan/vale-tom-oregan/). It takes the form of a vast, rhizomatic “brainstorm” – the type of speculative thinking at which Tom was so brilliant, and which was also so characteristic of his ebullient personality. As it had not yet been reworked for publication by Tom at the time of his death, this text contained various annotations and questions to himself that we have duly deleted, some passing mistranscriptions of titles and infelicities of expression that have been silently corrected, and several bibliographic references that we have filled out wherever possible; otherwise, it is exactly as he left it. Screening the Past is indebted to Rita Shanahan for giving us kind permission to publish this material (as well as, in this issue, the accompanying “Critical Communication and the Coming Sound: How Talkies (Re)Made the Film Review” co-written with Huw Walmsley-Evans, also from 2018); and to Deane Williams for help with preliminary editorial work on it. (Adrian Martin)
The real challenge is to find a way of overcoming the limits that any intellectual paradigm suffers from by virtue of, necessarily, being elaborated within a specific geo-historical field. In other words, the challenge is to find ways of overcoming the limits of any cultural relativism, any fetishization of geo-political boundaries, and to elaborate a cultural theory worthy of the name.
– Paul Willemen (2005, p. 98)
The geo-historical is a term Paul Willemen invokes in his 2005 essay “For a Comparative Film Studies”. It points to the relation between geography and history, and the legacies, often in the form of path dependencies, that the changing relation between geography and history bequeaths us. What Willemen proposed is an historical account of the cinema that would take account of geography, and a geographical account that allowed for historical flexibilities to accommodate the changing ways that geography is taken up and mobilised in networks, including trade and communication networks associated with colonisation, migration and so on. This provides a vehicle for thinking about what we might mean by, and do with, the idea of the Southern Screen.  Thinking with Willemen, we could say that this would allow us to move beyond the national frame and the “fetishisation of geo-political boundaries” (presumably Willemen was thinking here of the nation state), but at the same time would remain rooted in a “specific geo-historical field” which we are enjoined to see as simultaneously a nation, less than nation and more than nation. So is Southern Screens a “geo-historical” field?
What is it that the cinema enters, intersects with, and finds its feet and place through? For Willemen, a comparative film studies needs to begin by taking into account many “different socio-historical formations”. These are, at one and the same time, “negotiating” through the cinema “the encounter between capitalist modernisation and whatever mode of social-economic regulation and (re)production preceded that encounter” (p. 99). This injunction emphasises the differences in the experience of the cinema, while pointing to commonalities in the underlying logics and forces that the cinema enters into, participates in, and which allow it to function in any of the places it exists. Willemen also phrases this environment in regulatory terms – not through the familiar term of socio-economic regulation but as social-economic regulation, thereby stressing legal, normative and societal norms. The value of Willemen’s careful parsing here is that he does not over-specify the contours of these different socio-historical formations. They could be “within the nation” as, for instance, with indigenous and marginalised voices; they could be across nations sharing colonisers and similar conditions and places globally. They could be many and varied.
We might then look to the Southern Screens initiative for a way of thinking about and exploring the cinema through the lens of the experience of the various cinemas in all of the places in the Global South that it enters. This provides us with one rationale for a comparative cinema studies. It can help us understand the cinema generally, better explore its possibilities, and allows us to see in our smaller and larger cinemas a way of having a conversation of global significance to the cinema. This proffers a singular priority – we need to better understand “the various cinemas of the South” as so many bespoke “inventions” of cinema in their own right. The Southern Screen is here a way of recognising the particular character of the negotiations that take place. It recognises the social economic dimension of each nation’s particular political, social, cultural and indigenous settlements (or rather contentions).
But the Southern Screens initiative is also about the prospects for recognising the parallel and analogous circumstances and histories across the Global South. Across the Southern Screen we find the common traces of imperial ambitions: on the one hand, the imperial and colonial and, on the other hand, the indigenous circumstance providing another ‘common logic’ marking the Southern Screen and its modes of social-economic regulation. The various cultural-nationalist and economic-nationalist aspirations, and their connection and disconnection with each other. The New World and the Old World of the Indigenous peoples “touch upon”, or provide a space for, analogous tensions, forcefields and improvisations. This, too, opens up a way of thinking historically about the many different European Visions of the South (Pacific), to riff on Bernard Smith’s epic work of historiography of the same name.  We get, then, so many European Visions of the Africas and Americas. And with the rise, first of Japan, and then of China’s involvement in and interest in the South, things open out on to the ways and means by which both nations project and incorporate these into their respective visions of the Pacific, Africa and Latin America. This would imply a comparative aesthetics, and it provides a way of illuminating what is specific to the various histories, while gesturing to underlying continuities and parallel inventions of the cinema and the screen.
Therefore, our focus is on the cinemas of the Southern Screen as having parallel and analogous histories as “new world”, settler colonial societies which simultaneously transplant and contend with the ”old world indigenous” societies in collision and connection within capitalism. The work would focus upon the ways that these cinemas seek to insert themselves into broader global networks centred to the north in the European, American and now Chinese and Japanese defined worlds. The parallel dimension provides a way of securing the “better theorization of cultural dynamics” that Willemen calls for, in that it offers the possibility of “taking into account the different layers of determination and functioning”, because it is not as “trapped within the confines of their own socio-cultural horizons” (p. 98). This is a way for thinking of the continuity stretching across these spaces connecting the Chilean, Argentinian, Brazilian, Australian, New Zealand and South American experience.
Both the singular perspective and the parallel perspective speak to both the need to recognise the singularities of each encounter with the cinema as a capitalist form, and the commonalities among each of the countries of the Southern Screen. While they provide us with useful perspectives, parallels and challenges to look again at various national settlements and ways of doing things – in order to imagine how things could be done differently – they are not built upon practical, specific connections. They each require and rely upon the value of analogy and precedent. They provide an exercise of comparison. They do not foreground connections. For that, we need to turn to our third way of pursuing the Southern Screen as an initiative: using it as a way of thinking with and interrogating the cinema. For that we need to turn to a limited, sometimes ignored and invisible history of the connections across the South. For, without these connections, the value of the comparative dimension is still-born. It can only provide an exemplar, a means of an isolated comparison. To make it ongoing, there also needs to be a sense of the interconnections.
The value of the parallel perspective is that it starts to illuminate the ways in which the different places of the Southern Hemisphere are connected vertically to their North. This is not only a connection with a coloniser, but with the continental pull and power of North America (particularly the USA). This centralisation, and these connections initially to the coloniser and then to the Northern engine-rooms of capitalist development first in Europe and then in North America and now in China and East Asia, point to the longstanding ways in which each of these countries is oriented in its film and television industries, in terms of getting onto the horizon of these larger, global markets for which each other’s markets are inevitably a small and minor presence.
The Southern Screens have also been about connections and relations crisscrossing the places of the Global South, and connecting their cinemas directly and indirectly with each other in various large and small ways. In this converging and connected history and present, some relations – the proximate relations borne of the contiguity of sharing a continental geography, a sea and a common colonial history – are the most important and ongoing connections. Australia and New Zealand share the Tasman Sea and a common colonial history. Latin America is a proximate cultural geography marked by principally Spanish and Portuguese colonial histories. Outside of these regional connections, we can identify less common points of connection among the various industries. An interest in Australian political filmmaking in the Latin America of the dictators in David Bradbury’s films Nicaragua: No pasaran (1984) and Chile: Hasta Cuándo? (1986); Peter Jackson’s auspicing of the South African-Canadian filmmaker Neill Blomkamp in the production of District 9 (2009); and in the people making films across different national traditions, whether a Jane Campion or a Roger Donaldson, or more recently Taika Waititi with Thor: Ragnarok (2017). There is also the phenomenon of J.M. Coetzee’s novel Disgrace (1999, adapted for the screen by Anna Maria Monticelli and directed by Steve Jacobs in 2009), speaking to an Australian and international audience. These nations and their cinemas across these distances and spaces enter into global relations of competition and occasional collaboration with each other. We often lose sight of such connections. We have to dig for them, because they tell us of a transnational circulation of people and filmmaking that is, if not hidden, then incidental. We lack a framework to tell that story. Southern Screens might provide some of that.
These are connections, then, at multiple levels of both proximity and distance. The touch-points here are the points of convergence and actual interconnection. In the continental geographies of Latin America, Australia and Southern Africa, places and regions have been in competition with each other for trade and attention. We see it today as the various places and spaces of production enter into these relations, each one bidding for international production. Australasia, in keeping, perhaps, with North American and British experience, chose to stage this competition within a combination of nations and international ways. This converging and connected aspect provides us with a particular, often localised ballast to communication.
We thus have three related but distinct ways of considering the Southern Screens from a comparative perspective. Each provides important correctives to the others. But the Southern Screen is also shaped by the broader patterns of centralisation, concentration and control that have been part of the broader film and television industries.
Each of these distinct ways speaks to a circumstance where the members of the Southern Screen do not have, beyond the occasional insistence of a regional circumstance, an orientation towards each other. There is no particular importance for each of their respective markets. The global release of a Peter Jackson or George Miller film is more important than the Australian or New Zealand releases of the Hobbit series (2012-2014) or Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
Trading Flows, Infrastructures and Geographies of Discovery
We are dealing with circumstances where the cinema – as with other cultural and economic trade arrangements that countries of the Global South have entered into – has developed to facilitate global flows moving northwards and southwards along corridors of economic power and integration, and less eastward and westward, connecting up the different parts of the Southern Screen in these relations.
In this presentation, I want to consider the South-South relations and give a particular point of focus to these considerations, particularly the parallel and converging dimensions, by drawing attention to the ways in which our contemporary screen is part of larger flows of communication, commodities, trade and people through various networks. I hope to show how the very architecture of these flows, and their reasons for coming into being, have provided a particular, albeit small and less distinct space for South-South cultural exchange. Furthermore, I am particularly interested in thinking about the infrastructural dimension to this circulation, and considering how these South-South connections can be fruitfully thought with an infrastructural focus with makes these connections less significant – centred in various ways at particular times, and then bypassed as the infrastructures were reconstructed.
Here my starting point will be with Australasia – Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific – although a Southern African and South American starting point would yield as much, if not more. I take this perspective because it enabled me to give a combination of capitalist and material dimensions, as well as an infrastructural dimension, to thinking about the ways that relations within the cinema developed less directly and more indirectly with each other, through a history of mediation and remediation. It is my contention that the undeveloped, partial and inevitably limited character of the relations among the film industries and cultures of the Southern hemisphere that we observe are a consequence of larger communication, commodity, trade and people flows, which simultaneously connect these places and peoples, while marginalising their connections. These flows, while being responsible historically for the linkages that do exist among the Southern Screens, have nonetheless historically foregrounded not South-South communication, but instead the North-North and North-South trading, commodity and cultural flows of the Northern hemisphere.
It is customary to talk of flows of communication, commodities, trade and people and the networks that sustain these. In considering these flows and the networks they give rise to, it is useful to give equal weight to the mechanisms and technological means by which these flows are enabled, as it is to what Nicole Starosielski calls the “more visible processes of production and consumption”. For Starosielski in the Undersea Network, it is the “distribution of modern communications” – the often “invisible” physical and environmental infrastructure (in the sense of providing an environment for communication) that needs to be attended to.  Starosielski’s point is that our communication flows require distribution networks and technological infrastructures to support and enable them. There is, in short, a logistical dimension involved in all forms of circulation of goods, services and people, with the mechanisms sustaining the distribution and circulation associated with capitalist commerce applying equally to all forms of communication, including the media and cultural industries. This logistical, infrastructural dimension provides an important context for thinking not only about the existing circumstances of and prospects for connection and relation among the various parties to the Southern Screen – the cinemas of Southern Africa, Latin America, Australasia and the South Pacific – but also provides an historical context for their inscription.
To think about the prospects for the Southern Screen implies also thinking about and considering the changing character of our logistical infrastructures over time. While the principal timeline here is largely the timeline of the cinema from the 1890s, cinema entered into and was built from communication networks that preceded and enabled it. So, some consideration of the path-dependent character of our communications infrastructures is important. To understand the prospects and past circumstances of the Southern Screen involves identifying, then, the nature and character of the logistical infrastructures realising and building these flows.
Media, including screen media, are a case in point. They have often been physical commodities in the shape of books, magazines, films, records, tapes and the props or equipment following and accompanying performers and performing groups, motorsports, and other sports. Physical media required transportation. Such as the sea and rail networks supporting performers like Carl Hertz, that brought cinema to Australia as part of his stage act. In 1872, Australia was internationally connected through the telegraph. This was when international networks joined continentally distributed telegraph networks and made possible wire services and at-a-distance reporting. “Intangible” media has also required networks. We know, for instance, that the telegraph was largely paid for by newspaper clients in the 19th and well into the 20th centuries. Later, these became the routes for the telephone networks that were critical for the networking and re-broadcasting of radio. This was also the case for cinema, which requires the physical transportation of films and their clearance through customs.
Retelling the Colonisation of Australia through a Southern World Lens
The European invasion of Australia and New Zealand, also known as Australia’s European settlement, began with the first fleet in 1788. A hundred years later, the cinema would arrive in Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and Africa – also by sea. It followed established trading routes, including cultural flows that were also distribution routes circulating people and goods, including cultural goods and services. By then, the age of sail had morphed into the age of steam; the seaport had been joined with the efficient hinterland railway systems to create continental geographies. I want to begin here a full one-hundred years prior to cinema, because this quintessential national foundation story turns out to be also a Southern story, in all sorts of unexpected ways – implicating Africa and Latin America in wider colonial histories, alliances and competitions of the then-imperial powers.
But our story begins with how the Australasian world came upon European horizons. It was a consequence of trading routes and innovations in transport and communication. In 1611, Hendrik Brouwer charted a new route to the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia. Using the strong West to East winds known as the Roaring Forties, this Southern route, although longer, halved travel time to Indonesia. This not only saved becalming, but also made what was previously a 12 month journey into a 6 month journey from Europe. This led to the Dutch mapping of the West Coast of Australia in the 1600s, as ships overshot their mark.
The Australian First Fleet traversed many of the anchor points for our Southern Screens initiative. It began, as we know, in England. It called in at Tenerife, then a Spanish colony off the coast of Africa. It went westward to Rio de Janeiro and to South America. It then went eastward to the then Dutch-controlled Cape Town in Africa; a few years later, the Dutch would lose control of this critical port infrastructure to the British. It then went via the Southern Ocean and the Roaring Forties to Botany Bay (Australasia). In doing so, it provided a map for effective journeying by sail. And, in establishing a beachhead in the Southern part of the Australian continent, it was situating itself in the middle of an efficient and effective transportation and communication corridor – a distribution corridor, if you will – that was very valuable, built as it is from the circular currents around Antarctica flowing West to East.
The colonists’ leader was Commodore Arthur Phillip (1738-1814). He had served with distinction in the Portuguese Navy as a Captain in the mid 1770s war against Spain, when he was “on loan” from the British Navy to their longstanding Portuguese allies. We also know that, in the 1780s, Phillip had developed a plan for the then Secretary of State for Home and American Affairs, Thomas Townshend, for an expedition against Spanish America – drawing on his knowledge of the South American coast. Phillip’s plan was for a squadron of three ships of the line and a frigate to mount a raid on Buenos Aires and Montevideo, then to proceed to the coasts of Chile, Perú and Mexico to maraud, and ultimately to cross the Pacific to join the British Navy’s East India squadron for an attack on Manila. He was disappointed to learn, on reaching Rio de Janeiro, that UK and Spain were no longer at war! Periodic wars between Spain and Britain marked nearly 500 years of Spanish history, shaping the British-Portuguese alliance – arguably the longest standing military alliance in the world, dating back to the 1300s.
Phillip is interesting for another reason. He was of a German-Jewish background on his father’s side. Germans would figure largely as immigrants to Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, building on German migration to the UK and German colonial outreach. Phillip worked as a British spy on French maritime facilities.
Philip took not only animals with him, but also plants – a collection of prickly pear cuttings taken from Brazil in the “hopes of setting up a dye industry to rival that of the Spanish”. We also know that this dyeing process came from the Aztecs and Mayan, who used the cochineal insects that fed on the cactus pads to make “the greatest colour red the world had ever seen”. The dye was crucial to the British Empire, because its emissaries’ coats were “very, very red”. 
A great many reasons have been advanced for the British colonisation of the Australasian lands. One that is not mentioned is that it would be useful to the British Navy in facilitating attacks on the Spanish possessions in Chile and Perú. And that gives us our connection Eastward across the Pacific, connecting the Latin American West Coast to Australasia. Australia and New Zealand would provide a threat to the West Coast colonies of Spain. What made it a particularly existential threat was that the sea voyage between Australia and New Zealand and the West Coast of South America was a fast journey in terms of sailing time, courtesy of those trade winds that brought Phillip to Botany Bay. These winds constituted a fast ring around the world. They not only made Asia more accessible to Europe, but also made Australia more accessible to Europe.
This made the Southern ports important. It was a ring connecting the Global South in the Age of Sail. This would provide the basis for the Clipper route, which was critically important to British trade. The Clipper was nearly twice as fast as conventional ships (250 vs 150 nautical miles per day; with a record of 436 nautical miles in one day). While the Clipper story is often told as a North American story – as the ships were used extensively on the American trade between New York and San Francisco – it also transformed Australia’s commodity and people trade with the UK to Australia and New Zealand. One of the last of the Clipper ships, the Cutty Sark, could sail from Plymouth to Sydney in 72 days; and then Sydney to Plymouth in 84 days around Cape Horn in South America. Here, ship technology was applied to, and worked with, the wind. Let’s turn to Wikipedia.
The Clipper route from England to Australia and New Zealand, returning via Cape Horn, offered captains the fastest circumnavigation of the world, and hence potentially the greatest rewards; many grain, wool and gold clippers sailed this route, returning home with valuable cargos in a relatively short time. However, this route, passing south of the three great capes and running for much of its length through the Southern Ocean, also carried the greatest risks, exposing ships to the hazards of fierce winds, huge waves, and icebergs.
Courtesy of this ring around the world is Australia’s third Prime Minister, Chris Watson (1867-1941). He was born in Valparaíso of a German-Chilean father and an English New Zealand mother and, upon the failure of his parents’ marriage and his mother’s return to New Zealand, grew up in Otago in New Zealand. He “left” for another of the 6 colonies when he was 19. Watson became, for four months, the first Labour Prime Minister of Australia, and the world’s first Labour head of government at a national level – and thus the world’s first socialist or social democratic government. He was aged 37, and remains the youngest Prime Minister in Australia’s history.
Captain Phillip’s spell in the Portuguese Navy would come as no surprise to those who know their European and imperial histories. The British and Portuguese states have perhaps the oldest military alliance in the world, going back to 1373, and only interrupted during the Iberian dynastic union between Spain and Portugal between 1580-1640. This treaty remained intact in World War II under the Fascist dictatorship of António de Oliviera Salazar.
This is a useful story for thinking about Willemen’s article and the prospects for Southern Screens. Where we might fetishise geo-political boundaries, we are dealing with specific geo-historical fields that are not only globally defined, linking North and South, but crucially connecting South to South (albeit through the North and as a partner to the North), with this colonisation and its strategies facilitated by other places of the South, taking in the interests of securing advantage over, and trouble for, other Southern places and the larger Northern-shaped networks and alliances of which they are a part.
The First Fleet is enabled and helped by Brazil-Portugal and by Holland-South Africa. Willemen poses it as a matter of taking into account “different socio-historical formations” that are, at one and the same time, negotiating “the encounter between capitalist modernization and whatever mode of social-economic regulation and (re)production preceded that encounter” (p. 99). Our story of the First Fleet is suggestive, I believe, of how we need to regard these “different socio-historical formations”. These are not just the different socio-historical formations across the Global South, where these formations are roughly coterminous with nation-states – although this history, particularly since the early 1800s, has been one of separate administrative developments; they are not just “regional zones”, whether Australasia, Southern Africa or Latin America, for which various “regional” settlements and histories are part of these “socio-historical formations” competing against each other for a position on the continents of Africa, Australia and Latin America; they are not just particular facilitating zones; or coterminous with the “language markets” that provide the contexts in which films circulate.
Where we initially and reflexively think of disconnections that could be made into connections – parallel histories and analogous developments to better advance comparative perspectives – this suggests that there is also a bedrock stratum of relations and connections that is not so immediately visible, but always there. Where we might be content with so many stories of loose connections, this story suggests the importance of attending to the flows that are made possible through infrastructures.
Where Willemen would see “differential encounters with capitalism” leading to “combined and uneven development”, we can see in this example these encounters staged in so many touch-points.
What can we get from this story? The various Southlands can be considered in the following ways:
* ‘Enablers’ and ‘facilitators’ implicated in colonial expansion – call it capitalist modernisation;
* They are potential competitors to be undercut by trade substitution, so that we can do what needs to be done in order to get markets;
* They are simultaneously “enemies” or “allies” as part of larger geo-political configurations and trading blocs against one another;
* They are critically dependent on “logistics” of trade and trading routes (distribution) and the technologies facilitating them;
They are dependent on what is being produced and circulated (whaling was one of Australia’s first primary industries). Whaling as multicultural South-South and North-South – connections in which Maori whalers figure largely).
People movement follows the logic of the trading networks and industries.
By the time the cinema arrived, the logistics of “trade” had started to change. Sea routes were being transformed by the combination of steam travel and the opening in 1869 of the Suez Canal, cutting travel distance and time to Australia/New Zealand, and transforming trade routes into a more North to South East and North to South West direction. But this transition to steam was not immediate; it took many years. Steam took some time to become competitive. Mail steamers, i.e., steamers carrying high value cargo, went by the most direct route. Bulk commodities still used sail. There were logistical problems. In an age of steam, coal resources and availability guided the capacity for refuelling. But note that these developments were transforming geographies. The new geographies that resulted drew the trade routes differently, bypassing Africa but putting the Indian trade at its centre.
This connected India and Australia, and Australia to the Northern Hemisphere, as trade became more dependable and less risky. A new geography of South-South connection was being made here, and cinema inherited it. Travel time with steam became defined by distance, not winds and currents. The route around the Cape of Good Hope was gradually replaced by the Suez route. The return trip connected India and Sri Lanka. The Suez route bypasses Africa and Latin America. The steam ship also would see the trading routes able to go not only East-West but West-East. They no longer went South-South as much. Southern Africa was strategically important at a time of war, but otherwise less so. Africa was increasingly bypassed.
In Latin America, the result of similar dynamics was to accentuate the developing North-South trade within Latin America, as the North American trade would see the circumnavigation of the Americas as a way of connecting the American West to the East Coast, and as connecting the Pacific trade to the Atlantic North American coasts. In this context Valparaíso in Chile emerges in the 19th century, post-independence, as a great port servicing the trade around the Americas from East to West – until the Panama Canal in 1914.
The Panama Canal transforms and reframes America’s trade, centring it on the US and providing competition with Suez for East and South East Asian trade. The major sea routes could now stay in the Northern hemisphere. They could go East-West rather than West-East by the most direct route (travel time was significantly reduced). The Pacific routes established both directions as equally fast.
The opening of the Panama Canal makes the route around South America less important. After 1914, Valparaíso ceases to be an important port. The places of the South – Chile, Perú, Argentina, Uruguay and, to an extent, Brazil – become destinations in their own right, rather than busy through-ports. The important ports shift North to Singapore, and to Panama and Egypt.
At the same time, the introduction of the telegraph and the advent of continental railways transformed the ways in which the world was apprehended. The telegraph ensured for the first time in human history that transportation and communication were separated.  But this was again a gradual phenomenon, given that even today the transportation of cultural goods and touring performers relies critically on transportation. In terms of telegraph lines, the Australian Overland Telegraph, Adelaide to Darwin, was completed in 1872. It joined the “national” network of telegraphy in Australia to the international telegraph system. It was joined later by a direct route to Southern Africa from Fremantle in Western Australia.
When transportation and communication are facilitated and sundered by the telegraph, we can see that the telegraph lines were built on these new trade-communications lines. There are links from Australia to Southern Africa as a kind of insurance against disruption of the trade, but also strategically and politically as part of the British Empire’s “Red Line”. Here is a 1902 map.
The telegraph lines would eventually become the cables of the global Internet, replicating geographies. And these Internet geographies can be mapped over the intensity of global shipping routes. The South-South dialogue had changed.
What is notable about both the Internet and telegraph maps is that, although a vehicle for the distribution of communication, there are choke points and centralised nodes. It is clear from the world maps the extent to which, in the world of the telegraph, the South communicates to the South through the North. Indeed, it has become more so. The global Internet maps of undersea cables still connect the Australasian-Southern African nexus, but it is clearly not as significant or important as the cables across the Pacific from North American to Asia, or from Europe to Latin America, or from North America to South America. Now as then, there is no route across the Pacific to the South between Australia/New Zealand and Chile. Next is a map of Internet cables across the world’s seas.
Let’s compare these submarine cables with global shipping routes. The following map visualises the intensities of these sea routes. We see here some connection from Australia to Africa, from Australasia to Latin America and, less centrally, from Latin America to Africa. We can see here the same intensities as in the submarine cable maps.
In her The Undersea Network, Starosielski makes a number of important points. First, our screen media and communications have “focused on the content, messages, and reception of digital media and paid less attention to the infrastructures that support its distribution”. This has had the unfortunate result of “dematerializing” the media environment through which the “immaterial information flows” circulate – these environments appear “fluid and matter less”. Second, she contends that we have promoted a historiographic understanding of screen media that “tends to narrate a transcendence of geographic specificity, a movement from fixity to fluidity, and ultimately a transition from wires to wireless structures”. Third, Starosielski points to the central importance of fixed undersea networks and wired technologies in supporting “the expansion of economic, political and cultural networking, such that we exist in a world that is more wired than ever”. Fourth, our global network infrastructure is much more centralised than we credit; hence the importance of the undersea network which follows “fairly narrow routes through the specialized work of the cable industry”. She and Tung-hui Hu note that these networks typically follow the “contours of earlier networks”, indeed they are often “layered on top of earlier telegraph and telephone cables, power systems, lines of cultural migration and trade routes”.
Starosielski ‘s salutary lesson is this: we live in a circumstance where our global cable infrastructure “is wired rather than wireless; semicentralised rather than distributed; territorially entrenched rather than deterritorialised; precarious rather than resilient; and rural and aquatic rather than urban”.
Perhaps most significantly, millions of Internet users around the world rely on undersea cable systems for social, political, economic, and media exchanges, but have little recognition of the structures of dependency into which they are often locked. When cables are built, sold, disrupted, upgraded, and rerouted, these changes have significant consequences for their own use of the Internet.
So the South to South connections are visible in these maps, but visible in particular ways. They are subsidiary, as they always have been. They are supplemental.
Where does this leave us? First, we can note in the image of the Transpacific cable routes (as of 2012) that the infrastructures of communication and transportation militate against South-South connections. Global trade is organised in a particular way. Cultural trade has followed much the same routes. We see intensities in the regional interconnection. We see historical path-dependencies with the Indian Ocean route to Southern Africa acting as an insurance against the Northern route through Asia becoming difficult.
Using Starosielski, we can make the point that the system is more centralised than the image of the fluid and open Internet suggests. The nature of the infrastructures we have pointed to here are less open and less fluid. There are narrow pipes layered on earlier networks. The communication networks that made possible the South to South trade also made it less central. Messages would have to travel further.
There has not been sufficient demand to create an East-West submarine cable from New Zealand to Chile – perhaps one is in the works. It could be created, and for some of the same reasons as it is useful to have an Australia to New Zealand linkage across the Indian Ocean. But, with these geographies, the patterns of North-South continue to be set in place.
I think we can see in these maps a way of thinking about flows that is grounded and set in place. We can also see both the changing character of these flows and their continuities, as fixed flows of more recent times prevail. We also see in these maps the flows of trade developed from and shaped by logistics and infrastructures of communication and transport. There is a way in which the maps are both about communication and trading links. The South to South line was given up on in both places for Suez and Panama lines. To be sure, the Southern connection remained as a route, but it was no longer as essential or as central. Different timings were involved. Note the ways in which the maps were redrawn, in light of the telegraph, to be maps not across the Pacific but through nodal points. Australia went westward to Europe and across the Pacific to North America. But also, the move Eastward was becoming a more North Eastward direction through India, and then bypassing it.
What we see here is the link between “logistics” and “distribution”; between the trading links of shipping and the like, and the communication links across the Pacific for Internet traffic. How the trading relationships expressed the communication relationships, and vice versa. How this defines both a communication and trading space for which there is a South to South, but one that takes place connected with the North-South trade, rendering a secondary and minor element to the South-South trade itself. Hence the notion of the logic of the supplement. A supplement of the logistical and distributive system that connects one to the other, but mostly regionally, and then in a glancing fashion.
The Logic of the Supplement
The status of the Southern Screens is the logic of the supplement. It is a supplement on filmmaking horizons. Australian and New Zealand cinema have no link point in Southern Africa or Latin America – and vice versa. We perpetually discover our many points of parallel and analogous development, and are surprised by it. We are surprised by the ways we have separately and independently done many of the same things; represented our landscapes and our peoples, including indigenous peoples and minorities, in analogous ways; and so on. But the relation among Southern Screen participants is certainly less significant than are other trading, cultural and economic relations that link these screens to the North. It is still a relation that is significant enough. Latin Americans, Australasians and Southern Africans go to French, German, Hollywood and British cinema rather than to each other’s cinema. They do it likewise with a pattern of remakes. Yet there is a way in which the Spanish world operates in Latin America, connecting up and pointing to Mexico as a nodal point.
This means that it should at least, from time to time, be on the agenda. 1.5% of Australian trade is still 1.5% of Australia’s global trade. The nearly 2% of the Australian population of Latin American background, the 2% of South African background and, most importantly, the 12% of New Zealand background should be considered and thought about as instancing the South in the South. This is not to suggest that the Southern Screen or “South of the West” (the title of Ross Gibson’s 1992 book) must be a dominant agenda, but it can provide a supplementary agenda. It should be in sight, because it is there, it is ongoing, and we so regularly lose sight of it.
So this is not to propose a substitution where the Southern Screen replaces the predominant and continuing North-South connections. Rather it is to pose it as a supplemental attention alongside the main attention that is always being given, and likely to continue to be given, to the North-South. Furthermore, this connection has been there from the start. The terms change, but important elements remain the same. Now is the time to give it some consideration. The other has had enough attention already.
Certainly South-South, East-West and West-East movements in the South are less frequent, less central and less important than the more familiar North-South and North-South-West movements. Brazilian cinema looks to France and Europe, and only secondarily to North America. We also see this in scholarly networks. Australia and New Zealand look to the USA and, to a lesser extent, Europe. South Africa looks to Europe, Britain and North America, but also increasingly to China and sometimes India. All are, in fact, beginning to look to China in various ways. These are notable features of our screen landscape.
But for all this, at the same time, we do have the example of David Bradbury’s Chilean films, an indelible part of left-liberal Australia in the 1980s and ‘90s with Chile: Hasta Cuándo? (1986) and his earlier paean to the Sandinistas, Nicaragua: No Pasaran (1984);  and the later Salvadorean project South of the Border (1987), where he looks at “the role of music in the grass roots political protest movement in Central America”, covering “various bands singing protest songs and talking about government oppression in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico”.  In the 2000s, Bradbury would return to Latin America for his Fond Memories of Cuba (2002). The film also covers the filmmaker delivering the “ashes of recently deceased Harry Reade, an Aussie socialist and animator who made cartoon films in Cuba after the revolution and who requested his remains be scattered in the Rosenberg Memorial Park in Havana”.  Here we have people-connection, and people working across national boundaries in different filmmaking traditions across the global South … But is Cuba to be part of this, too?
Against this, we need to remember that currently the overall proportion of Australian trade represented by Latin America is no more than 1.5% of national trade, and that the overall numbers of people in Australia from other “Southern” places is limited in number, slightly more as a percentage. But we have a story of the Jewish presence in Australia – think of the literature and films on the Dunera boys of 1940 – and we could imagine a similar attention to this history wherever we see, within the national tradition, the influencing shape of the people of the South in Australian life (hence the Chris Watson story).
Population: The Character of the Supplement
Yet if we were to understand this “regionally”, then suddenly the number of New Zealanders in Australia and Australians in New Zealand, or the numbers of Zimbabweans in South Africa, we have a “larger” way of thinking about these patterns that extends beyond the respective national frames into a regional sphere.
While important, this regional flow never approached the number of people from the British Isles and the European region entering Australia or New Zealand. However, their numbers were larger than the number of Asians … The most important source of migrants was Britain, which was also the most important trading relationship, until it was no longer. At the back of Martin Jacques’ book When China Rules the World, he has a list of the amount of the Chinese diaspora in different parts of the world.  Perú figures largely in this list – well ahead of Australia, and nestling behind Canada.
The patterns of people-flow within the South occasions some thought. In terms of South-South, the number of South Africans in Australia is certainly much, much greater than the number of Australians in South Africa. This same pattern is presumably expressed in the Latin American figures: limited numbers going the other way.
We could also play with the figures a little, and come at this another way. If we were to add the number of New Zealanders and South Africans in Australia (both recognisable in numbers), and add the number of Latin Americans, we get a figure that is larger and more significant. A larger figure but not a useful one, because it speaks of multiple and varied relations, not a single line of connection.
There was indeed once a time when, in the geographies of global capitalism, trading logics connected the South to the South arguably more than today: the Clipper days, the whaling days. But this was always as a means of figuring and connecting to the North.
The Screen Supplement
Like the regional relation, the trade across the Pacific – just like that across the Indian Ocean – exists. And it is taken for granted. So, too, there is a trade in expertise. But there are not very many policy yards to be made through this connection. There are currently 24,000 Chileans in Australia. But, as we have seen, they have always been an Australian presence. Most of them came from the Pinochet years – refugee migration, family reunion – as well as migration in the post-Pinochet years. But these stories are minor stories, a minor stream. The main story is elsewhere.
We do not regularly think about these issues. They foreground connections linking these places together across time and space that don’t seem relevant. They foreground competition and complementarity. Are there histories of interconnection? Barely stated connections? There are trading links and trading networks. Where is the cinema in these?
Returning to the notion of geo-historical formations, we can see the task of a Southern Screen to look at the geo-historical dimension connecting the South both East and Westwards, and to think of these connections in geo-historical rather than geo-political ways. These are obviously national account figures that I have just used, but we need to avoid “fetishization of geo-political boundaries” which would immediately render the 1.5% insignificant from a geo-political standpoint.
Any prelude to thinking about what could be done through and via a Southern Screens network must start from an audit of the larger trading networks, people exchanges, filmmaking outreach and circulation that currently exist. It will then need to project activities and initiatives connecting up these Southern Screens.
Central to Southern Screen activity, despite my insistence upon inter-relations, is a strong agenda for regional relations within these different screen formations (so Australasia, Southern Africa, Latin America) that has some policy recommendations and activities associated with them. Putting these relations within the frame of the Southern Screen might obviate longstanding rivalries and complexities that might not be otherwise visible.
The Southern Screens are, however, simultaneously geo-political, geo-historical and geo-linguistic formations. They are each formed and deformed in various ways by their settler colonialism(s). They are each marked by international trading regimes, such as the post-independence Chile that played British and German connections and its emigrant peoples against each other, and for whom each was a major trading partner.
Re-invigorating the Singular, Parallel and Analogous Cinemas
With the ballast of a careful attention to existing relations between the countries as both individual national cinema traditions and cinemas working within a loosely coordinated and facilitated regional traditions, with careful attention paid to the cinemas of each country that reach out and seek to describe and negotiate with other nations and regions of the South (Australia and New Zealand concerned with Latin America and with Southern Africa), with the recognition of the filmmakers working outside of their respective countries in Latin America, in Australia, in South Africa and so on, and with an agenda for proactive interconnection and cultural exchange across the South – with all that, it becomes possible to have an overall framework within which to “launch” the singular, parallel and analogous enterprise and place it on surer footing.
It becomes possible, then, to imagine the parallel and analogous in indigenous cinemas in a process of exchange. Or in films of ecology. Or in filmmaking that explores the common interest in Antarctica. Out of Dunedin, the former Natural History Unit of the National Film Board long had a focus on the “Southern worlds” and polar regions. There is the common Douglas Mawson (1882-1958) story connecting Latin America and Australia. Indeed, we could see the Clipper days as bringing many Australians into connection with the Latin America of Patagonia, more than the cities and regions to the North, and we could see the Patagonian lamb brought to European and American tables through these same trade winds (a speculative supposition on my part).
Then there are the parallels in settlement, agricultural expansion, industries, and so on. Think of Chile and Australia. There are the ways in which Chile’s coastal settlements with the Andes to the East mirrors the Australian East Coast, with most of its population no more than 200 kilometres from the coast. The connection between the length of Chile and that of Australia – where the Andes becomes akin to the Great Dividing Range. Most of the populations of Chile and Australia are within reach of the coast, and were initially connected by coastal packet trade with limited railway interconnection. Pinochet tore up the railways; they are only now being rebuilt and reworked. The Chilean parallels with a polity dominated by mining interests. Miners that took Western Australia into Federation only reluctantly. The shaping of politics through that mining. The shock of mining capital and its sometimes outrageous demands have shaped both Chilean and Australian polities.
Another point of connection between Australia, New Zealand and Chile is the German role and presence alongside the British. In the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries, Germans were the largest non-English speaking group in Australia, marking patterns of settlements in particular places – the Chilean Lakes District, for instance, and Adelaide in South Australia. This is a Chile defined in relation not to Spain but to Germany and the UK in the 19th and early 20th century. How is this marked out in cinematic and televisual and narrative (book) traditions? Douglas Sirk’s “Australian film” Zue Neuen Ufern To the Distant Shore, 1937) was made in UFA backlots and studios. There is a long history of German involvement in the Australian film and television industry, and a minor history of German films made in Australia. Australia and Chile were on German horizons. There might be an Italian filmmaking history here, too; there are several Italian-language Australian films, such as A Girl in Australia (Luigi Zampa, 1971) starring Alberto Sordi and Claudia Cardinale.
Returning to Willemen, we can note another comparative agenda marking the respective political economies of the cinema.
… the interplay of capitalist organisation and state intervention with its rich potential for conflict, which gave rise to the formation that Adorno and Horkheimer were to characterise in the twentieth century as the culture industry. (Willemen, p. 99)
This could be an agenda for a comparative political economy of the cinema. It would explore Peter Hohendahl’s “problematic correlation between the conditions of production (organised capitalism), social formation, and political struggle (state intervention)” mentioned by Willemen.  There is an inventory of the comparative systemic comparisons available. What unites the Southern Screens is the way they are all (with the exception of Brazil in the Lusophone world) attachments, supplements, extensions, usually aimed at larger cinemas to the North. But I need to be careful here, given that Mexico has so defined Spanish-language film and television, and there was nowhere near the same coherence between Mexico and Spain as there is between USA and UK.
We should also speak of the way that places can value, understand and project through film their separate positions on a continental geography, and seek to work from these. The resolution in Australia, as in North America, was the construction not of many “nations” but of single nations with continental spreads. It is a history of colonies banding together. There was still conflict. Western Australia voted to secede in the 1930s. In the Bjelke Petersen years, Queensland sought to carve out and maintain its separate position in the continent. The North American colonies were split in two across large land masses: a much bigger (population-wise) USA and a smaller Canada; and, to the South, a larger Australia and a smaller New Zealand. There was not a North and South Island country. Nor was there a country formed to divide the Australian continental landmass, as there might have been.
While places across Southern Africa, Australasia and Latin America seek to protect and advance their separate positions on the continent, they do so within different frames. Within Australia it is in a national frame and quasi-international frame (as New Zealand is not quite a “foreign country”); similarly in South Africa (which also has Namibia and Zimbabwe and Mozambique as its “not quite foreign countries”). The national frame resolves “regional” conflicts differently than an international regional frame. Places value their separate position on the continent and seek to work from there. The linkages across the Andes are difficult. There are also, within this continental/regional geography, patterns of competition (Sydney versus Melbourne, São Paulo versus Rio, Buenos Aires versus the rest – like Auckland versus the rest of New Zealand. This pattern might be also worth exploring in a comparative way.
There are also analogies. The ditch of the Tasman Sea is something akin to the Andes. Then there is the ditch that is the Indian Ocean. What is the cinema of the oceans, given the way that the oceans figure so largely in each “national” story?
Perhaps we can also look at comparative geo-linguistic systems, as the Spanish-language cultural area of the Latin South intersects with that of the Central and North. Or the Portuguese/Lusophone system … and the Anglo worlds of the cinema out of Australasia and Africa. How can we see these language systems working through the lens of and perspectives of the South, so as to focus on their peripheries (and centres, in Brazil’s case)?
We could also imagine a comparative discussion of North-South that updates the European and North American hegemony … How is China superintending the South? USA into Latin America and into Australasia; Britain into Australasia and South Africa; but Europe in Latin America and Africa. We can think of these as linkages that are portals for kinds of attention.
Encounter with Modernism and with Capitalism
A couple of different aspects of Willemen’s article are worth commenting upon. Willemen downplays the role of Hollywood and cultural imports in his modelling of the cinema. He sees an encounter between ‘local material’ and ‘foreign form’ in the sort of cinema that is produced in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and South Africa. He casts the filmmaking of this encounter as mostly a mainstream cinema: an “industrial cinema from which the most obvious American socio-cultural dimensions have been stripped away”. He sees a cinema which tries to “emulate and compete with Hollywood’s productions … to gain access to the US market by seeking to conform to … ideas about how Hollywood films function” (p. 102). Yet he does not claim this as the “cinema to attend to”. Rather, there is a different cinema – the “interesting cases” where “the cinematic narrativization of local social experience bears the stamp of its encounter with the forces that shape and energize the industrialization of culture locally.”. He then goes on to suggest:
What is unstable is … not the compromise between local material and foreign form, but between local material and the transformative power and impact of industrialization itself, which is never simply “foreign”. (p. 102)
I wonder whether this could be usefully connected with the notions and ideas we get from working with Juri Lotman’s theory of cultural transfer, which brings together what Willemen wants to keep separate (the genuine and the contaminated by Hollywood), emphasising the point of attraction that makes possible cultural production in one context to communicate with that in another context, and then proceeds to elaborate stages of cultural exchange. See my Australian National Cinema for a discussion of this dynamic.
The Indigenous Old World
I have suggested that we could usefully play with notions of the New World and the Old World. Instead of the Old World being Europe, we could riff on the Old World being the indigenous world. So the European colonists were entering an Old World which they mislabelled the New World. We could say that two Old Worlds were colliding and interacting. The Old World of Europe with all its baggage and path-dependencies in the lowlands (Dutch and Belgian), Britain, Spain, Portugal, France and Germany enters the Old World of the Indigenous.
We can go two ways at the point. We could say that, instead of seeing that what is created with this collision/invasion/settlement is the New World, it becomes instead a hybrid world formed through this collision between the Old World of the indigenous and the landscapes and systems of their tenure. My thought bubble is that it’s a mistake to see the colonised countries of the Americas, Australasia and Southern Africa as the New World. So the Old World would be the original Aboriginal and First Nation’s world. The New World was the action of the invaders and newcomers to remake and refashion this world (to undertake the original “climate change” through massive deforestation and introduction of new animals and plants). Then we must consider how this Older World was also connected. To the North through the Torres Strait to Melanesia and Polynesia. To the North through Darwin and the Kimberleys to Indonesia and Timor and then beyond. Similarly with Aotearoa New Zealanders connected to Hawaii and the Cook Islands and Vanuatu in Pacific connections.
Perhaps this is a common “parallel” and “analogous” task to frame and prosecute this way of re-rendering. It constitutes a kind of calculated refusal of the hegemony of the New World as a conceptualisation, by holding it in tension with the Old World.
There are a couple of ways this could play out. The Indigenous Old World becomes a way of thinking about the following themes.
* Australia is not straightforwardly a “young” country (as in “Advance Australia Fair”) but an Old one. Ditto the Americas, and Southern Africa.
* We know the countries of the South had a history preceding European colonisation. But that history is unevenly embedded and worked through officially (perhaps most embedded in New Zealand and now South Africa – and Bolivia, maybe?). We now have “accommodations” that are often incoherent.
* If we continue to refer to it as the New World – an old expression, after all – we see that it could acquire a new definition. The new society is not the old bits of Europe in new lands making for new versions of the European; rather, it is the collision and configuration of old, jointly-produced indigenous and natural landscapes, and of the indigenous peoples with the colonisers bringing their people, tools, plants and animals into this new space for them. What is new then is the collision, the space of that intersection, imposition, and so on.
This is completely underdone, but I think it starts to address a way in which many people have sought to undo and critique these terminologies. In casting the New World, not only are indigenous people and the landscapes they intersected with and co-created left out and misrepresented, but the New World, in fantasy at least, erases the Old World that preceded it, and in reality continues on. All this has been said. Yet the New World persists and has, I think, been changing according to a definition that recognises some of this. But it’s contradictory: “Advance Australia Fair” was adopted by the Labor Government that oversaw Native Title.
What Have I Done?
My own work has embraced comparative screen studies perspectives that turned on notions of singularity and parallel history. In Australian Television Culture (1993), I argued for the singularity of the Australian “invention of TV”. Implicit in this argument was that, wherever television developed, it was formed in the encounter between existing economic, media, political and social configurations, and the logics of the televisual. This book also attempted to think with the changing settlements between imported and local content, and the economic relations these forged.
For its part, Australian National Cinema (1996) proposed that Australian cinema should be regarded as a particular kind of national cinema – a medium-sized English-language cinema marked by what I termed “antipodal” characteristics. While sharing a number of general characteristics with other national cinemas, it shared more with English Canadian cinema and the smaller cinemas of New Zealand and Ireland, than it did with any other national cinema. In Willemen’s terms, I was arguing for the parallel character of national cinemas.
In both books, I wanted to make the claim that looking closely at how Australia had both “made the cinema” over its life and how it had developed television were useful vantage points from which to understand film and television more generally. This was because the standard bearers for thinking about the cinema and television – the larger US, British, Japanese and Western European powers (Germany, France, Italy) – were actually anomalies as cinema and television systems. Indeed, the kind of thing found in Australia was more like the situation obtaining in a vast number of other countries. Similarly, my argument in Australian National Cinema was that, to understand national cinemas and the force and productive nature of the concept, it was necessary to understand Australian cinema. This was because Australian cinema would open up vistas to the cinema that tend to be occluded and ignored when the focus is upon the “centres” of cinema. Australia, then, had much to say about the experience of the cinema for audiences and filmmakers alike.
Both books also traversed relations of “singularity” and of “parallel development”. The comparative dimension developed was useful for what it illuminated about the various so-called national cinemas and national television systems. But the value of the comparative perspective turned on the ways that looking at another system helped imagine and think about our own. So, paying attention to the New Zealand and Canadian approaches to developing a First Nation’s cinema in policy and in the films themselves was important for thinking about and distinguishing Australian approaches. Similarly, Canadian approaches to local content regulation had been important in an earlier period for the development of both television content quotas and national screen agencies.
Film Studios and Greenfields Locations
Moving toward a more connected and related analysis, showing how places were brought into relations with each other in ways that were both competitive and complementary, came with research undertaken in the 2000s with Ben Goldsmith and Susan Ward on the geographical dispersal of film studios, and the emergence of networks of production centres ranging in kind and scale globally. These film studios and their associated sound stages and facilities supported the global dispersal of higher budget film and television production, enabling the creation of split-location production and the interchangeability of film locations. Through entities like the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), film production had become more “plug in and play”, and therefore smoother. It was also possible to see within the one country internal competition between cities: whether it was the various studios dispersed on London’s edge; within Canada (Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal), South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg and, to a lesser extent, Durban); Australia with the four Australian cities hosting productions in Sydney and Melbourne, but also the Gold Coast and Adelaide; and in New Zealand, between Auckland and Wellington.
It was in this context that I first encountered discussion of the “East Coast and New Zealand thing”: the intimation not only of an integrated screen labour market, but also of a connected film and television production community and creative community crisscrossing the Tasman. This “regional” industry, superintended by international producers and their international coordinating functions, was assembling the “territory” of the production, drawing as it did on proximate film workers and networks of actors connecting with each other.
Through studies of film studios globally, and then through an analysis of a particular greenfields location – the Gold Coast – it became possible to see how a form of being a satellite production location had developed and been sustained in Queensland that was globally significant, and could be used as an example in other places. These studies emphasised the importance of infrastructures and infrastructural developments to film and television production, particularly for places where that production was likely to be more minimal.
Parallel Development & Relations of Competition: Southern African Screen Settlements
Initially, the consideration of South Africa as a screen location came through an analysis of South African participation in globally dispersed high-budget film and television production. South Africa took its place there alongside Australia, Canada, Romania and the Czech Republic as nations aggressively seeking to connect with, and become a production venue for, globally dispersed production. These were clear relations of competition and complementarity in international production. It was notable how some of the South African literature formulating the need for Hollywood-standard film studios in Cape Town saw this city competing with, and taking work away from, the more distant Australia. Certainly, Cape Town was always a better location for high-budget advertising production, considering that it was in the same time zone as Europe. So, considerations of the global dispersal of high-budget film, television and advertising production became significant for charting a set of globally connected operations.
The emphasis we chose was on the comparison of places and types of production environment. There was a sense that, while we were doing something more “global”, we were also considering the experience in and with International production across Australia and South Africa. Consequently, Cape Town but not Johannesburg figured in Ben Goldsmith’s and my The Film Studio: Film Production in the Global Economy (2006) – which now seems something of a mistake. One of the notable absences here was that this study (and the report which preceded it) critically missed New Zealand (rectified in a study with Alfio Leotta). Perhaps this was due to the perennial problem Australians have of not recognising New Zealand’s activity. From memory, we did not focus on NZ because we were looking at high profile studio builds (but that should have taken us to Auckland!) – we were thinking of Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001) rather than higher-budget feature film production.
The South African connection was furthered when Keyan Tomaselli and a number of his collaborators started using the film services framework we had developed. They also used the analysis of filmmaking in place represented by our Local Hollywood: International Production and the Gold Coast (2010). They then applied these perspectives outside the high-budget film and television production areas, deploying them not only in production, but also to think about the infrastructure and organisation of exhibition and distribution, and how these might be proactively planned for. They then asked me to revisit the perspectives we had developed, and to take into account their Southern African experience.
The result was my “Revisiting Film Cities and Film Services: Methodology, Theory and Applications” in 2018.  This paper expanded earlier perspectives on film cities, services, and the value of policy-making creating a film-friendly city; it compared Australian and South African cities’ participation in national and global film production – Durban and Brisbane-Gold Coast; Johannesburg and Cape Town with Melbourne and Sydney. It also rethought film cities and film services policy in relation to South Africa’s large, informal markets.
A further development of this perspective came in a paper I gave as a keynote to the South African Communication Association’s Annual Conference in Bloemfontein in 2016: “Between Exacerbation and Alleviation? Media in Transition, Social Transformation and Inclusiveness” (see Further References list). In this paper, I explicitly argued that South African developments which have been often couched within a national South African frame had their international counterparts in the global recalibration of communication, media, cultural and social settlements. I argued that it was useful to adopt a parallel perspective to these phenomena, while acknowledging the South African-specific problems. I also made the point that South Africa was nationally inflecting a common set of problems and issues that were confronting media, government and people in many other countries. I was also careful to suggest that solutions might be more shareable and connected in ways that the national frame does not so readily disclose. This could be seen as a tentative move toward a Southern Screen perspective.
Regional Worlds: Australasian Media Cities
The research on film studios and globally dispersed production led us to conduct analyses of the various “media cities” and media production centres of Australasia. The inclusion of New Zealand cities as sites for research grew out of connections with Alfio Leotta, and out of a sense that the move to the city level seemed to require the inclusion of New Zealand.
The study of Australasia’s media cities is itself an exercise in a kind of comparative studies, where the entities to be compared are cities. Studies to date include: Sydney (with Ward and Goldsmith). This study situated Sydney with studies of global city networks and notions of “global cities”; Brisbane – the Gold Coast (with Ward); Auckland (with Leotta); Wellington (with Leotta); and Northern Rivers of NSW (with Ward). There is another study of Adelaide (with Mike Walsh) that exists as a conference paper, and is in unpublished draft form. The two missing cities are Melbourne and Perth.
There is also a case to be made for a study of Canberra, Hobart-Launceston, Christchurch, as well as Townsville and Cairns as Northern Australia’s two largest cities. The attempt to put these city studies on the same page began with a study of the Australian cities’ relations to each other. It did not initially include New Zealand mostly because the datasets I was using – Australian Encore directories – imperfectly represented NZ production infrastructure. However, it became clear that this data could be used effectively in an relational way, if we took into account the discussions that Leotta had set up for me in Wellington.
Our 2014 comparative study of Wellington and Auckland began by seeing each city as an Australasian city – taking the trading links, and circulation of people across the national borders seriously, and into account.While continuing a study in the “national” tradition, this was seeking to become an Australasian study. That piece opened up the space for a more explicit consideration of the regional worlds crisscrossing the Tasman.
Regional Worlds – The Tasman World
This is a collaboration with Leotta on New Zealand and Australian relations in screen media. It was based on recognising how cinema first entered the Australasian space of the “seven colonies” before both Australia and New Zealand became Dominion nations. Then they were a connected group of Antipodean colonies. It is clear that cinema develops and later television is introduced in what were emerging nation building contexts designed to ‘nationalise’ the previously connected relations amongthe seven colonies. These processes respecting ‘national territorialisations’ diminished ‘regional’ settlements criss-crossing the Tasman. These “Regional” configurations also defined themselves relationally – New Zealand as “Not Australia” (but Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia were not “NSW”). Our Research emphasized continuity and change in the relations between the two screens. There were structural conditions that remain the same – such as the relative size of each – and those that change with media transformation and the opportunities that these provide.
This project has led to essays published in 2014 (“Crossing the Ditch: Trans-Tasman Expats”) and 2018 (“Reframing Early Australasian Cinema: Trans-Tasman Exchanges during the Silent Film Period”), as well as a 2015 conference paper, “Australasia’s Two Solitudes: Reflections on the Trans-Tasman Film Exchange” delivered at Monash University’s Cinema at the End of the World conference (but not published in the subsequent book of that title). This consideration of trans-Tasman relations on screen has also extended to a study (published 2019) with Anna Potter on changing formations of national film and television production companies, in our study of the New Zealand children’s television producer Pukeko.
Prospects for the Southern Screen
The Southern Screen that emerges in my practice is limited and partial in character. It has entailed a way of thinking about the relations in filmmaking that extends across the Southern worlds. It provides a way of connecting Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and Pacific, as well as those Southern African nations in South Africa’s orbit.
As someone who has intermittently thought about relations across the Pacific and Indian Ocean – only to withdraw, then to engage again with the question of relations among countries in the Southern Screen – I am simultaneously pessimistic and optimistic. I am pessimistic, because I have been in projects analogous to the Southern Screen initiative before, only to find its moment and presence slip away. Why did this happen? There simply were not the instruments, whether policy or scholarly infrastructures, on hand to support it. The relations between New Zealand and Australia, between Australian and South Africa, or the question of New Zealand and the question of South African film and television around which my intermittent engagements have turned, could always seem only somewhat important, rather than compelling. (I think this is why there was so much enthusiasm for the concept of “South of the West”, because it was immediately suggestive of something “theoretical”, capable of generating new perspectives.)
On the other hand, I am optimistic. The Southern Screen has generated a regular conference; articles and guest issues have been assembled and published; exchanges of personnel have occurred; people have become known to each other, generating interconnections. My optimism comes from a sense that it is possible to move beyond the “singular”, “parallel” and “analogous” by both embracing the hidden history of connections, people-relations and exchanges that connect the members of the Southern Screen each to each other, and by seeing these connections as a prospective project (embodied by “South of the West”). So, rather than seeing Australian filmmakers’ engagement with Cuba (in the case of Harry Read) or David Bradbury’s Latin American cycle with an Australian multicultural historical frame, or an Australian outward-looking frame, or a cosmopolitan “world cinema frame”, we could attempt to couch it in terms of the Southern Screen. The start of a frame of cultural exchange, relations and conversation, rather than of emigration and expatriation. Surely that is how Bradbury’s cinema worked? This is where it becomes significant to think of the presence, albeit in a minor way, of the Australian and New Zealand films of Latin America and of Southern Africa. It is a way of tracing influences. Screen influences, screen presences and active exchanges.
Nonetheless, the Southern Screen as a concept is somewhat daunting. It misses some of the comforting presences and baggage provided by more familiar comparative reference points in scholarship. The Southern Screen does not include what has been at times a primary object and interest of my comparative work: Canada. The comparative language of government in economics, culture and governmental instruments for me has been, in Southern Screen terms, Australia-New Zealand-South Africa. It has been an “Anglo-American-Canadian-Australian-New Zealand” conversation of exchange of policy instruments.
What can be new about the Southern Screen? It is surely analogous to various previous “movements” in analogous fields. We can think of the Southern Literatures initiative in Germany that Philip Mead, among others, has discussed. We can think of previous Commonwealth Literature initiatives and their successor, Postcolonial Literatures. We can think of the original “Third Cinema” grouping identified closely with a certain kind of Latin American cinema. We can think of the “Global South” as a concept.
What is new here? That it’s a “geographically” defined entity and therefore bounded? It is the “South”, but not the South of the imagination (which can also be in the North!). But, in thinking of the South, the middle edges are inevitably messy. Is Mexico to be included? Central America? South East Asia? South Asia? Or are these to be bundled up into other configurations of the North and Central America? There’s the “Asia” that has given us InterAsian Cultural Studies as a project. But aren’t parts of that project – China, Japan and Korea most notably – part of the North constructing, controlling and managing the South?
The Southern Screen is to be distinguished from, though clearly connected with, the Global South. The Global South used to include China and India. These are now “North of the South”, as China is the world’s second-largest economy. So too, one of the sea changes over the past 20 years is the recognition that the “First World” is not so cleanly calibrated to this or that country: instead we have to see it in terms of the First World in the Third World and the Third World in the First World. This is something that is now much talked about in the aid and developmental studies literature.
Then there is the substitute term Deane Williams and Antonio Traverso suggested: South of the West (to adopt Gibson’s terminology) gives the project a rationale, and seems to enact the promise of singularity, in that it seems to suggest a way of reinventing, re-positioning and renewing the cinema.
From where I stand, I see myself reaching out through regional worlds to South-South configurations. It provides, perhaps, a framing – as the consideration of the parallel, the analogous and the singular gets more ballast through this re-imagining. The regional world becomes more important and more legible.
What Can Be Done?
* Re-imagining the Indigenous Screen – an Aboriginal-Maori-Amerindian-South African- conversation.
* Comparative “regional screens” – the Australasian, the Latin American, the Southern African, and the different ways that they connect internally (what can be learned from each other).
* The Media Cities of the South – a comparative study of the major media cities of the Southern Screens: Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Wellington, Auckland, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Sydney, Melbourne …
* An issue such as Inter-Asian Cultural Studies did with Willemen, that used something (perhaps Willemen again) as a jump-off point to theorise South of the West.
* “Environmental” worlds of the South … Again, a way of thinking about the South as needing to accommodate centuries of new plants and species as well as “technologies” of land use (broad acre farming, slash-and-burn agriculture, dams and irrigation altering river ecologies, animals and fish reconstructing ecologies), and how the countries of the South theorise, advocate and think about these (which is what they have in common compared to the North, where agriculture and technology are older formations, and where areas of “extraordinary natural beauty”, in the quaint English expression, are something else in the Americas and Australia: shaped areas of pre-colonisation. A comparative film studies project connecting the “Cinema of the Environment”.
* The films of mining and agriculture as the staples economies of the Latin, Australasian and Southern African worlds creating images, films and stories connected to these.
* The tourist films of the South – largely aimed toward the North – based on cruise liners; a very old tradition of filmmaking, certainly in Australia and New Zealand.
* Comparative political economies of the Southern Screen.
* How do the various global languages – Spanish, English and Portuguese, principally – work from the standpoint, and in relation to the shape, of the various Southern Screens? Is there a Southern Screen system?
 Editorial Note: Southern Screens is an ongoing project begun by Antonio Traverso in Perth (Australia), 12 November 2013, with a symposium where scholars from Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa addressed the general theme of “Transnational Zones and Transcultural Histories on the Screens of the South”. This event was followed up by the Cinema at the End of the World conference at Monash University, Melbourne, in November 2015. Both of these events led to special issues of Critical Arts journal and the books derived from them, Southern Screens: Cinema, Culture and the Global South (2018) and Screen Culture in the Global South: Cinema at the End of the World (2020). Tom O’Regan presented this paper to a subsequent Southern Screens colloquium at Monash University on 7 September 2018. (Deane Williams)
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© Estate of Tom O’Regan 2018