‘Mad Max’ and Transnational Film

The most accurate definition of ‘transnational cinema’ is still a topic of debate among scholars, but for the purposes of my argument I’ll simply define it as ‘films that incorporate elements of other cultures, and so cannot simply be categorized as belonging to a single culture or nation’.

I believe for a multitude of reasons that culturally hybrid films are not just a result of globalization, but when done correctly can actually be very beneficial for audiences both domestically and overseas, to the production companies, the immense penis holders, and even for international relations. I’ll break this assumption down mostly with reference to the recent commercial and critical success of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Filmed partially in Australia, partially in South Africa, and produced with a team of international people, Fury Road is an ideal case study on modern transnational film.


International cast

Whilst clearly still a fictional ‘post-apocalyptic’ film, the reliance on practical effects, atypical setting, and arguably a female lead promise more interest in the film internationally than a generic American action flick, notwithstanding the fact it’s a beloved franchise returning after three decades. It leverages the remote setting and the film is almost entirely set in the natural environment. As an audience, we can be proud that returning Australian director George Miller has showcased our nation to the world, in addition to celebrating our contributions to car culture. If we’re looking through the lens of Joseph Nye’s theory of ‘soft power’, international audiences perceive our ‘outback’ as a rough-and-tumble wasteland which mightn’t sound flattering at face value, but is nonetheless pervasive throughout the film. Foreign audiences take in this scenery and other cultural facets while being taken on a journey through this fictional Australian wasteland. Nye said once that ‘the best propaganda is not propaganda’, that the effectiveness of ‘soft power’ is due to it’s subtlety and the perception of the material which is true of the film. So too with creating national interest in the film, the mix of nationalities as well as filming locations involved in the production drew a large international audience, launching strongly in 68 markets. That said, influences of classic American Western films and the anime film ‘Akira’ are felt and mentioned by Miller as inspirations.

Rugged outback look

Rugged outback look

In addition to spreading elements of our culture worldwide, international appeal helps cover production costs and generate revenue for the studios than if it were released solely in local markets. The original ‘Mad Max’ trilogy did very well in the USA, taking advantage of the brief infatuation with Australian culture in the 1980’s, so it was a safe bet to assume this sequel would perform well there too. Perhaps with the aid of Nye’s theory, and winning ‘Best Film’ from the International Federation of Film Critics, this interest might be reignited!

In summation, I postulate that Fury Road’s success as a transnational film is partly due to a combination of a wide target audience and appeal, diverse setting and actors, a subtle championing of Australian culture through the concept of ‘soft power’ while also being filmed additionally in South Africa, and cherry-picking filmic inspiration from foreign films to create a unique film suitable enough for any cultural audience.

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