Table of Contents
The film industry of the modern world appears to be a sphere that spends and earns revenues reaching billions of dollars every year by issuing films for different audiences. One of the most well-known places related to the film industry is Hollywood, which establishes specific norms and standards related to different genres of cinematography. However, disregarding the widespread popularity of Hollywood, the world comprises different markets that grow and shrink according to their individual laws. One of the issues, which significantly affects the profitability and popularity of the film industry along with more sensitive aspects such as ideology, is the culture of a country. Thus, in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the government can pressure the filmmakers and importers by different regulations based on the aspects of the cultural development of the citizens, religion, and others. In other countries, such as South Korea, the film industry has become an extremely profitable cultural domain that generates huge revenues and establishes specific film genres that become popular in the world.
The analysis of the film industry development in Saudi Arabia and South Korea demonstrates that cultural codes significantly impact each aspect of this popular media form. In Saudi Arabia, the influence of Islam has been a restraining factor that did not allow the industry to grow due to the fear of demonstrating certain problematic issues related to religion and morale to the society. Instead, the film industry in South Korea has been prospering over the last decades, which reflects the openness of the nation’s culture. Therefore, the idea to adopt the concepts developed in Hollywood to local realities has led South-Korean cinematography to prosperity, whereas the opposition to Hollywood cultural influence has restrained the growth of cinematography in Saudi Arabia.
Film Industry of South Korea
In the recent decades, the film industry of South Korea has evolved as an autonomous superpower, although the reason for this growth has featured the former demise of the cinema industry and its failure to oppose the power of Hollywood. The decline of the Korean cinema was associated with the lack of ability and creativity of domestic filmmakers to oppose the imported films from the US and other Western counties (Korean Culture and Information Service, 2012). The basic reasons for this situation include the absence of such genres as action films and blockbusters, lack of skills and knowledge of the modern approaches to lightning, effects, sound, and other areas (Korean Culture and Information Service, 2012). As a result, Korean filmgoers tend to choose innovative effects and tensed plots discussing crimes and supernatural phenomena supplied with stunning Hollywood effects. Therefore, the local government implemented an initiative aimed at combating Western import by means of encouraging creative local directors and producers, who succeeded in capturing the attention of the audience.
The modern success of the Korean cinematography is the outcome of the initiative of creative directors and producers to imitate products issued by Hollywood with their modification for suiting the local realities. As a result, Korean-style blockbusters or K-movies started attracting more and more viewers not only in Korea, but also throughout the world. The basic idea of the adaptation of Hollywood films lay within the imitation of some concepts and forms together with their application to a specific historic event. As a result, local directors and producers managed to achieve a polished form of an average K-movie by adding the contemporary lighting, direction, special effects, sound, and other effects (Korean Culture and Information Service, 2012). At the same time, the majority of the modern Korean films show or refer to significant events or personalities of the past, which totally transforms their concept (Korean Culture and Information Service, 2012). As a result, unique Korean vision has enhanced the forms of cinematography typically released by Hollywood.
Film Industry of Saudi Arabia
In contrast to South Korea, the film industry of Saudi Arabia is underdeveloped due to the wide variety of factors that restrain its growth including the pressure of religion and state authorities. First, unlike many countries, Saudi Arabia has lacked any film industry, as this country is under tight religious pressure along with the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, and other states in the Middle East (Bernardi & Green¸ 2017). More than that, the film industry of the nearby countries, such as Iraq, has suffered huge losses due to American sanctions (Bernardi & Green¸ 2017). As a result, the local civilians has lacked skills in cinematography, which affected the peculiarities of the local filmmaking development. An additional critical feature, which served as a negative factor for Arabian cinema, was a period when it was officially declared illegal. The reason for such ban was the fear of the state authorities that this form of the media could harm national identity and culture of Saudi population (Al-Mansour, 2017). Partially, this harm has been associated with a wrong portrayal of Saudis and other Islamic people in the films mainly as terrorists (Al-Mansour, 2017). Consequently, the film industry in Saudi Arabia has survived due to the existence of people, who have devoted their lives to the survival of this form of art and self-expression in an extremely adverse environment.
Despite the underdeveloped level of film industry in Saudi Arabia, it has several prominent directors and producers, who present an authentic image of the country and make films with deep philosophical plots. For instance, the film Wadjda directed by Haifaa al-Mansour emphasizes the aspects of social morale and the problem of having too strict social regulations for women (Gugler, 2015). It is interesting to discover that Wadjda is the first film shot in Saudi Arabia by a woman-director, which consequently gained a characteristic of a threat to traditional social norms by some local religious scholars (Gugler, 2015). Other films shot by Haifaa al-Mansour involve a social critique of various aspects of life in the country reflecting women’s vision of the problems associated with the traditional Islam. For this reason, scholars claim that the modern cinema in Saudi Arabia has a feature of combining art and politics, which transforms it into a complex form of both artistic and social expression (Gugler, 2015). Therefore, disregarding the fact that film industry is a new form of media in Saudi Arabia, its pioneering directors actively use films as a tool that allows criticizing specific traditional aspects of life. For this reason, the authorities of the country look at the art of filmmaking with suspicion analyzing the risks associated with the release of controversial motion pictures and attempting to mitigate them.
The Contrast between Film Industries of South Korea and Saudi Arabia
The accent on local historical realities and captivating plot combined with western-style special effects has made K-movies significantly popular in the world. This claim reflects the fact that in 2016 the exports of the Korean film industry have increased up to 82% (Noh, 2017). Nowadays, the filmmakers of Korea invest in the contemporary digital technology including 3D and virtual effects with the aim of further strengthening their positions on the world’s market (Noh, 2017). Such Korean films as Shiri or Joint Security Area proved to be the most successful products of Korean film industry as they gained positive feedback from both viewers and independent critics in the world. Shiri, framed as an action thriller in a Hollywood style, was a manifestation of the fact that Korean directors mastered the art of imitating many of Hollywood studios’ techniques (Kuyng-tae, 2015). Consequently, the mastery of adopting local ideas to foreign technical and conceptual frameworks demonstrated by Korean directors and producers led to the formation of a new regional media product that obtained a great interest both on the domestic and international markets.
In contrast to South Korea, where the film industry is the use of the art of cinematography for getting profits, the film industry of Saudi Arabia combines artistic and ideological features. One of the reasons for such combination is the possibility to use such format as an ideological message that criticizes the society. Another difference of the cinema in South Korea and Saudi Arabia lies on the ground of the fact that the latter is an Islamic state, which is why many of its social spheres fall under the regulation of religious authorities. Due to the fact that Saudis have a stricter form of Islam, which means the rule of Sharia Law, the local authorities can freely limit the use of the forms of art and social and individual expression that contradict its guidelines. For this reason, a Saudi director Haifaa al-Mansour faces significant pressure from the local society, as the citizens fail to accept the fact that this woman repetitively breaks the guidelines of Sharia Law by creating films that criticize some of the religious dogmas (Gugler, 2015). Consequently, film industry has developed in South Korea and Saudi Arabia to the different extent due to the impact of such factors as religion, social prejudice, and support of the directors by the government. Moreover, due to the persistent support of the state authorities, the filmmaking in South Korea has become a business whereas the opposition to directors in Saudi Arabia has shaped it as an ideological tool.
The analysis of the film industries of South Korea and Saudi Arabia has led to a conclusion that each country has developed this form of the media to a completely different level. In South Korea, filmmaking has become an art and a business that attracts foreign investors and consumers worldwide. Such result achieved by the innovative approach comprises imitating the films created by Hollywood and substituting their plot and concepts with the ones that align with the historical realities of the country. Instead, filmmaking in Saudi Arabia appears to be a phenomenon that has been facing significant restrictions. The main reason for such restrictions is the fear of the authorities of Saudi Arabia that this form of art endangers the traditional way of life maintained by Sharia Law. For this reason, filmmaking in Saudi Arabia has evolved as a technically underdeveloped form of artistic opposition and critique of the dogmatic norms of Saudi society.