The central theme of the proposed research network is an investigation of the relationship between non-state actors in the cultural industries of the BRICS countries and national ‘soft power’ strategies, with a particular focus on the nature and function of the film industry. The network will look comparatively at the engagement by filmmakers, producers, distributors and exhibitors with the soft power/nation-branding agendas of their country in order to ascertain whether this engagement is explicit or implicit, what forms it takes, and with what results. It seeks to investigate the competing pressures across the BRICS that shape the ways its members understand film as a vehicle of soft power, exploring the role soft power plays along the industry’s entire value change, from production to consumption, as well as the way it influences the types of films audiences around the world get to see. Its ambition is to take World Cinema research in a new direction by proposing a methodology to evaluate cinema’s weight as a soft-power asset, taking as a starting point an analysis of both on- and off-screen stories. 

The network programme will frame research questions in a comparative context. Working with a range of academics and non-academic partners, the network will focus on the following key interlinked areas: 

a) Domestic versus foreign film production and consumption
b) Film and the ‘national strategic narrative’

Questions to be addressed will include:

  • When considering film as a soft-power asset, must we distinguish between production aimed at domestic and overseas audiences? 
  • How might filmic narratives intended for an overseas audience differ from those for domestic circulation, and has the new ‘soft-power agenda’ made an impact on the kinds of narratives/representations that are being produced? 
  • If BRICS countries are victims of sustained negative stereotyping at the hands of foreign filmmakers, what is this impact of this (perceived or otherwise) on national narratives?
  • What place does such a narrative currently hold in BRICS countries? 
  • How stable is the narrative and what are the implications of narrative instability for film industries and soft power generation? 
  • How are films perceived to affect this narrative and how might reputational damage, for example, be quantified? 
  • What is the relationship between international co-productions and national narratives, in the context of soft-power generation?