Essay on Films as a cultural medium


(1) Introduction

(2) A picture speeds with a universal language

(3) The movie is a better channel of expression and communication

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(4) The film has the advantage of cutting across linguistic and

other barriers

(5) The film of today is used for a number of different purposes


(6) It should be used as factual and objective in presentation as possible

(7) Conclusion


It is very interesting to note that the film is making rapid progress in all countries. It has certain advantages over both the press and the radio. While the press and the radio require the knowledge of a particular language as an aid for understanding and appreciation, the film can be followed, if not fully under­stood, even without such knowledge. It is primarily a visual medium and its real effectiveness depends more upon the image-sequence than on anything else. Sound symbols also add something to the facility of effect.

The picture speaks with a universal language which is understood by the whole of humanity. Thus in one stride, photography and pictures jump over the 2,000 and odd languages spoken by human beings today and convey ideas very vividly direct through the eye. Among our senses, the eye is definitely far more important and direct medium of knowledge than the ear which is the channel for sound and language. The ancient Sanskrit saying lays down it is ‘the eye that testifies the truth.’


Even before the advent of talkies, the movie had proved that it was a better channel of expression and communication than any other that was in existence. Colour added still more power and effectiveness to it. The advances in Technicolor towards a more faithful portrayal of natural colours, have made the film almost invincible in the field. While the press and the radio are still read and listened to by a far bigger number of people—as the U.N.E.S.C.O. figures show—such numbers are restricted to those who understand a particular language in which the word is printed or spoken.

The film has the advantage of cutting across linguistic and other barriers such as literacy and age. It has, of course, no limitation today, namely, that while the printed word can go to each household as a newspaper or the word on the radio can be listened to by any one who has a radio set, people have to flock to the theatres in order to see the picture. However, taking things as they are, there has been a very rapid increase in number of theatres and we have today over 350,000 cinema houses in the world and about seven million people visit them daily.

The film today is used for a number of different purposes. It is also used as a cultural medium but one does not yet feel that it is used to full capacity. It may often happen, therefore, that in the guise of interpreting or showing the culture of other nations, some may well slip into using the film for either spreading hatred or creating conflicts. Subject to these dangers, the film can certainly be used with effect and advantages for exchange of cultural ideas and cultural co-operation. Ultimately all this depends upon the right motive and the ideas with which one uses the film and not on the film itself as a medium.

The best way to use the film as a cultural medium is to try to be as factual and objectives in presentation as possible. Where there is an attempt at interpretation it should be wholly sympathetic. The geography, the flora and fauna, the customs and manners, the great epics and dramas, the sculptural and .artistic heritage of a people can all be very well conveyed through the films. Let me illustrate. The .Indian documentaries such as the ‘Cave Temples’ or the Rajasthan series convey to the audience the cultural heritage of a particular age and areas very vividly.

Since the film is a powerful and very cheap medium it is necessary for every country to see what it sends out to foreign countries as ‘Cultural ambassadors.’ The pictures ought to be faithful and objective and never exaggerated. They should rely more on the force of truth than on mere colorfulness.

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