The Influence Of Culture On Film Industry

Culture and tradition

Culture and tradition by definition, is a belief, a way of life, behavior that had been passed to succeeding generations. However, culture and tradition is always changing. I do agree that culture and tradition do shape how movies are produced. In every movie, it requires a setting. Even if it was a fantasy themed movie, the world the writer creates has a culture of its own. Often times, writers take inspiration from different cultures of the world.

For example, the recently released marvel movie ‘Black Panther’ takes a lot of inspiration from a mix of African cultures. So much that the actors had to act with a native African accent for the movie. Even the fictional nation ‘Wakanda’ for the movie is descripted as a fictional African nation. The movie was also influenced by the current socio-culture of America. Ever since Trump was elected as the president of the United States, he triggered multiple protests across the nation with his racist and sexists behaviors towards minorities during the election. Writers have to create a setting for the movie that is familiar to the audience for them to be able to relate. In this case, the movie aims to feature the beauty of Africa which the producer thought was always poorly portrayed in Hollywood films. In many ways, media in all forms reflects culture and at the same time influences the next change in culture all over the world.

North Korea

North Korea, an isolated sovereign nation ruled by the Workers Party of Korea led by a member of the ruling family. The country’s media and arts are heavily influenced by the government to maintain their communist ideology. From the 1940s-50s post war films like ‘The Road of Happiness(1956)’ and ‘Love The Future(1959)’ were made as a way to bring their people together after the devastation of war. From the 60s-70s films mostly centers around the country’s supreme leaders Kim Il Sung and later his son Kim Jong Il who took his place after his death. Quoting Kim Il Sung on his famous call for Juche art in 1966, he said “Our art should develop in a revolutionary way, reflecting the Socialist content with the national form". Juche is the official state ideology of North Korea by Kim Il Sung, said to be the “original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought". Majority of the media in North Korea ever since then has been more or less propagandic although in recent years there has been signs of thawing relations with the release of the animated film ‘Empress Chung(2005)’, a co-production of both North and South Korea.


The country’s culture is greatly influenced by traditions and religion, mainly Buddhism and also the royal family but unlike North Korea, the relationship between the country and its ruler is more positive and loving. Their people look to their leaders more as role models than out of fear. Thai people mostly have a strong belief regarding ancestral and natural spirits hence the many popular horror titles. Social culture has also changed throughout the years when equal opportunities for both genders made available. In recent years women has been portrayed as strong and independent unlike before with the mainstream ‘damsel in distress’ roles.


Political culture of Singapore has oppressed our artists and producers for the longest time, there were multiple cases of artists having their works confiscated and them being persecuted for expressing themselves through their work. The government impose these laws to prevent the risk of an artwork/design causing a political or national controversy that will disrupt dominant order and “peace” of the nation, even if it’s intention is for justice. There are many cases of artists being persecuted for expressing their political views through their works.One case is of performance artist Josef Ng who was persecuted when he performed in protest of the entrapment of twelve homosexual men in 1994. A film that also fell victim to this oppression is ‘To Singapore with Love’ by local film maker Tan Pin Pin where he travels around Thailand, Malaysia and the United Kingdom to interview political exiles on their opinions of this country. IMDA gave it an NAR(not allowed for all ratings) claiming that it undermined national security. Personally as an aspiring artist here in Singapore I am greatly saddened to know that I myself might also be at risk for expressing myself through my works in the future. Culture in itself contains many sub categories like religious culture, socio-culture, political & economical and etc.

Taking all these into consideration, it is clear that culture can influence how films are made in multiple ways. Here are some examples:

  • Costume design in film takes a lot of consideration. From the time the film is set in to the place and also the culture that surrounds it. A good example is the film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, set in a time before and after the second world war. In the film you get to see a mix of traditional Japanese costumes to men donned in tuxedo and top hats to show the early westernization of Japan during that time. The costume designer of the film Colleen Atwood took 5 months to create hundreds of costumes adhering to elements of the traditional kimono as closely as possible. She talked about the different color palettes used for different scenes to set a certain mood for the characters.
  • ActingActors/actresses has to match the cultural setting of the character they portray. Like Dwayne Johnson who plays Luke Hobbs in the ‘Fast & Furious’ series as a former agent of the diplomatic security service of America. He had to portray a character that is tough, witty and also conscientious and also project the right emotions to match his role. Matching the socio-culturally stereotyped image of most action movie character. Accents are also crucial in portraying the cultural background of the character.
  • Music and sound in films aids in bringing out the mood of different scenes. In the Tamil film ‘3(2012)’, the music and sounds are fusions of traditional Indian instrumentals with modern genres like Rap and R&B. In conclusion, culture influences the majority of how films are made. It is a thing that has to be considered for almost every aspect and every element of a film. From the time, place to costumes and people. Without culture it would be nearly impossible to produce a successful film.
03 December 2019
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