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On differences that make the difference : a multi-methodological research project on monolingual film remakes in small film industries : the case of Flanders and the Netherlands

(2020)
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(UGent) and (UGent)
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Abstract
Between 2000 and 2017, various Flemish remakes were made of Dutch films and vice versa. This is quite a peculiar phenomenon, mainly because both regions share a mutual language as well as a partially common history. With this dissertation, I aim to capture the textual, cultural, and industrial dimensions of the Flemish-Dutch film remake practice. Special attention is paid to the cultural proximity between the two regions and how the existence of different cultural identities (despite a shared cultural and historical background) may play a role in this phenomenon. As such, this dissertation situates itself within the research field that specifically studies films that are based on already existing films, also known as film remakes. By employing a multi-methodological approach, whilst also moving away from an almost undivided focus on Hollywood within the field, I aim to provide an essential contribution to the existing research. The dissertation’s theoretical framework demonstrates that scholars in the field of remake studies were able to take a critical look at this particular type of recycling by building on insights from other, closely related but older disciplines. Indeed, by relying on some of the key insights from intertextuality, adaptation, and translation studies, researchers no longer understand remakes as being secondary, inherently unoriginal, or purely commercial products. Instead of adopting a normative approach, this dissertation deliberately looks at what film remakes can teach us about the filmic medium itself, as well as about the surrounding cultural and industrial context. Given that films can be understood as important disseminators of cultural representations, they provide people with important fundaments on which national identities can be built. Generally, representations of national identities in films do not happen in an explicit (e.g., propagandistic) way – rather on the contrary, they often occur latently. As film remakes keep the balance between similarity and difference, they offer us a unique insight into the ways in which national identities are (re-)constructed by their filmmakers. Eventually, I consider the film remake as a discursive construct and practice, which implies that if we want to grasp remakes, we must investigate how remakes are constructed and understood. To find out exactly how these Flemish-Dutch film remakes differ from their source films, a systematic comparative textual analysis was made. Next, after conducting expert interviews with various agents who are part of the production process of these Flemish-Dutch remakes, I discovered why they opt for such projects, as well as how they approach these more concretely. Finally, four focus groups were organized in both Flanders and the Netherlands to find out how Flemish and Dutch spectators experience and interpret (the existence of) such remakes. Combing the results of the reception study with those of the production research show that there is no unanimity in how remakes are understood by researchers in the field, the Flemish-Dutch spectators, and the people who are part of the production process of Flemish-Dutch remakes. Generally, both the spectators and the filmmakers themselves have a negative attitude toward film remakes, mainly because of the remakes’ so-called “unoriginal character” and “purely commercial” basis. The textual analysis shows that Flemish-Dutch remakes are characterized by a shared (quasi-universal) framework (e.g., in terms of story, theme, characters, or space) on the one hand, and by a local interpretation of that framework (e.g., in terms of humor, language, cultural references, locations, or even the representation of nudity) on the other. Rather than claiming that this local interpretation is the direct result of clearly delineated or fixed cultural differences, I assert that it is the result of a generally conscious localization process in which filmmakers pursue a sense of closeness and recognition. Even though such endeavor is usually commercially driven (aiming to reach wider audiences), this process has possible ideological implications: since the analysis shows that the (conscious) (re-)creation of national identities is usually done by building on the same cultural stereotypes, this may lead to a very homogeneous conception of those national identities, possibly reinforcing an essentialist interpretation of (national) identities. Indeed, the results of this dissertation indicate that both the interviewed filmmakers and analyzed spectators have an essentialist view of national identities. Moreover, the spectators interpret the differences they see between the different local film versions almost entirely in terms of strongly delineated and fixed national identities, based on those same cultural stereotypes. In fact, when comparing the local film versions, the spectators mainly indicate differences (instead of similarities) and categorize the local film versions as "typically Flemish" or "typically Dutch". Furthermore, spectators usually prefer their local film versions, except when they know that their local film version is not "the original". Finally, it appears that the interpersonal connections between Flemish and Dutch producers and distributors (and, to a lesser extent, directors) are essential for the Flemish-Dutch remake phenomenon. The remake practice in the Low Countries could thus arise from a combination of industrial proximity, a similar market and language, as well as the aforementioned interpersonal connections.
Keywords
film remake, Low Countries, transnational cinema, national identity, multi-methodological

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MLA
Cuelenaere, Eduard. On Differences That Make the Difference : A Multi-Methodological Research Project on Monolingual Film Remakes in Small Film Industries : The Case of Flanders and the Netherlands. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen, 2020.
APA
Cuelenaere, E. (2020). On differences that make the difference : a multi-methodological research project on monolingual film remakes in small film industries : the case of Flanders and the Netherlands. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen, Ghent.
Chicago author-date
Cuelenaere, Eduard. 2020. “On Differences That Make the Difference : A Multi-Methodological Research Project on Monolingual Film Remakes in Small Film Industries : The Case of Flanders and the Netherlands.” Ghent: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Cuelenaere, Eduard. 2020. “On Differences That Make the Difference : A Multi-Methodological Research Project on Monolingual Film Remakes in Small Film Industries : The Case of Flanders and the Netherlands.” Ghent: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen.
Vancouver
1.
Cuelenaere E. On differences that make the difference : a multi-methodological research project on monolingual film remakes in small film industries : the case of Flanders and the Netherlands. [Ghent]: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen; 2020.
IEEE
[1]
E. Cuelenaere, “On differences that make the difference : a multi-methodological research project on monolingual film remakes in small film industries : the case of Flanders and the Netherlands,” Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen, Ghent, 2020.
@phdthesis{8675337,
  abstract     = {Between 2000 and 2017, various Flemish remakes were made of Dutch films and vice versa. This is quite a peculiar phenomenon, mainly because both regions share a mutual language as well as a partially common history. With this dissertation, I aim to capture the textual, cultural, and industrial dimensions of the Flemish-Dutch film remake practice. Special attention is paid to the cultural proximity between the two regions and how the existence of different cultural identities (despite a shared cultural and historical background) may play a role in this phenomenon. As such, this dissertation situates itself within the research field that specifically studies films that are based on already existing films, also known as film remakes. By employing a multi-methodological approach, whilst also moving away from an almost undivided focus on Hollywood within the field, I aim to provide an essential contribution to the existing research. The dissertation’s theoretical framework demonstrates that scholars in the field of remake studies were able to take a critical look at this particular type of recycling by building on insights from other, closely related but older disciplines. Indeed, by relying on some of the key insights from intertextuality, adaptation, and translation studies, researchers no longer understand remakes as being secondary, inherently unoriginal, or purely commercial products. Instead of adopting a normative approach, this dissertation deliberately looks at what film remakes can teach us about the filmic medium itself, as well as about the surrounding cultural and industrial context. Given that films can be understood as important disseminators of cultural representations, they provide people with important fundaments on which national identities can be built. Generally, representations of national identities in films do not happen in an explicit (e.g., propagandistic) way – rather on the contrary, they often occur latently. As film remakes keep the balance between similarity and difference, they offer us a unique insight into the ways in which national identities are (re-)constructed by their filmmakers. Eventually, I consider the film remake as a discursive construct and practice, which implies that if we want to grasp remakes, we must investigate how remakes are constructed and understood. To find out exactly how these Flemish-Dutch film remakes differ from their source films, a systematic comparative textual analysis was made. Next, after conducting expert interviews with various agents who are part of the production process of these Flemish-Dutch remakes, I discovered why they opt for such projects, as well as how they approach these more concretely. Finally, four focus groups were organized in both Flanders and the Netherlands to find out how Flemish and Dutch spectators experience and interpret (the existence of) such remakes. Combing the results of the reception study with those of the production research show that there is no unanimity in how remakes are understood by researchers in the field, the Flemish-Dutch spectators, and the people who are part of the production process of Flemish-Dutch remakes. Generally, both the spectators and the filmmakers themselves have a negative attitude toward film remakes, mainly because of the remakes’ so-called “unoriginal character” and “purely commercial” basis. The textual analysis shows that Flemish-Dutch remakes are characterized by a shared (quasi-universal) framework (e.g., in terms of story, theme, characters, or space) on the one hand, and by a local interpretation of that framework (e.g., in terms of humor, language, cultural references, locations, or even the representation of nudity) on the other. Rather than claiming that this local interpretation is the direct result of clearly delineated or fixed cultural differences, I assert that it is the result of a generally conscious localization process in which filmmakers pursue a sense of closeness and recognition. Even though such endeavor is usually commercially driven (aiming to reach wider audiences), this process has possible ideological implications: since the analysis shows that the (conscious) (re-)creation of national identities is usually done by building on the same cultural stereotypes, this may lead to a very homogeneous conception of those national identities, possibly reinforcing an essentialist interpretation of (national) identities. Indeed, the results of this dissertation indicate that both the interviewed filmmakers and analyzed spectators have an essentialist view of national identities. Moreover, the spectators interpret the differences they see between the different local film versions almost entirely in terms of strongly delineated and fixed national identities, based on those same cultural stereotypes. In fact, when comparing the local film versions, the spectators mainly indicate differences (instead of similarities) and categorize the local film versions as "typically Flemish" or "typically Dutch". Furthermore, spectators usually prefer their local film versions, except when they know that their local film version is not "the original". Finally, it appears that the interpersonal connections between Flemish and Dutch producers and distributors (and, to a lesser extent, directors) are essential for the Flemish-Dutch remake phenomenon. The remake practice in the Low Countries could thus arise from a combination of industrial proximity, a similar market and language, as well as the aforementioned interpersonal connections.},
  author       = {Cuelenaere, Eduard},
  keywords     = {film remake,Low Countries,transnational cinema,national identity,multi-methodological},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {478},
  publisher    = {Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {On differences that make the difference : a multi-methodological research project on monolingual film remakes in small film industries : the case of Flanders and the Netherlands},
  year         = {2020},
}