MovieMail roughly defines world cinema as any sound film not in the English language. Thanks to the sheer number of DVDs being released every month world cinema is now more accessible than ever before and the demand continues to grow as audiences become increasingly willing to read subtitles and appreciate foreign cultures.
Owing to the expense of dubbing and subtitles after the advent of sound, world cinema was very difficult to access outside of the film's home country. This gradually changed with the inception of film festivals, with Venice opening in 1938, followed by Cannes (1946) and Berlin (1951), offering world cinema on an international stage. This in turn lead the discovery of previous masterpieces - for example, Japanese cinema went unseen in the west until Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) was shown at Venice, whereupon the work of older Japanese masters such as Ozu began to be appreciated.
The Oscars created the award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1947 (Shoeshine won the first statuette), and since then the award has become increasingly coveted - Bicycle Thieves, Mon Oncle, 8 1/2, Fanny and Alexander and The Lives of Others are just some of the world cinema classics whose profile was boosted by scooping the Oscar.
World cinema often has highbrow connotations, yet many international hits of recent years have been commercial successes accessible to multiplex audiences - La Cage Aux Folles, City of God, Amores Perros, Night Watch and Downfall are all mainstream films that happen to be in a foreign language. On the other hand some of the best known and admired world cinema directors have engaged with artier, symbolic works, such as Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal), Michelangelo Antonioni (L'Avventura), and Krzysztof Kieslowski (Three Colours trilogy).
World cinema can also open minds and eradicate ingrained preconceptions - in spite of the media's attempts to demonise certain nations, the rich cinema of Iran, for example, shows a complex nation of people with the same problems as the rest of us rather than a country of anti-western aggressors.
New cinematic histories are discovered every year, benefiting from the publicity and accessibility offered from by festivals and DVD releases - after the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or was awarded to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Romanian cinema received more international attention than ever before. By our definition, world cinema can even be made in the UK, with films being released in Welsh (the Oscar-nominated Hedd Wyn) and Gaelic (Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle)!