The Lumière brothers, who gave birth to the film industry with a one-minute video
On December 28, 1895, the Lumière brothers in France gave birth to the big screen by screening about 10 minutes of video taken with their revolutionary camera and projector, the Cinématographe at a café in Paris for a fee, and it was officially recognized as the date of birth of film. Films screened that day included Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, which captured people leaving the factory on camera, and Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, which captured the moment the train arrives. This was an unfamiliar culture to the extent that some of the audience watching the video misunderstood the train entering the station as reality and avoided it themselves.
Like other inventions, movies were the products of modernization that was born as a result of the scientific, technological, industrial, and social revolutions. And its birth lies in the discovery of the afterimage effect, the invention of photography and illusion, and the advent of urbanization and industrialization accumulated over the 18th and 19th centuries. In this regard, it is no coincidence that the main backgrounds of the Lumière brothers’ first films were a factory or a train station.
Attempts to make moving images in such a context took place frequently, and it was the Lumière brothers who took the lead. Their screenings, which gathered people and projected images onto large screens, were a huge public success, and soon they were released around the world. Since then, film has become the most influential video medium, cultural industry, and entertainment genre in the 21st century.
Hollywood dominating the global cinema market with systems and technologies
Shortly after its birth, cinema began to extend its running time and promote technology development, while using various stories to expand its base. In the 1910s, a feature film was made for the first time. And in the United States, Hollywood was created based on California's mild weather and abundant workforce, and major film companies built studio systems, genre systems, and star systems to enable mass production.
In the process, historical films such as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916) generated wide sensation and increased their impact. Since then, Hollywood pioneered various genres and led the fashion in the world film industry by producing numerous stars and celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn. In particular, Hollywood has been leading the development of video technologies with innovations in films in terms of sound, color, 3D, wide screens, and special effects.
For example, The Jazz Singer (1927) was produced as the first film with sound and succeeded in a box office, opening a full-fledged era of "talkie" films; and for a while, musical films continued to dominate the market. With the advent of the television era, and with a film named The Robe (1953), wide-screen cinemascope film replaced the existing screens. In the 1970s, blockbuster movies became a major genre, starting with Jaws (1975), and in the 1980s, a new chapter of science fiction unfolded through the series Terminator and Back to the Future.
Artistic orientation from around the world to compete with Hollywood
As such, the artistic status of films gradually increased and they began to present their own expression techniques and aesthetic systems. Afterwards, the cultural trends of the 20th century that shaped the history of world cinema were reflected in the expression characteristics of the film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), which absorbed the trends of modernism and realism; the impression characteristics in film which culminated in Napoleon (1927); and surrealism expressed in the film An Andalusian Dog (1929); poetic realism and neo-realistic films, represented by the films Port of Shadows (1938) and Bicycle Thieves (1948).
Accordingly, in 1911, the Italian poet and film theorist Ricciotto Canudo named film "the seventh art," following architecture, painting, sculpture, music, theater, literature, poetry and dance. In addition, these movements were mainly made in major Western European countries, such as Germany, France, and Italy, to protect their own film industries against the Hollywood film industry and to establish a tradition of digital media.
After the 1960s, the artistic trend of films became more noticeable against the background of the post-war generation’s evolution toward existentialism, new realities, views of history, and counter culture. With the development of French new wave films including Do It Your Way (1960), English new wave films including Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), new American cinema after Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and new German film represented by Fear Eats the Soul (1974), cinema attempted to differentiate itself from television and secured an artistic edge.
In addition, various films have been produced in various regions and cultures around the world, and recognized for their cinematic artistry. The prominent international film festivals held every year in Venice, Cannes, and Berlin have served as the main channel for such recognition.
Films produced with educational, enlightening, and political intentions
Also, from the beginning, films have played an educational and enlightening role regarding social issues around the world, and had a political identity. Soviet films in the 1920s achieved both political purpose and artistic orientation through Strike (1924), and The Battleship Potemkin (1925); and in Stalin’s time, the reality and history of socialism were explored starting with Chapayev (1934). There are documentary films such as Victory of the Faith (1935), which showed the Nazi National Convention, and Olympia (1938), which recorded the Olympics event held in Berlin. Although these films were produced to publicize the Nazis, their aesthetic value was recognized and they won eternal fame in world film history.
There are also cases in which the political factors inherent in film are expressed indirectly through commercial films. Taking Hollywood as an example, many films that focused on the strong macho image of Sylvester Stallone, the star of the series Rocky, and Rambo, respectively, also expressed Americanism in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Significance of the 100-year History of Korean Films: Looking Back at the Past and the Future of the Film Industry
Film production by Koreans began with the serial dramas Fight for Justice, and the documentary film The Panoramic View of the Whole City of Kyeongsung, which were released by Dansung-sa on October 27, 1919. Since then, Korean filmmakers have produced films continuously but their quality was far below the world level against the background of the times, such as colonial and inter-Korean division, the Korean War, and military dictatorship. However, since the 1990s with new policies, the industrial and cultural environment have been created in the midst of democratization and globalization, changes have started to happen in the nation's film industry.
With such rapid growth, after the 2000s, well-made films characterized by quality and commerciality on the basis of authorism and genre system dominated the markets, and the era of ten million audiences began with the film Silmido (2003) directed by Kang Woo-seok. Furthermore, in recent years, the remarkable diversification of subject matters and mixing of genres have enhanced the artistic and cultural status of Korean movies, such as setting an award record at the world’s leading film festivals. Then, the film Parasite (2019) directed by Bong Joon-ho won the Golden Palm Award, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and swept through to win in four categories including the Best Film Award at the Academy Awards, thus rewriting the history of the 100-year old Korean film history.
And as of 2021, as the digital revolution and the spread of COVID-19 are intertwined, change is accelerating in the global film industry. Looking back on the past, the current situation could be a crisis for the film industry, but it is also likely to serve as an opportunity. In particular, since the film industry is a genre that can transcend physical limitations and national boundaries, we may have high expectations regarding the future of Korean cinema as well as the future of film history for further development.