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Putting a future into film : cultural policy studies, the Arts and Culture Task Group and Film Reference Group (1980-1997)

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Cultural policy studies, or studies in the relations of government and culture (Mercer, 1994) were initiated in Australia in the 1980s, where cultural studies have been reinterpreted into a dialogue of policy-making and cooperation between the government and academia (Cunningham, 1994; Hunter, 1993/1994; Molloy, 1994; Santamaria, 1994). This Australian-pioneered "cultural policy moment" (Cunningham 1994; Hawkins, 1994) thus provides an epistemological starting point for an analysis of cultural policy developments in South Africa, especially after 1994. Early South African cultural policy studies tend to draw from the Australian experience (Tomaselli and Shepperson, 1996). It must be noted that in terms of South African film policy analysis, there have been two cultural policy moments, one that addresses film post World War II to 1991, a period that is generally characterised as a "cinema of apartheid" (Tomaselli, 1989). This period is indebted to the seminal work of Keyan Tomaselli and Martin Botha. The second cultural policy moment begins in 1991 and continues to the present. It is this "moment" that informs the research and critical focus of the ways in which cultural studies in South Africa have modified the foundation of its critical position towards the state in response to developments since 1990. The aim of this thesis is to critically examine the ways in which South African cultural studies have responded to the Australian "cultural policy moment" in terms of academic-state relations, and the impact of discussions that were engaged in by various film organisations on film policy after 1990, and which resulted in the written proposals on film submitted to the Arts and Culture Task Group in 1994 and 1995. The Arts and Culture Task Group was the case study within which the notion of cultural policy was studied, along with the White Paper on Film. This thesis draws on and applies a variety of methods: firstly, there is the participatory research: I was employed by ACTAG to undertake research into film policy. My own experience of the process in which I worked very closely with the film sub-committee provides an "insider" account of assumptions, conflicts, practices and how outcomes were reached. I was also designated, along with Professor Tomaselli and Dr Botha, as one of the co-authors of the White Paper, and was thus part of the process of revising the ACTAG recommendations into draft legislation. Secondly, there is the method of comparative study: this thesis initially draws on the Australian cultural studies and film policy on the one hand, and South African cultural studies and film policy on the other. It then evolves into a critique of the "cultural policy moment" (Cunningham, 1994; Hawkins, 1994) as it related to the development of South African film policy between 1991 and 1997. Lastly, there was the empirical investigation: ACTAG, which was established to counsel Dr Ben Ngubane on the formulation of policy for the newly established government (see Chapter Four of this thesis, and see Karam, 1996), served as a case study. The final ACTAG document resulted in a reformulated arts and culture dispensation consistent with the new Constitution. This process in turn led to the origination and publication of the Government of National Unity's White Paper on Film in May 1996. Incorporated into this analysis was an "information trawl" (Given, 1994; Mercer, 1994 and Santamaria, 1994) of prior and extant policy frameworks and assumptions of various film, cultural and media organizations formulated during the period under review. The link between film and culture, and hence film and cultural policy, emerges from the following two commonplace associations: firstly, that film as a form of visual creation is therefore a form of art; and secondly, that the concepts of art and culture are inextricably connected. What drives the present debate is the Australian appropriations of Raymond Williams's description of culture as "a whole way of life". This, while validly dissolving the early-twentieth century identification of culture with "high" or "canonical" forms of traditional literature, sculpture, or painting, none the less leaves theorists with a "distinct fuzziness" (Johnson, 1979) as to what the term "culture" actually denotes. Australian policy studies' approaches tend to focus on culture as personifying a structure of "livability" under terms of employment, environmental concerns, and urban planning (Cunningham, 1994; Hawkins, 1994). In general, however, the focus has only attained any concrete outcomes when research has resuscitated precisely the link between culture and the arts, thereby drawing on the old polemics of "high" versus "low" and "popular" culture. The individual chapters cover the following topics: the Introductory Chapter provides a general historical overview of the South African film subsidization system, a crucial element of the analytical framework, from its inception in 1956 to it's dissolvement in the 1980s; Chapter Two, "Cultural Policy" deals with the origination and development of the concept of "cultural policy"; Chapter Three focuses on the Australian "cultural policy moment" and it's application to film; Chapters Four and Five deal with the ACTAG Film Sub-committee and the White Paper on Film respectively; and the last chapter, Chapter Six critiques these processes and their resulting documents, as case studies, from a cultural policy standpoint.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1997.


South Africa--Cultural policy., Australia--Cultural policy., Motion picture industry--Government policy--South Africa., Arts and culture task group (South Africa), Theses--Culture, communication and media studies.