The main purpose of films is to entertain but films are also looked upon as messengers that carry ideas and beliefs to their audience. Films are an important tool of mass media and are influential in shaping people’s perceptions at a collective level by giving them a shared experience. At the same time, an outsider would form notions regarding a community based on a film.
This is the reason why projection of nationalism in films is always under scrutiny by social critics. The irony is that nationalism evades definition as it keeps evolving. Nationalism is inclusive of local culture traditions, religion and history. For example, a person immediately links Buddhism to China and bullfights to Spain though these things exist elsewhere too. But often in a narrow mind, nationalism is symbolized by excluding all that stands for western culture. It is basically these positive and negative portrayals of nationalism in movies that are of concern.
Nationalism is seen to be a surefire selling formula for movies in developed as well as developing nations. In the past, movies like Schindler’s List and the Battle of Algiers depicting a struggle between countries or colonialism have been popular. There have been a lot of war movies, often with one sided perspectives and often overtly nationalistic. Das Boots is one of the rare movies that depict alternative perspectives. Later came in a stage where no other nation is denounced but a character is celebrated as a hero for fighting for a nation. Braveheart and The Patriot are examples of this type of nationalistic movies. There are also movies that do not portray any particular character or national event but highlight culture specific to the nation. Many such world movies have come from nations with strong cultural heritage such as Iran, China and India. These movies have played a role in creating deeper understanding of different cultures across the world and are seen in a positive light.
In the recent times, the world has seen many crises like situations in the form of Afghan war, depression and Arab Spring which are particular to the country. This has inspired films such as 1/2 Revolution.
As a result of increased communication between citizens of the world, increased mobility, consumerist attitude and partly due to global issues, nationalism has moved out of movies and now it is the era of post-nationalism. Global trends and issues have gained importance over regional contexts. People see themselves as a part of a greater whole rather than just as a part of one nation. This feeling of global identity has dissolved national, cultural and religious boundaries. Now viewers are not ready to accept justification of war and crime in the name of nationalism. Blood Diamond and Avatar are examples of such movies which have found popularity and acceptance beyond all boundaries. It remains to be seen whether these themes prevail when selfish interests of nations matter.