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Sports have long fascinated filmmakers from Hollywood and beyond, from Bend It Like Beckham to Chariots of Fire to Rocky. Though sports films are diverse in their approach, style, and storytelling modes, National Pastimes discloses the common emotional and visual cues that belie each sports film’s underlying nationalistic impulses. Katharina Bonzel unravels the delicate matrix of national identity, sports, and emotion through the lens of popular sports films in comparative national contexts, demonstrating in the process how popular culture provides a powerful vehicle for the development and maintenance of identities of place across a range of national cinemas.
As films reflect the ways in which myths of nation and national belonging change over time, they are implicated in important historical moments, from Cold War America to the class dynamics of 1980s Thatcherite Britain to the fragmented sense of nation in post-unification Germany. Bonzel shows how sports films provide a means for renegotiating the boundaries of national identity in an accessible, engaging form. National Pastimes opens up new ways of understanding how films appeal to the emotions, using myth-like constructions of the past to cultivate spectators’ engagement with historical events.
About the Author
Katharina Bonzel is a lecturer in screen studies at the Australian National University. She is the coeditor of Representations of Sports Coaches in Film: Looking to Win.
"Sports fans, movie fans and readers who are interested in social and political issues will all find something of interest in this book."—Lance Smith, Guy Who Reviews Sports Books
"Bonzel’s book joins Bruce Babington’s The Sports Film: Games People Play (2014) as an important book-length critical treatment of this film genre."—S. C. Dillon, Choice
“Analyzing more than a dozen well-known films from the U.S., UK, and—importantly and unusually—Germany, Bonzel demonstrates how and why our sense of belonging to (or marginalization within) a nation morphs over time. This book is for anyone interested in national myths, dreams, anxieties, and nightmares, as conveyed through sports films. A welcome study of a burgeoning and influential film genre!”—Chris Holmlund, professor emerita of cinema studies, women/gender/sexuality studies, and French at the University of Tennessee
“Katharina Bonzel eloquently explores the complex intersections that exist between national identity and class, ethnicity, and gender in sports films. Her historically nuanced readings trace the complex ways in which sports films have sought to generate a sense of emotional authenticity that promotes audience engagement with their visions of the nation. This book is therefore a valuable intervention both in film theory and in ongoing debates about national identity.”—Nicholas Chare, author of Sportswomen in Cinema
“Sports and cinema are two of the most popular and significant cultural institutions in the contemporary world. Despite arguments to the contrary, the nation remains perhaps the world’s most potent sociopolitical construct. This book is without doubt a contribution not only to one field but to several.”—Alan Bairner, professor of sport and social theory at Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences