Ghost Movies, their Makers and their Audiences
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/11841
First published on GoeScholar 2015
DORISEA working paper; 17
In the DORISEA research project Spirits in and of Modernity (Peter J. Bräunlein & Andrea Lauser),communication with ghosts is a central theme. Typically, academics focus on communication with spirits in trance, possession cults, and through spirit-mediums. In a similar vein, few if any ghost movie fans would connect their passion for cinema with religion as such. Rather, ghost movies are more typically associated with popular culture and entertainment than with religion or ritual as such. And yet, ghost movies in Southeast Asia often focus on eminently religious themes. For one, communication with spirits plays a central role in the films. This applies both to the film characters who encounter ghosts, and to the audience which visit dark cinemas and voluntarily expose themselves to an encounter with ghosts. Secondly, these ghost movies often deal directly with culturally rooted beliefs in the afterlife, concepts of good and evil, and the idea of karma. Indeed, the popularity of many ghost movies can only be understood through the way they draw on and reaffirm established, religiously structured, worldviews. As researchers then, we are interested in precisely this interface between popular culture and what is commonly referred to as religion. This approach is especially enlightening as in the cinema of ghosts, religion, entertainment and modernity merge in surprising and remarkable ways. The audience reception of ghost movies is particularly interesting, with audience research posing particular methodological challenges. Kasia Ancuta and Solarsin Ngoenwichit in Thailand, and Mattie Do in Laos are all involved in film production, especially of ghost films. In this interview the producers, directors and scriptwriters each offer unique insights about ghost movie audiences’ expectations and cultural backgrounds.