Teaching Materials

Tourism on Screen
Professor David Martin-Jones, Professor of Film Studies, University of Glasgow



This teaching resource is based on the BoB Playlist Tourism on Screen. It uses clips, quotes and questions designed to stimulate group discussion. These resources enable the exploration of what films may reveal about screen tourism. In particular, the chosen examples engage with what screen tourism can help us to understand about the transnational connections which link together different nations. Such linkages can help open up discussion about our contemporary globalized world. They may also, on occasion, provide an opportunity to think about much older transnational connections (e.g. colonial, diasporic), alongside older touristic traditions. There is, then, a focus on transnational geopolitics in the examples given, which include films as different as The Quiet Man (1952), Crocodile Dundee (1986), The Beach (2000) and Krrish (2006). Four activities are offered, each with a different emphasis – on heritage, diaspora, the environment, and city branding. Each example is designed to stimulate around one to one and a half hours of viewing, analysis, and discussion.

Please note that the BBFC website indicates that Crocodile Dundee and The Beach are both 15 Certificate, Krrish is a 12 Certificate (in the UK).


All clips are in the following playlist - https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/playlists/350794

Sign-in to BoB once and then refresh the page; this will make all the clips on this page watchable.

  • What does screen tourism reveal about the geopolitics of “borrowed” or “appropriated” forms of heritage? How can they help us to understand how our contemporary world looks back to a more rural past, nostalgically? In particular, how can analysis of films which seem to “sell” an image of a nation to another (much as a tourist brochure is designed to appeal to a potential market), help us understand the intricacies of such depictions of heritage when they are put on display or for sale (e.g. when there is a specific attempt to engage another culture to temporarily “borrow” or “appropriate” your own heritage)? Crocodile Dundee (1986) provides a helpful example.

    In Making it National (1994) Graeme Turner emphasises of Crocodile Dundee that:

    The film’s prehistory is, of course, embedded in Australia’s recent development as a tourist destination—particularly for Americans—through Paul Hogan’s Australian Tourism Commission television commercials.

    Turner, Graeme, Making it National (St Leonards NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1994), pp. 93-118, p. 108.

    Turner contextualises Crocodile Dundee within the 1980s tourist boom. He notes how various critics observed that the film’s appeal to US viewers may have rested on its offering of a chance to “revisit” the “unspoilt” Australian outback as though it were a throwback to the USA’s 19th Century settler past. US viewers of Crocodile Dundee can thus imagine themselves in a settler past that was once theirs (pp. 115-118).

    Similarly, Koichi Iwabuchi observes, following Turner, that Crocodile Dundee (1986) depicts Australia in a very particular manner – via nostalgia – in order to appeal to US viewers as potential tourists:

    The politics of the transnational evocation of nostalgia is highlighted when it is employed to confirm a frozen temporal lag between two cultures, when “our” past and memory are found in “their” present. As Turner (1994, 116) argues, the Americans’ discovery of their lost frontier in the Australian outback, as represented in the film Crocodile Dundee, displays “how effortlessly Australian difference might be appropriated to American ends.” This shows a moment when the recognition of cultural difference is immediately transfigured into the comfortable affirmation of unequal relationships between superior-inferior and advanced-backward (see Said 1978; Todorov 1984).

    Iwabuchi, Koichi, Recentering Globalization (Duke University Press, 2002), p. 174.

    With the above in mind, consider the clip of the opening of Crocodile Dundee.

    Question 1.

    How does the film juxtapose Australia with the USA in the opening phone call, and then again, how does everything become very different once the location shifts to the outback town of Walkabout Creek? To help you, consider some of the following sub-questions.

      a. How is the contrast between the urban and the rural constructed aesthetically (though location, mise-en-scene, editing, and so on)?
      b. What is the role of costume, and the revelation of certain parts of the bodies of certain characters (but not others), in creating this contrast?
    Question 2.

    In what ways might we understand Australia to be depicted in a manner which can evoke nostalgia for the US frontier past?

      a. Is the barroom scene reminiscent of any other film genres?
      b. What kind of way of life might be found in Walkabout Creek which is seemingly no longer evident in New York (as the two are contrasted in the clip at least)?
    Question 3.

    How do the two different types of masculinity of Sue Charlton’s (Linda Kozlowski) soon-to-be fiancé Richard (Mark Blum) and her soon-to-be love interest Mick Dundee (Paul Hogan), and the manner in which these different masculinities are depicted, contribute to the overall juxtaposition (between USA and Australia) which creates a nostalgia for a lost frontier past?

    Suggested readings:

      Turner, Graeme, Making it National (St Leonards NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1994), pp. 93-118.
      Iwabuchi, Koichi, Recentering Globalization (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002), pp. 158-198. (Key focus especially: pp. 158-9; 170-181; 189-198).
  • There are many different forms of screen tourism: from set-jetting (visiting places where films are shooting in the hope of catching sight of a star), to seeking out locations from a favourite film, to a studio tour, or even just to attending a film festival. Some such activities, though, specifically indicate how closely related screen tourism may often be to other forms of tourism, such as heritage tourism. This latter is a form of tourism which may, depending on the circumstances, appeal to diasporas, in particular those interested in researching their genealogy or “roots”. Some films depict such journeys of personal rediscovery of the past, in ways which may then also appeal to film viewers to later become screen tourists. What can analysis of these films tell us about this intersection of screen tourism, heritage and diaspora?

    Question 1.

    In relation to the clip from The Quiet Man (1952), consider the aural flashback which occurs when John Wayne’s Sean Thornton arrives at Innisfree. Whose memory of childhood in Ireland do we hear Thornton “remembering” on the voiceover, and how does this illustrate how diasporas – like that of the East Coast USA’s Irish diaspora – hold on to the past, even if they may never have encountered their country of origin?

    Question 2.

    Compare your findings with respect to the clip from The Quiet Man in relation to the closing sequence of The Da Vinci Code (2006), which takes place in Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland. How is the process of roots tourism depicted in this much later instance?

      a. What is similar, but also what is different?
      b. What might such similarities and differences suggest about how The Da Vinci Code (a film which Visit Scotland, Visit Britain and Maison de la France all used to promote tourism) appeals to roots tourists in general (rather than specifically within a certain diaspora)?

      Suggested readings:

        Martin-Jones, David, “Film Tourism as Heritage Tourism: Scotland, Diaspora and The Da Vinci Code (2006).”, New Review of Film and Television Studies, 12: 2 (2014), pp. 156-177.
        Rodanthi Tzanelli, Heritage in the Digital Era (London: Routledge, 2013), pp. 63-103. (Key focus especially: pp. 63-85).
    • What is the environmental cost of screen tourism, and can it be weighed up against the economic benefits? Examining this trade-off between economic and tourist-industrial development and environmental damage, in particular in rural and coastal areas, illuminates much about: the geopolitics behind international location shoots by industries like Hollywood; local/national attempts to exploit natural resources through resulting screen tourism; the resonances between cinematic depictions of certain locations and older, colonial representations of the same locations.

      Question 1.

      With respect to the clip of the introduction of the beach to us by Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio), and also the quote below, discuss the extent to which the screen tourism anticipated in the wake of The Beach can be understood to be akin to neo-colonialism or neo-imperialism.

        Maya Bay was chosen for filming as it closely corresponds to western voy(ag)eurs’ idealised imaginings of a pristine, tropical environment. Yet the filmic landscape was not constructed through appropriate site (or sight) selection alone. Rather, the beach at Maya Bay only became the beach after some controversial environmental modification. The landscaping process included: the planting of 60 coconut trees, levelling a pair of sand dunes and the clearing of ‘weeds’. As in the case of other forms of tourism, it was a particular staging of landscapes that made possible an appropriate and suitably stimulating visual journey. As such, even the camera-mediated spectatorial voyage of The Beach – the tourist gaze at a distance – is bound up with the (re)production of material space. … The Head of the Royal Thai Forestry Department was against transforming the post-filming May Bay beach back to its original state. He suggested that the ‘newly planted palms would stay once the movie [was] completed as tourists would want to come and view the bay “just the way it was filmed”’ (Fahn, 1998). This was perhaps only partly in recognition of the ‘magic’ and appeal of the film set itself. The Beach–induced tourists might also be disappointed by the removal of Fox’s alteration because it would effect an environmental transformation out of line with their imaginings of how the beach should look.

      To help in this, consider these sub-questions:

        a. In what ways might the introduction of the beach in film be understood to conform to or confirm previous colonial stereotypes about the right of Western travellers to settle in Asian lands?
        b. What is the lifestyle, seemingly “beyond” capitalism which The Beach offers, and what does the film suggest about the viability of such an “alternative” to contemporary life in the developed world?
      Question 2.

      With all of the above in mind, consider the complexities which arise when exploring the environmental costs of screen tourism:

        a. Is the payment by a film studio from another country to allow transformation of a national resource, and the income from resulting screen tourism, sufficient to offset the environmental damage which results? Who stands to benefit, nationally and locally?
        b. How can we distinguish, in terms of environmental considerations, between those who travelled to the beach to protest against its transformation, and those set-jetters who may have travelled to spot stars shooting the film?

      Suggested readings:

        Rodanthi Tzanelli, The Cinematic Tourist (London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 27-56.
        Law, Lisa, Tim Bunnell, Chin Ee-Ong, “The Beach, the gaze and film tourism" Tourist Studies, 7: 2 (2007), pp. 141-164, p. 155 & p.156.
        Faye Taylor, “The Beach Goes Full Circle: The Case of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand”, in Kim, Sangkyun and Stijn Reijnders, Film Tourism in Asia (Springer 2018), pp. 87-106.
    • Screen tourism can play an integral part in city branding. A city’s council, film office, and/or tourist authority can work to attract film crews from other national film industries (such as that of Hollywood in the USA or Bollywood in India). Making parts of the city available to a film crew, easing accessibility, or reducing bureaucracy, in some cases even tax breaks, are all possible ways of attracting film crews depending on the city in question. In so doing, the city can be showcased on screen, and screen tourists can follow to partake of dedicated location tours. Audrey Yue has examined at length how Singapore acted to attract the shooting of films from other countries, including from India, and the impact this had on tourism. The Indian film Krrish thus provides a helpful case in point to help us consider what happens to a film when the presence of the location becomes in some ways akin to an act of “product placement”. What impact does such a relationship between film industry and a city have on the film itself, aesthetically, onscreen?



        In relation to the clip of the song “Koi Tumsa Nahin/There’s No One Like You” and the final chase sequence, consider the following questions.

        Question 1. What do we learn about Singapore as a place? What might seem to be, from the clips seen, the sense of the city which we obtain?

        Question 2. To what extent might we argue that tourism is foregrounded as a practice onscreen? For example, in what ways do we encounter the spaces of Singapore as a tourist might?

        Question 3. What kind of lifestyle does the film suggest is available in Singapore, and how might this indicate something of the target tourist demographic which the city may hope to attract?

        Question 4. How is Singapore “framed” by the film? Not only in terms of the specific locations included, but how they are shot – how crowded are the locations, how friendly are the locals, what is the weather like, what kind of montage is used to construct the city as a whole, how does the cinematography depict Singapore, what is the colour palette, how do different costumes interact with locations, what special effects are deployed and to what effect, and so on.

        Suggested readings:

          Yue, Audrey, “Film-Induced Domestic Tourism in Singapore: The Case of Krrish”, Shalini Singh (ed.), Domestic Tourism in Asia: Diversity and Difference (London: Earthscan, 2009), pp. 267-282.