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The 18th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) was held at the University of Adelaide from 5 - 8 July 2010. The Conference theme was Crises and opportunities: past, present and future.
Deepa Mehta’s Water (2005) set a precedent in terms of the crossing of geographic and cinematic boundaries by a diasporic creative practitioner. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (released in 2008) seems to have takes the notion of the “crossover film” a step further by winning critical and popular acclaim throughout the world. It is for this reason that I will compare the critical and box office performance, as well as the publicity of the two films to better understand the crossover potential of diasporic films.
Unlike Water, Slumdog Millionaire was able to get past the “foreign language film” category (both in the Academy Awards and in terms of crossing over to the commercial audience). It could be argued that this is because only one-third of Slumdog is in Hindi, whereas Water is largely subtitled. More importantly, the former film seems to have been released in mainstream cinema complexes in the US, thereby deeming it acceptable for a non-foreign Academy Award nomination. Fox Searchlight distributed both films (although Slumdog also had the contribution of the independent arm of Warner brothers), yet Slumdog has won greater popular appeal. Many critics have noted its resemblance to Bollywood cinema of the 1970s, and others have remarked that it is possibly the first globalised film (‘Slumdog Millionaire’).