Film translation

Dionysios Kapsaskis, Joshua Branson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines film translation as a practice contextualised within the politics and technologies of representation at work in the film industry at both national and transnational levels. While arguing that translation plays a central role in ensuring the global reach of film as a popular art form, this chapter takes a view of translation as a transformative force that has shaped cinema historically and continues to do so in the current digital age. We argue that the focus of audiovisual translation (AVT) on descriptive and pedagogic aspects of interlingual transfer reproduces misperceptions of translation as a derivative process and misses the opportunities that the study of film translation affords to expand our understanding of the transnational experience of cinema. The chapter provides a brief historical overview of film translation, suggesting that it was already a consideration for filmmakers and distributors during the silent era, not least because it questioned cinema’s pretension to being a universal language. The chapter then summarises audiovisual translation’s main theoretical concerns and achievements before establishing the need to promote an alternative approach to translation as film-transformative practice. Contributions from film studies and translation studies are discussed, amassing evidence for the increasing scholarly interest in interdisciplinary theorisations. We note most film theorists’ failure to recognise the critical relevance of film translation until recently, and we focus on innovative discussions by both film and translation scholars on the transformative role of translation in debates around the history, semiotics, (geo)politics and aesthetics of cinema.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Translation and the Media
EditorsEsperanca Bielsa
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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