Behind the Scenes: Bizarre Film Genres

Sound like a true cinéaste!

Bollywood, Nollywood, Mondo: Drop any of these genre names among movie buffs and you'll sound like a true film connoisseur. That said, many of the world's wackiest film genres developed outside of Hollywood, so you may still have some catching up to do. Boost your knowledge by taking a spin through this list of perplexing film genres from around the globe. 

Mumblecore

We’ll start with a newer genre, mumblecore, which you can explore more in-depth in our essay hereA clear descendant of the indie film scene, this term gained popularity in 2002, referring to often low-budget films that focused on young adults and their personal relationships.

And conversation. Lots of conversation, but not necessarily mumbled. (Basically, you’ll find zero lightsabers or car chases.) The dialogue feels organic and may even be improvised, and the film will have a distinctly non-cookie cutter feel.

Mondo Films (Or: Shockumentaries)

In 1962, a film called Mondo Cane (in Italian: "A Dog's World") poked its head up for air and inadvertently launched an entire genre that is now referred to as mondo films.

Mondo Cane and its 1963 follow-up, Mondo Cane 2 (followed by other Mondo titles) ostensibly served to shock Western culture with footage of bizarre rituals and behaviors from “exotic” places like Africa and South America, much of it appearing staged (humans fed to alligators - that sort of thing). The word mondo now applies to many examples of this genre, regardless of their actual title.

Exploitation

The exploitation genre—unsurprisingly—exploits certain risqué niches and showed some box office power in the 1960s and ‘70s. Films in the ‘30s and ‘40s presented lurid topics (premarital sex, recreational drugs) as cautionary tales, but several decades later, with relaxed censorship and code rules, those topics became ripe for low-budget filmmakers. Horror themes, along with biker, cannibal, juvenile delinquent and women in prison films, delighted “midnight movie” audiences.

B Movie

The B movies of Hollywood were low budget, created as “second features” for double bills, and—especially in the 1950s—often told stories involving monsters, space travel, and science fiction. Other themes ranged from the Cold War and hysteria over nuclear war, to adventurous and imaginative visions of the future.

A burgeoning interest in drive-in theaters and “midnight movies” came about in the ‘50s, with films like Creature From the Black Lagoon and Plan 9 From Outer Space (often said to be the worst film ever made), giving way to films like Russ Meyers’ Faster Pussycat! Kill, Kill! (1965) and the inception of the sexploitation genre.

Spaghetti Western

Spaghetti westerns were an early product of globalization, as other countries (in this case Italy) started to produce their own films in Hollywood's image. Though the majority of the actors (as well as the director) were Italian in these films, an American star would often be brought in to give the film more legitimacy.

But, these weren't just knock-offs of American westerns. These films pushed the envelope in terms of subject matter and tone. The first spaghetti westerns arrived in the 1960s, when most American westerns were fairly formulaic and predictable; the Italians added questionable morals, a bit more brutality, and celebrated the wild west as if they understood it better than we did. 

Bollywood & Nollywood

Bollywood comes from a combination (or, portmanteau) of the words Hollywood and Bombay, India, which is the former name of Mumbai. The Bollywood industry—also known as Hindi Cinema, and based in Mumbai—is one of the largest film producers in the world. Fantasy, melodrama, spectacle, song and dance are common ingredients in Bollywood films.

Nollywood is the nickname of Nigeria’s own robust filmmaking industry, though it’s not clear if a film must be made in Nigeria, or can be African but speak to Nigerian culture in order to be labeled a Nollywood creation.

Mockumentary

As it sounds, the mockumentary—another clever portmanteau—is a film that parodies documentary storytelling by using the same tropes and methods: natural dialogue (often partially improvised), a natural camera style, faux historical film and news clips.

Director Rob Reiner first used the term in describing his 1984 film, Spinal Tap. (The term rockumentary has also emerged related to that film and other faux rock histories.)  Some of the earliest mockumentaries include Orson Welles’s 1938 radio drama, The War of the Worlds, Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run (1969), and the Beatles’ Hard Days Night (1964).  

Cinéma vérité

French anthropologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch, who spent some four decades in Africa exploring ethnographic storytelling, largely pioneered the cinéma vérité (truthful cinema) style of documentary filmmaking. The term was coined in the early 1960s, and came to also be known also as observational cinema, with its natural observation of subject and events unfolding as if the camera were not even present.

Screwball Comedy

 Classic screwball comedies hail from the 1930s and 1940s, with a few in the ‘50s, and often center around romantic relationships turned on their heads due to situational mistakes and misfortunes. The dialogue is often fast-paced and witty, and pratfalls and slapstick were sometimes scene-stealers. Contemporary filmmakers like the Coen Brothers and Garry Marshall were clearly influenced by the classics of the genre. It Happened One Night is a great place to start if you're interested in this genre.