100 Ideas That Changed Film: A book review

Published in 2012 by Laurence King Publishing, 100 Ideas That Changed Film by David Parkinson details the history of the technical and thematic production of popular and independent films from the late 19th century to the present day. It covers the vast evolution of film, from the invention of the magic lanterns and its popularized use by French filmmakers such as Étienne-Gaspard Robert and the Lumière Brothers, to the use of animation by the Japanese Studio Ghibli, to CGI in Hollywood films as pioneered by John Whitney and mastered early on by David Cameron.

As a novice cinema student, I found the book to be an enjoyable introductory tool that helps to understand more about the developing concepts and techniques of storytelling on the big screen. 100 Ideas That Changed Film serves as an effective educational tool that clearly highlights the technical means of production–such as camera use and editing styles–used by directors in order to tell their stories or to develop themes. This book is useful for those who want to establish a solid foundation in cinematic knowledge so that they can be an informed critic or cinephile.

An important idea that Parkinson addressed in this book is the influence that race has had in the world of cinema. There is an entire chapter dedicated to blaxploitation (black + exploitation), meaning the exploitation of black tropes and stereotypes in American movies. Parkinson demonstrates how after many years of marginalization, people of colour were able to reclaim this genre and have their voice be projected on the big screen. In time, this paved the way for daring black actors and directors to become more bold in their works, to make their cultural marks in Hollywood. This was done particularly by highlighting the aspects of “hood” culture in the USA. Thanks to this, American cinema went on to benefit from added depth, nuance, and culture.

100 Ideas That Changed Film is a good read for those that want to submerge themselves in the world of cinema and critical film appreciation. By telling the story of how filmmaking techniques have developed, thus leading film to be where it is today, Parkinson succeeds in teaching the reader how to appreciate film through a keener, more informed, and more analytical lens. The reader, then, also becomes equipped with the knowledge of how popular culture in society bleeds into the world of cinema, but also how movies have the power to challenge societal conventions.