As a proud export of Boston, I wrote my senior thesis for my Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies and Production at Hofstra University on a new genre of film that I defined and named, of course, “Boston Cinema”.
Since film is a living, breathing medium of art the way we categorize these pieces of art will always be changing too. Since 2000, over 100 films and TV episodes have been produced in Massachusetts. This is largely due to the tax breaks and payroll credits made available for both major and independent filmmakers in the Commonwealth.
It is also due to the varying settings and landscapes the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can offer and all within just a few hours or less of each other. Massachusetts has picturesque farmland, bustling city streets, quiet suburban neighborhoods, and even eerie, deserted hospitals.
However, the genre itself isn’t defined solely by the films themselves being set in Boston. For example, “The Social Network” (2012) is a film with the first act set in Boston (at Harvard no less) and yet the film fails to exhibit the other traits typical to the genre.
The traits of the genre are as follows; the Boston Accent, references to the City’s sports teams, establishing shots of the city featuring recognizable locales like Fenway park, the Charles River, Harvard, and the iconic skyline, casual racism, displays of fierce loyalty to family and friends, issues with masculinity in male protagonists, a desire to ‘get out‘ of Boston or ‘do better‘ than the projects of South Boston or Dorchester, and finally the presence or inclusion of ‘Boston Royalty’. The presence of these traits in films makes them feel authentically Boston.
These are actors who are from Boston and are fittingly featured in the films set in Boston. They are Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Mark Wahlberg, Casey Affleck, Donnie Wahlberg and others. Their involvement can be anything from an on-screen appearance to writing or directing the film.
Some recent films of merit that are included in the genre are “Good Will Hunting” (1997), “The Boondock Saints” (1999), “Fever Pitch” (2005), “The Departed” (2006), “Gone Baby Gone” (2007), and “The Town” (2010). There are many more films that fit into this genre with varying degrees of fitting into the genre.
As many know Boston is a very Irish city. The two mayoral candidates are both Irish-Americans. There is also a very big component of Irish pride in these films that ranges from Leonardo DiCaprio’s tattoos in “The Departed” to the Irish protagonists in The Boondock Saints. It is still a new genre, so there will be a period of reassessing it in the next five to ten years as more Boston films are released.
The genre has been there for decades, but no one saw it as anything more than a production cycle if anything at all. The Irish pride and flare is as prominent in the city as it is in the films which makes the films of the genre all the more authentic.
Trailer for “The Departed”:
Trailer for “Good Will Hunting”:
Trailer for “Fever Pitch”: