Arts Archives

November 11, 2003

*ollywood Confidential

For under $2,000 -- for a digital video camera, a copy of Final Cut Express, and a low-end Mac -- anyone can make movies. This has been true (with appropriate substitutions of software and hardware configuration) for several years now, and many people have wondered what it would mean to Hollywood to have thousands of talented young punks making movies.

But if the advent of cheap, powerful hardware and software for filmmaking has, in the US, led to the explosion of "fan films," it has the potential to be far more revolutionary elsewhere.

In Nigeria, according to the Washington Post, a home-grown movie industry has sprung up, with large expat audiences consuming the resulting DVDs and VCDs (Video CDs, a cheaper-to-make medium common outside of the US). Referred to as "Nollywood" -- a nod to both India's Bollywood and the original Hollywood -- this new genre of Nigerian films has become increasingly popular among the growing African emigré population in the US and Europe.

The stories are, for now, fairly straightforward, intended primarily to remind viewers of their homeland.

"They remind you of everyday life back home," Ziebono Nagabe, 26, originally of Ivory Coast, said recently as he browsed Simba's collection of movies. In the Nigerian movies, the Maryland resident observed, "there's always hope for good-hearted people. They're going to win over the wicked."
--Washington Post

This revolution has been a bit slower to happen in India, where Bollywood producers see themselves as the wavefront of a transformation of the global entertainment industry. India has been somewhat unfriendly to up-and-coming filmmakers relying on cheap digital hardware. Issues of commercial pressure against digital distributors, censorship (usually aimed at topics not found in mainstream Bollywood movies, such as homosexuality), and rivalries between independent filmmakers have strangled the digital video revolution.

Ironically, just as Bollywood considers itself poised to take over dominance of global movie culture from the United States, its own successors, armed with digital cameras and cheap distribution, may soon be breathing down its neck.

December 16, 2003


A couple of years ago, I visited a good friend of mine who lived in London. One of the very first places he and his lovely wife took me to was Muji, a small shop selling housewares, stationery, and personal care products. None of the items were marked with a logo, and many appeared to be made from recycled material. What really struck me was the design aesthetic: clean, useful, unobtrusive, and smart. (It turns out that the name Muji is short for "Mujirushi Ryohin," meaning "no brand, good product")

Useful + Agreeable Design Online has a wonderful article about the store, its underlying concept and design idea, and what it all means in a world of overwhelming branding and impossible-to-avoid advertising.

Some products even make cheeky reference to Muji's disavowal of the branded world. A recently released t-shirt comes with a 5 cm rubber square on the chest inviting the purchaser to design their own logo or message. In 2001, Muji teamed up with Nissan Motors to produce Muji Car 1000 - a limited edition, fuel efficient, low-emission and low-cost vehicle that incorporated recycled materials wherever possible, had limited polish and, a total anomaly in the car world, was devoid of any markings.

In industry terms, Muji defines itself as an integrity brand. "Ecological awareness is one of the main influences behind the Muji concept," explains managing director Masaaki Kanai. "Through the careful selection of materials," he continues, "the streamlining of manufacturing processes and the simplification of our packaging, we are able to eliminate waste and conserve resources."

Muji stores can be found in Japan (of course), Great Britain, Ireland, France, Hong Kong, and Singapore. None, sadly, are in the United States, but the Muji Online UK outlet will ship to you. Now if only the currently-awful Pound-Dollar conversion rate would improve...

December 23, 2003

B2P (Bollywood to Peer) Tech

As noted at Slashdot and Boing-Boing, 35 different Bangalore-based movie producers have worked out an arrangement with and Sharman Networks to make Bollywood movies available via the Kazaa file-sharing network. Audiences can download the films for a small fee to watch on their computers; the movie files self-destruct after the viewing is completed. The goal is to make the movies more accessible for international audiences, while still generating income for the filmmakers.

It is something of a half-measure, though. Making the movies single-play only simultaneously removes one of the advantages of a peer-to-peer system (that is, being able to download files from multiple locations) and offers a challenge to enterprising hackers (how do you get rid of the self-destruct code?). And watching a movie file on a computer isn't exactly the highest quality experience, especially if the overall media file quality is reduced to make the file transfer time acceptable.

A better idea would be to make MPEG versions of the movies freely available over something like BitTorrent (a novel peer-to-peer network where the more people download the file, the better your download speed) as inducements for international viewers to demand more Bollywood movies be shown locally. After all, file swapping increases demand for less-well-known musicians; why shouldn't the same logic hold for less-well-known movies?

December 28, 2003

Big in Japan

Yesterday's Washington Post story about the explosion of global popularity for Japanese culture will not come as much of a surprise for many of you. Japanese pop culture institutions from J-pop to anime to Hello Kitty vibrators have been commonplace elements of global cities for quite a while now, and Japanophilia has long been a tradition of American geek culture. Nonetheless, the article provides a good overview of the spread and growth of globalized Japanese culture.

Even as this country of 127 million has lost its status as a global economic superpower and the national confidence has been sapped by a 13-year economic slump, Japan is reinventing itself -- this time as the coolest nation on Earth.

Analysts are marveling at the breadth of a recent explosion in cultural exports, and many argue that the international embrace of Japan's pop culture, film, food, style and arts is second only to that of the United States. Business leaders and government officials are now referring to Japan's "gross national cool" as a new engine for economic growth and societal buoyancy.

Despite the sense that once a pop culture movement has hit big enough to warrant a page one "hey, look at this" article in the Post it's probably over, the article is part of a growing body of evidence that a global shift away from American-driven culture is on the rise. While the current manifestation is Japan-focused, India is hot on its heels, and China may well be next. It's not so much a decline of American cultural power as a rise in new memetic centers -- and new ideas.

Cultural exports are the shockwave of globalism.

January 3, 2004

Bollywood Insider

BollyWHAT? is a handy reference website for those of us with an interest in Bollywood movies but without sufficient cultural referents to understand just what the hell is going on in them. The site includes a FAQ (answering pressing questions about why people are wagging their thumbs, tugging on their ears, and not kissing), translated song lyrics, and a rental guide to help newbies figure out which movies are worth renting (or grabbing from Kazaa) and which ones are best avoided. My only complaint about the site is that it focuses a bit too much on the musical-romances coming out of the Mumbai studios, and not enough on the more serious films [such as the recent Kargil LoC (Line of Control)] which address what it's like to live on the Subcontinent in the early 2000s.

March 8, 2004

World Heritage Digital Ark

A post on MeFi pointed me to an article in my local newspaper, the Contra Costa Times, about efforts to make detailed 3-D digitizations of Unesco's World Heritage sites, as a way of preserving the details of the structure in case of disaster. While this isn't the first attempt to create a virtual World Heritage archive, the tool used in this try -- the Cyrax laser camera -- is particularly well-suited to doing rapid, detailed scans of large-scale objects (such as the ruins of Pompei or the Orinda Theater, pictured). The people undertaking this project, Ben and Barbara Kacyra, happen to be the ones who invented the Cyrax camera; after selling the technology, they started the Kacyra Family Foundation (unfortunately not on the web) as a charitable group to jump-start the World Heritage archive project.

If you're not familiar with the locations on Unesco's World Heritage list, the World Heritage Tour website shows pictures of the places, automatically refreshed every 20 seconds.

March 30, 2004

Deténte, Bollywood-Style

In recent years, a relatively-popular sub-genre of Bollywood movies emerged focusing on the tensions between India and Pakistan. Whether based on history or fantasy, the films depict heroic Indians and perfidous Pakistanis locked in mortal combat -- and it's very clear who you are supposed to be rooting for. But according to an article in Sunday's Indian Express, the changing relationship between India and Pakistan is now starting to affect how Bollywood filmmakers portray their country's western neighbor.

Anil Gadar Sharma is also trying to play it safe this time round. Known for his shrill jingoism and Pak-bashing cinema, Sharma is toning down his ambitious war saga Ab Tumhare Hawaale Watan Saathiyon which stars Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Bobby Deol. Sources in Sharma’s crew said the maker is rewriting dialogues that came down too heavy on Pakistan.

Interestingly, the motivation to do so was provided by actor Akshay Kumar who refused to spout any anti-Pakistan dialogues. Says Kumar, ‘‘I made it very clear to the director that I will not badmouth any country or a religion. My director got the point and now the dialogues are okay.’’

It's a small move, but a hopeful one.

May 22, 2004

The Transmetropolitan Collection

"One More Time," the final collection of Transmetropolitan stories, is now out. It finishes the story of journalist Spider Jerusalem in his fight against the corrupt President "Smiler" Callahan, set in a world a thousand times weirder -- and ultimately more realistic -- than most other popular science fiction (I first came up with the term "plausibly surreal," used here on WC to refer to futurism and scenarios, in reference to Transmet). Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, and Rodney Ramos have done a truly masterful job of bringing the characters and the world to life. I know I'm not the first to wish that we had a real Spider Jerusalem on the job right now.

If you haven't heard of Transmet, you're in for a real treat. It is -- was -- a comic book, and its run ended in late 2002. All 60 issues are now available in 10 softcover collections, from Spider's return from self-imposed exile away from The City to his last laugh. Along the way, you'll be startled, amused, quite possibly disgusted, very likely titillated, and always impressed at the creators' accomplishments.

Amazon has it, but if you live near an independent comic book store, you may want to check there first.

May 28, 2004

The Inevitable "Day After Tomorrow" Review

We've talked about the movie enough, we should probably cough up the money to go see it. WorldChanging contributor reviews will be added to this entry. WC readers should offer up their own takes on the movie in the comments!

Jamais' Review: Two themes resonated throughout the pre-release reviews and previews of The Day After Tomorrow: the science is bad; the movie is bad. I had seen enough of these previews that I sat down in my seat this afternoon fully anticipating a very bad movie with borderline (at best) science -- sort of an Armageddon for the climate crowd. As a result, it's possible that my reaction is tainted by this preconception. I may have gone into the theater expecting to be not just disappointed, but annoyed.

But you know what? It's not that bad. It's more of a Deep Impact than an Armageddon -- I winced at the errors (and there are plenty), rolled by eyes at the Human Interest Stories (tm), and wished they'd spent more time on the aftermath than on the event itself.

Let me hasten to add that I'm not saying that the movie is plausible or realistic, although the presentations of the Actual Science parts of the movie were far better than I thought they'd be (the site Day After Tomorrow Facts does a good job separating out what in the movie is real science, and what is Hollywood -- the site is run by the Energy Future Coalition, a non-partisan but vaguely progressive group trying to come up with politically palatable solutions to global warming).

It's a typical disaster movie in most ways, so expect the usual inanities and melodrama substituting for plot. But it's a disaster movie which doesn't have a We Win! happy ending. We don't win. We've screwed up the planet, and now we have to deal with it. Although the recriminations are muddled, they don't require explanation -- the chagrined Vice President talks about overusing the planet's resources, not about disrupting its systems.

Inasmuch as the scientists are the closest thing to heroes in the movie, it's more about their being willing to accept new information and analysis, even if the knowledge is painful, than about one man trying to save his son. If there's a lesson to take away from the movie, it's that we can't wait until the real world disasters hit before taking action. For me, one of the most enjoyable moment came when the NOAA scientists brief the White House, and the VP snaps at Our Hero, "You just do your science, let us handle the policy," and the NOAA director fires back, "if you had listened to the scientists, you would have had a different policy to begin with!"

Jon's Review: The Day After Tomorrow is a summer blockbuster and a terrific example of Emmerich's goofy repurposing of various sci-fi/action genres of the past - not necessarily B-movies, as some reviewers say. Irwin Allen's films weren't B-movies, and Allen's films are the obvious precursors of this film. George Pal also comes to mind. Allen and Pal and others like them made popcorn films, entertainments that were loud, fast, and contingent on a strong-willed suspension of disbelief. The stories were formulaic and the characters lacked dimension but the acting was pretty good, and if you could forget reason for a while, you'd have a pretty good time. These films often depended on big special effects and rollercoaster plots. Emmerich's got this down, and a couple of his films, Stargate and Independence Day, are classics of the popcorn genre. The Day After Tomorrow is great popcorn. I felt the tension and I let myself believe for the whole couple of hours, even the schmaltz, even though Donnie Darko kept popping up in every other scene. However as a scare film about global warming, DAT doesn't cut it, because it trivializes a very real threat. I won't say more (it's kind of a spoiler). If you see the film, though, you'll get what I'm saying.

Emily's review: I have never been taken with Roland Emmerich's tone-deaf pastiches of past sci-fi flicks. Still, I can enjoy a good popcorn movie on its own terms (Mission to Mars! The Fifth Element! Troy!), and I was curious about how effective TDAT might be as an eco-parable. Movies like Silent Running had a profound effect on me as a kid. Would TDAT be that kind of movie for a new generation?

Well, I doubt it (but please, tell me otherwise in the comments). The movie's point of view about the climate disaster is muddled--humans are certainly pegged as the cause, but "nature's awesome destructive power" is mentioned as well, as if Nature is a villain in the supporting cast. Which it is, I suppose.

A late view of the Earth from space, the classic Apollo perspective, seems intended to leave us feeling reassured--look, it's all still there, and the air is clearer than ever! Even though the last two hours have depicted an artificially-induced Ice Age engulfing the northern hemisphere.

A few marginal characters we don't care about are predictably killed off, equivalents of Star Trek security guards: beaned by giant hailstones, flash-frozen, squashed by flying debris or swept away by tornados. With a prudery odd for this genre, characters we come to know marginally better all seem to die off-camera. (Compare this to one of Emmerich's source films, The War of the Worlds, in which we see central, sympathetic characters disintegrated by Martians, or attacked by rioters. The seeming randomness of the violence is more shocking, the potential End of Civilization more visceral, and the impact on other characters more fully felt. Emmerich himself managed to carry this through a little better in his WotW remake, Independence Day.)

At one point, we see two keepers at a New York zoo, concerned and perplexed because all their charges are freaking out. Animals, being Of Nature, feel these sudden catastrophic global climate shifts coming, doanchaknow. Ah, I thought, this is the set-up for a heart-tugging irony, in which these animals, sequestered in a zoo for safety and preservation, are nonetheless victims of humanity's destructive shortsightedness. Maybe they're even the stand-ins for what we can imagine happening to vulernable wilderness and wildlife--the Earth's vital biodiversity--as the ice and storm advance. But, no: it's a set-up for the escape of some CGI "timber wolves" (stand-ins for Nature's evil menace since the Brother Grimm, if not before), the better to menace the Leading Scientist's Son as He Fights for Survival later on in the film. Presumably they are all flash-frozen for their trouble.

On the plus side: A few jokes about First World/Third World relations hit their targets. A major motion picture pokes at the Bush administration. This movie probably doesn't make things any worse for the general state of science fiction films. The scientists are the good guys, and gals. TDAT has been the catalyst for great mainstream news reporting on the realities of climate change. Some good actors have presumably made enough money here to do a year or two of independent films.

No real continents were harmed during the making of this motion picture.

June 20, 2004

Cross-Cultural Spider-Mashup web is buzzing with the news that Marvel Comics has teamed up with Gotham Comics -- the leading South Asian comic book publisher -- to create an Indian version of Spider-Man.

Spider-Man India interweaves the local customs, culture and mystery of modern India, with an eye to making Spider-Man’s mythology more relevant to this particular audience. Readers of this series will not see the familiar Peter Parker of Queens under the classic Spider-Man mask, but rather a new hero – a young, Indian boy named Pavitr Prabhakar. As Spider-Man, Pavitr leaps around rickshaws and scooters in Indian streets, while swinging from monuments such as the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal.

A "mashup" is a digitally re-edited piece of music which interweaves two (or more) disparate songs into a new work. They can be amusing or fun to dance to, but occasionally, the combined work tells us something about the world of the moment that neither of the component works could. Spider-Man India has that kind of potential: by taking an icon of Americana and mixing it with the cultural touchstones of India, the result could be something far more interesting and compelling than either the umpteenth Spider-Man American title/movie or an entirely local South Asian superhero.

It says something about the world we live in now that the newest Indian hero is one who lives by the motto: "With great power comes great responsibility."

June 23, 2004

Digital Library of India

Open Access News points us to the Digital Library of India, which has as its goal the digitization of significant literary, artistic, and scientific works for free distribution and appreciation. Unlike the Carnegie-Mellon Univeral Library (which helps to coordinate the DLI), the DLI is focusing on works primarily in Indian languages. Books are digitized by scanning (and readable as page images), and are made available in text via optical character recognition, or OCR. This presents some interesting challenges:

  • There are1500 spoken Indian languages and 17 scripts.

  • Unlike English, where the number of characters to be recognized is less than 100, Indian scripts have several hundred characters to be recognized.

  • Non-uniformity in the spacing of the characters within a word because of the presence of Consonant Conjuncts (vowel + consonant) makes OCR more difficult. Also, the presence of Consonant Conjuncts results in improper line segmentation.  Programs will have to do further processing to segment the lines.

  • Consonants take modified shapes when attached with the vowels. Vowel modifiers can appear to the right, on the top or at the bottom of the base consonant. Such consonant-vowel combinations are called modified characters. In addition, two, three or four characters can combine to generate a new complex shapes called compound characters. These characters are very difficult for a machine to recognize.

  • In scripts like Bangla and Devnagari, all the characters in a word are connected by a unique line called shirorekha (also called head line). In these scripts, character segmentation is especially difficult.

  • In south Indian scripts, vowels occur only at the beginning of a word as against the vowels in Oriya, where they occur anywhere within a word. So, the language morphology for some groups of scripts is different from the others.

  • There is no universally acceptable standard encoding scheme for Indian scripts. This necessitates a scheme where the output labels from the OCR system can be mapped to the labels used by the typesetter through a mapping table.

At this point, they've scanned about 100,000 books -- 10% of their eventual goal, a million books available to anyone, anywhere, with a web connection.

June 25, 2004

Street Memes

You've seen them, as you walk in the city. The posters with the striking faces, the angry text, the provocative pose. Maybe you see a half-dozen all in a row; maybe it's alone on the pillar supporting a freeway overpass. You may not be able to decipher quite what it means, but you know it means something.

Street Memes is a new site which (in the words of site editor Ryan Watkins-Hughes) "tracks the spread of stencil graffiti, sticker art, and political posters." Examples include the nearly-ubiquitous Andre the Giant stencils and posters, "Stop the RNC" posters calling for protest in NYC this August appearing all over the city, the mysterious (or perhaps just confused) "Pray for Pills", and more. The pages include links to similar memes, so you can explore the variations of urban art to your heart's content. The content is entirely visitor-contributed; if you've spotted a meme on the street, take a picture and send it in. The site currently has a distinct New York dominance, but since I've seen similar art up on the urban walls of San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles, I expect the collection to grow quickly.

Of course, as the November election draws closer, expect to see the street memes take on a decidedly more political tone.

July 1, 2004

Catching Up (Global Culture Edition)

Continuing with the categorized catch-up entries...

  • What's it like to live in Nepal? Mahabir Pun, a Nepalese citizen and former University of Nebraska student, has set up a detailed virtual tour of Nepal. Well-illustrated, it covers a wide assortment of fact about Nepal, including its culture, its farming practices, environmental concerns, geography, religion, and more. The tour also focuses on the efforts of Pun's former high school in Nangi Village to bring development support to the nation. The website is also a welcome relief from the Flash-laden, graphics-intensive, over-designed sites we're accustomed to; the site's layout and presentation would not have been out of place in 1998.

  • Director Sam Raimi, probably best known for his now-in-release Spider-Man movies (and, for some of us, beloved for his Evil Dead 2), wants to build the "century cam:" static cameras set over major cities, capturing a single frame of film at noon each day. Over time, the film would come to show the evolution of the urban landscape. Since he imagines the cameras capturing the growth (and decline?) of the cities would do so for a thousand years, "millennium cam" is probably a better name. A year's worth of frames would amount to 15 seconds; a decade would be 2.5 minutes. The full thousand years would add up to a bit more than 4 hours. Technology Review notes the impracticality of a film camera operating for a thousand years (although they may want to check with Long Now for some thoughts on building devices with very long lives), but suggests that decade cams -- showing the changes to open spaces and urban environments over a decade -- could be very powerful. Good idea.

  • Four Translations of the Quran is a fascinating exploration of the question of translation of culture. The Quran was written in Arabic, and some claim that only the Arabic version is the true Quran -- translations don't pick up on the subtlety of cultural meaning which would be apparent to a native reader. All four of the translations provided are well-regarded... and it's fascinating to see how often they diverge. For non-Arabic speakers, these points of divergence can be as meaningful as the text itself. As BruceS says, "there's a quality to a good translation that you just don't get in the original text."
  • September 11, 2004

    The Face of Tomorrow

    The Face of Tomorrow is an ongoing combined art and anthropology project examining global identity. The artist "Mike Mike" takes 100 photographs of individuals in different cities around the world, then uses "morphing" software to create combined average faces for each location, male and female (usually -- in a few locations, Ankara, Instanbul and Damascus, only men were photographed). The resulting face is haunting, attractive, and suggestive of what tomorrow's demography will hold.

    The site currently has face composites from Chile, Brazil, Argentina, the UK, Spain, Portugal (where the image in this post is from), Turkey, Syria, China and Australia. Mike Mike is currently working on more cities, and has an open call for contributions of images. He refers to the process as "open source," and spells out in detail just how the photos are taken, and what is to be done with them. He's also selling a poster and book to help support the project.

    It's no surprise that the results show attractive composite faces, even while the individual parts of the composite are quite normal-looking. It's long been recognized that blended "averaged" faces look startlingly attractive. Although the project doesn't bias for attractiveness, it does bias towards youth -- the average age in the world is 25, Mike Mike argues, and tomorrow belongs to the young.

    October 18, 2004

    Science in the South

    From October 11 through November 15, the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), in Paris, will be displaying a photography exhibition entitled "Sciences au Sud" ("Science in the South") (website in French). These photos, taken by scientists in Africa, Asia and Latin America, illustrate the concerns of researchers across the developing world. The photography ranges from the functional to the evocative; while not all of the scientist-photographers had an artistic flair, they managed to capture an impressive set of images.

    The exhibition is divided into four tents: "Feeding Ourselves" (agriculture and biodiversity), "Healing" (AIDS, malnutrition and poverty), "Preventing" (natural catastrophes), and "Living Together" (migration, demography, and education). The pictures are accompanied by text in a variety of languages, as well as a slideshow designed for illiterate audiences. IRD intends for the exhibit to travel globally once the Paris showing is completed, especially to southern countries.

    Marie-Lise Sabrié, of IRD, told SciDev.Net that the exhibition was designed for a wide audience in developing nations.

    "We want to help reduce the knowledge gap between the North and South to return knowledge to the countries where this research is undertaken," says Sabrié.

    First-hand reports from any WorldChangers in Paris who get a chance to visit the exhibition would be more than welcome!

    (Via SciDev.Net)

    January 3, 2005

    Eye of Science

    killzell.jpgOne of the often under-appreciated aspects of science is its ability to show us the striking, alien beauty of the world around us. We're somewhat familiar with pictures from space; images from the Hubble telescope adorn office and dorm walls around the world. Less familiar are images from the micro-world -- detailed depictions of insects, fungus, electronics, even bacteria and viruses. These, too, can be awe-inspiring.

    The photographers at Eye of Science have set out to make certain that we know just how amazing the micro-world can be. Working with electron microscopes, computertomographic equipment, and high-end Macintoshes, Oliver Meckes and Nicole Ottowa have been doing scientific photography for over a decade. Their philosophy -- mixing scientific fact and an artistic eye -- results in some of the most jaw-dropping images I've seen in a long while. Prints and calendars are available, but their site itself is worth spending a half-hour exploring. These are breathtaking pictures, composed with grace and beauty. And they are all around us, even if we can't see them.

    (Via Josh Rubin's Cool Hunting)

    September 16, 2005

    The Abrupt Kim Stanley Robinson

    50DB.jpgScience fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, who brought us the iconic Mars trilogy, is set to release the second in his series of global warming novels next month. The first, Forty Signs of Rain, was mostly set-up; in appears that in the upcoming book, Fifty Degrees Below, we start to see the payoff.

    Leading up to the release of the new book, Robinson has been talking about the impact of climate disruption and its utility as the kernel of a novel. His interview with the UK's Guardian newspaper is definitely worth reading, and pulls no punches; it will come as little surprise that he's no fan of the current US administration, and it's clear that this has influenced the nature of the fictional Washington DC of his current novels. But more interesting to me is a new short essay he's published entitled Imagining Abrupt Climate Change: Terraforming Earth.

    Continue reading "The Abrupt Kim Stanley Robinson" »

    December 19, 2005

    Wesley Goes To Nollywood

    nollywood.jpgFilmmaking has a cultural vocabulary. American action movies, Bollywood musicals, French art cinema -- all are immediately identifiable, not just by the actors or language, but by the cinematography, the pace, and simply by how the story is told. The rapidly-growing film industry in Africa, centered in Nigeria, is developing its own voice and style, but one that seems to generate quite a bit of ambivalence among those who follow Naija movies -- more familiarly referred to as "Nollywood" -- most closely.

    The rise of Nigerian films and "Nollywood" was among the earliest topics on WorldChanging, and it remains a frequent touchstone. Nollywood's growing success is a testament to the importance of inexpensive, high-quality hardware and robust global distribution; the movies are arguably as important (if not moreso) to the African diaspora as they are at home. For now, Nollywood isn't nearly as visible outside of the global African community as, say, Bollywood, but that's gradually changing. As this post's title suggests, Hollywood heavyweights like Wesley Snipes are starting to poke around the Naija film world to see what they can use.

    But the growth of Nollywood is prompting a not-entirely-positive reaction among those who follow it closely, in large part because of how the movies represent Nigerian society. Sokari Ekine at Black Looks ("Musings and Rants of an African Fem") posted today about this phenomenon, linking to several provocative essays and stories about the evolution of Naija films.

    Continue reading "Wesley Goes To Nollywood" »

    January 11, 2006

    Fifty Degrees Below

    Fifty Degrees Below is the second in Kim Stanley Robinson's climate change trilogy, and in most respects builds solidly upon the foundation he laid out in Forty Signs of Rain. As is typical for the second book in a trilogy, much is left unresolved at the end of Fifty Degrees Below; nonetheless, it's clear by the end of the novel that a great change has taken place, and that we're about to see the repercussions. There's a lot more action in Fifty Degrees Below than in the previous book, and I suspect we'll see even more when the next in the series comes out.

    The core of the story is an abrupt climate change event pushing the Northern Hemisphere climate into the "cold, windy, dry" state of a persistent ice age. Winter temperatures across the Eastern Seaboard of North America and across Europe reach the titular -50°, a sufficient disruption to give the main characters (who all work for the American National Science Foundation) license to explore a variety of solutions -- from public education to political campaigns to rapid, extensive research into renewable energy and efficiency technologies. The greatest effort, however, goes into something almost unimaginable: was the next slide, REMEDIAL ACTION NOW, that was the most interesting to Frank. One of the obvious places to start here was with the thermohaline circulation stall. Diane had gotten a complete report from Kenzo and his colleagues at NOAA, and her tentative conclusion was that the great world current, though huge, was sensitive in a nonlinear way to small perturbations. Which meant it might response sensitively to small interventions they could be directed well.

    Continue reading "Fifty Degrees Below" »

    About Arts

    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to WC Archive in the Arts category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    About Worldchanging is the previous category.

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