Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Films are to be watched

Film makers make films so they can be seen. Obviously they also choose to earn their living doing so. Yet getting their films seen is and remains the most important aim of any film maker. Somehow, a large part of the industry has lost this perspective and seems to regard making money as more important than getting films shown.

Michael Moore gave away copies of his films on the torrent. Most distributors and the industry regard P2P as a danger; yet it is one that they play into the hands of themselves. If you buy a DVD, you have to spend five minutes watching a warning about copying. Get hold of a copy and there’s no warning. So only the honest get punished for being honest.

Many film makers are taking advantage of the opportunities of new media and new distribution channels to present their films to a larger audience. Recently Ken Loach decided to put all his old classic films on Youtube. They are the films I grew up with and which shaped my opinions and youth. Yet having put them on Youtube to reach a mass audience, the distributors in France, Holland and Belgium decided this was obviously in breach of their copyright and made Youtube block anyone wanting to watch these films from those countries. That’s a great way to make friends and influence people.

The Dutch Peruvian film maker Heddy Honigmann has for a long time fought for her films to be released on DVD. At last she has got her way and a boxed set of four films is available – but only with Portuguese subtitling. Her international distributors apparently cannot cooperate closely enough to make such a venture possible with at least Dutch and English subtitles. This is a shameful state of affairs and reflects an unwillingness and apparent inability of the film industry to drag itself kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

I appeal to all distributors to do their utmost to make the as much of the history of cinematography available to as many people as possible. It’s really not going to do any harm to allow Ken Loach or anyone else to put their films on Youtube. You never know, people might see them and want to view a good quality copy in the comfort of their living room instead of hunched in front of the computer.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Elisabeth learns from Beatrix?

The British may well be about the discover the wonders of coalition government and the dance that precedes it. Many European countries have known it for years. Britain however still has a fraying form of government that assumes everyone is either black or white, red or blue, Whig or Tory, government or opposition.
Now however the wonders of cabinet/government formation and the preceding phase – known conveniently and logically if strangely in Dutch as “information” are about to be discovered in the UK. Brown might lose yet stay in power or Cameron may fail to acquire majority and yet claim victory. Suddenly the British monarch may find herself in a position well known to her Dutch Oranje-Nassau cousins and yet one that is very embarrassing for the Windsor family.
In Holland it is the Queen who decides – on the basis of advice from her counsel – who should first set about “informing” a government (setting the rules for who negotiates with whom under the guidance of the “informator”) and then she decides on the individual who should be the “formator”, coordinating the formation of the government.
I have always regarded it as a very civilised procedure – even though republicans oppose the power thus vested in the monarch to influence the democratic process. The essence of proportional representation is that the parties have decided on their manifesto and policies in advance. But they also have to indicate the extent to which they are willing to negotiate and compromise. This provides a more wysiwyg manifesto than the British system. If you are in opposition – and certainly as a liberal centre party – in the British system you can basically claim what you like – no one is there to check your claims. In Holland people know whether and how the various parties can cooperate. The large right-wing anti-immigration PVV party – not a neo-nazi party like the BNP – put itself out of the running to form a coalition because it wanted to ban the headscarf in public buildings, schools etc (as they do in Turkey). Such a ban could not count on any support from other parties, so even when they were the largest party (as in Almere) they soon dropped out of the coalition race.