Tag Archives: films

China Walks the Line Between Celebrity and Censorship

When it comes to controlling content, the Chinese government is more vigilant than most. A familiar frenemy to most major U.S. tech companies, it frequently clashes with the likes of Google to filter our search results and content that it finds objectionable (which doesn’t take much).

While the country undoubtedly wants the connections and revenue that come with attracting such major brands and services to its shores, the commitment to freedom of information that they bring is far less appealing.

China flag in front of aerials

Can China continue to obstruct digital airwaves? | Image Credit: Mark Tollerman

Now it appears that TV and movies will be the next content frontier on which this China censorship battle will be fought.

Through a series of convoluted red tape measures, Chinese internet service providers who plan to air imported shows will be subject to increased scrutiny and editing before popular titles like “The Big Bang Theory” and  “Breaking Bad” can hit China’s screens. For companies who could otherwise immediately serve up these headline shows to an eager domestic audience the delays are likely to grate.

The piracy angle to this story is perhaps the most frustrating, given that availability is such a crucial part of the formula for convincing viewers to use legal services. When shows aren’t available via a legitimate platform, the chances are that they can be accessed through an illegitimate one. In this case everyone except the piracy site loses, as legal services are denied a paying viewer, revenue is lost to the original creator, and even China’s government fails in its mission to censor an imported show. Many titles on piracy sites simply run in their original, unedited form, potentially cutting the government out of the loop entirely.

This comes at a time when China’s curious mix of capitalism-backed Communism has its own media giants extending their reach into Hollywood. Alibaba, for one, is coming off the back of a hugely successful IPO and a strong financial quarter, with a significant part of its plans to capture new users lying in the U.S. creative industries. On the export side, American studios are showing huge interest in further exploration of the Chinese movie-going market, where imported films are already subject to quota yet make up a little less than half of the country’s box office.

With such a rapid acceleration of its entertainment industry on both the import and export front, China’s government is going to have to balance an increasing number of spinning plates as it seeks to censor incoming content, curb piracy that circumvents its efforts, and still exploit the economic value that the creative industries present.

Beyond Hollywood: International Movie Markets Look to Make Their Mark

For most casual fans of film, Hollywood is the first and last location name in movie making. But as tantalizing as Tinseltown is for actors and fans alike, there’s much more to production and many other excellent, if somewhat elusive film releases are made outside of U.S. borders.

Perhaps the best known of these is India’s Bollywood, a prolific section of the country’s movie industry that produces thousands of releases every year and contributes some . The Mumbai-based focus of film contributes several billion dollars to the Indian economy every year and has launched its own megastars, some of whom have crossed over to the market we in the West consider mainstream, such as Anil Kapoor of Slumdog Millionaire fame.

Bollywood Art

Image Credit: Meena Kadri

Where Bollywood is a term generally known by serious film buffs, Nollywood is unlikely to have reached such heights… yet. This week the New York Times name-checked the Nigerian film business of the same name,  citing the thousands of films produced by the country and the gritty, “bare-bones” nature of the industry as a prime attraction for domestic fans and those hardcore fans that the titles reach around the world.

Unfortunately the article also acknowledges a limiting factor all too familiar to global audiences: movie piracy. 

The box office revenues of Nigeria are reigned in, despite the huge level of production and passionate interest in what’s being made, by bootleggers. This illegal activity threatens to cut off the life blood of budding movie industries around the world, as cash is what impresses investors, and investment is what drives early-career filmmakers on to produce bigger and better movies.

Piracy is of course a problem in every country, from ripping off the big money blockbusters of Hollywood and denying them millions of dollars at the box office (see Expendables 3), to callously taking the work of rising talent without license, denying them the funds they need to get going on their next project.

At any level and in any country, widespread copyright infringement is a problem that requires both local and global enforcement in order to create an environment in which new talent can not only germinate, but bloom and grow with the funds that should be due to directors for success in their early work.