Culture Matters

Spherex's weekly insights into the globalization of entertainment.

Understanding international cultural trends and narratives is critical to the media and entertainment industry’s ability to adapt, evolve and innovate.


Survey shows many South Africans endorse FPB classifications on media content

A lot of South Africans endorse the work of the Film and Publication Board regarding classifications and ratings of media content. This is according to a survey conducted by the board among 7000 respondents from all South African provinces. FPB Acting Research Manager Oupa Makhalemele says the survey was also to establish the awareness and assessment of films ratings. “What is clear is that the idea of regulating content is something that the public generally likes us to continue doing our work. They believe that there is need to regulate content, but there is a big worry that comes to the levels of lack of awareness or ignorance to the potential harm in some of the online activities that especially young children play. Parents tend to buy games for their children which also have age rating symbols attached them.” The board found that most of the parents that took part in the survey, lean more heavily towards censoring video games and films with strong language than those with strong violence. Parents surveyed were also more concerned with nudity and sex in content. [South Africa]


New law to check lewd content - KFCB CEO Ezekiel Mutua

The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) CEO Ezekiel Mutua has said a new law that will ensure enforcement of stringent measures on lewd and subversive content could be in place come June, this year. Proposed as part of the sweeping changes highlighted in the Kenya Film Policy whose draft underwent public participation last month and now awaits presenting over to the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs (Formally Ministry of ICT), Joe Mucheru, the move targets over-the-top and pay-TV service providers whose content is not subjected to stringent censorship due to gaps in the current law. The draft also seeks to have the government monitor and sensor obscene content that has bypassing the KFCB censorship flat-forms and finding itself to online channels. [Kenya]


A woman’s gaze on women: Sudanese female director wins French award for film about arranged marriage

15-year-old Nafisa has a crush on Babiker. But her parents have promised her to Nadir, a young Sudanese businessperson who lives abroad. Nafisa’s grandmother, the village matriarch, has her own plans for the young woman’s future. This is the storyline of the short film Al-Sit, that earlier this month won its writer, director and producer Suzannah Mirghani the Canal+/Cine+ Award from the French channel Canal Plus Cinema, at the Clermont-Ferrand, one of the world’s largest international short film festivals. “I’m proud to be part of a new wave of locally-produced films and visually telling stories I find interesting and representative of my idea of Sudan,” Mirghani told Salaam Gateway. [Sudan]


Part Tarantino, part ‘Parasite,’ totally Jewish — Michael Mayer’s Israeli Hollywood nightmare

The film in question is “Happy Times,” or in Hebrew, “Nitra’eh Besmachot,” an expression not unlike the popular Yinglish term “only simchas.” The film, which tells the story of a post-Shabbat dinner in the Hollywood Hills that devolves into deadly disaster, is the latest from Los-Angeles-based Israeli director Michael Mayer, whose first feature film, “Out in the Dark” (2012), also starred [Michael] Aloni. In that film, Aloni played a gay, privileged, Jewish lawyer who falls in love with a young Palestinian Muslim student (Nicholas Jacob), with tragic consequences. Spoiler (but not really): Everyone dies at the end of “Happy Times.” But how? Following Chekhov’s rule that if a rifle is hanging on the wall in the first scene, it must go off in the third, keep your eyes on everything hanging on the wall: the shofar… the hamsa …. Even peyos become a murder weapon in this Jewish danse macabre. Like Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite,” “Happy Times” is a dark comedic thriller interlaced with social commentary. Casual racism is a running theme. [Israel/US]


9 OTT platforms that exclusively stream regional language content

With their burgeoning popularity, the need for OTT platforms and web-content permeated beyond metros, leading to a slow and steady rise of regional-language-only services. While Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have a respectable collection of regional language content in their libraries, there is still so much untapped potential in such content that cannot be accessed as easily as mainstream shows and movies. With platforms like Hoichoi and Aha, audiences can now stream content made in other languages just as easily as they can watch international and Hindi-language TV shows and movies. As filmmaker Bong Joon Ho eloquently said, "Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” [India]


SBS draws fire for editing out gay kisses from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

“Bohemian Rhapsody” reached the highest viewership share of all movies shown on TV during the Seollal holidays, but terrestrial broadcaster SBS faced criticism for deleting the film’s homosexual scenes. It is a movie the entire family can enjoy, and we intentionally bought the sing-along version,” an SBS official told The Korea Herald. However, some viewers criticized SBS for deleting two crucial scenes in the movie in which two men kiss, and for blurring two men kissing in the background of another scene. “The kissing scenes are very long. For the blurred out scene, it was while music was playing so we couldn’t take it out,” an SBS official said. “We didn’t have any special intention in editing. Even if it were a kissing scene between a man and a woman, if the scene is too risque or continues for a long period of time, making us feel that it could be uncomfortable for the families watching together, we would have edited similarly.” [Korea]


Queer online series meets eager Russian LGBTQ audience

Russian film director Andrei Fenochka says his online series about queer young people is important for LGBTQ people in a country that bans gay “propaganda” among minors. Fenochka’s “Here I Come” series that debuted last fall is marked as only available to people older than 18 in accordance with Russian law. “We have met with a very positive, supportive reaction from young viewers because they finally see the presentation of this part of society not only in English or in Korean, but also in Russian,” he said. “It is important for them to feel that they are not alone, they are not in isolation, they are not banned. Therefore, the interest is very large.” [Russia]


German LGBTQ actors come out to demand recognition

The latest cover of Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, a weekly supplement to Germany's daily newspaper of the same name, is a tribute to the legendary 1971 Stern magazine cover on which 374 women, celebrities and non-celebrities proclaimed that they had had abortions. Back then, the signatories were taking a stance against the controversial article 218 of the German Penal Code, which at the time still made abortion a punishable offense, almost without exception. The action not only caused an enormous stir nationwide — it ultimately triggered change. The latest montage of public figures to come out en masse in the magazine was published on Friday under the headline "We are already here" and the hashtag #actout. The 185 lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, non-binary and trans actors are demanding more recognition in theater, film and television. With their joint public coming out and manifesto, they are standing up for more public visibility for diverse gender identities and sexual orientations on German stages and screens. [Germany]


Disney Answers Call for Icelandic Subtitles and Dubbing

A Disney representative has answered a letter from Iceland’s Minister of Education and Culture urging the company to add Icelandic-language subbing and dubbing to their streaming service Disney+, which launched in Iceland last year. In a letter to the Minister, Manager of The Walt Disney Company in the Nordic and Baltic regions Hans van Rijn states the company is currently working on adding Icelandic dubbing and subtitles to the service but it will take “a few months” to complete the project. Iceland’s Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir wrote a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek on February 1 urging the company to add Icelandic subtitles and dubbing to its Disney+ streaming service. Disney films and TV shows have been subtitled and dubbed in Icelandic over the past several decades and Disney owns the rights to that material, but it has not been made available on the company’s streaming service, which entered the Icelandic market last September. [Iceland]


Three Latin American Movies Make It To Oscars 2021 International Feature Film Shortlist

And then there were three. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which in January announced that a movie from Spain and 17 others from Latin America were among the 93 eligible candidates for this year's International Feature Film category, has whittled the crop to 15. Movies from Mexico, Guatemala, and Chile made that shortlist. [Mexico, Guatemala, Chile]


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