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.


On the occasion of International Women’s Day-Meet the directors who made cinema history

After winning the Golden Globe for Best Director at the 29th ceremony for her work in Nomadland, filmmaker Chloé Zhao broke a very important taboo: she was the second woman in history to win the award, the first being Barbra Streisand in 1984 with Yentl, in addition to being the first Asian to receive the award for best director of the event. Even with such a victory, however, the disparity in the history of award-winning filmmakers is visible. [Global]


TV stations to be banned from showing unclassified movies May 1

The National Film Authority has announced that no television station will be allowed to show an unclassified movie by May 1, 2021. The move, according to the authority, is in consonance with the Film Act 935A statement signed by the chairman of the Film Classification Committee, Socrate Safo said "From 1st May 2021, no television station, cinema theatre or movie screening center shall show any unclassified audio-visual content. “Such audio-visual content includes feature films, short films, TV series, selected TV programs, documentaries, advertisements, music videos meant for public exhibition and broadcasting”. The statement added: “A right owner, licensee or assignee who desires to exhibit an audio-visual content shall submit the content to the Film Classification Committee for examination and classification at least twenty-one days before the intended exhibition. [Ghana]


Saudi Arabia to Hold Its First International Film Festival in November

Saudi Arabia’s first ever Red Sea International Film Festival is set to take place in November, Variety reports, after a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the first full-fledged film festival in Saudi Arabia with an international audience, running from Nov. 11-20 in the historic district of Jeddah. The theme “will be Metamorphosis, which will celebrate the role of cinema as a force for positive change,” a statement by event’s organizers said. “It reflects on the festival’s local context: the impact of cinema’s triumphant return to Saudi Arabia since 2019, as well as the blossoming local and regional film scenes, exploring how cinema culture can create an interface connecting a new, outward-looking Saudi and the world.” [Saudi Arabia]


Europe’s New Rules of Engagement With Streamers Making Slow But Steady Progress

The EU’s game-changing Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which is expected to prompt new rules of engagement between producers and streaming giants, is finally in various stages of implementation across Europe. The new rules — for which the formal deadline was January 2021, but there is some leeway — will involve investment obligations and in some countries, setting out terms of trade for streamers. What remains unclear, however, is how long it will take for the European TV and film production ecosystem to feel the so-called “Brussels Effect.” And how much AVMS will impact different member states that are applying the directive differently. At its core the directive simply states that streamers must offer a 30% quota of European content to European subscribers starting in 2021. But on top of that, EU countries are introducing nationally tailored legislation to make streamers directly re-invest a percentage of their revenues in each European country where they operate. And some countries — such as France and Italy — are in the process of enshrining into law new rules that will also force Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and other streaming services to invest locally through independent producers and ensure that producers will retain a portion of the rights. [Europe]


Is Netflix changing the way the French make TV?

France has a long history of rejecting American cultural imports. In fact, France has fought long and hard to protect its cultural legacy from global and commercial interests. And what does that mean in terms of content? “Thanks to state subsidization, French TV hasn’t been catering to what sells,” explains Julie Fette, an Associate Professor of French Studies at Rice University, who teaches classes on Contemporary French Media. Low viewership of shows on state-run channels doesn’t equate to an automatic cancellation if the show is considered to be of cultural or intellectual merit of some kind, since advertisers and audiences don’t need to be courted in the same way as they do in the U.S. But as hard as France has worked to keep out the Americans, they couldn’t stop Netflix. The streaming giant, which began producing French language content in 2014, finally opened a Paris office at the beginning of 2020, likely in response to the French government mandating they devote 25% of their French revenue to financing domestic French content production. Results have been mixed, with early flops like the drama Marseille countered by critical and commercial successes like Dix Pour Cent (Call My Agent!) and Lupin. [France]


Hungarian media watchdog targets LGBTQI TV campaign

The National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) said on Thursday (4 March) it was launching legal proceedings, claiming the broadcast was not suitable for children. The advert, which first aired in December, features LGBTQI couples reacting to homophobic comments posted online. It came in response to an increasingly hostile environment for so-called rainbow families, including changes made to Hungary’s constitution in November which defined that a “mother – a woman, the father – a man”. Hungary barred citizens from legally changing their gender early last year, and introduced legislation that would limit adoption to married couples, cutting paths to adoption for gay couples. The Háttér Society group behind the campaign says the media authority is purposely trying to silence LGBTQI groups. “The purpose of the Media Authority is to silence LGBTQ organisations so that there can be no meaningful social debate on this issue,” the group’s managing director Tamás Dombos told RTL. "We think this campaign video as an important part of social dialogue. [Hungary]


The clumsily drafted online safety bill could see adult content censored in Australia

“Gay Zombie Porn Gets Festival Flick” – just one of the many creative headlines following the announcement that LA Zombie, a film directed by queer art house auteur Bruce LaBruce, would be pulled from 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival after being refused an exemption from the Australian Classification Board. The Board made its decision on the basis that the film fit the “Refused Classification” or “RC” category under the federal government’s guidelines for the classification of films. Reportedly, its many obscenities included depicting “necrophilia” (the gorgeous porn star François Sagat performing in red and green corpse paint) and scenes “which are offensive or abhorrent” from the perspective of “reasonable adults” (one assumes the orgy at the end). Australia’s bizarre and outdated classification laws are an embarrassment, and they are now coming back to haunt the federal government with its proposed online safety bill. [Australia]


Irish Film Institute launches new international streaming service

Supported by Culture Ireland, the IFI International streaming service, now live at IFIInternational.ie, will allow partner Irish film festivals worldwide to bring the very best of Irish cinema to audiences. The new IFI International site launches with six festivals: the Belgrade Irish Festival (March 12-21), the British and Irish Film Festival Luxembourg (March 15-22), Irish Film Festival Boston (March 17-21), Irish Film Festa Rome (March 17-21), the San Francisco Irish Film Festival (March 25-28), and Irish Film Festival Ottawa (April 9-13). Content for each of the festivals will be available exclusively to audiences in those territories. Other festivals scheduled to host their programmes on the site include the Oulu Irish Festival (Finland) in September/October, and the Irish Film Festival Australia, which is due to be held later in the year. After creating an account, users will be to browse films that are available in their region that can be rented on a "per film" basis - there are no monthly subscription fees. Tickets are sold in the local currency of each festival. [Ireland]


Korean TV dramas find a huge audience in India

Crash Landing on You was released in December 2019, but it wasn't until March 2020 that it became a cultural phenomenon in India — a development that not many could have anticipated. The show is about a paragliding mishap that "drops a South Korean heiress in North Korea, and into the life of an army officer, who decides he will help her hide." Over the past decade, Korean dramas and music — better known as K-pop have driven a global phenomenon sometimes called the "Korean wave." In India, the subculture commanded a niche audience. Students and young people from the country's northeastern states felt inspired by the romantic storylines, the cuisine, as well as the fashion choices of the star-studded casts. [India]


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