February 28, 2011
June 3, 2010
So changing channels I ended up onto Alan Sugar's Junior Apprentice...At first I was interested, mainly because these teenagers seemed a lot more genuine and fresh than the usual Apprentice's crowd. For once, they didn't look like actors who had carefully learned their script (tell me I'm sceptical, but I can't believe 'normal' people can behave so comfortably in front of a camera like the Apprentices do. And I just had a look at the ones they had selected for the next season, some guys looked like top-models...very strange). Anyway, it was entertaining, and not too disappointing, up until the point when I saw one of the guys using a hair-straightener, just before going to an important business meeting...Isn't that some kind of totally media-conscious joke? I don't know any well-behaving gentleman who would dare using a hair-straightener, in public anyway...If I ever saw my man doing this, I would surely tell him, straight away 'You're fired!' and though I know some fine 'gender-crossing' men, I don't think any of them would ever dare doing this in public, and in front of a camera...guys, what do you say about this?
November 30, 2009
The film is inhabited by the grace and passion these kids have for their art. It also cleverly talks about Rio favelas in a positive way, avoiding cliches on a crime-ridden area. Key issues are though evoked – we for example follow the financial struggles parents face to send their children to New York for an international dance competition.
Another theme is evoked, and it's the equality of treatment a young black female dancer could receive compared to other girls. Isabela, the young girl, will finally not make it into the dancers selected for the scholarship, under grounds that she is 'too fat'. To my opinion, this is really loads of bullsh*t. Of course, in case you wonder, she is a thin & gracious girl, with lots of sweetness who incarnates ballet in a very personal way. This young and very gracious girl is just as talented as the others, but the jury of classic ballet dancing have probably a 'classic' conception of what beauty, in the world of ballet, is, so they could not conceive that a young black girl would successfully embody a female character. Because this is what these international competitions are about – selecting the most talented artists who will fit into the patterns classic ballet dancing have always developed. And their ideal of a woman ballet dancer is probably close to a thin blonde girl with straight hair...
So they gave her only the third prize. Which is very unfair, I think.
September 7, 2009
On Sunday Bank Holiday, I went to Barbican for the last day of that somewhat different exhibition, featuring the (mini) scandal of the Tasaday. For the record, the Tasaday, an ethnic group living in the jungle of the Philippines, were discovered by anthropologists and brought to the media scene in 1971. Reporters spent months with them, including American journalist John Nance. And then the whole region was closed by the PANAMIN, a Philippine organisation taking care of the interests of ethnic minorities, which claimed that it was harmful for this tribe to be approached by foreigners (and those from the Western world in particular).
The Tasaday were brought back to our attention in 1986 when another group of anthropologists and journalists claimed that the previous story was a hoax, and that these people who were allegedly living in isolation since the Stone-Age, who had stone weapons, wore leaves and ate fruits and yams, were in fact members of the nearest village who had been brought there by Elizalde, the Philippine politician behind PANAMIN. The guy had told them to exchange their clothes for leaves and start eating the forest products.
The exhibition used this fact to show footage of the 70's films, as well as interviews from John Nance, in particular. The aim was to work around reality and fiction, and their respective treatment by media. The Fourth Wall being that imaginary line that actors set between themselves and the spectators to immerse even more in the play.
This subject is fascinating, and raises a number of questions.
Firstly, can we set a preserve area around a tribe and therefore put it in prison, just to protect it from the contacts with more 'evolved' societies? Should we do this, as one anthropologist interviewed for the exhib stated?
What is 'evolution', is there a scale from 1 to 10, which says that Western culture in its contemporary form is the utmost degree of evolution towards which all should converge?
What are media seeking, apart from profit and coverage? Are they just interested in scoops, at any price?
And about media, what lies beneath the thin line between truth and reality? It's still unclear whether this whole thing was a hoax or not, despite some troubling facts that have fuelled the controversy over the years – and if we look at the 'suspects', what's their mobile? Did Elizalde really want to protect this tribe from external threats? Was the closure of the region not guided simply by the political embargo on The Philippines? Perhaps the alleged hoax discovery was motivated by the reject of the Philippine regime (as it happened right after President Marcos was deposed, in 1986)? Questions, questions, to which we may never have the correct answer...but for sure, it shows once again that facts and beliefs can be treacherous, so much as to fool scientists and renowned journalists, and that what you read in the press may be true...or may not.
Photograph © John Nance
July 28, 2009
'ça m'énerve!' – Helmut Fritz's song is obviously the hit in France this summer. All ages together, my friends play it loop. Even if the song will not make it in music anthologies, its formal qualities – rythm and energy, allow for a good dance-floor filler, from Le Touquet to Calvi.
But also, the lyrics show some appeal. Indeed, half-criticising half-revering the luxury culture landmarked by Montaigne (the avenue) – Boëtie (the street) – Etoile (the square), Helmut Fritz is echoing the penultimate trend in France at the moment : the fact that the French are fed-up - 'énervés' - with everything. Fed-up to be unable to go anywhere they want to ('Have you booked?'), fed-up to have to pay a mint for anything - entertainment, clothes, food -, fed-up to be dictated ridiculous look criteria...With Helmut Fritz, the French rebel during the Summer...before a proper revolution this Autumn?
July 19, 2009
While being a star on telly requires to show my best angle to the sunlights, and to be there when it happens, with Facebook, I can create the event whenever it suits me. Today, tomorrow, or next week...But, as for television and other media, communication creates an overflow of images, words and sounds, so to be heard/seen, I have to overexpose myself – more pics, more clever notes, more amusing remarks...in fact, the more I'm a clown, the better. There's very little room, if any, for that picky thought that may not please all of my (numerous) friends.
June 17, 2009
And that's how the Green / ALE / Les Verts have managed to get such high scores : they occupied the space left empty by Labour & Socialists, talking about their vision of Europe, emphasizing, rightly so, the fact that climate & environment problems could only be tackled at a regional or global level, while proposing solutions in other fields as well. And they were, in France notably, and in other countries, very successful, managing to get up to 15% votes, while traditional left parties were collapsing. They also took advantage from the fact that a number of voters traditionally inclined to the left and who take interest in European issues shifted towards the Green.
An analysis of the pre-election campaigns in both the UK & France shows how the Labour and Parti Socialiste approached the election.
The UK, first. Having opted for a UK-based vote, I watched carefully the messages broadcasted by the main parties, Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats. None of them even said a single word about Europe in what they called the 'European Elections broadcast' (as I couldn't believe my eyes, I had to double-check I'd downloaded the correct programme, and not the local elections part. But yes, it was indeed, but not rightly so, I'd say, the 'European Elections' bit). So it was only babbling about the UK politics, and how each of them would manage this country properly etc...While the Green Party talked about the role they had played, and could play, in Europe, tackling the European Commission on environmental issues (Genetically Modified Organisms, correctly labelled food packaging, toxic-free toys...), but insisting also on the role they could play for education, economy..., using the clever tagline 'You might think you know us, but...think again'. This double strategy of mentioning practical achievements, as well as relating to people's preoccupations in areas traditionally privileged by left parties (economy, helthcare, jobs, human rights) seems to have paid off, as an incremental 45% share of the voters chose them in 2009 vs. 2004.
France then. Apart from the fantastic job achieved by the leader of the newly formed Green union, Daniel Cohn Bendit, or as we call him in France 'Dany the Red', who, like the Phoenix, ressuscited from his ashes ; apart from the impact this character had on the results (15% share of the votes, #2 in France and on-par with the Parti socialiste, with 14 MEPs elected), it is interesting to see how the main parties dealt with the campaign.
Both the Centre-Right (UMP, Nouveau Centre, Progressistes – 28% share of votes, 29 MEPs) and the Green (Europe Ecologie) had simple and clear proposals, covering issues ranging from environment to socio-economics (the following are extracts of their respective campaign leaflets) : 'we will commit to creating a true industrial policy in Europe', 'we will tackle the issue of illegal immigration', 'we will re-orientate our economic model towards a new green expansion based on innovation' (UMP) ; 'create a minimum salary across Europe', 'massively invest in education, research and culture', 'prevent on a European scale diseases such as cancer, asthma, obesity, hypertension' (Europe Ecologie). Those were presented as bullet points, in a very clear presentation that highlighted them. A proper campaign leaflet from people who take the election seriously.
On the other hand, the Parti Socialiste had oriented its campaign on attacking the right, and in particular N. Sarkozy. So instead of focusing on effective proposals, it spent half of the leaflet criticising N. Sarkozy and the impact of the liberal system in Europe. While the other half indeed included a number of effective proposals, these were diluted in the overall presentation, and made the whole leaflet look like it was full of technocratic jargon, made by people who didn't really care for what they were talking about.
So what's going on here? It is well known that the representatives chosen for Euro elections are not the biggest stars of their party. As an example, Brice Hortefeux, elected MEP for UMP/PPE, will not go to Strasbourg, he has higher ambitions for himself (such as becoming Prime Minister for Nicolas Sarkozy). So is it that all these parties consider Europe is and should remain devoted to technocrats, that the European Parliament is just an excuse, that the Real-Politik is till only done in the countries? Most certainly. And this is where it matters. We, the people, need a strong federal Europe, that is not only dominated by a liberal view. And that's where the left parties should take it seriously, that's where they have a definite role to play. They obviously haven't understood it, but the people who voted for the Green 'en masse' have. Future will tell if the left gets the message at some point, instead of focusing on their short-sighted tactics only inspired by getting the votes and staying into power.
June 14, 2009
Are thrillers and action movies any credible today if the posters and advertising don't include an armed character openly displaying his weapon? I doubt it. Examples below clearly show that action and adventure films now have to display one or 2 weapons on the advert – with the promise attached of a massive killing spree. See Underworld, Wanted, Punisher...
Action movies posters in the 50s, the 60s or even in the 70s were not so apologetic of armed violence, and weapons were rarely displayed – 'Peter Gunn', using a visual gimmick on the logo to suggest the weapon, 'Bullit' where Steve McQueen's gun remains in its holster. Also, the advertising would focus on other action elements than the weapon itself – a chase, a fight, a car-race...
In fact the first character to advocate the use of weapons is James Bond, whose 'License to kill' provides him with a sort of calm impunity, as he elegantly assumes his killing function. He created a new trend in action movies advertising, and his current avatars are nowhere ashamed of holding death ustensils, as if they were modern-life tools.
Voici Contre-Enquête un polar psychologique plutôt que d'action - ça dézingue même assez peu (dans mon souvenir) ; qu'à cela ne tienne, c'est un Dujardin armé que l'on voit sur l'affiche !
A vrai dire, depuis des dizaines d'années, on voit des calibres de tous poil à l'affiche des films d'espionnage ou d'aventure ; mais peut-être ces films étaient-ils ceux d'une époque où la suggestion fonctionnait aussi bien que la démonstration, où la promesse d'action spectaculaire portait sur d'autres catalyseurs visuels du suspens : courses poursuites, traques, empoignades, corps à corps, armes blanches, étouffements, constituaient les codes dominants des affiches de films de suspense et de crime.
April 30, 2009
Yes dear readers, you've read it well – the PM website hosts petitions that are created by the citizens, asking him various things about various subjects. And this one, which has been created recently, has gathered already over 33,000 signatures. And is the biggest petition on the site to date. That only shows how fed up the British people are with their current government...but this is another debate, and I'm not talking here about the validity of the petition.
Just when I think about the way the man who stands in office at The Palais of Elysée, obviously controls all media and also manages to be in the news every single day, one way or the other, I can't imagine he would allow something similar to happen. Well of course, the UK and the French political systems are different, but they both belong to the same kind of government: the democratic system.
A quick look at the basics shows interesting definitions of democracy, and in particular the importance of the following guardians – freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Wikipedia - Democracy
Even though there is no universally accepted definition of 'democracy', there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes. The first principle is that all members of the society (citizens) have equal access to power and the second that all members (citizens) enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.
However, if any democracy is not carefully legislated to avoid an uneven distribution of political power with balances, such as the separation of powers, then a branch of the system of rule could accumulate power and become harmful to the democracy itself. The "majority rule" is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without responsible government it is possible for the rights of a minority to be abused by the "tyranny of the majority". An essential process in representative democracies are competitive elections, that are fair both substantively and procedurally. Furthermore, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential so that citizens are informed and able to vote in their personal interests.
France has a tradition of controlling TV since Charles de Gaulle , but after him the audiovisual policy has been paved with a number of comical episodes or perturbed variations – from the creation of the first private terrestrial channel in the 80s, the ludicrous '5' on the pattern of La Cinque in Italy, owned y Berlusconi himself, to the recent debate about advertising on public-owned channels - loss of which, voted in 2009, will foster even more control by the government, obviously, as the French President is now able to nominate the head of the public channels.
So, with Sarkozy in power, the links between press and politics have been stronger than ever, let's look at some facts about key press groups:
Lagardère Media Active detains shares in Le Monde (15%), Le Parisien (25%); Arnaud Lagardère, General Manager of Lagardère Group, often describes Sarkozy as his 'brother'.
DI group, a subsidiary of LVMH, property of Bernard Arnault, owns Les Echos; Bernard Arnault was bestman at Sarkozy's wedding in 1996.
Socpresse - Marcel Dassault, owns Le Figaro; Serge Dassault, General Manager of Socpresse, publicly supports Nicolas Sarkozy.
Bolloré Médias, owned by Vincent Bollore, has 30% of Havas and SFP, as well as 40% of the well-known research company CSA; CSA is specialised in opinion surveys and consistently cited by French press before key elections; Vincent Bolloré lent Sarkozy his yacht to 'relax' after the presidential election in May 2007 (that was gross, if I may say so...).
In terms of TV, TF1, the biggest channel by its audience, is private since 1987, and belongs to construction tycoon Bouygues (43% capital); Martin Bouygues, was bestman at Sarkozy's wedding, and is godfather to N. Sarkozy's son Louis; Patrick Le Lay, TF1's General Manager from 1988 to 2007, and Etienne Mougeotte, TF1's editor in chief from 1987 to 2008, are both close friends of Sarkozy.
So to conclude I would just like to ask: doesn't it look like we are strongly and blatantly manipulated? Don't get me wrong: it would be extremely naïve to ignore the fact that governments are manipulating opinion, which is the way they get into power...and hold to it. All governments do that, it is part of the democratic game, and it's the role of press to prevent the manipulation of opinion, by informing citizens. But when press is controlled by closed allies of the government, isn't its freedom getting a bit twisted?
 Historically, the first private channel was pay-TV Canal+, created in 1983.
April 12, 2009
I am still shocked at the events that happened on April 1st in London @ Bank, around the protests surrounding the G20 Summit. It can be claimed that some people have been violent, and indeed during Wednesday protests, a group of anarchists has broken into Royal Bank of Scotland and smashed windows, phones and computers. So what? That was it really, but Police have been charging on horsebacks people who were quietly doing a sit-in @ Climate Camp.
'Subsequently, at least 10 protesters sitting down in the street close to the Bank of England were left with bloody head wounds after being charged by officers with batons at around 4.30pm. One woman, said to be an Italian student, was carried off unconscious.' The Guardian, 01.04.2009When the English go for a riot they do it seriously.
Moreover, London Police has used a controversial technique, called 'kettling' to pen the protest when it started getting nasty. This meant that thousands of peaceful demonstrators were left unable to leave the area from at least 5 hours. The riots were pacific but they turned nasty at some point.
What to remember from this event? Well...
Met police use controversial methods and don't hesitate to charge pacific protesters. It's as if they wanted to provoke a peaceful crowd and generate disorders.
Even better, Police love charging those who just wander around. Attack them with batons, see them collapse without helping them, and then wait for them to die – unfortunately this is not a scam, but the sad and true story of Ian Tomlinson, the man who died inside a police cordon.
The media were probably overrepresented at this event – when the RBS branch was stormed (below), there were more photographers than protesters, which makes me wonder if this wasn't 'staged' and organised?
The G20 protests undoubtedly marked the rise of alternative media – Twitter, independent photographers, Indymedia etc...
'WE MUST NEVER BE AFRAID TO GO TOO FAR, FOR SUCCESS LIES JUST BEYOND' (Proust).
Image Credits: John Stead 2009, guardian.co.uk