film diplomacy

Three weeks ago, UK Jewish Film began receiving anxious emails and phone calls from the Tricycle Theatre, the north London home of the UK Jewish film festival for the past eight years. The board asked to be allowed to view in advance all of the films that were made with Israeli backing in order to approve their content. When the UKJFF dismissed this as censorship, the Tricycle conceded the point. But it refused to back down on another demand: that the festival should hand back the small percentage of its funding that came from the Israeli embassy. 

With Narendra Modi saddled in the Prime Minister’s Office strongly and effectively, the nation is moving towards evolving and utilising its status as a soft power.  India’s achievements in areas like films, education and broadcasting are expected to help enable this quest of the Modi government. 

When the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office released details of its North Korean programme spending this week, some eyes were immediately drawn to the £287.33 the government paid for rights to show the BBC’s Sherlock at the Pyongyang Film Festival in 2012.

Throughout Beijing, images of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and other protagonists in the latest Transformers film stare from bus station billboards, shopfront windows and even a statue near Tiananmen Square. As US film studios look further afield for profits, the Hollywood sign now looms over China.

For the third year, the U.S. State Department is funding the University of Southern California's American Film Showcase, a $3.3 million program that sends American documentary filmmakers and their movies around the world to show them a side of America they may not know.

Look out, mainland China: Batman, cloaked in the cause of Hong Kong independence, is coming to get you, along with the cast of 2012's special-effects filled, genre-busting summer extravaganza Cloud Atlas.  

Protesters demonstrating against the military, which seized power in last month's coup d'état, have been spotted invoking the three-fingered salute used by the oppressed population in the films of Suzanne Collins's young adult science-fiction series.  In the wake of international news channels such as CNN and the BBC being taken off air, as well as HBO and the Disney Channel, it is especially significant that this small but pointed gesture of protest should have sprung from popular culture.