Vladimir Putin is obsessed with cinema’s potential to sway hearts and minds. Over the past several years, Russia’s paramount leader has been tightening the screws on his country’s film industry. What is most remarkable about Putin’s move is not his power grab per se, Radio Free Europe’s anxiety-laden reportage in late December notwithstanding.
When it comes to entertainment, leisure and play, people generally exercise more freedom of choice than in any other realm of modern life. They choose to watch a movie, play chess, go to a concert, or go shopping because they find it amusing. In short, look at the way people entertain themselves and you’ll discover what people wish to do for one's own sake. If you’re looking for a window into the global village, to assess its condition and its attitudes toward every imaginable aspect of contemporary life, there can be no better portal than global entertainment.
In the aftermath of the Beijing Olympics, there's been much discussion about an increase in China's soft power, not least by Joseph Nye, the originator of the concept. [Link] Nye and others (this writer included) have evaluated China's film industry and U.S.-Chinese co-productions as a strategic asset for the Middle Kingdom. I was discussing the subject recently with a U.S.
I would like to commend Congresswoman Diane Watson for organizing the Congressional Symposium on American Film and Public Diplomacy and her sponsorship of legislation that includes establishing the Johnny Grant Film Series featuring classic American cinema in U.S. embassies and missions overseas. I think it is a grand idea that allows us to tap into one of the United States' most significant contributions to culture over the past century as an element of public diplomacy outreach.
In 2006 the modestly budgeted Disney Channel film High School Musical unexpectedly became a world-wide smash hit, with some 200 million mostly 9-14 year old “tweener” female viewers spread across some 100 countries. Just last week Disney rolled out the blockbuster sequel, “High School Musical Two,” in the US and kicked off a global marketing campaign with a 24-hour series of conference calls with Disney partners in, once again, over 100 countries.