During a Film Business conference coffee break, Dr. Martin Smith, special adviser at Ingenious Media, confirmed my observation that not many places in the world look at film and other creative industries as a whole. This short-sightedness in Eastern Europe, essentially, has us lose out on lots of international opportunities.
After the night in the library, I felt more comfortable discussing the economical prospects of African cinema with potential clients and partners. I saw such conversations with Post-Soviet TV and film reps as a way of changing the discourse that is sucked into the perennial East-West dichotomy.
“How about a bit of the South, ladies and gentlemen?” I asked some buyers AND sellers. The responses ranged from Central Partnership‘s “Oh finally, Africa is here!” to the lukewarm “Okay, inbox us your catalog. We’ll see what can be done” from a host of other major players.
In conclusion, I want you to look at two examples of films to better get my point about discourse switching. Galina Tymoshenko (for the Western reader – I can’t
confirm Galina’s relation to Yulia) who is a marketing director at Galeon kino, Ukraine, introduced the audience at the Film Business Conference to a recent Eastern Europeam BO hit, Vysotskiy. Spasibo, Chto Zhivoy. I suggest we look at this production from the POV of a person who reads Ukrainian diaspora memoirs. Or, for that matter, someone who listens to recent Bob Dylan. Would the film prove to be a success with these audiences as it did with the Post-Soviet crowd? True, you can’t reach and be loved by all the viewers. But at least here in Eastern Europe we shouldn’t overlook those other segments of the immense and complex global market. Our fellow Ukrainians whose parents moved abroad for various reasons. They are also Ukrainains even though they did not grow up listening to Vladimir Vysotskiy, Viagra or Mr Kobzon. To think of this audience, we probably need to realize who we are, where we come from and where we are headed. Yes, those identity questions again.
This is where my reference to another film discussed during the 2012 KMW moves in. The event organizers tell us that Rick McCallum (a Filmbiz conference speaker) is to partner with Sergei Loznitsa to shoot a WWII-set blockbuster film about the Holocaust in Ukraine. Another Everything is Illuminated? A cliche? Perhaps. But this is the kind of narrative that resonates with the audiences that the Post-Soviet media execs lust for: the West. This is also where our Ukrainian diaspora lives.
And Vysotskiy..?! Nah! Communication hell. (See My North Korean film classes in humanity and creativity)
Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan has suggested that “[w]hat Indian cinema needs is to wear the garb of western cinema. We have to make shorter films, introduce more special effects and raise the production standards to make our movies more appealing to an international audience.” The perceived formula for success is not to condition the West to understand Indian cinema or to expect the audience to encounter it on its own terms, but to universalize it—to conform the art to the requirements of a global audience.
Now my very final thought: I can’t think of a post-independence Ukrainian novel originally written in English and first published in this country. Can you? (See Tendai Huchu’s review of Marina Lewycka’s Two Caravans)
But I am glad to announce that some steps have been taken in this direction — we already produced our first feature entirely shot in English in Ukraine. It’s called Feathered Dreams, and this narrative change is set to teach us all in the East what it could mean to fluently speak the talk of the West, or the South, to begin with.
Some of the new discourses and international narratives that we need in Ukraine:
- exploration of the role of culture in social development
- encouragement of international charity initiatives by Ukrainian NGOs, expansion of participation by young Ukrainians in programs like the UN Volunteers
- developing the concept of creative economy along the lines of what is being done by the British Council
- promoting sustainable development in Ukraine through use of planned communication campaigns
The author expresses special gratitude to Media Resources Management who, through their act of charity and moral support, have shown an edge in promoting the discourse/narrative change in Eastern Europe.