Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Heroes and Villains of the Silver Screen and the Muddy Water

Published in The Fiji Times, Wednesday 6th August, 2008

I noticed a lot of hype recently about the emerging “Bulawood” in Fiji with the annual Kula Film Awards and the release of the latest… television movie transferred to film for Fiji audiences only. I would like to commend the work of the Fiji Audio-Visual Commission for their persistence in promoting Fiji as a location for filmmaking and the wonderful tax incentives for enticing producers to base here for their production (filming). Mr. Dan Bolea and his team, under the watchful visionary eyes of new chairperson, Sharon Smith-Johns work very hard, even if the results are not as immediate, financially rewarding or glamorous as we would wish them to be.

But as someone who has worked in the Audio-Visual (radio/TV/film) industry here and abroad, and as a local independent producer even won a film award for a very, very short film (only 90secs for the “Tree of Life” which won a Commonwealth Vision Award in 2003), I do feel that while a lot of attention is focused on drawing producers and productions into Fiji, the FAVC may be missing the mark a little on local producers and productions. After all, some small, even “insular” feature films, animated shorts, and short and feature length documentaries have gone on to win Academy Awards and many have been nominated, as “The Land Has Eyes,” proved. However, the tax incentives really exclude small local independent producers who have no film financing fund to tap into. Then there are the Kula Awards.

The Kula Awards are promoted as “Fiji’s answer to the Academy Awards” (or something to that effect). Well after a number of years of pretty much the same thing, it’s starting to look like, “Fiji’s wrong answer to the Academy Awards”. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the initial concept, the Bollywood dances, the stunt skills and the original short films made by high-school students. It’s a great start. Unfortunately it’s still stuck in first gear. I have seen, and I am happy to be corrected if I have been short or near-sighted, no development of the budding talent. No sponsorship for some of these talented kids to go to film school in Australia or New Zealand, or Suva (I heard there was one, but couldn’t find it). No replays of the short films on TV or in the cinemas. It’s almost as if this is a token exercise. I’m sure it’s not though; perhaps just lacking a little “vision” in its cinemascope.

These thoughts ran through my head as I recently and patiently sat in Village Six and watched the ads and previews, including a very long one of the latest production to earn a “shot in Fiji” tag (maybe we need to be a bit careful about that kind of tag in our current situation), the made for television movie "Pirates Island: Lost Treasures of Fiji" (not to be confused with the other, local, Pirates of the DVD). Typically s the popcorn finished the main feature began. It was the latest installment (now number 6 if you lost count) of the popular comic hero, Batman, “The Dark Knight”.

Somewhere in the darkness, as the Dark Knight battled the Joker, a passage of dialogue was said that remained ingrained after Batman won (again), the lights came on and the spell of the magick of cinema was broken as everyone went back to their lives. In the film, someone says to Batman, or his alter-ego Bruce Wayne (or the actor Christian Bale) that the hero either dies or lives long enough to become the villain.

A few days ago, as I stood on the Rewa Bridge contemplating the sunrise (and the pollution from the buses), this piece of dialogue came back to me. Look at Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, onetime hero of Africa is now its bane. Although some may say that even though he was the only candidate in the recent presidential run-off election which he won (would have been rather silly if he had lost) at least he held an election. But I digress. The point of course is that he was the one-time pin-up boy for all liberation movements trying to throw off the shackles of colonialism, but in his stubborn refusal to relinquish power or accept his time has come, he is destroying the very country he helped forge.

But perhaps that is the problem with heroes. We in Fiji have had our fair share of heroes that hold on to power so tightly here that they eventually become the villain. Perhaps it is that the hero fears becoming a zero.

The German philosopher Friedrich Neitzsche had a lot to say about heroes, which he called Übermensch or the “superman” (not the fella who wears his underwear outside his pants). According to Neitzsche, the superman is someone who in discovering himself also discovers that it is in his best interests to reject any outside notions about values, trusting rather what he finds within himself. He creates his own good and evil, based on that which helps him to succeed or fail. In this way good is something which helps one to realize his potential and evil is whatever hampers or stands in the way of this effort. Sounds familiar to us?

So given this very deep (for a Wednesday anyway) reflection on the superman and the heroes and villains of our coup culture today, and in the hope of getting some funding from the FAVC for a great idea for a locally produced and cast film, I present to you a locally flavoured reworking of the Dark Knight cast:

Batman/Bruce Wayne/Superman/Clark Kent (and any other hero in the film): Frank Bainimarama (note, there may be times when Mohammed Aziz will play the role of Batman)

Batman’s sidekick, Robin/ Superman’s girl, Lois Lane: Mahendra Chaudhry

Harvey Dent, Gotham’s District Attorney-turned criminal “Two-Face”: Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Alfred the Butler: Pramesh Chand

Police Commissioner Gordon: Esala Teleni

The Joker: John Samy or whichever media organization is in the ‘bad books’ – depending on whether it is the NCBBF Draft script or written by deported journalists.

Next week: “A Century of Making Ministers” (the Church kind)
May your week be blessed with Love, Light and Peace!

Disclaimer: Rev. Bhagwan is a member of the Faculty of the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College. The opinions expressed in this article are personal and in no way represent the opinion of the College or the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma.

1 comment:

  1. The 12th Annual LA Shorts Fest returns to Hollywood August 15-21, 2008 at the Laemmle Sunset 5 theatres. LA Shorts Fest will be honoring Shane Black, writer/director/producer, with the prestigious Maverick Filmmaker Award” on opening night, August 15, at 7:30pm. Shane Black’s credits include Lethal Weapon, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, as well as the films The Last Boy Scout, starring Bruce Willis, The Long Kiss Goodnight, starring Geena Davis, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

    The festival also includes celeb directorial debuts: Josh Brolin’s X, Kirsten Dunst’s Welcome starring Winona Ryder, Rita Wilson’s film The Trap starring Janine Tripplehorn. Other short films star Adrien Grenier, Jenna Elfman, Bodhi Elfman, Kelly Preston, Ed Begley Jr., Robert Redford, David Koechler, Laura Kightlinger, Mickey Rooney, Adam Corolla, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Whoopi Goldberg.

    The festival will also feature a handful of music videos, including the U2 music video for Window in the Skies. We received over 42 original creative commercials submitted by top ad agencies, including CAA, Arnold Worldwide, Fallon and Leo Burnett.

    Our esteemed list of jurists includes Sandra Oh (Actress, Grey’s Anatomy), Andrew Reimer (HBO), David Bossert (Disney Animations), Seth Cohen (Comedy Central), Alex Meenehan (Smoke House), J. Sikura (Robert Evans Company), Susan King (LA Times) and Ernest Hardy (LA Weekly)