Cannes 2008: Globalization and Cinema: Who Wins and Who Loses in the Entertainment War?

Cannes seemed more decadent than ever, precisely because it was dancing against a backdrop of death and destruction from Burma to China, to the US heartland and Wall Street's "recession."
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"There is only one thing in this world, and that is to keep acquiring money and more money, power and more power. All the rest is meaningless."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

"Creations of the spirit are not just commodities; the elements of culture are not pure business. What is at stake is the cultural identity of all our nations..."
-Francois Mitterand

This year Cannes was truly international. The best parties demonstrated the extremes -- be it the camel races projected onto big screen balloons at the Abu Dhabi party, or the blonds bopping up and down on what must have been the most crowded dance floor at Cannes at the alcohol-imbued Nordic bash. Long-term marriages were dissolved, and new alliances were created. Those turning the lights off on Canal + , opened the door to France Telecom/Orange. Indiana Jones nuked perfect American families and cookie cutter houses, and restored the Red Menace with Cate Blanchett. The Russian money in Cannes (the Restoration of concentrated comrade wealth has not been seen on the Cote d'Azur since the days of the White Russians invaded Cap Ferrat in the early 20th century) was only outdone by the wealth from other oil-rich meccas, the ones closer to actual Mecca. In fact the Russian and Middle Eastern billionaires got together during Cannes this year and created a luxury/cinema fund.

The Chinese toned down their fireworks at their party on the Majestic Plage, out of respect for the horrific number of deaths from the earthquake back home. In fact, Cannes seemed more decadent than ever before, precisely because it was dancing against a backdrop of death and destruction from Burma to China, to the U.S. heartland and Wall Street's "recession." But America's number one export, entertainment, and the vastly rich content libraries in Hollywood, are still intact. It is the distribution mechanism which is changing hands. And the creation of new international co-production deals, which is allowing for a new architecture to shift the skyline of cinema as we know it.

How will Hollywood penetrate these tempting, emerging markets, with mind-boggling profit potential? Will the new international co-production funds being shopped around La-laland actually help to produce true "indigenous" content? Or are they simply masking a deep-seated greed? In other words, are these marriages of respect and love, or arranged matches based on lust for offspring which will further serve the profit-making machine? Does Murdoch/FOX have a better chance in China because of his wife's ties to that country, and does this remind us of feudal cultures in which families merged properties through marriage, thus strategically holding on to dominance? Will India and China's reach into Africa, via telecoms, translate into future control of the parts of the world the US has been ignoring for much too long?

When distribution goes digital, all bets are off. That is, unless the so-called "majors" decide to gatekeep as opposed to go with the flow. Top tech researchers in the field of digital security show how in less than 24 hours, any protective walls can be scaled. In the future, those coming to steal content, will be "physically" recognized, and it will be up to the owner to stop them. How about throwing the digital equivalent of boiling oil onto them? Each step forward, brings us back to the beginning. That is, unless something shifts. And that something is profit-sharing.

Those from the telecom world just need access to the libraries, once they really start producing content of their own, what do they need the studios for? Only time will tell...

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