That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Glimpse this impossible future!

Brazil will not win another World Cup trophy until at least the year 2264. This is perhaps one of the lesser known predictions coming out of the Fifth Element, that much-heralded sci-fi cinematic setpiece which closed off the last century with a harrowing vision of our own distant future.

Hmm, you ask? Whuh?

I watched the film last night, for the first time in years and years. And I actually really enjoyed it this time, which I didn’t originally…. you obviously have to throw yourself fully into its mad kitsch and mindlessness. I even laughed at Chris Tucker, which makes me feel incredibly zen about the world.

And there I noticed it – a small detail that struck me as an attempted high-five to Brazilian football (soccer) gone horrifically wrong.

Bruce Willis does not keep a very tidy home. His one-bed flat in South Brooklyn is crowded out with an array of post-it notes, dirty clothes, magazines, Chinese food containers, rubbish and random photographs. And during one scene while he’s on the phone (to his taxi mechanic, or his mom, or someone he doesn’t much want to talk to), you can see a small Brazil football pennant hanging behind him. It looked rather like this:

My first thought being, wow, so the writers’ of the film like Brazil, and thought it would be cool if Bruce Willis’ hero character liked them too. Nice.

But then you notice that there are only four stars on the pennant. The example I posted above has five, as Brazil have now won five World Cups, their most recent in 2002. As of 1997, when Fifth Element came out, they’d won four.

So, what the Fifth Element is kind of suggesting is that, between 1997 and 2263, Brazil won’t have won another Cup, ever, at all, not one. That is Mega. Film. Madness.

Hum. Why am I blogging about this? Only because I scoured my Google application across the intraweb, and found not a single reference to this quirky anomaly. Considering how deeply interesting it is, that surprised me greatly.

That is all.

Filed under: Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cowering before the real-life Sauron

It’s nice that New Zealand’s done so well out of these Lord of the Rings films. It’s a very pretty country full of nice people and they deserve some good attention. Just like hobbits themselves.

But listen – somewhere, in the South Pacific, a labour activist’s stomach just turned. Can you hear it? You got to listen like me.*

With Warner Bros. having threatened to move production of the Hobbit elsewhere (“O Canada….”), the Kiwi government has crumbled faster than Saruman’s orc minions. The Kiwi PM himself led negotiations with the American studio, and his government has actually legislated new labour terms to keep Hobbit production in country. Diluted labour conventions which have bypassed normal parliamentary procedure – this bill won’t go to committee, and has essentially been written on the fly to satisfy the rumblings of a corporate investor.

The sulphuric stench of Mordor indeed hangs over the Shire-folk.

Included in the deal was an offer of $25 million (£11.8m), $15 million of that in tax breaks, and the law changes, which were pushed through without the normal process of referral to a parliamentary committee and public submissions.

“What is the government going to do next – give in to any multinational that asks for a labour standard to be diluted in return for some form of investment?” said an opposition MP, Charles Chauvel.

“This is a government which, in the words of the Financial Times today, has reduced New Zealand to client status of an American film studio.”

And it’s true. There’s a touchy-feely aspect to New Zealand keeping the Hobbit, but had this been a story of (to get extreme in our examples here) Coca-Cola pressuring a Guatemalan government to dilute its labour laws, frustrate its citizens’ rights to collective bargaining, and circumvent its own congressional conventions to retain the prospect of steady investment, it would be an outrage. If it were Gap, Nike, or any manufacturer offering a small country the promise of investment in return for easy conditions (and indeed political influence), there would be accusations of corporate irresponsibility and a failure of transparency in the country itself.

What makes this all the more troubling is New Zealand’s stellar record on transparency and accountability. Transparency International has them tied in first place as the world’s least corrupt country. Yet, introduce them to a film studio that promises some investment, some pride, and some free tourism publicity, and we see extraordinary legislation pushed through without due process.

NZ’s government may have thought it was a populist no-brainer to do whatever was necessary to retain the Middle Earth brand. But if the principle of capitulation to corporate pressure were applied across all types of foreign investment, New Zealand would soon come to resemble South-East Asia much more than the bucolic Shire.

* props to Jimmy McMillan

Filed under: International, Politics, , , , , ,


December 2019
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