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Medium 9780253021342

3. Selling the President: Stand-Up Comedy and the Politricks of Endorsement

David Afriyie Donkor Indiana University Press ePub

ON MAY 11, 1995, a coalition of political opposition leaders in Ghana known as the Alliance for Change organized a demonstration they called Kum-me-preko (Kill me once and for all). The immediate cause of this protest was President Jerry Rawlings’s decision to implement a new 17.5 percent value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services. Rawlings enacted the new tax in an attempt to meet the requirements of Ghana’s “structural adjustment program”—a series of drastic policy changes mandated by debt-holding international finance institutions (IFIs). The VAT was intended to make up for the loss of revenues caused by the concurrent lowering of the corporate tax rate and the elimination of import and export tariffs. In effect, these tax reforms were designed to shift revenue burdens away from large-scale businesses and toward consumers, thereby creating a more inviting climate for private investment in Ghana.1 Unsurprisingly, the new tax policy immediately came under fire from labor unions and the general public for increasing the tax burden on the poor and in some cases catapulting the prices of goods and services out of the reach of ordinary citizens. The organizers of the Kum-me-preko protest called the VAT a “gruesome policy measure.”2

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Medium 9780253016454

6 “The Best Tradition Goes On”: Audience, Consumption, and the Structural Transformation of Concert Party Popular Theatre

Jesse Weaver Shipley Indiana University Press ePub

You are saying I have grown fat. Thank you.

It is all because of Key Soap.

If they sponsor you and you go to America, you also will grow fat.

Bishop Bob Okalla, National Theatre Key Soap Concert Party

ON DECEMBER 31, 2000, the National Theatre of Ghana witnessed an extraordinary upheaval. A standing-room-only audience filled the fifteen-hundred-seat auditorium to see a concert party popular theatre show. However, angered by a change in the format of the performance, the exuberant audience forcibly prevented the show from beginning, threw tables and chairs onto the stage, sang political protest songs, and even pushed and shoved the police when they arrived. The National Theatre was hosting its annual competition called “Who Is Who” to select the nation’s best concert party performers. The organizers had decided to hold the finals competition over two days and, for the first time, separated the dramatic plays from the comedians. When the audience arrived and discovered that the highly popular comedians were not performing until the next day, they were livid.

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Medium 9780253014078

9. Memory of the World: Archive Fever

Laleen Jayamanne Indiana University Press ePub

Let’s imagine that there is a theater of thought we can stage to drum up energetic rhythms in the final movement of this book. I set myself a properly cinematic task (touched belatedly by Asian theatrical conventions and textiles), invoking proper names as intensive signs to think with. They form an invocation of sorts.

In Memory of Paul Willemen (1944–2012)

Returning to Australia recently from Bali, called the “Island of Demons” in a 1933 film Walter Spies worked on, I am reminded of Basil Wright’s The Song of Ceylon (1934), about that other island known as the “island of Dhamma, Sri Lanka,” where there have also been demonic manifestations.1 At the Agung Rai Museum of Art in Ubud, Bali, where the paintings of the Russian-born German Spies are exhibited, there is a sketchy account of the life of this “late romantic” European, who lived and worked there for nearly fifteen years (1927–42). In a glass box (a cabinet of marvels, Wunderkammer, really), amidst photographs, there is a brief account of Spies’s intimate friendship with the famous German film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. There is a photograph of Murnau in his study (decorated with motifs taken from Persian miniatures) by Spies and also one of Spies taken by the director, who as a bomber pilot during the First World War must surely have learned the power of dematerialization of the land and cities in a photographic flash by firepower, a power that he turned to a more creative use in cinema as one of its great luminists. The photograph sits beside a famous still from Murnau’s film Nosferatu (1922), the story of an aristocratic vampire, Count Dracula, from Transylvania (played by the music-hall actor Max Schreck, who reduced his body and movements to the two dimensions of a shadow puppet).2 He is pictured aboard the ghost ship Demeter (Mother Earth, which harbors the plague carrying vermin from “beyond the pale” to the bourgeois town of Wisborg on the Baltic sea), whose sails swell through the mysterious wind or breath of a monstrously grotesque creature with a stereotypically Semitic profile, part human, part rodent, part bird, and two-dimensional, like the Wayang shadow puppets of Indonesia. Prāna Films, the name of the short-lived production company of the film, means “breath” or “life” in Sanskrit (and also in my mother tongue, Sinhalese). This perennial silent film classic, gothic-horror-camp, by a great European director on whose films Paul Willemen wrote as a young curator at the Dutch Cinémathèque, sensitizes us to threshold moments between inhaling and exhaling, between night and daybreak, between twilight and darkness, between human and animal, and between different energies of the body itself through its work with materials, gestures, and artificial light, as well as nature shot through with its own beautiful and sublime artifice. As the cock crows, the vampire, with its long talons extended, turns away from the rays of the sun and simply vanishes in a puff of smoke, so lightly, almost imperceptibly, after his night of sucking blood from the throat of Mina who becomes Gothic Woman, who with terror and voluptuous intensity yields to it/him to save the town from the plague. She did this after having devoured, so to speak, the book of vampires, which her husband forbade her to read. She is a good wife who becomes Gothic Woman, by acting on her knowledge and learning by doing. One feels the ever-expanding threshold between life and death as the blood drains from the neck, as one sits with a loved one “taking” the last breath and letting it go, dying.

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Chapter 5 ‘Is Everything Relative?’: Cinema and the Revolution of Knowledge Around 1900

Kreimeier, Klaus John Libbey Publishing ePub

On 30 January 1931, Albert Einstein was a guest at the Hollywood premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. Legend has it that when bystanders cheered the two media stars, Chaplin turned to Einstein and said, ‘The people applaud me because everyone understands me, and they applaud you because no one understands you’.1 This is in keeping with Einstein’s comment in his notes that his theory of relativity was ‘of incomparable beauty, but only one colleague has really understood it’ (26 November 1915).2

If these remarks are taken as more than just witticisms, then it is hardly likely that the pioneers of cinema around 1900 were declared experts and avid supporters of modern physics. Nor would most of them have been seriously interested in such subjects as the dethroning of human consciousness by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, the radicalisation of Immanuel Kant’s epistemology by the empiriocriticism of Ernst Mach, or the vehement criticism of the idea of progress by Friedrich Nietzsche. Nevertheless, early cinema was part of an epoch in which, as Alexander Moszkowski put it in 1911, the ‘very basis of human thought’ was so radically shaken that ‘not a single deeply rooted conviction’ was able to withstand it.3

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Medium 9781864620009

Eisenstein and Stokes on Disney

Pilling, Jayne John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

Sergei Eisenstein loved the cartoon figure Mickey Mouse. The Soviet film director not only admired Walt Disney’s films but also made them part of the subject matter of his theoretical studies. With his characteristic ambition, these theoretical explorations of Disney’s animation were intended to serve as the bases for understanding animation and developing questions alluding to the nature of art itself.1 Most of these writings are from the early 1940s, some years after his return from Hollywood where he had met Disney in 1937.2 He was also reconsidering or at least reformulating his theoretical ideas, especially that of montage. That Disney should play a part in Eisenstein’s fresh thoughts on cinema is characteristic of the latter’s eclectic approach to ideas, borrowing from all the arts, especially painting and literature.

By no means does this essay attempt to unravel fully Eisenstein’s insights into Disney and the issues of film animation; rather, it settles more modestly on a particular aspect relating to a question of aesthetics that is articulated by Eisenstein in primarily psychological terms. It was prompted largely by the intriguing fact that Adrian Stokes, the English aesthete in the same period, also refers briefly but fascinatingly to Disney’s Silly Symphonies and Mickey Mouse in his book Tonight the Ballet,3 published in 1935. Although Stokes’s references are less sustained than Eisenstein’s, they betray similarities in their associations with an idea of omnipotence, one that I wish to discuss here. As we shall see, Disney haunts the discourse on classical ballet in Britain during the 1930s and 1940s.

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