The Power of Culture


American studios against film censors

Eight film studios in Hollywood have instigated a lawsuit against CleanFlicks and related video and software companies. CleanFlicks places 'family-oriented' film versions on the market, from which scenes containing sex, violence or obscene language have been expurgated. According to a number of directors, including Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, censoring films is a form of copyright infringement. They launched a test case several months ago, which is now being supported by the Hollywood studios.

Unicef: children must learn to speak up

Millions of children do not believe that they can ever exert any influence on the decisions made by their political leaders. They think that voting is useless; no one will listen to them anyway. This is one of the findings of the Unicef Annual Report: The State of the World's Children 2003. The United Nations Children’s Fund questioned 40,000 children from 72 countries about the democratic process in their country.
The report argues for involving children more in the decisions that affect their lives. Children must learn to think about such issues and to speak up. These skills are not only needed if they are to grow to become responsible adults, but also for the success of democracy in their country. After all, one can hardly expect someone who grows up feeling powerless to be socially and politically involved.
More information: The State of the World's Children 2003

Argument about French Muslim supermarket

A big fuss has arisen in France over a neighbourhood supermarket in a Parisian suburb that no longer sells wine and pork. The Islamic owners believe that the store in a depressed area can only survive if it carries a 'halal' (approved under Muslim law) product line. The local mayor has threatened to use police intervention. He is afraid that the diversity of the neighbourhood is being jeopardised. According to Franprix, the chain of which this supermarket is a part, the owners are obliged to carry the chain’s complete product line.

World Wide Web sites can be sued in Australia

An Australian businessman can file a lawsuit against an American publisher for defamation in an article on the Internet according to a ruling by the Australian Supreme Court. The ruling can have world-wide implications for publishing on the Internet. The lawsuit against Dow Jones & Company was filed by Australian J. Gutnick. He felt that he was aggrieved by an article about him that could be read on the Internet in Australia. Dow Jones had placed the article online in the United States and was thus of the opinion that any lawsuits would have to be filed in the United States. Otherwise every Internet publisher would have to consult the legislation for all 190 countries that have defamation laws.

Museums refuse to return art treasures

Eighteen large international museums do not want to give antique objects back to the countries from which they came. They state this in a declaration drawn up by the American Metropolitan Museum of Art. During the last several years various governments have demanded that foreign museums return art works from antiquity that originally came from their countries. For example, Greece is currently trying to get the so-called Elgin Marbles back from the British Museum; these statues from the Parthenon were taken to England in 1806 by Englishman Lord Elgin. The art institutions, including the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, the Louvre in Paris and the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, say that it is unjust that they must give up items that they have saved from oblivion. They also say that they are stewards of the world’s heritage and that their collections are accessible to everyone.

Film about CNN reporting in Iraq

The makers of the film Live from Baghdad, a film about the CNN reporting during the Gulf War in 1991, are being charged with war propaganda. The film suggests that the Iraqi army killed hundreds of babies in 1990 in a hospital in Kuwait. This rumour, which was circulated around the time the Gulf War broke out, later turned out to be false. At the beginning of December Live from Bagdad was broadcast by HBO, the most popular cable TV network in the United States. The film was released hurriedly with a view toward a possible new Gulf War.
In the meantime more than a hundred American film and television stars have signed a manifest against a war with Iraq. The stars have joined together in the organisation Artists United to Win Without War.
More information: Artists United to Win Without War

Russian answer to Harry Potter

The Russian writer Dmitri Yemets has a published a children’s book entitled Tanja Grotter and the magic double bass, which is selling quite well. The characters, the plot and the book jacket are so similar to the British Harry Potter series that author J.K. Rowling and publisher Warner Bros have decided to bring a lawsuit against Yemets for plagiarism. Yemets prefers to call the book a parody.
Those familiar with Russia predict that Rowling will have little success. Copyright laws are still in their infancy in Russia. Illegal copies of western music and films are sold everywhere. National ‘versions’ of the Potter story have also appeared in countries like China and White Russia, where copyright is regulated about as poorly as in Russia.
A Dutch publisher wants to publish Tanja Grotter in the spring of 2003.

Vietnam stops TV broadcast of Apocalypse Now

The director of the TV broadcasting company Vietnam Cable Station stopped the broadcast of the war film Apocalypse Now a half hour into the broadcast. The American film from 1980 deals with the Vietnam War, a theme that is sensitive in Hanoi for obvious reasons. On closer inspection the director of the station came to the conclusion that this film in which his countrymen are murdered on such a large scale was not appropriate for broadcast.

China wants a new name for Mount Everest

The end of May 2003 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the expedition that reached the top of the Mount Everest. Chinese media are using the jubilee as an opportunity to try to restore the mountain back to its original name. They are calling on the international community to stop referring to the mountain by the ‘colonialist’ name Everest, but by its sacred Tibetan name ‘Qomolangma’. This was the name by which the mountain was known before it was named for the Englishman Everest, who placed it on the map. The Chinese dispute this discovery; they claim that Asians reached the summit in the 18th century and wrote about it.
Critics accuse the Chinese of the same arrogance of which the Chinese accuse the British. There are many names for the summit. The Nepalese call it Sagarmatha, the Tibetans themselves call it Chomolungma; why then use the Chinese name? Moreover, many critics find it quite extraordinary that of all nations China would be pleading for the restoration of Tibetan cultural heritage.

Sources: Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad, het Parool, Trouw, de Volkskrant, de Morgen, The Guardian, BBC News, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters, CNS, Islam Online,, Al-Ahram Weekly, People's Daily, China, CNN Asia, UNICEF

Image of Holland

Winternachten 2003

The theme of the eighth edition of the Winternachten (Winter Nights) literary festival is 'The Image of Holland'. More than seventy writers, music groups and stand-up comedians from the Netherlands, Flanders, Indonesia, South Africa, Surinam and the Antilles are offering their view of the Netherlands’ identity.
Winternachten will be held in The Hague from 17 to 19 January 2003. More information is available on the Winternachten web site.

You can find more exhibitions, cultural events and gatherings in 'World in action', the schedule on the International Collaboration web site.


Bangladeshi spirit, an on line photo gallery with photos by students attending Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography in Dhaka, about the culture of Bangladesh.


january 2003