Let me be clear, I don’t recommend this movie. It’s not really funny and it misses more than it succeeds and yet there’s something magical about the film and it comments appropriately on some of the themes I’ve blogged about here before.
If you don’t know anything about this movie, Jack Black and Mos Def work in a video store. When all the tapes are erased, they must scramble to recreate the movies with themselves playing the parts. Their failing business starts to succeed. Michel Gondry directs.
Some of the themes of the film as I see them:
- Filmmaking plays a significant part in our collective conscious. In the film, the neighborhood’s pride in their history is embodied in the film within the film that opens and closes th movie.
- A tradition of oral storytelling survives. The medium of videotape is temporary but the stories they tell are permanent as long as we continue to retell them. When the vidoe tapes are erased, they must be recreated in order to restore memories and remember history.
- Filmmaking is most powerful when it reflects its audience. Success grows exponentially as the neighborhood residents are given opportunities to act in their own films. We like to see ourselves reflected onscreen.
- Mashups are the future. It is the copyright attorneys who are the bad guys in this film. The recreation of published works without permission is a violation of copyright law and the movie recreations are confiscated.The movie clearly supports the creation of new laws for the twenty-first century that allow for the legal remixing of copyrighted works.As an independent filmmaker I’ve experienced how hard it is to get permission to use copyrighted material even when you ask. For theatrical productions there’s a very clear way to apply for and pay for royalties. However, for films, characters, and music contained within movies, it is hard to know who to write to and how to get the rights.
At a time when revenues are dwindling for those industries, wouldn’t we all benefit from a “Copyright iTunes” where you could purchase music and video samples to use in your own digital storytelling projects for a price set depending upon how you would use it.
On a personal note, the characters’ adventures in recreating the movies reminded me much of my own filmmaking through elementary and middle school and the work I do now with elementary students.
So this was not a great film or even a very good one but it did have something to say.