September 5, 2008

Pt 1: Culture Politics - A federal election is looming larger by the day. And Canadian artists are spoiling for a fight. Over the summer, the federal government cut millions of dollars of funding for arts and culture prompting a group of artists in Montreal to take to the streets.

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Pt 2: Soaps for Social Change - A gorgeous fashion designer is madly in love with her handsome, model-like husband who woos her with roses and deluxe holidays. They party hard. They have a hot love life. They're soul mates. But to preserve it all, they must continuously fend off old flames, resisting endless temptations for their marriage to survive.

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Pt 3: Why Canadian TV? - With fall just around the corner, you are about to be bombarded with new television. New episodes of old favourites and a fresh crop of brand new shows will be competing for eyeballs and ad dollars.

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Today's guest host was Nicholas Campbell.

It's Friday, September 5th

The Toronto International Film Festival opened yesterday with Passchendaele ... a movie written, directed and starring Paul Gross.

Currently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he's deeply disappointed that the Canadian government is funding a film about a dirty sex romp in a meadow.

This is The Current. 


Culture Politics

A federal election is looming larger by the day. And Canadian artists are spoiling for a fight. Over the summer, the federal government cut millions of dollars of funding for arts and culture prompting a group of artists in Montreal to take to the streets.

That was Quebec filmmaker, Denise Robert, speaking late last month in Montreal.

On top of the funding cuts, Canadian artists are furious over legislation such as Bill C-10, a bill they say would give the government the power to control what kind of TV shows and movies they're allowed to make. At the heart of all this is the question of what role the government should play in supporting and regulating arts and culture in Canada. And so, with an election call expected to come on Monday, we're diving head-first into that debate this morning.

Dean Del Maestro is a Conservative MP who sits on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. He was in Peterborough, Ontario. Bill Siksay is the NDP's arts, culture and heritage critic and he joined us from Vancouver. And Marike Finlay de-Monchy is the Green Party's Deputy Leader and her party's arts, culture and heritage critic. She joined us from just outside Port Dufferin on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia.

 

Soaps for Social Change

Like any good soap opera, this one has drama to spare.

A gorgeous fashion designer is madly in love with her handsome, model-like husband who woos her with roses and deluxe holidays. They party hard. They have a hot love life. They're soul mates. But to preserve it all, they must continuously fend off old flames, resisting endless temptations for their marriage to survive.

That -- in a nutshell -- is the storyline of Noor, a soap opera produced in Turkey and broadcast all over the Middle East. But the real drama is what spills out into the real lives of women across the Arab world. In Saudi Arabia, several men are reported to have divorced their wives after finding pictures of Muhannad -- the show's leading man -- on their wives' cell phones. And Saudi Arabia's chief cleric has issued a fatwa, calling Noor sinful to watch.

But nonetheless, millions of people were glued to their screens. And though the soap's season has wrapped, the show's set in Istanbul has become something of a pop-culture Mecca for many Saudi women. Freelance producer Dorian Jones went to the set to check out the scene.


Ethiopia and Beyond


And Noor is just one of the latest examples of soap operas as agents for social change. Lets skip over to Ethiopia, where popular radio dramas have been making waves for the last five years.

A little sample of a radio soap opera called Yeken Kigni and produced in Ethiopia. It's one of several produced by an organization called the Population Media Centre.
Negussie Teffera is the centre's Program Director and he's in Addis Ababa.

North America

Of course North American soap operas aren't exactly known as vehicles for grand social change. When I catch soaps, they seem to focus on rich, beautiful people who -- for some reason I can't quite figure out -- seem to find themselves beset by witches and lepricons.

Nelson Branco joined Nicolas to talk about the way soaps have evolved on North American Television . He's a freelance journalist who writes about soaps for TV Guide Online's Suds Report.


Why Canadian TV?

With Fall just around the corner, you are about to be bombarded with new television. New episodes of old favourites and a fresh crop of brand new shows will be competing for eyeballs and ad dollars.

But let's not forget that this summer was full of surprises too. Executives at CTV are thrilled by the number of Canadians who keep tuning in to Flashpoint ever Thursday and positively ecstatic about the fact that it's winning its time slot in the United States, thanks to a simulcast on CBS. At the same time, other Canadian-made dramas -- Global's The Guard, The Movie Network's Durham County and the CBC's The Border -- are winning solid reviews and more importantly, lots of Canadian eyeballs. And on top of that, American networks are snapping up Canadian shows in record numbers.

How long that will last well, that seems like a fair question to ask. So Brendan Kelly joined us to shed some light. He covers the Canadian television beat for Variety Magazine and he was in Montreal.

Now, one of the privileges of being a Friday host here at The Current is that I get to pull out my little black book and dial up someone who I truly respect and admire. I'm lucky to have Paul Gross on the line. He's a hero of mine, although he is my junior. Someone passionate about Canadian film and television production. Someone whose film Passchendaele opened the Toronto International Film Festival last night. And someone whose career has really thrived here in Canada.

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