I've said from the very beginning of Criticwire, lo those many days ago (last month), that I wanted this blog to start conversations. So I've been very pleased to see all of the responses to my post earlier this week about film critics and online piracy. To those of you who heeded my request for civility in your comments, you have my gratitude. To those of you who didn't, I'd say something mean in response but since i asked for civility, I suppose I'm required to have some myself (which, I think we can all agree, is totally unfair).
The most interesting reaction I've seen so far came from film critic Michael Mirasol, a Far Flung Correspondent for RogerEbert.com based in Australia. His article, "Piracy Isn't Always That Simple," puts into perspective the ethical and logistical challenges cineastes face in many countries around the world. Here is an excerpt:
"Though not all places are poor, some areas do face their own special constraints. Malaysia, where I lived for 6 years, is fairly rich by South East Asian standards, but their film distribution is one of the worst in the world, where "safe" (brainless) movies are what are approved for by the government. This is where movies like 'Brokeback Mountain' (gay cowboys), 'The Kids Are Alright' (Lesbian Parents), and 'Babe' (Pork) get banned from theaters because of conservative/religious reasons. Hellboy had to be renamed to Super Sapiens as not to offend. This isn't uncommon in ASEAN countries. 'Schindler's List' nearly got banned in the Philippines because of a woman's fully exposed breasts."
Though I remain ambivalent about the idea of critics seeking out movies online because they'd rather not spend their money on a legal copy, it's worth noting that for some people seeking out a pirated copy of "Brokeback Mountain" or "The Kids Are Alright" (or "Babe!") isn't a callous act of theft; it's an act of defiance.