Thursday, September 3, 2009

Movies and T-Shirts

One of the ways that walking around a town or city is interesting is because there is apparently no thought given to copyrights or protecting brands. For example, my host sister, a very conservative girl, walks around with a t-shirt that says “Columbia University” with the logo discreetly placed at the bottom of the shirt. In giant letters across the top, it says COCAINE.

I bought my pillow at a shop called Angelina, with a huge picture of Angelina Jolie in the window. A guy who looks exactly like Michael Jordan is on a bank billboard in my town. Last week I saw a green vinyl purse in a store window. It sported a label that said “Jimmy Choo”. There are also shoes that say “Ann Klayn.”

Then there are the mistakes. I have seen a t-shirt with a picture of a football—it said “NBA Basketball”. Volunteers also see a lot of writing on clothes that is misspelled, so our theory is that if the clothing factory makes a spelling mistake, they send the clothes to Azerbaijan.

Peace Corps volunteers swear that there is no way to buy legal DVD’s here. We get American movies before they are out in US. There are disadvantages, however.
The English soundtrack is not removed, just recorded over in Azeri in a louder voice. There are English subtitles available, but the whole movie is one scene, so going back and forth is difficult. There is no bonus material.

I think it would be difficult to solve the movie problem because Hollywood is probably not interested in producing movies for a language spoken by 8 million people, many of whom can speak Russian. It does affect artists in Azerbaijan, however. There is no point in making a CD if it will be copied and sold.

But Azeris probably spend more time watching their own party videos than watching movies. Videographers are ubiquitous at family events—not just weddings, but birthdays, graduation parties, going into-the-army-parties and getting circumcised parties. The latter are unnerving. Boys are circumcised at between 3 and 12 years of age. The videos show the preparation, much of it very entertaining with decorating, the band setting up, then the dancing and eating. But also on the film is the lamb being slaughtered as a gift to the poor and the actual circumcision, which shocked me all the more because I didn’t know they would do it on the video.

When a new party video comes out, copies are distributed to eager attendees and they take it home and play it over for their family and guests. It is a great time to find out who everyone is, what they wore, how they acted and how they danced.

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