Long Walk: backing South Africa’s film industry

first_img2 December 2013 The government’s investment in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the film adaption of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, was an important part of its plan to build a world-class film industry in South Africa, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement on Friday. The film, which tells the story of Mandela’s life from childhood to his inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president, was released to critical acclaim in South Africa last week. The DTI invested R60-million in the film as part of a highly competitive rebate system. “As far as the DTI is concerned, it has been money well spent,” the department said. Rob Davies, South Africa’s minister of trade and industry, said the movie rebate system had attracted a stream of movie makers to the country over the past few years. “During the current administration’s term of office, the DTI has quadrupled the support it provides to the film industry in the country, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is as a big landmark for the South African film industry,” Davies said. “I think it will end up with a few Oscar nominations – and, perhaps, even win an Oscar or two.”Job creation The production has created 12 000 local jobs. “And the beauty of this job-creation exercise was that all these jobs were transferred from highly skilled international practitioners to local people,” Sidwell Medupe, the department’s spokesman, said. “Wherever possible, goods and services were procured from broad-based black economic empowered companies.” The DTI’s film incentive programme is “one the best programmes of the department in terms of the co-operative relationship that we have been able to build with local and foreign producers as well as the results that we have been able to achieve in relation to our government’s objectives”, Medupe said. The DTI has approved 71 film productions under the rebate system in 2012/13. Besides Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, there have been a number of other significant successes, such as Safe House, starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds.Box office success Other DTI-backed movies recently filmed in South Africa include the $125-million Mad Max – Fury Road, Chronicle, Dredd, and Mary and Martha, a TV drama starring Hilary Swank. These movies follow on Blood Diamond, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, and Invictus, the film about Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup, starring Matt Damon as Springbok captain Francois Pienaar. The “tremendous performance of the animated feature Zambezia made us proud at the box office”, Medupe added. According to the DTI’s film and TV production incentive unit, more than R500-million had been invested in 50 local films in just over a decade. These include Tsotsi, which won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2005. Other critically acclaimed movies made in South Africa include Hotel Rwanda, Red Dust and Country of My Skull. SAinfo reporter and Department of Trade and Industrylast_img read more

Green Building Myth: Green Homes are Ugly

first_imgFor the last several weeks I’ve been describing a number of common myths about green building. This week I’ll address the myth that green homes are ugly — that incorporating solar and other green features somehow compromises aesthetics.I was active in the solar energy movement back in the late 1970s and early ’80s, when, indeed, a whole lot of ugly solar homes were built. Back then, solar energy was often captured by appending large fiberglass-glazed solar panels onto roofs at odd angles or adding stark glass walls to the south side of homes, without regard to proportions and design sensibilities. There were solar geodesic domes and yurts and bizarre, high-tech structures that looked as if they had just landed from outer space. Meanwhile, the “superinsulated” houses of that era were austere — often simple boxes with very small windows and very little appeal.There are certainly oddball homes still being built today, but there is no reason that green homes have to stand out. Indeed, there are thousands of examples of very attractive houses being built or renovated today that one would be hard-pressed to immediately identify as particularly energy-efficient or green.While passive solar homes 30 years ago were often way overglazed (with far too much south-facing glass), a more balanced approach today usually involves a much better-insulated building envelope so less window area is required to provide a significant fraction of solar heat. Advanced window glazings today provide a good balance between solar heat gain and resistance to heat flow (R-value). This allows windows — the right types of windows — to be installed where significant areas of glass don’t make sense. In other words, better glazings allow our designs to be more flexible without sacrificing energy performance nearly as much as was once the case.Solar panels, we now know, work pretty well even if not facing exactly south or installed at an optimal pitch; we can install them flat on a roof that faces up to 45 degrees off true south and get reasonable performance out of them. In this way, those panels can be installed on a house with relatively little impact on design. Efficiency of solar-electric (photovoltaic) panels has also improved, so that a somewhat smaller area is required to produce a given amount of electricity.Other aspects of green homes — including materials used in construction — provide a full range of aesthetic choices for any taste. It used to be that if you wanted low-VOC paint your color options were limited, or if you wanted natural linoleum flooring you were limited to a grandmotherly-looking few paisley patterns. There are far more options available now.Beyond the design flexibility offered by technology advances and a larger palette of product choices to meet style preferences, we might be seeing a new aesthetic emerging. It used to be that bigger houses were seen as better by most people. Some are still in that camp, but a lot of people now prefer more compact designs. Architect Sarah Susanka helped to advance this shifting design aesthetic through her 1998 book The Not So Big House, which eloquently made the case that smaller, more carefully designed houses were more satisfying to live in and at least as attractive.Just as a Hummer is an “ugly” vehicle in my mind — because of the arrogant resource consumption it represents — I now feel the same about 4,000 square-foot suburban McMansions with their three-car attached garages and surrounded by irrigated Chem-Lawns. Knowing what I know about environmental impacts of the resource consumption required to build and operate those houses and the environmental impacts of those uniform, lush green lawns, those places just aren’t attractive to me any more.What I find much more appealing is a compact, 1,400-square-foot home with a simple roofline that won’t result in ice dams or drainage problems, with an enticing porch that bring homeowners outside, with solar panels cleanly integrated into the roof, and with a kitchen garden out front. This is the “timeless” design that I believe we will still find attractive in 20 or 30 years when those monster homes have become white elephants, many abandoned because of their exorbitant operating costs. Who knows, we may even come to appreciate multifamily and attached homes.I invite you to share comments on this blog.Alex Wilson is the executive editor of Environmental Building News and founder of BuildingGreen, LLC. To keep up with his latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feeds.last_img read more

Could Skype Offer Salvation For Windows Phone?

first_imgTags:#Microsoft#mobile#Skype#Windows Phone 8 With more consumers trading in and out of phones more often, Microsoft’s opportunity to hook new users increases. Given Windows Phone’s still anemic market share, the window of opportunity—as it were—is slim. Rather than compete on equal terms, therefore, Microsoft should exercise an unfair advantage to leapfrog its competitors.It’s called Skype.Improving Skype’s Mobile Experience…Skype already runs fine on Android and iOS, of course. But the experience is a bit disjointed. It remains very much an app that you run on your phone, rather than an integrated element of the phone itself. I felt this pain while traveling in London a year ago. I needed to do a conference call but didn’t want to pay AT&T’s punitive roaming charges. So I ran into St. Pancras Station, which offers free Wi-Fi, and dialed into the call using Skype. I paid exactly $0.00 for the call, and the call quality was surprisingly excellent, given the quality of the Wi-Fi.Unfortunately, at the time Skype didn’t support Bluetooth, so I found myself moving my iPhone to my ear and back to a position where I could check calendar, a presentation, etc. While Skype Mobile now supports Bluetooth, it continues to lag in other ways.…Especially For Windows PhoneParticularly if you’re using Windows Phone 8. Ironically, while Microsoft calls Windows Phone 8 and Skype “a match made in heaven,” the Skype experience is actually better on iOS, Android and even Blackberry because Skype Video, among other things, is available on these platforms, but not Windows Phone.Yes, you read that right. Microsoft’s Skype is better on every platform other than the one it actually owns. That’s sad.It’s also a missed opportunity. As much as Microsoft may pledge to deliver a “common set of experiences across multiple platforms and devices” for Skype, the reality is that it needs to provide an even better experience on its home turf. No, I’m not arguing for Microsoft to cripple Skype on rival platforms. That would be counterproductive as the Skype network becomes more valuable the bigger it becomes.But imagine a Windows Phone experience with Skype completely integrated into the address book, dial screen, etc. Suddenly Skype isn’t merely an app that runs on your phone, but actually becomes your phone.Would The Carriers Go Along?Microsoft has stated its intention to keep a consistent Skype experience across devices, but surely Microsoft could make that experience deeply integrated into the Windows Phone UI? Users would love this, as it would allow them to “make a call” and not worry about whether it were going out over Skype or a carrier’s network. In areas rich with wifi but poor on cell phone reception, it would be a huge benefit, as Tom Barber notes.Some, however, worry that the telecom providers would never buy in: It’s a valid point, but it may be a few years too late. After all, carriers no longer look to voice to pay the bills, and instead seek to monetize data. Skype now powers a third of global voice traffic, and there’s reason to believe carriers will happily offload more of that traffic to make way for more profitable data services.Even if they were inclined to quibble with Microsoft building a Skype-centric Windows Phone experience, surely Microsoft is less of a threat than Apple and Samsung’s mobile dominance has been, and potentially offers a hedge against these leading vendors. Microsoft, for all its problems, has shown a willingness to share success with its partners. Microsoft needs to place some big bets to take share in mobile. An integrated Skype experience for Windows Phone 8 feels like a smart move, and a bet worth making. Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement Related Posts What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … Matt Asay Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces The smartphone market is slowing, and it spells opportunity for Microsoft.Verizon is on the hook for roughly $23.5 billion in payments to Apple for iPhones it can’t sell, suggesting that the talismanic smartphone is losing some of its allure. Meanwhile, AT&T and T-Mobile have rolled out new programs to incentivize customers to upgrade their phones early and often, as consumers trend toward a more leisurely pace of smartphone upgrades. The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technologylast_img read more