Information Warfare: Pollywood Goes To War

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June 24, 2010: In Afghanistan, the Taliban are faced with many enemies, one of the most dangerous is a new one; Pollywood.. The Taliban has many enemies. Not just the government (which is corrupt, and disliked by many Afghans), the foreign troops (which are foreign, and thus, at best, tolerated), and the non-Pushtun majority (who are 60 percent of the population, and who are very hostile to the Taliban, who are a Pushtun movement), but also new ideas and entertainment. The most threatening new enemy is video. The Taliban, and Islamic radicals in general, are hostile to video based entertainment (unless it involves Islamic scholars providing religious instruction, and sometimes not even that.) But video entertainment is very popular in Afghanistan, especially the amateur movies made in Pushto and Dari (the common language of Afghanistan, and most popular among the non-Pushtuns) and sold, cheap, everywhere. This new industry is sort of a Pushtun Hollywood, or "Pollywood."

Such movies are not unusual. They are increasingly common in poor countries that do not possess a large enough audience to support professionally made films. Nigeria, the largest country in Africa, produces thousands of these films (which vary greatly in length and quality) a year, in several different local languages. The films are sold on cheap CDs and DVDs, to discourage piracy (which happens anyway). Called "Nollywood" (as a play on Hollywood), it generates over $250 million a year in sales. The Hindi language movie industry ("Bollywood") generates over a billion dollars a year in sales, and produces mainly professional films, many matching Hollywood releases in terms of production values. For example, the recent Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire, was made in India with a largely Indian crew (technicians), and many Indian actors in front of the cameras. There are several other smaller film industries in South Asia, each specializing in a different language (there are two dozen major language/cultures in South Asia, of which Pushto is one.)

Subtitled or dubbed videos from India or Pakistan have long been popular in Afghanistan, especially with all that drug money making it possible for so many more people to buy televisions or PCs to watch the CDs and DVDs on. While Pollywood films avoid religion, nudity, and women in general, they do hew to traditional Pushtun values and stories, but in a modern setting. This annoys the Taliban, who want Pushtuns, and everyone else in Afghanistan, to live a sort of neo-Medieval lifestyle, under the rule of Islamic clerics and warlords. Most Afghans are opposed to this, and Pollywood product feeds that opposition. The Taliban have threatened, and even killed, people creating (or just watching) Pollywood films, but that has not even slowed down the growth of this entertainment industry. And the more the Taliban persecute Pollywood, the more likely that some of the films will become blatantly anti-Taliban.

 

 


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