#5 Shitty DVDs
March 28, 2011 § 1 Comment
People who choose to explore different work horizons outside their own country tend to also relish the opportunity to expand their cultural horizons at home, whether that be with contemporary art, literature or independent cinema. For the majority of malais, particularly those working in the development field, they also like to consider themselves morally and ethically upstanding individuals as demonstrated by their chosen profession. Despite such perceptions and their supportive views on the importance of recognising Timorese customary ownership of traditional intellectual property, one of the most popular activities amongst expats in Timor is building a large collection of bad quality pirated DVDs from 168.
Expats are analytical experts at not considering possible ethical problems with the enjoyment of pirated material. Unlike indie music snobs building a vast library of stolen music they will probably never actually listen to, the expat doesn’t even entertain the need to justify their actions through such clever clichéd arguments such as: Mainstream companies with already huge profits, The want of trying before purchasing, Unwillingness to support such crass cultural hegemony or The lack of opportunity to access such media in Timor Leste. They instead consider bad quality pirated DVDs an important part of the expat landscape, whose ethical contemplations do not apply in a foreign spatial sphere of development hardship.
Expats are shrewd and careful consumers. They are quick to call foul on cheap Chinese bicycles or a palasonic polystation game console, and are prepared to pay 25c more a litre for petrol if it comes from Australia. And this is why they continue to support an illegal market of products so flawed they are rejects of those sold in Indonesia while also content to pay 4 times the Indoneisan disc price. Perhaps it is the winning formula of famous stars wearing bikinis on the front of harrowingly morbid gritty dramas or creating a special shelf section just for Nicholas Cage movies, expats return to pirate DVD shops time and time again. That being said, malai have learned to be discriminating and with no factual evidence give startlingly confident reports to friends about which DVD shop is more reliable, when quite obviously none of them are.
Expats are also connoisseurs at discerning the playability of pirated DVDs through the inspection of the shapes of glue spots or refractions on the inner ring. The DVD players present in 168 to check the quality of the DVDs are just a convenience for the DVD amateur and an affront to the seasoned expat who will by pass the opportunity to conduct 2 minutes of quality control out of their prolonged hour of indecision. Expats are some what justified in this response, as the expat amateur who checks their DVDs on the stores machines will be quick to ascertain once home that the store uses DVD players worth 5 or 6 times what most expats have access to and read better than their new Macbook Pro drive. Once home on the couch in front of the TV, the disappointment of a frozen Paul Giamatti looking awkwardly out at the expat sets in.
If the expat is scrupulous enough with his spot checking they might be lucky to be treated to a functioning DVD. Nothing is quite like the cinematic wonder of watching startlingly inventive visual feats such as Russian Ark or Avatar on shaky camcorder replete with an overweight moviegoer who stands continuously in front of the screen to treat himself to a 3rd trip to the candy bar or release his enormous bladder from the weight of a 2L movie cup of badly mixed coke syrup.
Because the expat is in Timor and away from the judgments of cultural peers, (or because they are UNPOL and cultural peerless), the crush and weight of hard work in Dili justifies to the expat the right to watch the crassest form of cinema available. Sex and the City 2 or Mall Cop exist for the expat in order for them to escape into a light fantasy world. Yet when the 168 disc does the expat something of a cultural service by failing and becoming stuck half way through She’s Just Not That Into You the expat becomes incensed, swearing with vitriol at the screen while also cursing the pirated DVD shop. This is followed by a sad Pavlonian ritual of ejecting and inserting the DVD again, fast fowarding to the time of failure and repeating this until the disc itself becomes wedged halfway into machine. By this point the defeated and morose expat will stare dumfounded at the TV screen following the movements of the DVD logo as it bounces around the screen, wishing it into the finality of a perfect corner and the end of their own horrible life.
Funnily enough, after all the acerbic comments made about the pirated DVD store, the expat will visit it again next week and refuse to use the DVD machines to check if their next purchases are usable.