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WGA strike tops AFI's list of significant moments

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MUMBAI: The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced the year's AFI Moments of Significance.These seven noteworthy events were determined to have had an impact on the world of the moving image during the year.

The first moment is the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike. The ongoing digital revolution has upended conventional economic models, and uncertainty abounds when attempting to project how an audience will receive its storytelling in the years to come and how creators will be paid for their work.

On 5 November 2007, the 12,000-plus members of the WGA went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Though the strike is itself traumatic, it is but a part of a larger paradigm shift. At best, it may be a defining event in shaping the future.

AFI says that it looks forward to the day when a new business model will form, and an artist‘s work will rise above the numbers and continue to inform and inspire.

The second moment was the fact that Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, two of the world‘s most influential filmmakers, passed away on 30 July.

Bergman directed more than 50 films in a career that spanned 40 years. Classics like The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries explore religion, death and existentialism with honesty and eloquence.

Antonioni's career also spanned more than 40 years, with landmark films like La Notte and The Passenger, each marked by the director‘s innovative approach to narrative storytelling.

The third event was Apple‘s iPhone. Apple‘s unveiling of the iPhone sparked a cultural frenzy. In addition to operating as a phone, camera and computer, the user-friendly iPhone allows consumers to stream and download television programs and movies. Overnight, the iPhone became a symbol of a public that demands its content where they want it and when they want it.

The fourth event was a cultural spasm created by the war on terror. 2007 marked a year when American film artists responded to the war in an attempt to create order out of chaos. Though it was largely difficult to find an audience for their stories, filmmakers marched forward in a struggle to understand -- to ask questions -- to demand answers.

Films like In The Valley Of Elah, Lions For Lambs, Charlie Wilson‘s War and A Mighty Heart wrestled with the war directly. And this emotional quandary carried into the core of other films as well -- the dark brutality of two of the best films of the year There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men, and the moral questions raised by Michael Clayton also reflect America‘s bruised and brooding times.

The AFI notes that no other American war has inspired this deep a cinematic expression while the conflict is still taking place. Films released during World War II were supportive of the war effort, but movies dealing with the emotional, psychological and societal impact of that war, and also Korea and Vietnam, weren‘t produced until years after they had ended.

Part of this new immediacy is due to the accessibility of information from the front line. Whether from an embedded journalist or an Iraqi citizen posting photos on the Internet, news about the war is plentiful, direct and personal, arriving virtually the same day it happens. Given these images and information, filmmakers are driven to make sense of it all here and now and project their stories across America and around the world.

On the TV side a major event was Discovery's show Planet Earth which has been hailed as being a landmark show in high definition. The AFI says that this show illuminated the power of television as a unifying force in the global community.

Over five years in the making the show captured images from more than 60 countries and over 200 locations. From the forests of Eastern Russia to the Gomantong Caves in Borneo to a volcanic mountain chain at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, this epic visual document captured some of the world‘s most remote and awe-inspiring locations and brought them into the living room.

That the series came to life in high definition crystallised a moment in the public appreciation for this welcome and wondrous technology.

Another event was news getting more tabloid in nature. 2007 marked a year when traditional news became subsumed by coverage of material normally relegated to tabloid magazines.

Coverage of Paris, Nicole, Lindsay, Britney, O.J. and Anna Nicole often eclipsed news on the war, an economy in turmoil or topics of international scope or scale.

Websites like TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com attracted devoted audiences, with TMZ even spawning a half-hour television version of its Internet activity. These types of sites are fueled by the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and other recording devices that empower a "citizen paparazzi" who are aggressive and eager partners in helping to tear down pop idols.

America‘s cultural obsession with scandal is not a new trend, but in 2007 the tide turned, and the nation began to drown in a sea of celebrity.

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