Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Places&Culture from
NY Times

LAGOS, Nigeria — As the sun rises over West Africa's new moviemaking capital, the Surulere district of Lagos, the cast and crew of "Blackmailed" form a four-car convoy to leave for their first day of shooting. "It's like a dream come true," said Nonso Diobi, 21, who had snatched one of the lead roles in "Blackmailed" only two months after leaving his home in southeastern Nigeria for Surulere, here in the country's commercial capital. "This is where it all happens, where all the stars are who make big money because they can sell movies. I'm not a big star yet. But when I am, I will fix a big price." Since the late 1990's, Nigerian movies have found a place next to offerings from Hollywood and Bollywood, Bombay's equivalent, in the cities, towns and villages across English-speaking Africa. Though made on the cheap, with budgets of about only $15,000, the Nigerian movies have become huge hits, with stories, themes and faces familiar to other Africans. It is now, according to conservative estimates, a $45 million a year industry.

BIG SUR, Calif., Sept. 14 — When a winter storm four years ago sent a hillside crashing into the mineral baths at Esalen, the coastal healing retreat that became synonymous in the 1960's with California's New Age consciousness, Eastern mysticism and self-awareness, the damage nearly doomed a way of life. ... A $5 million bank loan allowed the institute to rebuild the sulphur baths, which over the decades had drawn thousands of pilgrims to soak au naturel on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific. They reopened on Sept. 8 to appreciative clamor. But Esalen could not afford another disaster. Its near-death experience forced the institution, now in its 40th year, to jettison its legendary laid-back style. Taking a cue from an Aikido martial arts admonition to "take the hit as a gift," Esalen's leaders adopted a corporate ethos that includes long-term strategic planning, tighter security and a $25 million fund-raising campaign run by highly paid professionals. The lurch toward Wall Street thinking has rattled Esalen traditionalists, some of whom are all but crying heresy.

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