On What Would Have Been the Launch of Cannes, a Celebration of 26 Film Festivals — and 26 Festival Directors | Filmmaker Magazine

&The Cannes Film Festival and Market

by Kaleem Aftab
in Festivals & Events
on May 12, 2020

Film festivals are all about a community coming together to celebrate an art form that we all love. They were one of the first group of events to cancelled when the coronavirus began to spread. The current crisis in the film industry (and across society and the economy as a whole) — the job losses and closures — made it difficult to publish my look back over my year in film festivals, as I’ve done on an annual basis for Filmmaker since 2014. (Also, I had broken my finger over Christmas so was unable to type for three weeks, which is when I usually pen these articles!) Plus, because last year I’d been to 26 film festivals, a record for me, the piece also took a long time to write.

Twenty-six film festivals is a lot. In December of last year, I promised my partner that in 2020, I would go to fewer festivals. Little did we know that my hand was going to be forced by the tragedy of a virus pandemic. Looking back, I’m so glad I went to so many in 2019, seizing the day like I was in the Dead Poets Society.

Sitting here right now, as Cannes would have begun, I believe we will be lucky to see a film festival happen in a traditional way again in the Fall — if then. For all the efforts to put festivals online, there is nothing that matches the intoxicating atmosphere and excitement of attending. That’s why I go to so many of them. I miss hearing a projector whir and seeing a film for the first time, listening to filmmakers talk about their projects, the conversations with fellow attendees, the pitching of projects, those celebrating great reviews, others commiserating. I even miss the 10-minute standing ovations made more out of courtesy rather than enthusiasm. I’ve even started doing this at home now.

So while it may seem odd to have a look back at 2019 film festival season in May, it also seems so fitting to publish today. Absence has made the heart grow fonder. Right now is a time when the role of film festivals is being analysed more than ever by festival directors, as they decide what is essential, what they have to keep, or for some, what they can replicate online. Most importantly, film festivals have to comprehend how can they stay relevant when the spectacle that is their heart is on life-support.

In my mind, there is nothing quite as exhilarating as attending a film festival. I look forward to the moment of being able to participate in more than 26 festivals in a year. (Just don’t tell my partner!).

The festival director is the public face of a film festival. They guide the program and set the agenda. But who are they? In 2019, I tried to meet as many festival directors as possible, and from time-to-time chat about the poster of the festival. I wanted to know if I could see the personality of the festival director at the event. Little did I know when I started this process in January that I would go to 26 film festivals, either as a journalist, moderating Q and A’s or giving talks on festival strategy. 

Tromsø International Film Festival 

Festival Director: Martha Otte

American Martha Otte first worked as a volunteer at the Tromsø International Film Festival in 1998. By 2005 she became festival director. 2019 was her last year as the position at Tromsø  I’ve known Martha for several years, first meeting her at the now-defunct Abu Dhabi Film Festival. We’ve bonded over films. I’ve appeared on the jury at Tromsø in the past, and this year, she asked me to do the Q&A sessions with Canadian filmmaker Philippe Lesage, following screenings of his excellent coming-of-age drama Genesis.

It takes a kooky personality to want to live in the Arctic Circle, where during the film festival, the sun never quite rises above the horizon. Despite all the darkness, the irony is that Otte is an insomniac. Luckily she’s found a profession where staying up in the dark is a necessary component.

Otte says of her philosophy to running the festival: “We are especially interested in films that are ‘off the radar’ and are not standard festival fare, which doesn’t mean experimental; it just means we want to make our own discoveries.”

I was too busy buying trinkets with Gaspar Noé and chasing the Aurora Borealis to make too many movie discoveries of my own. It’s that kind of place! The one discovery I made was Egil Håskjold Larsen’s Where Man Returned, about a lonely old white man lives in the Arctic wilderness with his dog. He listens to football and shipping news on his radio. It was a metaphor for so many conversations had at festivals this year. 

One thing that did catch my eye was the poster of the festival. It featured an image of a figure dressed in a thawb with the face drawn as the Tromso Film Festival logo. The poster was designed by Christopher Ide (AKA Doffa), of design office Tank, and he has been the go to guy for the festival for a number of years. The image was smart on so many levels. Since 2001, Tromso and Gaza have been twin cities. The festival also had a strong focus on Arab cinema with screenings of Sameh Zoabi’s satire of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict Tel Aviv on Fire, Dalia Kury’s prison recreation documentary Privacy of Wounds, and a section called Arabiyat — the Arab word for women — celebrating female filmmakers from the region and programmed in association with Morocco’s Cinematheque de Tanger.

Rotterdam International Film Festival 

Festival Director Bero Beyer

The next festival I attended was another festival where the festival director was looking to move their life away from festivals. In July, Rotterdam head honcho Bero Beyer announced that he had accepted a job as CEO of the Netherlands Film Fund, commencing in March 2020, after this years’ edition. More recently, it was announced that his replacement would be MUBI acquirer Vanja Kaludje, who had previously worked for the festival. 

2019’s edition was Beyer’s fifth in the post. He’s a confident guy. In the role, Beyer has grown the industry side of the festival and increased the focus on experiences rather than just watching films. The festival takes place when a lot of American eyes are on Sundance, but he’s keen on appealing to the 180 ethnicities found in Rotterdam. “The first thing we want to get right is that the program is representing the world and not just one side of the world,” Beyer tells me on his way to a Claire Denis seminar.

Beyer says of his philosophy to the festival, “We do what others don’t. We always go one step further. What makes us special is the stuff that is slightly crazy and on the fringe of things. People show up to watch avant-garde.”

The film festival posters are part of a campaign living under the umbrella of “Planet IFFR.” Planet IFFR is a concept formulated in 2017, where the emphasis was put on the number of people involved in the movie making process. The various staff on a set are in Rotterdam’s eyes, representive of the cultures and peoples of the world. “This year, we asked what makes us alive? It’s more than facts and truth because they are long gone, facts don’t matter – it’s emotions.” 

“In the poster campaign the faces and the words used to describe the expressions being pulled seem to conflict. There is a happy face, but the poster says angry. These seemingly oppositional emotions are reflected in the films we show. Our cinema doesn’t give you an answer – it gives you a question. The films don’t give you a feeling you have foreseen – they give you an emotion you have not anticipated it’s like a rollercoaster ride without a seatbelt.”

A case in point is Sacha Polak’s Dirty God, an international co-production that blurs fact and fiction by having Vicky Knight, who was a victim of an acid attack, play the victim of an acid attack. Yet from this starting point, a cinematic truth emerges, very different from reality. Or Present.Perfect, the Hivos Tiger Award winner, which is made up of footage of China taken from the Internet by Chicago based Chinese director Shengze Zhu.  

Beyer admits that the pluralism highlighted in the program could be better reflected in the diversity of the staff, stating, “That’s an on-going process.” And one from next year, he’ll presumably be pushing his successor to achieve.

Gothenburg Film Festival 

Festival Director: Jonas Holmberg

Gothenburg is Scandinavia’s biggest film festival, and just like Scandi Noir, it remains something of a mystery to me. It’s the one festival where I make an extra effort to watch the pitching session, where some filmmakers talk about the movies that they intend to make, and also others talk about the films that are deep into post-production. It’s intriguing as there is always something that ends up at Cannes, and not always what you expect. Usually, I hate seeing movie trailers or knowing anything about a film. Nonetheless, somehow I can listen to a Scandinavian auteur talking about their project in intricate detail, and yet see something entirely different on-screen. Is this because of what they say, or how I listen?

I did not know artistic director Jonas Holmberg before the festival. That despite the fact he’s been the head honcho at Gothenburg since 2014, when he was promoted from his position as international film programmer, and I’ve been to previous editions under his watch. His route into festival life was as a film critic. It’s interesting as that once familiar way into programming has gone into decline as dedicated film programmers appear, graduating from film schools, which have recently started hosting courses in curating and curating theory.

Holmberg seemed to be the quintessential Scandinavian when I met him. He dresses well and says all the right things. My younger self would have looked at him like the epitome of cool, but now I find him a little awkward.  He’s also good-natured. When I start by asking him about his poster, his reaction is a sincere, “How wonderful!” There’s a lot to like.

“We have a tradition of asking a local artist to design the poster,” states Holmberg. “They’re given a blank slate to design whatever they come up, and they come back to us with their design. It’s one of the most exciting days of the festival seeing what they have designed.”

It’s a very relaxed way of doing things and it has been that way since 1992. It also means that a look at the festival poster archive is like a journey to a gallery. The theme of the 2019 film festival was Apocalypse, which might explain how I came to watch a movie, Aniara, from the inside of a coffin. Jesper Waldersten was the artist chosen to create the one-sheet and created an eerie yet beautiful work in the style of horror and space movies from his childhood. Think, Alien, David Lynch and John Carpenter, then throw in a bit of Bergman, think of that image in black and white, and with a face populated by figures looking like they stepped out of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Hell. 

The Scandi vibe was also apparent in Swede Anna Eborn’s fantastic Transnistra, a film that felt like the ’70s even though it is a breakaway state on the border of Moldavia in present day.

Berlin Film Festival 

Head of the Berlinale: Dieter Kosslick

It was Dieter Kosslick’s last stand at the Berlin Film Festival. The year before many prominent German film industry figures called for a change at the top of the Berlin Film Festival arguing that the festival had become irrelevant. The call was heeded and before the festival it was long since announced that his 18th edition would be his last. Kosslick is a unique character. His style and matter is defiantly old school, and eccentric. In his final year, Kosslick programmed a festival that was staunchly unapologetic. No bones thrown to those who criticised him. So the festival was full of challenging choices and featuring buried treasures for those who looked deep into the program. It will be interesting to see how and if that takes changes under the new guard. 

Kosslick attended an event that I organized to celebrate the life and work of publicist Richard Lormond, who had died from an illness a few months before the festival. Kosslick took time out of his busy schedule to say some kind words, and it served as a reminder that the work of a festival director at a festival is more than about selecting films and is also about social interactions. Acknowledging the work of those who help contribute to an event’s success is important as it takes many to put together a great festival.  

Later in the festival, as we sat down to talk about his legacy and the Berlinale poster, I couldn’t help but think that retirement had come at the right time for Kosslick as he was being outpaced by changing times. 

“The bear is our symbol. And for a couple of years now, Swiss artists have been doing our poster,” said Kosslick. “For a couple of years now, the bear has been cruising around going to different locations in Berlin. A lot of people have been asking who are these bears? We thought because it’s the end of my tenure, we would lift the secret of the bear. When the bear takes off his head, it’s the audience that is underneath. The bear is normal people who are on the way to the Berlinale.”

Over the past 18 years, he has worked with many agencies, and they all come up with very different designs, which is evident in the change in the style of the posters every few years. 

“This year, a discussion arose because there was a black person in one of our costumes and we talked about what would be the symbolism of having a black person in a bear costume,” admits Kosslick. “Would it look like discrimination? We wanted to show the variety of the audience that attend the Berlinale, but we have been afraid that if we used it, it would create a discrimination debate. Two people on our poster were from our staff were used as well. I don’t know all of the people personally. We thought about putting me in a costume, but in the end, we believed it was too much.”

The Berlinale like many other festivals this year signed the 50/50 by 2020 pledge to pursued gender parity. “The pledge was a political aim, but I think we are far ahead at the Berlinale,” says Kosslick. We have seven films from female directors in competition and with our staff and selection committee, there are a lot of women in prominent positions.’

Indeed, the film that stuck out most at the festival to my mind was a film screened out of competition, because it had been at Sundance, Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir.

Stockfish Film Festival 

Festival Director: Marzibil Snæfríõar Sæmundardóttir

Taking place in Reykjavik, Stockfish Film Festival is an event that wants to showcase Icelandic films to industry people to film exhibitors, programmers and distributors from around the world. Several Icelandic bodies come together to promote their wares, and it’s a great excuse to go to one of the most beautiful places in the world, with a burgeoning and exciting coffee scene. Yup, already by early March, coffee was my fuel.

The main two strands at the festival are an industry-pitching event, which has an overlap with Gothenburg and a competition programme of short films. There are also screenings of best of the fests, aimed to get the local audiences out of their warm wooden houses and into the fabulous cinema Bíó Paradís. From floor to high ceiling on one wall of the cinema are some fantastic posters designed by local artists to coincide with the release of huge movies, so it’s no surprise that Stockfish take their poster design seriously as well.

Sæmundardóttir has been the Festival Director of the Stockfish film festival since 2015. Before that, she was a writer and director. It was her love of film, and life, that led to her taking on the festival director role. A social butterfly, she brings a lightness and fun air to the event and promoting movies.

“We use a young designer and last year he came up with a version of yellow, which we liked a lot, and that has become the color of the festival,” says Sæmundardóttir. “The poster is exactly the same as last year, except for the dates!”

This attitude seems about right for a festival that knows what it wants to be and has a focussed goal. It’s a festival that has a great atmosphere, mainly because all the films take place in one cinema. They pick at most 25 films, which they consider the best of the fests, in addition to the industry events. The one thing they want everyone to watch is the local short films, which is a good way to start taking notice of local talent, and for local talent to realise that they’ll end up needing to make European co-productions if they want filmmaking to be their job. 

Bergamo Film Meeting 

Artistic Director: Angelo Signorelli

I love going to festivals that are off the beaten track. The Bergamo film meeting is one of those delightful festivals where much of the joy is in seeing classic movies on the big screen. There are new films that play, but I was more interested in seeing Jean-Pierre Léaud turn up to a screening of The 400 Blows, as part of a retrospective on his films, an exhibition of photographs from the set of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Arabian Nights and a retrospective on filmmaker and cinematographer Karpo Godina, an exponent of Yugoslavia’s “Black Wave.” In 2020 they were set to take an in-depth look at Jerzy Skolimowski. It’s a festival that loves outsiders. 

The desire to take a new look at the past is imprinted on the festival’s poster, which gives us a classic French New Wave shot of a young Léaud on the set of The 400 Blows in triplicate. Festival director Angelo Signorelli, who helped found the festival, struck me as a laid back, conscientious type. The easy-living style is one that he is happy to replicate at the festival with a communal ethos. A committee seemingly decides everything. No wonder it’s called the Film Meetings, because, in my two days in Bergamo, it felt like a shared experience, one where good coffee shops were not too far away and talking about films was as important as watching them. 

Signorelli had a similar attitude to the marketing material, “The poster is a collective choice. We liked the image a lot this year. It’s cinematographic, suggesting movement and different perspectives. The central focus is on the repeated image, which is also out of focus. In a way, it speaks about the complexity of cinema. How by looking at the cinema of the past, and the present, we see future trends. It reflects the multiplicity of the sections that the festival has.”

For the past four years, SUQ Republic has designed the poster. “They really understand the philosophy of the film meetings.”

Qumra  

Festival Director: Fatma Al Remaihi

The Doha Film Institute has been doing great work over the years, and industry gathering Qumra continues to be a success. It’s often a sign of confidence of an organisation when they are not afraid to admit to divided opinions and frank discourse. The following conversation between Festival director, Fatma Al Remaihi and DFI’s Director of Strategy and Development Hanaa Issa about the poster for this year’s event was one of my favourite moments of the year. 

Fatma: These images [on the numerous posters] represent the projects that we have, the jewels of Qumra. The principal image for the main poster and front of catalogue is from the first Qatari film in post-production and for us that is huge.

Hanaa: The circle in the poster is kind of our symbol. It reminds of the Q for Qumra and also the camera lens.

Fatma: But the question we had was, do we want to use an image that represented peace, or did we have one that was about war?

Hanaa: We had a long debate.

Fatma: We had different opinions. Do you want to tell him yours?

Hanaa: We had a debate. There was this one behind you, and in terms of artwork, it worked well with the colour and catalogue. I surveyed the office, and some of us felt that highlighting on the book of the projects and on the main catalogue an image of soldiers and war, especially of soldiers killing the farmers in Mexico, that this was perhaps the wrong message to send out to the world. We opted to go for something more peaceful. But then we had this debate around the fact that we do live in a hostile world, there is a lot of unfairness and injustice. Even though we want to highlight this, and make it part of the conversation, I thought to put an image that represented hope was more suited to who we are at Qumra, especially as our projects already contain a lot of stories about war and refugees.

Fatma: Whereas I thought that the world is a mess, and we should highlight it and not be afraid of it, we are not celebrating it, we are highlighting it. We spent the whole day with this discussion.

Hanaa: We argue all the time. We’ve known each other for a long time.

Fatma: It took the whole day this discussion. Going into work that day, I knew that we were going to have this discussion.

Hanaa: Me too, I ate a good breakfast, so I was ready to stand up for my view.

London Taiwan Film Festival UK

Festival Director: Aephie Huimi

I went to the opening day of the inaugural festival. They have a tie in with Stockfish, patly because Festival Director Aephie Huimi has strong links to Iceland and Taiwan. The opening was the UK premiere of Tsai-Ming Liang’s VR cinematic experience, The Deserted, with the director in attendance. I’d inadvertently had a hand in this happening, as I met Huimi through a producing pal friend of mine a number of times. When she revealed she was thinking of putting on a Taiwan Festival in the UK, I immediately mentioned The Deserted and said that she had to screen it. Little did I know that they would then have a retrospective of Liang’s work and he would come to London. It was a small but perfectly formed festival, which is how these looks at national cinema should be.

At first glance, I didn’t know what to make of the poster which seemed like a lot of undecipherable elements around an alien looking sea creature. Then Huimi informed me, “We wanted the poster to be as cute as possible.”

The poster designer, Ting Cheng, was also at the opening night party added, “She wanted something that would represent Taiwanese culture. I wanted something multicultural, and so we got a sea monster drinking Bubble Tea that is made up on the Taiwanese alphabet, which is full of symbols and these different shapes are representative of different cultures.”

Huimi adds, “You cannot define Taiwan in one shape, so every year, the festival will take on different forms, and that is why the sea monster is significant.”

All of a sudden, the poster took on a profound meaning that I’d not been able to see. It was a good reminder, not just of the value of art, but the importance of listening to others, and, of course, reading critics to elucidate and fill in gaps of knowledge. 

CPH: DOX 

Festival Head: Tine Fischer

“The posters for me are part of the core DNA of the festival. I’m so involved in the posters in a way that drives people mad. When we started working, we had external graphic designers, and now I hire designers so that they are employed inside the organisation and work with me for months! Each time I used agencies, I ended up being in massive conflict with them, mainly because, for me, it’s so delicate what you do with posters. When you said posters, I thought this is so fucking spot on, because it’s a nightmare each year, really a nightmare, because it’s challenging to find the balance in the posters from what I believe is the core DNA, namely a very active civic voice when it comes to political activism. You’re addressing something that people need to react to, not only will this look nice emotionally, but really react to it politically. Then it also needs to reflect an artistic profile that deals very much with non-fiction as cinema and as art. It can’t be a poster that will resemble an NGO perspective. So that balance has to be that it’s highly political and activist but also speaks with a more contemporary art, conceptual language. Then it needs to appeal to our audience, which is from young hipsters to grown-up decision makers. It’s a headache because it’s so difficult.”

“This year, I worked with the same graphic designer that I worked with for the last few years. So he works in-house for half the year, being a part of the process and understanding what the film process is about, but also what kind of films we will have. He saw climate change would be a big issue, but how do you do a poster on climate change? That’s almost impossible as all images relating to climate change have been used and overused. Then he came up with this image, with a woman’s breasts that have been sunburnt basically, but that makes it delicate to put out in public. It’s not overly clear what it’s about, but it is about someone who is not careful. We have the Morse code symbols on it to reflect a universal language, and then some images show images of climate change, there is a lifebuoy for example. There are lots of messages in that picture.”

I had started to feel like I’d seen most approaches to festival poster design, and just as I was beginning to tire of asking festival directors about it, CPH: DOX’s Tine Fischer blew me out of the water. But that will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the festival over the years. She has taken the bull by the horns during her long tenure at the festival. She boldly changed the dates of the festival from the Fall to the Spring when she felt that the market was too crowded. The film choices have been radical, and she’s established CPH: DOX as one of the most exciting documentary festivals. 

The festival was also where I conducted one of my favourite interviews of the year, sitting down with Alex Winter. We discussed Bitcoin and The Panama Papers, as well as sexual abuse in the film industry. And of course Bill and Ted, we drank coffee together a couple of days after the announcement that he would appear in Bill And Ted 3. Of course, it was most excellent.

Panama Film Festival 

Artistic Director: Diana Sanchez

A few weeks before the Panama film festival took place Toronto International Film Festival announced that Diana Sanchez would be taking up a position in Toronto full-time. Much of Sanchez’s fantastic reputation that led to that Canada role has come from how she built up the Panama Film Festival into one of the most vibrant, forward-thinking and fun festivals in the Americas. Of course, from my side, it helped that Panama is home to Geisha Coffee, some of the best and most expensive beans on the planet. A competition-winning brew that would set you back $75 a cup in San Francisco retails for $9 in Panama. It’s still a lot to pay for a coffee, given that great blends retail at $4 here, but it’s not often that one can treat yourself daily to the champagne of the coffee world. The coffee and the festival were marvellous. This year it gave a great platform to films from Guatemala. It showcased how artists are trying to comprehend the human catastrophe caused by the years of dictatorship and, also the American support to the dictatorship. There is a similar sentiment in Panama where President George W. Bush ordered an invasion in December 1989.

In total contrast to the approach in Copenhagen, Diana Sanchez, in a somewhat more laidback manner, informed me that she didn’t get involved in the production of the poster. She is someone who knows what she likes to do and is happy to delegate the other jobs to others. She advised me to chat with Pituka Ortega, the Director and founder of the Film Festival, who was involved in the creation of the poster and appointed the new team that will be in charge of the 2020 edition.

“It’s the first time that we have worked with Cisco Merel, a Panamanian artist to create the poster,” Ortega says. “He works with geometrical shapes, and one of his masters is Venezuelan artist [Carlos] Cruz-Diez. When we spoke to him, he brought this concept to us that within these geometrical shapes that conveyed cinema. Artists are artists, and we just loved it and went with it. It’s a detachment from everything else we have done, and we loved working with an up-and-coming artist. It has opened a window for us to work with other up-and-coming artists from Panama. The unifying factor will be the logo. It represents the festival as a platform for new ideas and talent just like we are doing for a central American and Caribbean platform that we have invested so much energy and thought to, and our resources. ”

CineMAS 

Artistic Director Joe Wihl

Formerly, the United Arab Emirates was host to not one, but two great festivals. Then in 2015, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival closed after eight editions, and last year, far more surprisingly, the Dubai Film Festival closed. Fans of cinema in the UAE went from boom to bust. So it was great to see cinephiles take the matter into their own hands and launch an independent film festival at an excellent venue, Manarat Al Saadiyat (the MAS in CineMAS). It was a film festival designed by cinephiles for cinephiles that lasted a joyous four days, with master classes, workshops and screenings. The festival is a demonstration that good taste can be more valuable than finance.  

“The poster was made in Abu Dhabi by a branding agency who designed all our collateral,” Wihl told me. “We wanted a poster that connected film, cinema and the art world. We are lucky to show films that people don’t normally get to see, so we wanted it to reflect the artistic nature of the festival. The branding agency came back to us with three options, and we chose the one used because the brush strokes showed the interconnecting nature of the art world and film. We have five different colours that we used on the posters to reflect the diversity of cinema and the wide selection of films from around the world.”

Admittedly, it is hard for me not to like the festival director, since I played on the same soccer team as him for several years. He scored many goals in his time, so I wanted to go to support the festival. This festival may end up being a one-off, as rumours abound that Abu Dhabi may re-launch an international festival in 2020. But many rumours circulate here. 

Cannes 

Festival Director: Thierry Frémaux

Cannes makes a massive fanfare out of its poster. It is published before any film announcement and widely shared on social media. Arguably, this year’s poster featuring the recently departed French legend Agnes Varda was the most popular one-sheet in its history. And that is saying something! A great article by Sight and Sound’s Isabel Stevens argued: “Cannes has finally woken up to the power of the poster.” She posited that the photo-shopped reinterpretation of the iconic image of Varda standing on top of cinematographer Louis Stein when filming her first feature La Pointe Courte was created to demonstrate that Cannes is changing. Stevens argued, it “signals that the festival has, at long last, clocked that it needs to change. Does this change go deeper than a clever and overdue rebranding exercise? Only the number of female-directed films in future editions of the festival will tell.”

Sadly, not long after the poster release, the competition announcement came, and this change seemed to be an illusion with complaints circulating about the lack of female directors. The festival still snagged the best film of the year, Parasite, and one of the many joys of the film is the range of great posters that Bong Joon-Ho’s film has inspired by regional distributors around the world.

As for the likeable Frémaux, every year he proves how good he, and his team, are at their job of selecting the year’s best films. Nonetheless, using a classic image from the past shows how much he still looks back when so many people are crying out for him to look to the future. He is an enigma, just like his festival, whose policy to exclude films not guaranteed an exclusive first run in French cinemas seems more and more robust with every passing year. So far, it’s Netflix and not Cannes making changes to how they operate. 

Kultur Symposium Weimar

By June, unsurprisingly I had had my fill of film festivals, so it was a delight to be invited by the Goethe Institute to attend their second Kultur Symposium Weimar. It was an invite-only event that contained talks, performance art, films and debates.

For three days, more than 300 participants from all over the world came together at the Kultursymposium Weimar, including representatives from science, culture, politics, business, journalism and publishing. The first Kultursymposium Weimar took place in 2016 on the subject of The Sharing Game – Exchange in Culture and Society. The second edition from 19 to 21 of June 2019 was entitled Recalculating the Route. It was an incredibly inspiring event, and great to be somewhere where I did not see the same faces, and people were talking about social issues without the conversation being bound to a film. I also didn’t talk to anyone about the design of the poster for the event. Indeed from this point on in the year, my observation on the one-sheet became largely my own again. This event felt like a real marker separating the first part of the year focussing on the branding to the second part of the year, informed by trying to reconnect with the idea of looking at how film festivals relate the realities of the world and present the future. Of course, there were movies, but this event was really about new ideas and building better social groupings. 

London Indian Film Festival

Festival Director: Cary Rajinder Sawhney

The London Indian Film Festival celebrated a decade. It was a big year for Festival Director Cary Sawhney as he also collected an MBE for services to the film industry. His work is getting noticed. I dipped my toe into the festival attending a screening of The Flight, where it was my pleasure to be asked to host the Q and A with legendary Bengali Filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta. It was a lovely event held at the Cine Lumiere in London. It reminded me how lucky I was to be living in London, where almost every night there is some great film festival of some sort or some fantastic filmmaker giving a talk. For the festival to reach ten years, and be more significant than ever, takes some doing.

Oh and I don’t think I looked at the poster. Sorry, Cary! And, really I need to stay in my home time more often! 

Nordic Youth Film Festival

Festival Director: Hermann Greuel

Having started the year in Tromsø, for a week when the sun never rises above the horizon, it was nice to be back in the Arctic Circle for NUFF when the sun never dips below the horizon. I mean, it’s cold whatever the time of the year one is in the Arctic, but on a clear day, when you can actually glimpse the sun it is gorgeous. At NUFF, the efforts to build a politicised film community are what brightens-up every day of this youth orientated festival.  

NUFF is an annual short film festival and film workshop for young filmmakers up to the age of 26. These talents get split into several groups under the guidance of a filmmaker. They have a week to make a short film from scratch. On the final weekend, the freshly made short films screen as part of a short films festival. The mentors included producer Racha H Larsen and filmmaker Egil Håskjold Larsen, whose film Where Man Returns opened the Tromso International Film Festival. The prolific award-winning short filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel, Anders Emblem, whose film Hurry Slowly I had missed at Tromsø International Film Festival but saw at a special here. Inuk Jørgensen from Greenland and Virtual Reality expert Marta Ordeig were also in charge of a group, and composer Rune Simonsen was producing music for the images.

I delivered a film appreciation seminar and hosted a masterclass event with Mahdi Fleifel talking about his short films, which we screened in chronological order, as well as hosting Q&A sessions with some of the talents attending the workshops It was an awesome time!

Festival director Hermann Greuel is such a great personality and so friendly. I wish that I could wipe away the years, and be young enough to be accepted as one of the participants. It’s a truly great event, and one that seemed to be practising the philosophy preached at the Weimar Kultur Symposium. The future is sunny. 

Karlovy Vary Film Festival 

Festival Director Karel Och

Karel Och is one of the great festival directors of our times. He has good taste, hosts a well-respected film festival that has great talents, juries, parties and writing courses. So what’s not to like? Well, somehow on the first night I was put into the world’s most noisy hotel, above a party that went on until 4 am every night. Add to this that the Internet in the basement house in Parasite worked better than it did at the hotel and I wasn’t a happy camper. Thankfully, the next night they moved me to the edge of town, and the smile returned to my face.

Apart from that blip, I saw many unique films. HBO put on a great party. I’d seen so many films at Cannes, that I wasn’t as side-tracked by catching up with Cannes movies as I have been on past visits to Karlovy Vary film festival. It’s a great place to get a taste of films from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. There was an excellent retrospective taking a look at the works of Egyptian maestro Youssef Chahine films. Even though I haven’t been for a few years, the festival seems familiar. Even the poster for the festival is the same design, this year the colours were changed to be black and white. So why is it, that I always leave Karlovy Vary with a but…

Every time I get home I think I’ll give Karlovy Vary a skip next time. But that’s usually because every second year clashes with a big soccer tournament. The festival will be happy that in 2022, the world cup is moving to the winter because of the hot Doha summer, that will probably be the year I’m not invited! The festival has a great press dinner, and at the main festival centre, there is a bar where everyone congregates. However, the festival still manages to get it wrong because it separates the industry, press and guests from each other. There feels like several festivals going on at the same time, which is a shame as really Karlovy Vary should be about breaking down those barriers between the different parts of the film community rather than reinforcing them. 

Locarno Film Festival 

Festival Director: Lili Hinstin

Locarno feels like a bit of a blur. It was the first year that Lili Hinstin was in the Festival hot seat. Her philosophy seems to be that evolution and not revolution was the best way to get her feet under the table. On my first night by the magnificent lake, I met her at an official dinner attended by Palme D’Or winner Bong Joon-Ho and also hosted were those programmers and filmmakers who put together the excellent Black Light retrospective. On the Industry side, the push to support filmmakers from around the world, especially from those areas without traditional support for independent cinema remains strong.

The poster also evolves slightly every year, but it noticeable evolved that little bit more this year, the main indicator of changes. What I like about Locarno is the use of the yellow and black leopard spots, which are always such a unique identifier. It’s also fun. There have been some inventive variations on the leopard theme, especially the kiss poster from the 59th edition in 2006, which remains one of my all-time festival favourites. This year, there was a bold reinterpretation that saw far more playful brush strokes, creating a more abstract version of the leopard, but one that seemed more playful, child-friendly and looking to the future. With it being Lili’s first year, it was understandably difficult to find time to catch her for a conversation on the direction of the festival, which I’m looking forward to doing in 2020

Locarno is a festival that has so much going for it, from the magnificent screenings in the Piazza Grande of more commercially minded films to the selection of more challenging fare in competition and elsewhere. Yet, as with so many other festivals, it has suffered from sales agents no longer using the film festivals as their primary location to source and sell movies. It will be interesting to see how Karlovy Vary and Locarno tackle the hurdles ahead, especially on the side of promoting cinema rather than movies. Festivals such as Locarno and Karlovy Vary have begun addressing this issue by being more supportive of a broader range of critical voices. Still, there must be more effort to make audiences feel part of the movie industry and encourage spectators to make bolder choices, not just at film festivals, but on a Friday night date.

Venice Film Festival 

Festival Director: Alberto Barbera

In the last couple of years, it’s been a surprise that the Venice Film Festival hasn’t just found a space to put the Netflix logo in the middle of the poster, given the preponderance of films from the streamer. I get it. Venice has been the primary beneficiary of the stance taken by Cannes on streaming platforms failure to heed cinematic windows, and they have reaped the red carpet rewards, with more stars in attendance and more media interest. It’s undeniable that Alberto Barbera has done a great job in making Venice a place to launch films, especially award contenders. Although it’s likely that for the second year in succession, unless Marriage Story does pull off an unlikely Best Film Oscar victory, that for the second year, the Oscar winner will not have debuted on the Lido. There is also a well-voiced and, quite frankly well-placed, concern about the dominance of English language films in the Venice competition. Again, the media and the trades desire to push films as Oscar contenders, that will result in them receiving advertising money from studios looking to win awards, is also part of the game. So it’s not in anyone’s interest to complain too much. It’s another example of how capitalism can limit choice, even in art.

Consequently, some great movies that could have done with the status push that can come with appearing in competition on the Lido get somewhat lost in the sidebar sections. I would like to see Venice be a bit bolder in its official selection. But if it’s glam you want, Barbera is your man. He is incredibly slick, has a big fun personality and could have been a character in La Dolce Vita. He is Italian Hollywood.

Even the choice of poster, which I love, reflects this debate. It’s a painted image of a couple being filmed kissing on the front of a boat. It’s a hint towards Titanic more than the refugee crisis, or the debate about how locals have turned against cruise ships, and the worry about climate change. The poster designed by Italian illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti (he’s also created the 2000 edition Cannes poster) emphasizes the water that makes Venice so unique, and the painted image connects the film festival to La Biennale, of which it is part. I liked the poster, and yes, I liked the festival. 

Toronto Film Festival 2020

Artistic Director and Co-Head: Cameron Bailey

I must admit it’s only now that I’m writing this that I’m looking properly at the one-sheet of the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time. The fall film festival season doesn’t allow for much navel-gazing. It’s the moment every year that I forget the sage advice from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off about life moving pretty fast and the need to take stock and look around once in a while. At Toronto, there is no such opportunity to stop. After the curated programmes of Venice and Telluride is the splurge of films in Canada.  The festival ends with the announcement of the winner of the Toronto audience award. Then we are all supposed to guess what will win the Oscars for the next few months. Of the Oscar frontrunners, only 1917 and The Irishman, which debuted shortly after at the New York Film Festival had not screened at this stag. It’s a shame that there is this enormous focus on what goes on in Hollywood in February because great stuff that happens in Toronto gets overlooked as a consequence.

One of which is the mentoring of film critics from underrepresented demographics. So at TIFF, I had the great honor of mentoring Valerie Complex at the festival. It was great to be able to meet up and hang with a young writer, who had exciting and differing viewpoints about films. She’s also making significant headway into the field of criticism, and has a prevalent Twitter account should you want to employ her. Together, we watched Anna Winocour’s space training epic Proxima, which we were still debating the next day. It was a film that grew on both of us, with Complex being the first to admit that the film was better than she initially thought. The joy of movies and not writing immediate tweets and reviews. As with many things in Toronto, it did feel like the critic mentoring scheme was another thing added, and need some refinement and more support from the festival, but it’s a great start for the initiative that I hope will grow. It came as no surprise to me that this initiative was taking place at a festival where Cameron Bailey is the head honcho. Despite all the talk around inclusion, white male critics still have so much more opportunity than women and people of color. And it’s no surprise that Bailey has overseen this initiative given his background. He’s a top programmer, and it won’t be long before his evolution at TIFF becomes a revolution. Of the big fall festivals, Toronto is the one making the most significant effort to bring about change not just to film, but also society.

But back to that poster, it’s a bit abstract and difficult to tell what it wants to be. Maybe I did see it during TIFF, everywhere, I just didn’t realise that it was the visual identity that was supposed to be representing the festival. Having said that, it kind of fits with some of my sentiments about a festival where a lot of films, seem to be put together abstractly, and where it doesn’t quite come together as a whole.

El Gouna Film Festival 

Festival Director: Ihtishal Al Timimi

I have a good rapport with Festival Director Ihtishal Al Timimi from his time at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Heading to Egypt meant that I had to miss San Sebastian, one of my favourite film festivals of the year, every year. I’m still crying, even if it was well worth the change of water and sun location. El Gouna is one of those friendly festivals, with a real hub where everyone mingles and chats about the movies that they have, or haven’t been watching. Its focus is on films from the Middle East and North Africa, and all of the key players from the region turn up, make plans and plot for the future. It comes a few weeks before Cairo and has a far more curated programme in which most films had a lot going for it. It was one of those festivals with not much to do in a resort late at night, so it was easy to mingle with filmmakers and festival programmers.

The poster is striking, albeit one more in keeping with it a perfume fragrance rather than a film festival. It shows a lady in a red dress walking across a stage from left to right, with the backdrop resembling a film reel. It wants to be modern but can’t help but feel retro. Much like this festival, the poser is a throwback to a bygone era, and that’s not always a bad thing. I’m hoping the festival moves dates to avoid a clash with San Sebastian in the future.

Zurich Film Festival 

Artistic Director: Karl Spoerri

Straight from El Gouna, I crashed into the Zurich Film Festival. This festival, with its green carpets, has been growing in stature every year. It’s the sister festival to San Sebastian and benefits from filmmakers coming straight from the Basque region to Switzerland. Zurich has improved a lot in recent years, but the selection has yet to catch fire. The big Swiss festival, Locarno, has a much more progressive and diverse programme. This year was a watershed for Zurich in many ways as it was the final year that co-founders Nadja Schildknecht (managing director) and Karl Spoerri (artistic director) were at the helm. They will be board members and advisors to the festival from here on in. Some months before the festival started, Zurich announced that leading film journalist Christian Jungen, the chief cultural editor at the German-language Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, had joined the Zurich Film Festival and would take over as Artistic Director in 2020. The appointment shows that good taste and a long career observing the film industry is still a way into festival curating (despite my earlier observation), especially for celebrations of cinema looking to be bolder in their selection.

One of the changes that can immediately be made, that would highlight a bit more risk-taking, is the creation of more captivating movie posters. I hope Jungen changes this up too. The Zurich Film Festival has a strong logo presence, but the desire to have a visual identity that appears on tickets, festival cars and stationery has led to the uninspiring and corporate logo dominating the festival poster. Where is the fun? The use of the logo on the poster is more bland corporate identity than art. Let’s face it, the formula for many film festivals is the same, you have films, industry talks and events with a bit of glamour on the carpet, it’s the other stuff that stokes the audience imagination that creates buzz. That starts with a good poster.

London Film Festival 

Festival Director Tricia Tuttle

The London Film Festival also went for the abstract approach to designing their visual identity. At first glance, it feels even more abstract than that in Toronto and less cohesive with it’s merging triangles and colours. The British Film Institute said when launching the poster: “Delivered in collaboration with creative agency DBLG, the design continues to develop iconography that was inspired by the beautiful NFT sign on our building at BFI Southbank, which was created in 1957 by Norman Engleback, and harks back to some of our classic Festival artwork from the 60s.” Hmm. If you say so! I’ve been to the BFI Southbank building countless times, and I’m at a loss about the beautiful NFT sign! 

London is my hometown film festival, so I guess that makes me harder on it, in the way that happens in families. It was the first year that Tricia Tuttle was officially in charge as festival head. The year before she was acting head, so 2019 wasn’t her first festival in the hot seat. Her promotion seemed to be an anointment rather than an appointment. I was surprised that there was not a more significant fanfare about the failure to open up the application process, but not too surprised. Tricia is very personable and is well-qualified for the role and probably would have got the job anyway. Also, it’s hard to imagine many clamoring for a position that involves programming a festival around talent that is coming to London for BAFTA screenings so that they can campaign for award season votes. London feels like a hostage to the awards season. 

That being said the clamoring for votes is terrific timing for the festival as it means it gets a host of talent to attend the festival because it’s the early stage of the awards campaigning when producers and studios are still unsure of what will emerge as the frontrunners. Consequently, it struggles to be a festival of discovery or even a festival of festivals, despite the introduction in recent years of competition segments. The surprising omission of Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms meant that this was the first time that I can remember that none of the Berlin, Cannes, or Venice Best Film winners played at the festival. (Someone will no doubt fact check this and prove me wrong!) 

As with any festival that has this many films and star names, the attention gets placed on the usual suspects. While film festivals are the life-blood of smaller independent films, it is harder than ever for them to emerge and break out into the mainstream. It’s a chicken and egg situation. London does try to make this push, but the sheer size and scale of the operation, and the need to get audiences through the door means it usually fails. How hard it is for films to get noticed is the struggle of our times, and it’s even harder persuading a distributor to release it after a festival appearance, which sounds odd given that more movies are coming out each week than ever before. London is just another festival that seems to favor the studios rather than the independents, as it’s easier to get bums on seats and ticket sales for blockbusters, even if the goal is to highlight smaller films and BFI funded films. However, I realize I know I’m more aware of the issues of the festival in regards to the distribution scene in the United Kingdom, as I’m much more often in contact with the local sales agents, distributors and exhibitors, which could be highlighting the problem. I’m sure the same story is being told elsewhere, but it is one that comes into sharp focus for me in London.

Lumière Film Festival 

Festival Director: Thierry Frémaux

When not presiding over Cannes, Thierry Frémaux is the director of the Institut Lumière, in Lyon. The museum and the festival are located within the grounds of the Lumière family house, around the site that the Lumière brothers shot one of their earliest works, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon. It’s often called the first motion picture ever made. The Institut Lumière was founded in 1982, and charged with promotion and preservation of film. Acclaimed French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier is President and Frémaux is its director. It’s a job that Frémaux clearly loves. One of my best experiences in a cinema was watching Frémaux live-present Lumière! A film he directed in 2016, made up of clips and reels of early French cinema. The witty and engaging commentary that he delivers as the reels play is extraordinary and full of passion.

A decade ago, Frémaux decided to launch the Lumière Film Festival, which focuses on the history of cinema with a line-up dedicated to restored prints and retrospectives. There are some new films, presented when one of the many luminaries who come through the festival give a masterclass. Top talent comes, because of the connection to Cannes. The masterclasses are extensive, intriguing and unique, some of the best of the year. Go on their website and listen to the podcasts if you have not done so already, you will not be disappointed. It’s impossible not to have a fabulous time when spent watching the works of Lina Wertmüller, treasures from pre-code Hollywood, and re-mastered classics including 5 Fingers by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Phillipe Garrel’s Liberty at Night.

The Festival poster is in keeping with the cinematic history theme. It’s a poster of Francis Ford Coppola directing on the set of Rumble Fish. It’s in black and white, of course, and chosen to celebrate the fact that Coppola was in town to pick up the festival’s big honour, Prix Lumière. Coppola had a great time. My particular highlight was seeing him introduce The Cotton Club. A couple of days later at The Godfather Trilogy all-nighter, I was struck by how The Cotton Club and The Godfather movies use entertainment as a mask for nefarious activities. It is a great film festival, and a joy to see cinema through the eyes of Frèmaux, in a way that is impossible at Cannes. Bravo!

Red Sea Industry Workshop

Red Sea Festival Director: Mahmoud Sabbagh

The decision to allow cinemas to open in Saudi Arabia after a 30-year ban has brought a vast new audience and film market hungry for cinema. Saudi Arabia, with a population of around 70 million, is full of cinephiles. The cinemas that have been opening have been booked out. There have also been several Saudi films that have started to appear at film festivals. Haifaa Al Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate vied for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The observational comedy Barakah Meets Barakah by Mahmoud Sabbagh is one of the most popular films from the region on Netflix. It is Sabbagh, a pioneer as a director, who is leading the drive to set up the Red Sea Film Festival, and also the Red Sea Lodge, an incubator for regional filmmakers that’s been set-up in collaboration with the Torino Film Lab. Two of the projects will win a production grant of $500,000. Next year, the Red Sea Film Festival will have its inaugural edition in March.

I jumped at the chance of going to the Old Town in Jeddah for the weekend to meet the filmmakers from the 12 projects selected for incubation. The filmmakers seemed invigorated at workshops where leading industry experts were discussing and dissecting their scripts for just over a week. I watched enthralled as one workshop leader used toys to highlight character journeys and some structural problems. Egyptian filmmaker Marwan Hamed delivered a masterclass, where he discussed his career, including the adaptation of The Yacoubian Building. I was most impressed by the attendance, where the local community sat enthralled throughout and came armed with interesting and intelligent questions. It was a surprisingly more engaged audience than I had seen at other Middle East Film Festival over the years. Cairo usually being the best. 

There was no poster as such, although on the literature that was released, often the writing would come over a photographic image of the Unesco heritage site in Old Town Jeddah. It will be interesting to see what happens in March when the first edition launches. Will the festival be seen as Saudi filmmakers celebrating film for the first time in three decades or will it be clouded and judged by a geo-political narrative? Much will be in the eyes of the beholder.

Films From the South 

Festival Director: Lasse Skagen

I found myself in Norway again, this time in Oslo for Films From the South Film Festival, where I delivered a master class at the Sørfund Pitching Forum on “Festival and Press strategy” to Norwegian producers, international directors and producers. At Sørfund Pitching Forum six selected filmmakers from Latin America, Africa and Asia pitch their films that they hope will be backed by the Norwegian film fund in 2020. One of the great advantages of this fund is that you don’t have to invest the money in Norway, but you need to woo a local producer, who will then be your Norwegian co-production partner. The standard of filmmakers is extraordinary. Two of the filmmakers pitching at the event had won Lion of the Future awards, for best first film at the Venice Film Festival.

So I didn’t attend a film at the Films from the South Festival. This was a festival that for me was about helping filmmakers further their career. In Oslo, I was the one in control of the show, or more accurately the Powerpoint presentation. It’s great to talk to filmmakers directly in this way. The aim of the talk is to give them an idea of a strategy that might attract the media to their films, including which festivals they might get the best results at, and when or where they will need to employ publicists, find sales agents, or just do it on their own. It always amazes me that independent filmmakers have to be both architects and realtors, they plan, create and when they have finished their film, they then realise that it’s up to them to sell their films. Even if they have a great team behind them, or working with them, often festivals can be a confusing and demoralising place for a filmmaker. 

I looked through the Films from the South catalogue, and it was an impressive list of films that were screening, and Sørfund can be proud of the success the films they’ve funded have had, especially last year. The screenings highlight how there are so many great filmmakers around the world, and how much stimulating and fascinating work gets created each year. On the minus side, it’s demoralising to see so many amazing films get ignored. As for Lasse Skagen, who is also the Artistic Director at the Oslo Festival Agency, and has been at the Oslo Films from the South Foundation since 1997, our paths didn’t cross, but I admire his work. I was in contact with the SORFOND team. As for the poster for the festival, I have only just looked at it now, and have to say I like it. A rainbow of paint is segmented to show the sun high in the sky casting a shadow down to the sea, a clear distinction of the world between the North and the South. Although some may balk at my interpretation as it can also be looked at as a representation of privilege. 

Ajyal 2019 

Festival Director: Fatma Al Remaihi

If you have made it this far, I salute you. You must be as exhausted as I was by the start of December. For my last festival of the year, I was back in Doha at the Ajyal Film Festival. This time it didn’t seem like Fatma Al Remaihi and Hanaa Issa argued very much about the poster, as it was in the spirit of the posters from previous edition, featuring an explosion of colourful splintered geometric shapes creating a circle with no borders. The use of the white background, a change from the previously used black background, made it pop out even more.

It’s been a few years since I’d been to this festival, and I have to say I was very impressed with how much better it is now, then from it’s baby years. Ajyal’s excellent goal is to foster a love of cinema in children and young adults. There are 96 films screened from 39 countries, with the juries for these films made up of these young spectators, split up into various age groups. Each age group were given 4 to 6 movies to watch and judge. There were also workshops for the 400 jurors from 41 nationalities, including 40 international jurors. 

I delivered a quick talk on how to watch movies and criticize them. What was surprising was how little help they needed, and that they were open to the fact that film criticism can come in many forms these days, not just print, but also with memes, video streaming and just chatting to your friends over a milkshake. It was the perfect end to an exhausting year, and as I finally finish writing this up, I realise that I went to a hell of a lot of events last year, and it’s impressive how non-repetitive and unique each festival is.

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Simi showers encomium on Adekunle Gold as they celebrate wedding anniversary

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Simi has taken to Instagram to shower encomium on Adekunle Gold, as the celebrity couple are celebrating their wedding anniversary.

Earlier today, Adekunle Gold took to social media to celebrate his wife, and she has also done the same to share a lengthy post on her Instagram page to celebrate their special day.

See what she wrote below;

Pretty baby. The very thing that you mean to me, I doubt you’ll ever fully understand. I don’t like to share our best moments, because they belong to us – so people might never even know the level of your special. It’s a really high level that is higher than other levels. No one is more in sync with me than you.

I love how you’re mindful of me. Nothing’s perfect. Not even with your Ikotun background 🤦🏾‍♀️ – but I love how you deliberately want to be better. You will see something inside film and ask me at 2am how you can be a better man for me. Lol. So cute a man.

Before we said I do, 95% of the advice I got was “Endure”. I was stumped cos I’ve never been able to relate. Endure? Forever and ever? Like till the end of your days? Lol. Quite rubbish. Thank you for never ever being someone I’ve ever had to endure.

Don’t like it much when people “couplegoals” us – cos as far as I’m concerned, we, i.e me and you, are on a personal journey. Our ups our downs (Olorun o ni je ka rogun down), our growth, our learning and unlearning, our Love (aww) is our story. Everyone’s standard should be their best self. Thank you for being someone that makes me want to be my best self.

Moruf, thank you for Year One. They said it’s normally hard. Again, I can’t relate because I loved it. I love you. I pray year two is even better by God’s infinite mercy and grace and love. I thank God for standing with us and giving us sense. And I thank you for being a man that makes loving you worth it.

My beautiful dreamboat. My fellow feminist boyfriend. My husband. Ife mi. Onitemi. The love of my life. I will continue to eat your work in the eye of carton. 🥂 to all the forevers we will spend together.

PS: Year two is one or two sentences. I have what I’m doing❤️.
.
PPS: Everyone, please whatever chance you get today, say a prayer for us. I love those 💙

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Simi’s Pens Sweet Words To Adekunle Gold On Ther First Wedding Anniversary

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Simi and Adekunle Gold
Simi and Adekunle Gold

Nigerian singer Simi has gotten many in their feelings with her wedding anniversary message to her husband, Adekunle Gold.

The ‘Joromi crooner took to her Instagram page to share a beautiful photo from their wedding and penned a beautiful lengthy piece for her man which reads thus;l

Read also: ‘It’s 2020, I Still Don’t Like Stupid People’: Simi

”Pretty baby. The very thing that you mean to me, I doubt you’ll ever fully understand. I don’t like to share our best moments, because they belong to us – so people might never even know the level of your special. It’s a really high level that is higher than other levels. No one is more in sync with me than you.

“I love how you’re mindful of me. Nothing’s perfect. Not even with your Ikotun background 🤦🏾‍♀️ – but I love how you deliberately want to be better. You will see something inside film and ask me at 2am how you can be a better man for me. Lol. So cute a man.

“Before we said I do, 95% of the advice I got was “Endure”. I was stumped cos I’ve never been able to relate. Endure? Forever and ever? Like till the end of your days? Lol. Quite rubbish. Thank you for never ever being someone I’ve ever had to endure.

“Don’t like it much when people “couplegoals” us – cos as far as I’m concerned, we, i.e me and you, are on a personal journey. Our ups our downs (Olorun o ni je ka rogun down), our growth, our learning and unlearning, our Love (aww) is our story. Everyone’s standard should be their best self. Thank you for being someone that makes me want to be my best self.

“Moruf, thank you for Year One. They said it’s normally hard. Again, I can’t relate because I loved it. I love you. I pray year two is even better by God’s infinite mercy and grace and love. I thank God for standing with us and giving us sense. And I thank you for being a man that makes loving you worth it.”

“My beautiful dreamboat. My fellow feminist boyfriend. My husband. Ife mi. Onitemi. The love of my life. I will continue to eat your work in the eye of carton. 🥂 to all the forevers we will spend together.”

PS: Year two is one or two sentences. I have what I’m doing❤.
.
PPS: Everyone, please whatever chance you get today, say a prayer for us. I love those 💙

The post Simi’s Pens Sweet Words To Adekunle Gold On Ther First Wedding Anniversary appeared first on Information Nigeria.

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Sorry Will Ferrell, Elf is the most overrated Christmas film of all time

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Elf is one of the most overrated Christmas films of all time

Elf is one of the most overrated Christmas films of all time (Picture: New Line)

It’s Christmas, which means that normal TV is thankfully replaced by an abundance of festive fun. Home Alone 1 and 2, Miracle On 34th Street, Die Hard, Jingle All The Way, I’m ready to watch it all. But, before we all start commanding the remote control, we need to talk about how Elf is the most overrated Christmas film – and maybe just overall movie – of all time. And, instead of spewing me with gifs, telling me that I sit on a throne of lies etc, just take a breath and hear me out.

Buddy the Elf is probably one of the most annoying characters to appear on the big screen. He just is. And that’s no disrespect to Will Ferrell, but a grown man in an Elf costume who eats cotton balls, shouts all the time, breaks into song and bounces around like a high-as-a-kite Tigger is not fun, endearing or cute. Imagine when Christmas is over and he’s still… there.

Also his back story is the most ridiculous thing. I know it’s a film, and it’s Christmas so we should suspend belief just a touch more, but seriously guys… Newborn Buddy is left in an orphanage, then climbs into Santa’s sack undetected, with no one realising at any point that they’re missing a literal baby. And how does Santa not clock there is a child in his bag until he gets back to the North Pole? He presumably has to open said sack to give other people their presents, but he just failed to see a baby? Not buying it.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alan Markfield/New Line Prods/Kobal/REX (5884647n) Will Ferrell Elf - 2003 Director: Jon Favreau New Line Productions USA Scene Still Elfe

Buddy the Elf is the most annoying character ever (Picture: New Line)

Instead of the elves checking his address in their all-knowing records, they let Buddy build a life for himself in the North Pole, beavering away and making crap Christmas presents. But, in all that time, did no one also stop and suggest to build him some grown-up furniture so he didn’t have to constantly crouch? They’re all elves, building is what they do. The man doesn’t even have a toilet he can fit on.

When he’s eventually told about his parents – after what seems like 30 years as an elf – he just swans off to New York, floating away from his adopted dad on an ice ledge and armed with nothing but a snow globe of the Empire State Building. How did he get there? How does he know the way? How are his clothes not dirty from the journey? Why didn’t he just take Santa’s sleigh? So. Many. Questions.

Suddenly, Buddy is just handed a job at a swanky department store as part of their Christmas display. No CRB, no checks, just letting a grown man off the street – dressed as an elf – in a job where he interacts with children. Police would shut Gimbels down in a hot minute, but it’s a festive film so no one bats an eyelid. While there, he locks eyes on Zooey Deschanel’s character, who is also dressed as an elf (for work) and they have precisely five seconds of banter before she moves on, because Buddy is someone you would swipe past on Tinder, or ghost after precisely three messages. He then walks in on her in the shower, tells her that she makes his tongue swell up (absolutely a euphemism) and takes her on a date to a revolving door. And she still falls madly in love with him. This is how low the bar is for men.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX (1566358a) Elf, Zooey Deschanel Film and Television

Zooey Deschanel, you’re better than this. (Picture: New Line)

Also, you’re better than this, Zooey Deschanel, and don’t let an overgrown man child dressed like an elf tell you differently.

Buddy’s dad Walter (James Caan) is also a horrible human being. He’s rude, entitled, mean to nuns, has all his priorities in exactly the wrong order, and knowingly shipped a bunch of books out with missing pages like an absolute monster. Yes, this is probably his biggest crime of all. He quite clearly doesn’t want to spend any time with Buddy – or his other son, Michael – as we’ve spent most of the movie seeing.

But then, in a blink-and-you-miss-it character arc, he then becomes a nice guy who remembers he should love his family. All of a sudden, he’s ready to roll up his sleeves and save Christmas. Where the hell did that even come from? In the space of 30 seconds, Walter has gone from the meanest man on the planet to quitting his very good job for a son who puts syrup on their pasta.

Nope, sorry, I do not buy it. Count me out. I honestly love Christmas more than most other people, for me it is the happiest time of the year, but Buddy the Elf and his terrible taste in pasta does nothing for me.

Got a showbiz story?

If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us celebtips@metro.co.uk, calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.

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Scientologist says the church is telling Clearwater members not to vote for Mark Bunker

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[Mark Bunker and Pat Harney]

One of our readers in Clearwater, Florida describes themselves as someone who recently began having doubts about the organization and for a few weeks has been looking around the Internet about Scientology, including this website.

They reached out to us to tell us about something remarkable that happened to them this weekend. On Saturday evening they received a blind copy of a mass email from Scientology spokeswoman Pat Harney that apparently went out to all local members of the church…

From: pat.harney@cos.flag.org
Date: November 30, 2019 at 6:47 PM EST
To: Pat Harney Subject: Please call Pat Harney at the OSA Office


Hello,

Do you live in Clearwater?

This is very important.

Please call me at the OSA office number at 727-467-6860 for a short survey.

Best,
Pat Harney
Director of Public Relations
Office of Special Affairs

When our reader called, they were asked to wait to get Harney herself on the phone. When she did, she asked our reader if they lived in Clearwater. When they said they did, Harney then said that she was reaching out to all local Scientologists to make them aware of an important election coming in March 2020, the election for Clearwater’s mayor and city council.

Three seats are up for election on the council, Harney explained, but they were especially interested in seat two, and that Scientologists should avoid voting for an “SP” — a “suppressive person,” which is Scientology jargon for an enemy of the church.

The reader astutely asked Harney to name the SP so they would know not to vote for them, and Harney then said it was Mark Bunker.

As for who to vote for, our reader tells us that Harney then said that the church couldn’t tell its members who to vote for.

Well, that’s cute. Pat Harney would know quite well that as a tax exempt religious organization, the Church of Scientology cannot get involved with politics or endorse candidates without risking its tax exempt status. But she apparently thinks the church can stay within the lines if it tells its members who not to vote for.

Mark Bunker, of course, has been very open about his opposition to Scientology and his desire to get elected so he can help Clearwater stop being such a doormat to the aggressive, bullying organization. So it’s really not all that surprising that Scientology wouldn’t want its members to vote for him. But we find it entertaining that the church feels compelled to fire up an OSA operation to get the word out.

“I’m not at all surprised that Scientology is getting out the word that I must be stopped. It’s an unlikely job for a PR person, but Pat Harney and her associates have long been used by Scientology as attack dogs,” Bunker told us when we informed him about the Harney email. “The day after I released a video saying I planned to run, Pat Harney was on the phone to downtown business owners asking, ‘What do you think of Mr. Bunker running for city council?’ and adding, ‘We can’t let him do that.’ I’m sure Scientology will do everything in its power to keep me from winning. It’s what they do but I don’t believe they can succeed. Scientology has spent decades cultivating an oppressive, intimidating facade, gleefully letting people know they are not a ‘turn-the-other-cheek religion.’ Well, people are sick of being intimidated. Everyone I speak with on the campaign trail is excited that someone is willing to take on Scientology.”

We called the number on Harney’s email and we were greeted by a sunny “Public Affairs!” from a young woman. We said that we wanted to speak with Pat Harney and we were put on hold. We were then told she was in a meeting, so we left a message for her and asked her to call us back. We also followed up with a detailed email message to her.

We’ll let you know if she gets back to us.

 
——————–

Leaked document of the day

From the Valley Org documents release comes this item.

This is a fun find in the Valley Org documents. It was attached to more recent items, but it’s a great snapshot of 2004, when Scientology’s Criminon front group was more visible than it is today, and was supported by militant Scientologist celebrity Jenna Elfman, as well as actress Catherine Bell.

And the “Greg” who signs this commendation is Greg Capazorio, who happens to be brother-in-law to Top Gun himself, actor Tom Cruise.

 
——————–

“In the final run of it, he gets up to a fairly comprehensive idea of what he’s been and done….He gets himself one Godawful amount of time blocked out. Oh, some terrific amount of time blocked out. He gets up to trillions to the eighth power. Time, you know. Oh man, time, you see. First he gets horrified, you see, at the idea of twelve trillion years ago or something like that. He gets finally, up to a point where trillions to the eighth power take him back to some of the earliest implants. And he’s perfectly happy at this level that there’s an awful lot of track….Now, his track goes sizzling back to trillions to the 200th power. Well that’s, of course, one of these ridiculous figures. That’s trillion written two hundred times. Or one with two hundred times you write all the ciphers of a trillion. That gets to be quite a few ciphers and every one of those things is a year. You’re getting into the sweep of time by this time. Well, I myself have had, I just thought I was doing fine when I was doing some research this last summer. I said, ‘Gee, you know we’re getting clear back here.’ Trillions four, you know. Whew, you know? Dizzying. Concepts of time. Trying to date one of these confounded things, you know. Trying to handle these fantastic periods of time with arithmetic, and trying to dream up other methods of going into all this. Rough! Because it just took the auditor too tall, too long to say anything so you got crude rough approximations like, trillions 4.5, see?” — L. Ron Hubbard, December 3, 1963

 
——————–

“For some weeks late in 1982 I remained conscious, even when my body slept. I found that four hours of that kind of sleep was equal to eight of the usual, unconscious sleep, in terms of resting the body. Anyway, one night I was up late, standing nightwatch at Van Org, working on the word ‘postulate.’ When I figured I had it cleared I thought, ‘I want twenty bucks.’ I walked outside onto the street, walked about half a block, and there on the sidewalk were two ten-dollar bills, neatly folded. I picked up the twenty bucks, went back inside and signed off on the word ‘postulate.’ I’m past-life Clear and don’t know what-all I might have had run on me after going Clear way back then, but it was the early ’50s and research was raging ahead. I’m finally getting my Grades now and intend to complete the Bridge, eventually to regain that mastery over unconsciousness that I attained for a short while in the early ’80s. It’ll come in handy next time I want to leave a body for a new one.”

 
——————–

“The really scary thing to me about Carla Moxon is that there are literally millions of others like her in this world that are seriously mentally deluded due to magical thinking and they are among us doing jobs that could cause the rest of us harm if they just go off a tad too much at the wrong time. Anybody keeping track of all the problems going on with members of the ICBM defense system? And that’s not even due to magical thinking.”

 
——————–

Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?

 
——————–

THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Thar she blows: The ‘whales’ who are keeping Scientology afloat in 2018
[TWO years ago] Scientology loses another outlet for attracting young acting talent in Hollywood
[THREE years ago] In Scientology, dancing in a conga line might end up costing you thousands
[FOUR years ago] Augustine: How Scientology changes its story to fit what it’s trying to get away with
[FIVE years ago] About that Tom Cruise Scientology ‘co-leader’ nonsense spreading in the media
[SIX years ago] Our Experts Prepare Us for the Wall of Fire — Scientology’s Operating Thetan Level Three!
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology Capsize: Commenters of the Week!
[TEN years ago] David Cross Endorses Scientology In a Way Only He Can

 
——————–

Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,647 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,776 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,280 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,800 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 820 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 711 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,018 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,886 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,660 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,434 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,780 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,346 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,265 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,433 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,014 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,275 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,313 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,026 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,552 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,078 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,641 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,781 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,101 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,957 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,076 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,431 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,734 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,840 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,242 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,114 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,697 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,192 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,446 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,555 days.

——————–

Posted by Tony Ortega on December 3, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, 14 years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele

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Air New Zealand joins search to find owner of a left-behind unicorn toy | Stuff.co.nz

teddy bear dog

Air New Zealand has joined in the worldwide search for the owner of a toy unicorn left behind at Heathrow Airport.

Journalist Sarah Doran has temporarily adopted the plush toy after coming across it in Terminal 2 of the famous London airport.

“Lost & Found was closed so they’re currently safe & sound in a temporary London home,” she tweeted on Monday, alongside photos of the unicorn in question.

“Seems very well loved so would love to reunite with owner if possible. RTs appreciated! Can we make some magic happen?”

Air New Zealand retweeted saying: “It can be easy to get separated from your travel buddy, happens to the best of us.”

The Twitter community also rallied behind Doran, sharing the post in the hope it might see Unicorn returned to its home.

However, three days and 27,000 retweets later, no progress has been made.

In the interim, Doran is taking good care of Unicorn, sharing a series of photos of him looking very at home in his current surroundings.

“Unicorn is tucked up in bed and v thankful for all your RTs,” she captioned a photo of him under the covers with his arms around another plush toy.

Another photo depicts the wayward toy settling in to watch a movie with some “fellow globetrotters” — a teddy bear, a penguin and a moose.

Two days into the quest, Doran shared another photo of Unicorn perched by her window, admiring fireworks outside.

“Still no owner located. Having marginally better luck finding fireworks on Bonfire Night,” she wrote.

Despite articles in local newspapers and retweets, Unicorn is yet to be reunited with its owner.

Doran says she’s also had difficulty reaching the company that handles the airport’s lost and found department.

“The response to this tweet has been totally unprecedented … No owner found yet but I’ll keep the unicorn safe until we can find them,” she added.

The unicorn’s plight has clearly moved plenty of people, many of whom have shared their own experiences of the sadness of a lost toy in transit.

“Oh God. My (now 19-year-old) son lost his Elmo when he was on a cruise at age 5 and I still haven’t gotten over it. Somebody please help this unicorn find its kiddo!” one wrote.

“As a kid I lost a cute stuffed Cocker Spaniel, that I carried everywhere, while in transit moving from Germany to Washington state in 1975. Broke my heart for years,” another said.

– This article was first published on 9Honey Travel and is republished by permission

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Israel Adesanya claps back at Jon Jones with Twitter salvo: ‘I got time today!’

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If there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching him on social media, it’s that if you’re going to come at Israel Adesanya, you’d better be ready for a comeback.

The newly minted UFC middleweight champion did exactly that after a Twitter gibe from light heavyweight king Jon Jones.

Jones took exception to comments from Adesanya’s coach, Eugene Bareman, who said he didn’t want to “give a person of Jon’s nature” the opportunity to fight his student, tweeting the clip from Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show with the comment: “I formally release DC as being my (expletive), Izzy now takes the throne.”

Adesanya decided to fire back, and it seems he had his ammunition all lined up and ready to go.

After posting a pic of Jones’ tweet with an accompanying line saying “You can be such a pervert sometimes …,” Adesanya then went after Jones in a series of posts.

One, showing a sports car, carried the caption: “Feelin’ cute… Might crash into a pregnant lady later”.

In another, he posted a short video message accusing Jones of hiding from USADA’s drug testers.

“See, for me, I used to sleep in the gym under the cage to save on gas money so I didn’t have to go home and come back,” he said. “You hid under the cage to hide from USADA … allegedly.”

If Jones was ever looking for a new rival to duel with, it seems he has found one. And with the pair firing shots at each other over social media, the calls for the duo to eventually meet and settle things inside the octagon may soon become too loud to ignore.

The question is, will the fight ever happen?

The Blue Corner is MMA Junkie’s blog space. We don’t take it overly serious, and neither should you. If you come complaining to us that something you read here is not hard-hitting news, expect to have the previous sentence repeated in ALL CAPS.

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A biker group’s kindness, a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey

A biker group's kindness

(CNN)Hey morning people, I have a question: Um, how do you do it? How do you start the day with smiles and birdsong and a piping hot cup of coffee and not, you know, curse words and five alarm snoozes? My theory is, morning people are born and not made. However, experts say there are some things you can do to kickstart your mushy morning brain: Splash some cold water on your face, caffeinate slowly, make sure to get a little sunshine as soon as possible and, if you can, try to get outside for a brisk walk. My suggestion? Wake up at noon and avoid mornings altogether! Oh, if only.

Get going with some of our most popular good news stories of the week
a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
What goes around comes around
    Buckle up, because this one’s a great ride: In September 2018, Daryn Sturch and her daughter Bryanne came across a bad accident involving several motorcyclists with the Milwaukee Iron Biker Group. Sturch is a nurse in Chili, Indiana, and obviously felt compelled to stop and treat them. Some of the bikers were critically injured, and after she left the scene Sturch reached out to the group on Facebook to check up on them. To her relief, all of the injured bikers survived. The unfortunate incident kicked off a nice little friendship. Sturch says some of the bikers would check in occasionally on Facebook and offer her support or a kind word. Fast forward to this month: Sturch’s daughter Bryanne had planned a lemonade stand, but it got rained out. Some of Sturch’s biker friends suggested she reschedule for the next week, when the group would be in town. When the day of the lemonade stand came, Sturch and her family were overwhelmed: 30 bikers showed up to support Bryanne, including some Sturch had treated at the accident. Needless to say, it was definitely a waterproof mascara kind of day. “I think it’s a perfect example of how just because you don’t look the same way or dress the same way or have the same hobbies or interests doesn’t mean we don’t have the same core values inside us,” Sturch said. “We shouldn’t make assumptions about people, we should just love each other.”
    news
    A once-in-a-Millennium moment
    When a group of special-needs adults in Louisville, Kentucky, made a video of themselves lip-syncing to a Backstreet Boys song, their infectious joy captured the hearts of the internet. That alone is Good Stuff worthy, but then something even cooler happened: The Backstreet Boys saw the video, too, and arranged to meet the group before a tour stop in Louisville. When the big day came, 12 members of the group attended the concert and spent time with the boy band singing, taking photos and rocking out to a BSB dance party. Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson even recorded a heartfelt video message for the performers. “The passion, the joy, the soul that you put in that video was inspiring,” he said.
    us
    I’m gonna stop talking now and just show you another amazing photo from their meet and greet, because that’s where the real story is.
    A biker group's kindness
    This takes the cake
    An officer with a cake baking hobby helped put together a magical birthday for a 13-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. Now that’s multi-talented! Lt. Brandy Forman of the Smyrna Police Department volunteers with a nonprofit, Icing Smiles, that provides custom cakes for families with ill children. The Clinner family had requested a cake for their son, Tye, who was turning 13 and was about to embark on a special trip to Disney World. Tye has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk or sit up on his own, but his mom says he lights up any time someone mentions anything Disney. After hearing his story, Forman told CNN she knew she could help with “way more than a cake.” Her department coordinated a surprise party for Tye complete with pizza, wings and his own officer shirt. They even invited the community to join in, and a few other Atlanta-area police departments brought some police cars around for local children to check out during the celebration. Oh, and of course, the cake was gorgeous. “If you have the opportunity to do something good for someone else, do it,” Forman said.

    Raise a glass to…

    a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
    Kodi Lee, the newly-crowned winner of Season 14 of America’s Got Talent! Lee, 22, is a gifted singer and pianist who blew the judges away from the very start with his rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.” He’s blind and has autism, and his mom says being able to express himself musically has helped him deal with a world that is often hard on people with disabilities. “Through music and performing, he was able to withstand living in this world,” she said. “Because when you’re autistic, it’s really hard to do what everyone else does. It actually has saved his life, playing music.”

    A bright idea

    news
    We have a double dose of Disney this week! The big Mouse has rolled out the Disney Bedtime Hotline again for a limited time. The phone service allows kids to receive a special bedtime message from their favorite Disney character (with help from their parents, of course). It goes like this: The characters detail their day, talk about how ready they are for bedtime, then playfully suggest the child on the phone get ready for bed, too. So, if your best Serious Parent voice can’t get them under the covers, maybe Anna and Elsa can give a much-needed assist. No long-distance fees to Arendelle required!

    You gotta see this

    us
    A lost toy monkey got the royal treatment at Buckingham Palace recently, and there are photos to prove it! Savannah Hart, a 5-year-old student at Woodside Preschool in south Australia, accidentally forgot Harriet, one of her school’s traveling stuffed monkeys, during a tour of the palace. (Harriet is an excellent monkey name, by the way.) Once she was back home, Savannah and her preschool classmates sent a letter asking for Harriet’s safe return. Sure enough, the preschool heard via email that Buckingham Palace staff had found the toy monkey. They said she had been busy eating scones and promised to send her back after photographing her at work around the palace. Okay, Harriet HAS to be the most interesting stuffed monkey in the world now.

    Heroes among us

    A biker group's kindness
    “No charge for this lady under any circumstances.” That was a note left by plumber James Anderson on a bill for a 91-year-old woman with leukemia who needed her boiler replaced. Anderson says the woman, who is receiving palliative care, will have round-the-clock plumbing help if she needs it, and free services for life. Anderson of Burnley, Lancashire turned his plumbing business, DEPHER, into a community project for vulnerable people after he saw an elderly man being “manipulated” by another engineer in the area. Since then, he’s helped thousands of people with their plumbing needs at a reduced or waived cost — even when the work leaves him with a loss. “We need to do something more to help the people who need it most,” Anderson said. The daughter of the 91-year-old woman he helped described Anderson as an “angel dressed as a plumber,” which is just another way of saying he’s a straight-up hero.

    Wanna get away?

    a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
    Looking for your next big trip in 2020? Why not Africa? CNN Travel has put together 30 of the continent’s most breathtaking destinations, any of which could easily reach trip-of-a-lifetime status. Of all the scenic views, this one from the Lekki Conservation Centre in Lagos, Nigeria, really speaks to me. What’s just beyond this lush, curving boardwalk path? Probably more lush, curving boardwalk path, and we’re totally okay with that.

    Tell us something good

    news
    Macon, GA
    After seeing the destruction Hurricane Dorian wrought on the Bahamas, Rikki Kahley turned her bachelorette party to Nassau into a relief trip. Originally, the 24-year-old was going to cancel and even offered to donate the group’s hotel rooms to local families in need but was moved when the resort’s receptionist got emotional about how much tourism business the area was losing. So Kahley and her sister Chloe put out a call for donations and started collecting donated baby wipes, diapers, food, clothes, toys, books and water filtration tools. By the time they boarded the flight to the Bahamas, they had 37 suitcases full of supplies. (Delta Air Lines waived the extra baggage fees.) “Our experience was great. We enjoyed all the Bahamian people we encountered, heard lots of stories about their families and how the hurricane impacted them,” Kahley said.

    Impact your world

    Today is World Gratitude Day! I am grateful for every single person in our Good Stuff family, and for all of the wonderfully kind and insightful notes you send week after week. You are appreciated more than you know. If you want to up the gratitude in your life, here are three easy rituals that can have you feeling more thankful and ready to take on life’s, well, less gratitude-inspiring tasks.

    Shameless animal video

      There’s always time for cute animal videos. That time is now.
      All animals deserve to be petted! Unless they really don’t want to be, of course. But you’d be surprised at how many un-cuddly species are actually just lovebugs in disguise. This baby croc is so happy to get chin scratches he’s making little laser sounds of gratitude. Who could ever say no to that? (Click here to view)

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      The Politician, God Help Us, May Be the Future of TV

      NEWSLETTERS
      The Daily Beasts Obsessed
      Everything we cant stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.
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      This week:

      • Wrapping our heads around The Politician
      • Living for the J. Lo moment. (J. Loment)
      • Employing our fashion expertise.
      • The best Emmys photos.
      • Wendy Williams has not seen Fleabag.
      The Politician Is a Wild Binge… but Is That Good?

      The Politician, the new Ryan Murphy series that hits Netflix on Friday, is a simple show. A boy named Payton, played by Ben Platt, wants to be class president and, one day, president of the United States.

      Well, theres that. Theres also a bisexual love triangle, a suicide, a staged kidnapping, a murder investigation, Gwyneth Paltrow having an affair with Martina Navratilova, a deaf school principal, a whistleblower with cerebral palsy, a poisoning through cupcakes, a poisoning via BB gun, a staging of the musical Assassins, January Jones as a pill-popping former hooker, a performance of Joni Mitchells The River, a throuple featuring Judith Light, and a ghost mentor/therapist.

      And thats all not to mention Jessica Langes role as a grandmother with Munchausen-by-proxy who poisons her granddaughter and tells her she has cancer.

      That The Politician does SO MUCH is its fatal flaw, because scaled back to its core, to that simple logline, it is legitimately fascinating and provocative. Given the state of the world and the kind of behavior that isnt just excused, but rewardedand given who is, ahem, sitting in the White Housewhat kind of person would want to be a politician? What kind of ambition does that take? What does ambition mean, or require, in 2019? And what about us: What moral compromises are we willing to justify so that we dont have to be leaders ourselves? Its cynical and optimistic in warring ways that feel just about right given the mood of today.

      Its a shame thats essentially drowned in the flood of constant lunacy. Its tonally all over the place. Respective elements of it are intriguing and occasionally fantastic. Platt is a captivating actor, capable of both Election-like camp and emotional rawness in equal measure. The storyline between him and Paltrow, who plays his mother, is remarkably tender, elevated all the more by the Oscar-winners stirring performance. And no one does big comedy with dame-like flair more skillfully than Jessica Lange.

      But that the show doesnt seem to know what it is becomes clearer as the episodes continue and actors whose plot lines never meetlike Paltrow and Langeseem to think they are in entirely different shows. Paltrow is acting with the grounded sincerity of someone on a Murphy show like American Crime Story. Lange is doing broad, satirical work straight out of Glee. The large ensemble falls on the spectrum in between.

      The truly remarkable thing, however, is that for how mixed and meh I feel about the series, I could not be more excited for a Season Two. The standout final episode of the show sets up a Season Two featuring Platt, Light, and Bette Midler. Other critics have wondered why the series didnt just start there.

      And thats what makes this show such a captivating test case. Of the many reasons Im obsessed with the serieshello, did you catch that part about Paltrow and Martina Navratilova?the biggest is that its existence provides a window into what may be the next stage of television, at a time when the medium is in a curious stage of transition.

      The Politician is Ryan Murphys first Netflix series, and he now has a massive $300 million deal with the streamer. The series is the first example of how a slew of celebrated TV auteurs will take advantage of the seemingly free rein and bottomless bank accounts they have access to while transitioning from networks to streaming services. (Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris first shows under their respective, massive Netflix deals have yet to air.)

      With the streaming service apocalypse nighApple TV+, HBO Max, and Disney+, oh my!the ways in which these major names adapt to the new landscape is fascinating in its own right. And with The Politician especially, imperfect as it is, every decision, from the casting to the camera work to the tone and the themes merit dissection. From that standpoint, the show is as addicting as series get; its interesting to see what Murphy produces when the intention is to binge.

      Is messy the new norm? Will people watch anyway? With so much content racing toward us, and as expensive and expensive-looking as that content is, is a series mere ambition and the promise of an interesting season two enough to merit endorsement? In the case of The Politician, were surprising even ourselves by voting yes.

      The Jennifer Lopezaissance Is Here and Its Real

      I cannot express to you how thrilling the Jennifer Lopez MOMENT we are having is for me. Her accolades for Hustlers? As moving to me as when I met my baby nephews for the first time. That she could win an Oscar? Sweet, sweet vindication for someone who loved every batshit second of The Boy Next Door and watched it twice in theaters, accounting for two of the three film screenings I bought tickets to that year. That, somehow, the news about her has somehow gotten even more exciting? I could cry.

      First came the iconic moment that was her walking the runway at a Versace show in Milan in a replica of the jungle-print gown she wore to the Grammy Awards 20 years ago. It wasnt even that she looked so jaw-droppingly stunning in the dress, at age 50, or that she had the showbiz wisdom to celebrate the anniversary in that way. Its the way she wore it. (Watch it here.)

      What I cant stop swooning over in the video is that not only did she wear the dress, but she also worked the runway like that. She didnt just come out with a knowing smile and wave at the audience while teetering around getting applause. She treated that runway walk like a job. Perfection.

      And if you think Im being histrionic about any of this, well, gird your loins, babe, youre not ready for my ecstatic mania over the news that Lopez will be performing the Super Bowl Halftime Show alongside Shakira. That is how you book a show, football people in charge of such things, whoever you are. I am not overselling it when I say that Lopez ranks among the most dynamic live performers in the business, whatever you may think about her music. (Want proof? Watch this video.)

      That this will be taking place two days before Oscars voting ends is just *chefs kiss* magnificent. When her Best Supporting Actress competition is out shaking hands and answering bland questions at screening Q&As, Lopez will be setting the stage on fire on the biggest entertainment event of the year. Will such a blazing reminder of her breadth of talents win her an Oscar? Well, it wont hurt

      Best Dressed at the Emmys!

      I am not a fashion reporter, know nothing about labels and designers, and abjectly have no sense of style. But I am gay!!! So take it with that authority that I pronounce Mandy Moores red-carpet look at this years Emmys to be Best Dressed. I love it! She looks great! Sexy high-fashion first lady is a sensational look on her. Good for you, Mandy!

      Speaking of the Emmys

      The combination of these two photos taken after Fleabag swept the night, the first of creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the second of co-star Andrew Scott partying with A Very English Scandal winner Ben Whishaw, just about killed me.

      And Speaking of Fleabag

      Wendy Williams does not know what that is. Hey, not everyone has Amazon Prime. I dont know why, but this video makes me laugh so much. (Watch it here.)

      What to watch this week:

      Judy: What Rene Zellweger does in this film is astonishing.

      Sorry for Your Loss: I bet you didnt know Facebook had an original series, or that its this good.

      Abominable: It looks cute!

      Transparent Musicale Finale: Judith Light sings a song called Your Boundary Is My Trigger. Out of its mind.

      What to skip this week:

      Transparent Musicale Finale: On the other hand, sometimes out of its mind is just out of its mind.

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      World’s largest frogs can move rocks half their weight

      news The Goliath frog belongs to the largest known frog species in the world.(Credit: M. Schäfer/Frogs & Friends e.V.)

      The world’s largest frogs may also have the best pollywog daycare on the market. To protect its wee tadpoles, these enormous amphibians build their own “nursery ponds,” sometimes moving rocks more than half their weight to do so, and then guarding the pond to ensure the next generation’s survival, a new study details.

      The finding marks the first time scientists have described the Goliath frog’s(Conraua goliath) unique nest-building and parenting tactics. However, local frog hunters in Cameroon have known about it for years, and they were the first to tell the researchers about the frogs’ parental dedication.

      In fact, the researchers were studying something completely different (they were studying the diet of Goliath tadpoles) when “we heard about the breeding behavior of the Goliaths and decided to investigate if it [were] true or not,” said study senior researcher Mark-Oliver Rödel, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum in Berlin. [15 of the Largest Animals of Their Kind on Earth]

      The 7.3-lb. (3.3 kilograms) Goliath frog is native to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. To learn more about its nesting quirks, the scientists spent part of spring 2018 searching a 1,300-foot (400 meters) section of the Mpoula River in western Cameroon. They also interviewed four frog hunters and two villagers who lived near the river to learn more about C. goliath’s habits.

      In all, the scientists found 22 breeding sites, 14 of which had almost 3,000 eggs apiece. The team even set up a time-lapse video at one nest, which showed a Goliath guarding the nest at night.

      These frogs are creative builders, constructing three different types of nests, the researchers found. One type, the rock-pool nest, was built on larger rocks within the river, meaning that “frogs were using pre-existing structures for breeding,” the researchers wrote in the study.

      For the second type, frogs used naturally existing shallow pools near the river as nests. It appeared that the frogs had enlarged these pools, the researchers noticed, in essence turning a cottage into a McMansion. For the third type, the frogs dug small ponds, surrounding them with large stones, some weighing up to 4.4 lbs. (2 kg).

      Impressively, none of these nests had debris in them, suggesting that the frogs also acted as housekeepers, keeping the ponds clean for their tadpoles. “We have never observed them directly, but from indirect evidence, it is apparent that they push out material (e.g. leaves, pebbles) from natural ponds or push away larger and smaller stones to create their ‘own’ ponds,” Rödel told Live Science in an email.

      It’s likely that the male frogs, which are more than 1.1 feet (34 centimeters) long, use “their huge and very muscular hind legs” to move the stones, he added.

      While the researchers never directly witnessed a Goliath frog digging a nest, “the most detailed description we got (from one frog hunter) was that the male would construct the nest while the female waits in proximity,” the scientists wrote in the study. “Once the nest is finished, the male whistles to attract the female, which then is grasped by the male and eggs are deposited. Afterwards, the female would guard the nest and subsequently open the nest towards the river.”

      Is daycare worth the cost?

      The frogs invest a substantial amount of energy into nest-building, cleaning and guarding. But is it worth it? If their tadpoles survive, it absolutely is, but it appears each nest has benefits and challenges, the researchers found. Nests within a riverbed can flood from heavy rains, allowing predators such as shrimp and fish to get inside and devour the tadpoles, said Rödel, who is also the president of Frogs & Friends, the nongovernmental organization that co-funded the research. [So Tiny! Miniature Frog Species Are Among World’s Smallest (Photos)]

      Digging a pond alongside the river would sidestep these predators, but if it doesn’t rain for a spell, the pond could dry up, killing the tadpoles. “Thus, each of the three nest types has advantages and disadvantages, and the frogs need to choose what is best at a certain time,” Rödel said.

      Goliath frogs aren’t the only amphibian superparents out there. The gladiator frog (Hypsiboas rosenbergi) in South America builds nests for its young, while the male African bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) guards tadpoles and digs channels up to 40 feet (12 m) long to allow tadpoles to escape from drying pools, the researchers noted. However, Goliath is the only known African frog to build nesting ponds, the researchers said.

      Unfortunately, the Goliath frog is endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, largely because of habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, disease and hunting. (The frogs are considered a luxury food and are often served at weddings, Rödel said.)

      It would be a shame to lose these creatures without fully understanding them, he said. “The reason why we wanted (and actually did) study the tadpoles, was that we needed to know more about the biology of the species, just to make sure we know what to do in case a captive breeding program might be the last chance for the Goliaths’ survival in the future.”

      The study was published online Friday (Aug. 9) in the Journal of Natural History.

      Originally published on Live Science.

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