Bishop ‘Outraged’ That Trump Used The Bible And Her Church For Photo Op | Crooks and Liars

Anderson Cooper spoke to Mariann Edgar Budde, the bishop of the District of Columbia, who oversees the church Trump used for his photo op yesterday.

“Bishop, thank you for being here. What are your thoughts as you saw what happened and you look at the images now of so many Americans crying out in the streets for law and order, law and order that is applied equally to all of us, regardless of color, regardless of economic status?” he asked.

“Let me be clear. The president just used a Bible and the sacred text of the Judeo-Christian,” she said.

“One of the churches of my diocese without permission as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything our churches stand for. And to do so, as you just said, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard.

“I am outraged. The president did not pray when he came to Saint John’s. Nor, as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now, and in particular, that of the people of color in our nation who wonder if anyone ever — anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred worth, and who are rightfully demanding an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.

“And I just want the world to know that we in the Diocese of Washington following Jesus and his way of love do not — we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this president. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love. We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest, and i — i just can’t believe what my eyes have seen tonight,” the bishop said.

She said she had no idea this was going to happen.

“I was watching the news with everyone else, and as you might imagine, I have been fielding out phone calls and emails and texts of outrage from my people and from people across the country wondering what on earth did we just witness. I hear everything else that has been said tonight. I was allowed to eavesdrop on your conversation, which is equally symbolic of our civic institutions.

“What I am here to talk about is the abuse of sacred symbols for the people of faith in this country to, to justify language, rhetoric, an approach to this crisis that is antithetical to everything we stand for. Everything that this faith stands for.”

ANOTHER harrowing account from ANOTHER priest working outside St. John’s who says they were run off by tear gas, etc before Trump’s photo op.

Ends with a defiant decree: “I am now a force to be reckoned with.” pic.twitter.com/d9YXAYfS1D

— Jack Jenkins (@jackmjenkins) June 2, 2020

ANOTHER harrowing account from ANOTHER priest working outside St. John’s who says they were run off by tear gas, etc before Trump’s photo op.

Ends with a defiant decree: “I am now a force to be reckoned with.” pic.twitter.com/d9YXAYfS1D

— Jack Jenkins (@jackmjenkins) June 2, 2020

I’ll just note that as someone who was raised Catholic, as I watched him pose with his prop Bible like a game show model, I kept waiting for the book to burst into flames.

Just sayin.’

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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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Listen to a playlist of Ammar’s selections:

Fela Kuti: Roforofo Fight (Roforofo Fight, 1972)




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Roforofo Fight is the earliest cohesive expression of Tony Allen and saxophonist Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat sound: part Yoruba polyrhythm, part Nigerian highlife melody, part calypso swing, and all shuffling swagger. Allen and Kuti had been playing together for the best part of eight years at this point, mixing highlife and jazz, but a 1969 trip to the US proved pivotal, exposing Kuti to the radicalism of the Black Panther movement and leading to the formulation of his militant aesthetic Africa ‘70 band. On the title track of Kuti’s second album to be recorded after the trip, Allen takes centre stage with his undulating groove, slapping the snare on the jaunty offbeats to counter Kuti’s forceful diction. An enticing taste of things to come.

Fela Kuti: Water No Get Enemy (Expensive Shit, 1975)




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Afrobeat rhythms seem deceptively simple: a steadily paced, off-kilter shuffle that holds the beat without succumbing to the western convention of landing the snare on the third beat of the bar. Try to play an Allen line, though, and you soon realise how much ghosting and embellishment is going on below the surface – doubles splayed on the first note of a phrase, kick drums scattered throughout. And yet, the groove remains even when it feels like it might fall apart. Water No Get Enemy is the perfect example: a hip-swaying mid-tempo horn line sits atop Allen’s liquid shuffle while Kuti uses the amorphous imagery of water to outline methods of resistance to Nigeria’s reactionary government.

Fela Kuti: Zombie (Zombie, 1976)




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By the mid 70s, Kuti’s politics of resistance was reaching its peak. Zombie was its most forceful expression, Kuti’s lyrics characterising the violent Nigerian army as mindless zombies. You can feel the force of his frustration through his blistering saxophone as it meanders over the highlife guitar line, while Allen’s snappy, shaker-heavy rhythm is the ever-reliable foundation for Kuti’s social message. The song’s success in Nigeria was not without consequences, leading to a severe beating for Kuti, the torching of his studio and his elderly mother being thrown from a window and killed.

Tony Allen: Nepa (Never Expect Power Always, 1984)

Kuti had a domineering relationship to his bandmates, demanding all recording royalties for himself despite Allen’s role as musical director. As the 70s wore on and the group’s popularity increased, so did the dissent in its ranks. By 1979, Allen had recorded three albums as bandleader and so decided to leave the ‘Africa 70, taking many of its members with him. The greatest recording of his new era is 1984’s Nepa – an attack on the notoriously unreliable Nigerian Electrical Power Authority. Here Allen continues Kuti’s lineage of playful socio-political criticism, this time updating the Afrobeat sound to include dub-inflected electronics and fusion funk. It would become representative of Allen’s all-encompassing musical appetite in the years to come.

The Good, the Bad & the Queen: The Good, the Bad & the Queen (The Good, the Bad & the Queen, 2007)

As the 90s continued and Allen was establishing himself as an architect of Afrobeat in his own right, especially in the wake of Kuti’s 1997 death, his own genre-eating journey was evolving further into electronics and collaboration. A longtime fan of the genre, Damon Albarn enlisted Allen for his supergroup, The Good, the Bad & the Queen, featuring the Clash’s Paul Simonon on bass and the Verve’s Simon Tong on guitar. The sprawling title track is the closest we see Allen to cutting loose behind the kit and producing an unabashed rock sound behind Tong’s voluminous closing solo – a testament to his energetic versatility.

Moritz von Oswald: Sounding Line 1 (Sounding Lines, 2015)




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Perhaps the strangest and least well-known of Allen’s collaborations is that with the techno producer Moritz von Oswald, who replaced his longtime drummer Vladislav Delay with Allen for his 2015 album Sounding Lines. Allen produces a truly remarkable sound: a warped and manipulated series of electronics. The opening track sees Allen superimpose an Afrobeat shuffle on to a wobbly dub that builds over 10 minutes to create a simmering, electro dancefloor odyssey.

Tony Allen: A Night in Tunisia (A Tribute to Art Blakey and the Messengers, 2017)




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Allen’s first love was always jazz and he referenced throughout his life the work of rhythmic mastermind Max Roach and explosive powerhouse Art Blakey as major influences. This 2017 Blue Note recording was a welcome opportunity for Allen to finally delve into those roots and lay down his own interpretations. Across its four tracks Allen tackles some of Blakey’s best-loved tunes, like a straight-eighths Moanin’, but his Afrobeat-inflected Night in Tunisia is a work of genius, transforming the horn line into a punchy, driving vamp.

Tony Allen: Wolf Eats Wolf (The Source, 2017)




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Continuing his jazz explorations, Allen delivered his first album of original compositions as a bandleader for legendary jazz label Blue Note. The culmination of his decades of musical exploration, it interweaves metallic electronics with warm percussion, bright horn lines and that ever-present drum language. On Wolf Eats Wolf, Allen is comfortably experimental, putting a Synclavier to work over a highlife guitar line and Kuti-referencing horns to create an eminently danceable new jazz standard.

Tony Allen and Jeff Mills: Locked and Loaded (Tomorrow Comes the Harvest, 2018)




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Never one to be pigeonholed, on 2018’s Tomorrow Comes the Harvest Allen paired up with techno wizard Jeff Mills to further the electronic experiments he had begun with Von Oswald. Largely formulated for modular live performances, the record has a wonderfully loose, improvisatory feel. It hits its stride on the propulsive Locked and Loaded as Allen’s shuffle dissipates into white noise beneath Mills’s distorting sub bass. Even in the grid-work of Mills’ techno, Allen manages to swing.

Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela: Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same) (Rejoice, 2020)




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In 2010, Allen paired up with trumpeter Hugh Masekela, a longtime collaborator and giant of South African jazz. Rejoice was released a decade later, following Masekela’s death in 2018, and now stands as Allen’s last released recording. As its title indicates, the album is a sun-dappled, joyous listening experience celebrating both artists’ effortless ability to make us shake a leg. Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same) plays as an homage to Kuti and it serves as a perfect reminder that although our musical greats ultimately pass on, their legacy lies in each note, ready and willing to be dusted off, played and reinterpreted all over again.

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Church and State in Montenegro: between National(istic) and Imperial Policies | Political Theology Network

A crisis is brewing in the tiny ex-Yugoslav country of Montenegro. There are massive street protests, attacks on priests, and fights in the Parliament. Various domestic, regional, and international actors, interests and policies are at stake here, giving us the opportunity to learn important lessons about national (and nationalistic) ideological projects, and the role of religion and international (also imperial) aspirations in their creation. And yet, mainstream Western media has shown little interest in the matter. One can speculate why.

The Government of Montenegro proposed new legislation on religious organizations called “The Law on the Freedom of Religion,” which was approved by the Parliament on December 27, 2019.  A draft version of the document is available from the website of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, both in the local language and in English. The legislation generated significant controversy due to its treatment of religious organizations, their internal procedures, as well as their property.

Article 4 specifies that:

“Prior to the appointment, i.e. announcement of the appointment if the highest religious leaders, a religious community shall confidentially notify the Government of Montenegro (hereinafter: the Government) about that.”

Article 16, § 1 requires that the application for registration of a religious community shall contain:

“The name of the religious community, which must be different from names of other religious communities and must not contain the official name of other state and its features”

For many, the most problematic article is 52, found under the
section “Transitional and Final Provisions”:

“Religious facilities and land used by the religious communities in the territory of Montenegro and for which is found to have been built or obtained from public resources of the state or have been in state ownership until 1 December 1918, as the cultural heritage of Montenegro, shall be the property of the state. Religious facilities for which if found to have been built on the territory of Montenegro from joint investments of the citizens until 1 December 1918, shall be the property of the state.”

The law caused an outrage among the members of the Orthodox Church
in Montenegro. Let me sketch some of the background which will, hopefully,
render the current crisis more intelligible.

There are four Orthodox dioceses (belonging to the Serbian
Orthodox Church, i.e. Patriarchate of Peć) whose territory is fully or in part
located on the territory of Montenegro. The Orthodox Church (i.e. these four dioceses)
is, by far, the largest religious organization in the country.

The majority of both the clergy and laity view the new legislation as a purposeful targeting of the Church by the Government. They interpret Article 16, § 1 as specifically crafted against the Orthodox Church, as the above-mentioned dioceses in Montenegro belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, the Article 52 appears to be a much more serious threat. Many these churches and monasteries are centuries old, predating even the formation of the modern state of Montenegro. If enacted, Article 52 could lead to the confiscation of Church property and its sacral objects.

Why would the government do this? Why would it go against the Church,
in a country where a significant majority of the population considers itself
Orthodox? This is where things get complicated.

Arguably the chief political authority in Montenegro, over the
past three decades, has been Milo Đukanović. He assumed the office of prime
minister in 1991, and has been in power ever since, performing the roles of
prime minister and president interchangeably (with a couple of years of break,
2006-2008, and 2010-2012). This style of rule brings to mind rulers in other
parts of Europe who have de facto been chief figures in the political
life of their countries for long periods of time, regardless of the name of the
office they would hold in a given moment. Not all long-lasting autocrats are
the same though: There are those who “we” (in the West) do not like very much,
since they refuse to obey us (branded as “evil autocrats”), and there are “our
kind of guys,” who are submissive enough to the Western political and economic
centers (branded as “democratic rulers”). Milo Đukanović, of course, belongs to
the latter group. During his pontificate the country joined the NATO alliance (in
2017), and he has successfully resisted a stronger Russian influence in the
country.

Đukanović, once upon a time, was loyal to Serbian president
Slobodan Milošević, and his allies in Montenegro. However, he switched sides just
in time, and his chief project became an independent Montenegro (proclaimed in
2006) and close cooperation with Western governments, military, and
multinational corporations. This where problems with the Serbian Orthodox
Church in Montenegro begin, in particular with the most prominent figure of
Montenegrin religious life—Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radović). At times partners,
at other times in conflict, this turbulent relationship between the politician
and the metropolitan has ended up, as of now, in an open battle.

Đukanović’s vision of independent Montenegro and the new
Montenegrin identity also includes the vision of an autocephalous (“self-governed”)
“Montenegrin church” which would be loyal (some would suggest obedient as a much better word choice) to the State (i.e., his regime). Amfilohije and
other bishops do not seem to share the same vision. For them, there is no conflict
between an “authentic” Montenegrin identity and Serbian identity, and therefore
no problem with the Orthodox Church in Montenegro being part of the Serbian
Orthodox Church. (Nota bene, many figures and structures within the Serbian
Orthodox Church are by no means innocent in the political games that have been
played in the region, particularly when it comes to Serbian nationalism and the
policies of various autocrats from Belgrade, but that is a topic for another analysis.)

To foster a new Montenegrin identity, Đukanović’s regime started
to promote “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” as an “autocephalous” organization,
headed by the colorful figure of Miraš Dedejić. According to some sources, Dedejić
used to be an admirer of Slobodan Milošević and his policies. He had also been a
priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate until he was excommunicated by Patriarch
Bartholomew. This organization is not recognized by any of the canonical
Orthodox Churches. Even Đukanović’s support has not been full or unconditional.
One is tempted to say that its purpose has primarily been to put pressure on Amfilohije
to follow the “right path.”  

This is how one can understand the recent actions, at least in one
of their complex and intertwined dimensions: Just as the Ukrainian political
leadership was advancing the (formerly) uncanonical church structures and their
autocephaly in the hope that it would strengthen Ukrainian national identity, as
well as the political elite who championed the project, Montenegrin leadership
might hope that promoting one group, which would be loyal to one political
project and obedient to the political authorities (Amfilohije has not proven
himself in that role), would lead to the recognition of autocephaly of that
group, with same or similar political results. Probably working out of these
hopes, the regime has, then, threatened the confiscation of Church property of
the “disloyal” Church, which is quietly accepted (if not blessed) by the
Western political centers. The trade seems straight-forward, based on a
widely-practiced strategy: “We” (political/economic centers in the West) will
turn a blind eye to violence, undemocratic policies, the autocratic style of
rule, breach of various rights, and so forth, and “you” (local political
elites) will ensure that the (military, economic, political) interests of those
centers are protected and advanced locally.

An obstacle in the case of Montenegro (unlike in the case of
Ukraine) is the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not seem willing to intervene
to support the formation of a new autocephalous Church, which would advance the
local national identity, being closely connected to the State. Not yet at least,
and not with Miraš’s team as a new autocephalous
church. It seems that there is awareness that right now there are no credible
candidates in Montenegro who would be willing to lead a potential autocephalous
church, neither there is popular support for such project.

For those less familiar with Orthodox ecclesiology, it is worth noting that in Orthodoxy there is no equivalent role to the one of the Roman pontiff. Orthodox ecclesiology has advanced the principle of conciliarity instead of the (universal) primacy of power of one ecclesiastical/imperial center. This does not mean, of course, that there have been no attempts of ecclesiastical seats to assume such power. Indeed, just as the seat of Rome infused the universalist aspirations to power into the emptied shell of the Western (Roman) Empire, so the bishops of “New Rome” (Constantinople) have occasionally aspired to assume both universal ecclesial, and even political authority (at times when the Empire was weakened). This universalism is reflected also in the title of the bishop/patriarch of Constantinople – “Ecumenical” – as the authority of this episcopal seat, as well as the authority of the (Roman) emperor, should ideally stretch over the entire oikoumene (inhabited world). What one can see, based on the recent actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is the (renewed) aspiration to usurp a position within the Orthodox world which would be, in some aspects at least, comparable to the position which the Roman pontiff gradually acquired in the West. This, predictably, provokes a lot of criticism.

The entire episode can thus be understood as yet another example of how the whole concept of autocephaly, the way it is generally understood and practiced in “Orthodox countries” nowadays, is highly problematic. If autocephaly is understood as something “naturally” linked to national/ethnic identities (and/or nation states), it is both theologically unacceptable and very harmful to the body of the Church in long term. Serious Orthodox ecclesiology does not operate with the concept of “national Churches,” although it has been widely (and mistakenly) used both in the public discourse and, sometimes, in academia. Local Churches (i.e. dioceses) are organized as administrative regional ecclesiastical unites, that gather the faithful of a certain territory (for the sake of serving the Liturgy) regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, race, etc. The predominant culture or customs have always been embraced in the Orthodox tradition, leaving a trace on how the service is conducted, which language is spoken, etc. However, the identity of the Church is not derived from the ethnic, national or other identities of the majority population of a certain territory, but from the Eucharist as the icon of the Kingdom of God. This is why an autocephalous Church makes sense as a self-governing administrative organization of dioceses of a certain region, having one of the local bishops as their own “head” (having the title of metropolitan, archbishop, pope or patriarch), but not as a “national” institution, or a Church of certain ethnic group (which, following Orthodox ecclesiology, amounts to nothing less than a heresy).

In practice, however, just as local ecclesiastical and political
elites are eager to exploit the (seriously flawed) understanding of autocephaly
as “national institutions,” for the sake of their own power struggles, so is
the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (Neo)imperial policies of ecclesiastical centers
(in this case of Phanar) can thus be very similar to the (neo)imperial policies
of States; both try to manipulate local nationalisms to their own advantage.
Therefore, if they serve the (neo)imperial agendas of “New Rome,” local
nationalisms and local “national” churches will be blessed. If they don’t,
local nationalisms and their cravings for autocephaly will be condemned in the
name of (neo)imperial “universalisms.”

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‘Queen of Suspense’ Mary Higgins Clark dies aged 92 | Books | The Guardian

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Mary Higgins Clark, the “Queen of Suspense” who topped charts with each of her 56 novels, has died at the age of 92.

Simon & Schuster president Carolyn Reidy said that Higgins Clark died on 31 January in Naples, Florida, from complications of old age. The author published her first novel, Where Are the Children? in 1975, going on to sell more than 100m copies of her compulsive suspense novels in the US alone. She published her most recent thriller, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry, about a journalist investigating sexual misconduct at a television news network, in November.

Crime author Alafair Burke, who collaborated with Higgins Clark on the Under Suspicion series, said she would “miss my friend and co-author, but consider myself one of the luckiest people around to have had the chance to tell stories with one of my favourite writers, the Queen of Suspense.

“Through it all, I marvelled at Mary’s kindness, loyalty, and utter devotion to the work of being a writer. She could write me under the table, insisting we could get a few more pages in when I felt a snack break coming,” said Burke on Twitter. “When we went to an outdoor book festival in August, I kept sneaking off to the air-conditioned ladies’ room, but Mary stayed at the table and posed in the heat for selfies long after the books had sold out.”

Higgins Clark’s fellow authors spoke of her generosity, especially to new writers. Harlan Coben said he was heartbroken to learn of Higgins Clark’s death, describing her as “a generous mentor, hero, colleague, and friend” who “taught me so much”. Laura Lippman called her a trailblazer, adding that “so many of us owe our careers to her”. Scott Turow said she was “an extraordinarily gracious person, unpretentious and remarkably generous in a hundred ways”.

In her memoir, Kitchen Privileges, Higgins Clark wrote of “aching, yearning, burning” to write when she was young. It was an achievement made in the face of heavy odds. Her father died when she was 11, and she went to secretarial school after graduating from high school in the Bronx in New York. She went on to work as an air stewardess. After flying for a year, she married Warren Clark, who she had known since she was 16. She sold her first short story in 1956, for $100. After Clark died in 1964, she began writing radio scripts for a living, while also trying her hand as a novelist. She would write from 5am to 7am, before getting her five children ready for school.




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“My mother’s belief in me kept alive my dream to be a writer. My father’s early death left her with three young children to support. A generation later my husband’s early death left me in exactly that position, except that I had five children,” she wrote.

“Mother supported us by renting rooms, allowing our paying guests to have the privilege of preparing light meals in the kitchen. I supported my family by writing radio shows. Very early in the morning I put my typewriter on the kitchen table before I went to work in Manhattan and spent a few privileged and priceless hours working on my first novel.”

She sold Where Are the Children? when she was 47. Telling of a young mother who has fled her original life after the death of her first two children, only for her next two to disappear, it was a huge hit. David Foster Wallace taught it in his college classes, and Coben recalled a letter from the Infinite Jest author, in which he called it “one of the scariest fucking books I’ve ever read”. (“Sorry about the language, Mary!” Coben added.)

She wrote, she told the Guardian in 2015, about “very nice people whose lives are invaded”. In 1988, she struck what the New York Times reported was “the first eight-figure agreement involving a single author”, with a multi-book contract that guaranteed her at least $10.1m. Given the Authors Guild Foundation award for Distinguished Services to the Literary Community in 2018, she was the recipient of numerous awards and 21 honorary doctorates, and saw many of her books adapted for film and television.

“Let others decide whether or not I’m a good writer. I know I’m a good Irish storyteller,” she said, when she was the grand marshal of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan in 2011.

Michael Corda, her editor at Simon & Schuster since 1975, said: “She always set out to end each chapter on a note of suspense, so you just had to keep reading. It was a gift, but also the result of hard work … She was unique. Nobody ever bonded more completely with her readers; she understood them as if they were members of her own family. She was always absolutely sure of what they wanted to read – and, perhaps more important, what they didn’t want to read – and yet she managed to surprise them with every book.”

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Nollywood: Board Urges Filmmakers To Produce Movies For Children ⋆

The National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) has urged Nollywood filmmakers to produce more movies under the ‘general viewing’ (G) classification for the viewing interests of children.

SEE ALSO: NIMC Takes NIN Enrollment to 195 Post-Basic Schools in Jigawa

Mrs. Olayemi Alonge-Oyadiran, the board’s Director of Film Censorship and Classification, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.

Alonge-Oyadiran noted that the trend of film submission for censorship during the past year showed that filmmakers have little or no interest in producing children-friendly movies.

She advised that since children were always attracted to entertainment, especially movies, there was a need to produce more films suitable for their age.

“Filmmakers have continued to shy away from child-friendly movies as contents and themes of movie submitted for censoring in 2019 largely received such ratings as ‘18’ and ‘15’.

“It implies that most of the films they are producing now are meant for adults and they are not children friendly in any way.

“There is an urgent need for sensitization of stakeholders on the importance of making movies that are full of child-friendly contents,” she said.

The director noted that the trend was not good enough for the moral development of children since they were prone to watching films than adults.

According to her, most of the movies submitted for censorship in the past year were centered on themes such as royalty, domestic violence, money rituals, prostitution, and marriages.

She added that “only a few treated themes on advocacy and awareness on diseases such as Sickle Cell, Polio, HIV, and VVF”.

Alonge-Oyadiran, therefore, advised movie producers in the Nigerian movie industry to eschew storylines that erode values that define the African people.

She warned that films that reinforce violence and moral decadence have a demeaning effect on age-long values and acceptable ways of life, which may escalate juvenile delinquency.

While noting that the filmmakers are business persons set out to make a profit, she, however, said there is a need for them to be socially responsible as they shape public opinions.

She, therefore, urged filmmakers to always submit their contents to NFVCB for a rating in order to safeguard the Nigerian child.

“The language used in a film, act of violence and nudity, send messages out to people, especially children, who may apply them wrongly,” said the director.

According to her, 406 films were approved by the board in 2019, covering genres such as Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Bini, Urhobo, Hindi and movies in English.

NAN reports that the NFVCB is a Federal Government body that regulates the films and video industry in Nigeria.

The board is empowered by law to classify all films and videos whether imported or produced locally.

It is also the duty of the board to register all films and videos outlet across the country and to keep a register of such registered outlets, among other functions.

Its classification symbols include the “G” rating, which implies ‘suitable for viewing by persons of all ages’, “15” meant only for persons of 15 years and “18” meant for mature audiences.

Others are “12” meant only for persons of 12 years and the “12A” for 12 years and above, “PG” implying Parental Guidance and “RE”, which implies Restricted Exhibition.

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Nigerian Youths Should Choose Life, Not Death — Emmanuel Onwubiko

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Statistically, the global authority on health issues known as the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a highly frightening but realistic rate of suicides committed by members of the global humanity per annum. It says that close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.

Suicide the World Health Organisation observed succinctly, is a global phenomenon and occurs throughout the lifespan.

It reckons that effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.

Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds globally.

Suicide is a global phenomenon; in fact, 79% of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2016. Suicide accounted for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, making it the 18th leading cause of death in 2016, so says the global agency on health matters also known as World Health organization in its website just visited by this writer.

I must state that although the fact remains that suicide is a worldwide trend, but for us in Nigeria just like in other African nations, the death of someone is a huge loss not just to the immediate family but to the society and the nation at large. Given the African set up of the typical family tree, members of a given family belong to both the nuclear and the extended family units. So the matter of suicidal demise of any member brings about phenomenal amount of sorrows to a greater percentage of people in Nigeria.

However, due to a number of factors not unrelated with psychological, emotional, financial and sociological factors, a lot of young Nigerians have fallen into the traps of suicide in the last couple of years particularly in the last one year. Around June of last year, Samuel Elias, 25, a final year student of Department of Religion and Culture, University of Nigeria Nsukka allegedly committed suicide by drinking sniper.

The mother of the deceased, Mrs. Kate Elias a staff of the university, told the News agency of Nigeria that the unfortunate incident happened on Monday June 17, around 5.30pm in her house at Justina Eze Street Nsukka.

Elias said she came back from work on that fateful day and discovered that the mood of her first child was bad and he was staggering when he came to collect a bottle of coke from the fridge

“I followed him immediately to his room and started talking to him but he could not respond and when I looked closely, I discovered that his teeth had tightened up.

“As I looked around, I saw an empty sniper bottle; at this point I raised alarm and my other children rushed to the room and we tried to give him red oil but his tightened teeth did not allow the oil to enter his mouth,” she said.

According to her, he was rushed to the hospital, where he eventually died.

“We immediately rushed him to Faith Foundation Hospital, Nsukka and were later referred to Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, where he eventually died.

The mother of seven said her son could have died of depression, noting that he had been lamenting his inability to graduate from UNN because of his final year project, which he has been working on.

“I know two things he usually complained, his inability to graduate from UNN since 2016 because of the project that he has not finished as his classmates have all gone for their National Youth Service Corps.

“Also, how his father’s family in Ihechiowa in Arochukwu Local Government of Abia State abandoned us since their father died.

“Whenever he complained of these things, I usually advised him to trust God, who is capable of solving every problem.

“I do not know why he will go to this extent of committing suicide. I have seven children and he was my first child.

“It is still like a dream to me that my first son and first child has died,” she said in tears.

Reacting to this incident, Prof. Tagbo Ugwu, the Head of Department of Religion and Culture in UNN, said somebody called him and told him about the unfortunate incident.

“I received the news with shock and surprise.

“I will find out from his supervisor what is wrong from the project that has stopped him from graduating,” he said.

When contacted Mr Ebere Amaraizu, the Police Public Relations Office, in Enugu State, confirmed the incident and said police would investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.

“The police is aware of Samuel Elias’ death. He was a final year student of the Department of Religion and Culture in UNN, who committed suicide on Monday by drinking sniper.

“Police will investigate circumstances surrounding the death,” he said.

It would be recalled that barely five weeks after Chukwuemeka Akachi, a 400-level student of Department of English and Literary Studies in UNN ended his own life after taking a bottle of sniper. In August of last year, from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), came the story that the school community was thrown into mourning mood following the death of a final year student, Opeyemi Dara. The deceased was said to be a student of Faculty of Arts, Department of English Language, who allegedly committed suicide after taking a suspected dose of lethal substance popularly known as “sniper”. News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that she allegedly took her life following her poor academic performance, although the details of the incident were still sketchy.

The media stated that the authority of the institution confirmed that the deceased committed suicide following depression occasioned by poor academic records.

Dara’s academic records obtained by a journalist who worked on the story for one of the National dailies indicated that she had five outstanding courses and 12 Special Electives.

Also the Public Relations Officer of OAU, Mr Abiodun Olanrewaju confirmed the incident and promised that the institution would investigate and make its findings public. Olarewaju appealed to students not to contemplate committing suicide because of poor academic performance.

“We sympathize with the parents and guardian of the deceased known as Dara.” We just want our students and young ones to know that depression is not a thing they should encourage, no matter the situation or circumstance they find themselves. “ Some people in the past have passed through the same situation and circumstances and came out clean. “Now, suicide can never be an option and people, especially the young ones who believe that taking their own lives is an act of gallantry should know that it is not. “We want to appeal to students, particularly OAU students to take things easy. Any child that fails; that is why the university says you can rerun a course, you can resit a course.

“People out there also face challenges and when you are in school, failure or repetition of a course or particular subject is also part of the challenges students must face. “The university will get to the root of the incident and get back to the public,” Olarewaju said. Just before this case, there was another story from Edo state.

That was precisely at the Faculty of Arts, University of Benin, UNIBEN, main campus came the heartbreaking story that a final-year student jumped from the second floor of one of the hostels and died.

The deceased male student, whose identity is still unknown as at press time, committed suicide after failing his examinations, which made him suffer depression for failure to graduate. The next case is that of a girl that reportedly took her life following a break up of a relationship and this also happened at the University of Benin like the aforementioned the deceased was a three hundred level student.

The corpse of Miss Christabell Omoremime Buoro, aged 21, a 300-level student of the department of Medical Laboratory Science, University of Benin (UNIBEN), was discovered in her hostel flat at Plot 4 Uwaifo lane, Newton street, Ekosodin area, behind the university fence, so reports the newspapers. Miss Christabell reportedly was discovered after she allegedly took some deadly substance to end her life. It was gathered that the undergraduate linked her suicide to her breakup with her boyfriend.

The media states that an empty sachet of Klin detergent was found in the spot where she took her life.

According to the source of the media information, “A small girl of that age will take her life all because of one boy. The policemen that came to evacuate the body were very angry after reading out loud the note she dropped.

“Thank God that she even dropped a note, if not the roommates would have been in hot soup, because investigation would have began from that point.”

As are with all cases of suicide, the police officers in this case situated at the Ugbowo police station have invited two person for questioning over the content of the letter.

It was rumoured that the deceased Christabel mixed the deadly insecticide, popularly called Sniper with Sprite drink, and reportedly left a suicide note where she stated that she was about taking her life because the guy she loved didn’t love her in return after her boyfriend broke up with her.

Sadly, the year 2020 has also seen another case of suicide by a youngster and in this developing story we were told that the girl stated that she was depressed and that she no longer find life attractive.

The Enugu State Police Command only at the weekend confirmed that a serving National Youth Service Corp member in Enugu State, Miss Bolufemi Princess Motunrayo, has committed suicide.

It was gathered that Miss Motunrayo, a Batch ‘C’ corps member serving in Girls Secondary School, Ibagwa-Aka, Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State took her life on Friday, January 10, 2020, when she allegedly drank a substance suspected to be sniper.

The Corp member hailed from Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State and a graduate of Banking and Finance from Prince Abubakar Audu University formally called Kogi State University was reported to have taken two bottles of snipers.

One of the media reporters who worked on this emerging story said it was learnt that she had before committing suicide dropped a short note that read, “I did this because I see nothing worth living for in this world”.

Confirming the alleged suicide is the State Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu, who described the incident as unfortunate.

Amaraizu, a Superintendent of Police in a text message to the Punch newspaper correspondent said, “The incident has to do with the taking of sniper insecticide by one Bolufemi Moturayo Yetunde, a female corper from Kogi State but, doing her service with Girls High School, Ibeagwa-Aka, Igboeze South L.G.A on 10/1/2020.

“She was later rushed to the hospital where the doctor confirmed her dead,” he said.

In the version written by The Guardian, one of the friends of this absolutely beautiful graduate and a serving member of the National Youth Service scheme (NYSC) raised alarm that there is need for a thorough investigation of what triggered the ‘suicide’ because in the thinking of this person, the girl who killed herslf allegedly was having a swell time and was not known to have any case of depression or loneliness.

From all these and many other stories of suicide and suspected suicides especially the cases of suicide by Students, there is a glaring evidence of a lacuna fundamentally in the administration of these tertiary institutions. These cases of students killing themselves due to frustrations attendant with their inability to successfully graduate could be tackled if these schools can set up functional mechanisms for looking into all cases related to inability or otherwise of their students to graduate. There has to be a system in place to seamlessly monitor and ensure that the process of writing and supervision of projects of students are transparent and open to such an extent that no single person should become the last hope of any strident from graduation. The schools should have a reporting mechanisms whereby cases relating to inability to pass these projects and graduate are looked into by dedicated members of staff who should play the role of arbitrators for the students. The school system in Nigeria is too commercially oriented to an extent that Students are put under intense pressure to raise money from all means possible to bribe lecturers marking their papers to enable them graduate and most of these students who can’t raise money to pay their ways are left with no option than to be sexually abused by some professionally incompetent lecturers. The University and tertiary institutions must be made to put on a human and humane face even as there has to be a system in place to give access to students to step up and dialogue with dedicated teachers who would offer counselling and also hear cases related to frustrations witnessed at any stage of their educational journeys. The school must be prepared to vote cash to cater for this sort of important human relationship Counseling mechanisms to stave off the rising cases of suicide. The school must not be all about profitability.

The Nigerian police and other relevant law enforcement agencies like NAFDAC must monitor the activities of traders who deal in chemical and drugs related products such as snipers with a view to ascertaining identities of buyers and the use to which these products would be put into. There is also the need for state governments and the Federal government to embark on deliberate but massive public enlightenment programmes to warn youngsters to choose life over death and to resolutely beat back all suicidal tendencies through the cocktails of effective means of communication and getting counseling service from toll free lines that should be publicized for all Nigerians to be conversant with.

For instance, the European Council on Human Rights has successfully repealed the death penalty because of the overwhelming rating of Right to life in Europe. In Article 2 of the European wide laws on human rights, it is legally provided that: “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. This right is one of the most important of the Convention since without the right to life it is impossible to enjoy the other rights. No one shall be condemned to death penalty or executed. The abolition of death penalty is consecrated by Article 1 of Protocol No. 6.”

The Nigerian Constitution in Section 33(1) provides that “Everyone has a right to life. ”

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.

The post Nigerian Youths Should Choose Life, Not Death — Emmanuel Onwubiko appeared first on Information Nigeria.

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First Jesus Film in Sign Language To Reach Over 70 Million Deaf People With Gospel

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“We really believe that God can and will use the movie in sign-language to reach Deaf people.”

Actors
Deaf Missions’ Jesus Film

The estimated 70 million deaf people around the world who communicate by signing could have a Jesus Film in their own heart language within several years thanks to a crowdfunded project by Deaf Missions and the Jesus Film Project.

The Jesus Film Project is collaborating with Deaf Missions to create a movie about the life of Christ for those who are Deaf and hard of hearing. The movie will be filmed with actors and actresses signing in American Sign Language (ASL) instead of speaking aloud.

Chad Entinger of Deaf Missions said a Jesus movie with sign language would make a major impact in spreading the gospel because it will communicate to people in their “heart-language.” It would be the first movie of its kind.

Chad
Deaf Missions’ Jesus Film

“The heart language, it’s related to a person’s identity,” Entinger signed through an interpreter for Mission Network News. “For a person to see something in their heart language, that really will capture their heart, and they’ll feel, that person will then, will feel like ‘Oh my goodness, they’re actually communicating to me. This is my language.’”

“We really believe that God can and will use the movie in sign-language to reach Deaf people,” he added.

The ministries have raised $746,000 of the $4.8 million needed to fund the project, which will involve actors and actresses signing with American Sign Language (ASL), which is used by 70 million people worldwide.

As of now, deaf people must rely on closed captioning to watch a movie about Jesus.

The post First Jesus Film in Sign Language To Reach Over 70 Million Deaf People With Gospel appeared first on Believers Portal.

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Ukraine passenger jet crashes in Iran, killing at least 170

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TEHRAN: A Ukrainian airliner carrying at least 170 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all on board, Iran state media reported.

The Boeing 737 had left Tehran’s international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said.

“Obviously it is impossible that passengers” on flight PS-752 are alive, Red Crescent head Morteza Salimi told semi-official news agency ISNA, adding that 170 passengers and crew had boarded the plane.

State news agency IRNA said 167 passengers and nine crew members had boarded the aircraft, which was operated by Ukraine International Airlines.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed all those on board the plane were killed.

AFP
People and rescue teams are pictured amid bodies and debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran. -AFP

“According to preliminary data, all passengers and crew members are dead,” he wrote on Facebook of the Ukraine International Airlines plane, which was bound for Kiev.

The Red Crescent said teams were assisted by soldiers and firefighters in the effort to recover bodies.

“After six o’clock (0230 GMT) this morning we were informed that a passenger plane crashed in the vicinity of Shahriar,” said Shahin Fathi, the head of its search and rescue unit.

“All operational teams were dispatched to the area,” he told state television. “Unfortunately… we haven’t found anyone alive.”

“Everyone is helping so that we can gather all the bodies that have been scattered in a wide area,” said Fathi.

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People walk near the wreckage after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran. -AFP

Press TV, state television’s English-language news broadcaster, said the plane went down in the vicinity of Parand, a city in Tehran province.

The crash was likely to have been caused by “technical difficulties”, it reported, citing Ali Khashani, spokesman for Imam Khomeini International Airport.

“The plane caught fire after crashing,” said Press TV.

A video aired by the state media broadcaster appeared to show the plane already on fire, falling from the sky.

American airline manufacturer Boeing tweeted: “We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information.”

The crash came shortly after Iran said it fired missiles at Iraqi bases in revenge for the killing of one of the Islamic republic’s top military commanders in a US drone strike on Friday.

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One of the engines of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on January 8, 2020, is seen in this still image taken from Iran Press footage. – Iran Press/Handout via Reuters

Following the missile strikes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf after rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq.

“The (FAA) issues Notices to Airmen tonight outlining flight restrictions that prohibit US civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman,” it said in a statement.

“The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East.”

Iran launched the missiles after a US drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular figure who headed the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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Emergency workers work near the wreckage of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on January 8, 2020, in this still image taken from Iran Press footage. – Iran Press/Handout via Reuters

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” for the assassination and declared three days of mourning following the assassination which shocked the Islamic republic.

The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the US.

In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic. -AFP

Airlines
A Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed soon after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport.

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