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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Pluto’s famous heart powers icy winds on the dwarf planet | Live Science

Pluto’s icy heart is beating.

The dwarf planet’s famous heart-shaped feature, which NASA’s discovered during its epic July 2015 flyby, drives atmospheric circulation patterns on Pluto, a new study suggests.

Most of the action comes courtesy of the heart’s left lobe, a 600-mile-wide (1,000 kilometers) nitrogen-ice plain called Sputnik Planitia. This exotic ice vaporizes during the day and condenses into ice again at night, causing nitrogen winds to blow, the researchers determined. ( is dominated by nitrogen, like Earth’s, though the dwarf planet’s air is about 100,000 times thinner than the stuff we breathe.)  

These winds carry heat, particles of haze and grains of ice westward, staining the ices there with dark streaks.

“This highlights the fact that Pluto’s atmosphere and winds — even if the density of the atmosphere is very low — can impact the surface,” study lead author Tanguy Bertrand, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, . 

And that westward direction is interesting in itself, considering that Pluto spins eastward on its axis. The dwarf planet’s atmosphere therefore exhibits an odd “retrorotation,” study team members said.

Bertrand and his colleagues studied data gathered by New Horizons during the probe’s 2015 close encounter. The researchers also performed computer simulations to model Pluto’s nitrogen cycle and weather, especially the dwarf planet’s winds.

This work revealed the likely presence of westerly winds — a high-altitude variety that races along at least 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) above the surface and a fast-moving type closer to the ground that follows Sputnik Planitia’s western edge.

That edge is bounded by high cliffs, which appear to trap the near-surface winds inside the Sputnik Planitia basin for a spell before they can escape to the west, the new study suggested.

“It’s very much the kind of thing that’s due to the topography or specifics of the setting,” planetary scientist Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, said in the same statement. 

“I’m impressed that Pluto’s models have advanced to the point that you can talk about regional weather,” added Hansen-Koharcheck, who was not involved in the new study.

New Horizons’ Pluto flyby revealed that the dwarf planet is far more complex and diverse than anyone had thought, featuring towering water-ice mountains and weird “bladed” terrain in addition to the photogenic heart (whose official name, Tombaugh Regio, honors the discoverer of Pluto, ).

The , which was published online Tuesday (Feb. 4) in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, reinforces and extends that basic message.

“Sputnik Planitia may be as important for Pluto’s climate as the ocean is for Earth’s climate,” Bertrand said. “If you remove Sputnik Planitia — if you remove the heart of Pluto — you won’t have the same circulation.”

Mike Wall’s book about the search for alien life, “” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by), is out now. Follow him on Twitter . Follow us on Twitter or

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In the ground and off the page: why we’re banning ads from fossil fuels extractors | Membership | The Guardian

dog

In a bid to reduce our carbon footprint, confront greenwashing and increase our focus on the climate crisis, the Guardian this week announced it will no longer run ads from fossil fuel extractors alongside any of its content in print or online. The move will come into immediate effect, and follows the announcement in October last year that we intend to reduce our net emissions to zero by 2030.

Once upon a time, a newspaper was a rather straightforward business. You generated enough material of interest to attract a significant number of readers. You then ‘sold’ those readers to advertisers happy to pay to get their ideas, products or brands in front of consumers with cash to spend.

Of course, digital disruption over the past 20 years has upended that model, but advertising remains an important part of the media business ecosystem. At the Guardian, it is still responsible for about two-fifths of our income.

But what happens when the readers don’t like the adverts? What do you do when the message that advertisers want to spread jars awkwardly with the work your journalists are doing?

What if your journalists are some of the best in the world at revealing and investigating the deepening climate catastrophe and the disaster that is fossil fuel growth, while some of your advertisers are the very people digging the stuff out of the ground?

This contradiction has bothered us – and some of you – for some time. We came up with a rather bold answer this week: turn away the money and double down on the journalism.

“It’s something we thought about for a long time,” says Anna Bateson, the interim chief executive officer of Guardian Media Group, the Guardian’s parent company. “We always felt it was in line with our editorial values but were cautious for commercial reasons.”

She said it was the logical next step after the Guardian committed last year to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and was certified as a B Corp – a company that puts purpose before profit. But she added that the move had to be weighed carefully, given the fact that the Guardian only recently returned to breakeven after years in the red.

“You have to be careful you are not making cavalier decisions,” she said. “ We are still having to fight for our financial future. But because of the support we get from our readers, it is less of a risk.”

On the advertising side of our business, Adam Foley said there were no complaints at all that potential customers were suddenly off-limits, adding that staff felt that “being part of a company that shares their values” was the biggest motivation for his teams.

“A statement like this reaffirms to all of us that we’re contributing to a business that really lives those values – to the extent where it is prepared to sacrifice profit for purpose.”

The response from the wider world has been a pleasant surprise. Hundreds of you have written in, pledging your support, and in some cases, one-off contributions to start making up the shortfall. (EDS: See below – I’m going to append the best responses below. In print you can use as the panel)

The environmental movement was instantly appreciative, with activists quickly urging our peers to follow suit. “The Guardian will no longer accept advertising from oil and gas companies,” Greta Thunberg tweeted. “A good start, who will take this further?” Greenpeace called it “a huge moment in the battle against oil and gas for all of us.”

Some readers have been calling for the Guardian to go the whole hog and forsake advertising from any company with a substantial carbon footprint. Bateson said that was not realistic, adding that such a move would result in less money for journalism. She said the fossil fuel extractors were specifically targeted because of their efforts to skew the climate change debate through their lobbying effort.

“We are committed to advertising,” she said. “It will continue to be part of our future. We want advertisers who want to be appear alongside our high quality journalism.”

And how will we know if this has worked?
“We will listen to our readers, we will listen to our advertisers. The response so far has been gratifying. If we continue to hear positive noises from our readers and supporters, then it will have been a success.”




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Responses from our supporters

That is such a brilliant decision and it will be tough, but it is the correct one and I am very proud of The Guardian. Barbara Syer

Following the Guardian’s decision to ban ads from fossil fuel companies I’m making a monthly contribution to support its fearless journalism: reader support is essential for independent scrutiny of the powerful in business, finance and politics. Titus Alexander, Hertfordshire, England

I live at present in Canada, home to the Alberta Tar Sands: another name for ecological devastation resulting from fossil fuel extraction. I fully support The Guardian’s action in ceasing to be a vehicle for advertising by fossil fuel extractive companies, and I’m proud to be a supporter. My monthly donation is small, but when I can I will make it much greater. Rosemary Delnavine, Canada

Congratulations. At this time it may be a bold step, indeed, within this industry, but true leaders have to take bold steps for the betterment of the quality of life, and more importantly for the life of future generations. I applaud this decision, and will spread the word. Raphael Sulkovitz, Boston MA

What a bravery! This is what the life on earth needs, thank you. Karri Kuikka, Finland (EDS: please leave her wonderful Finglish intact!)

Keep it up. Here in Canada, we’re still trying to have it both ways — sell the product internationally but discourage buying domestically. As I recall, it was the same with tobacco. Eventually, it took a change in public opinion to solve the problem. As a news source, your efforts are part of this solution. Robert Shotton, Ottawa

I applaud your decision to”walk the talk.” I will therefore continue to contribute to The Guardian. Bob Wagenseil

Bravo yr decision to eschew $ from the FFI. Please do continue to hold to the fire(s) the feet of the deniers and the willfully ignorant. Sydney Alonso, Vermont, US

I am very happy to hear that good news. It’s quite courageous on your part, and I’m happy to support you! Have a great year ahead, you’ll have my continuous support! Julien Psomas

I completely support your plan to refuse ads from fossils, despite the
financial hit to the Guardian. I have made a donation to help out. David Thompson

A very commendable decision, very much in keeping with the Guardian’s position as leader of green issues to leave a better planet for following generations. Richard Vernon, Oxford

Yay! I’m so proud of the Guardian! We can no longer support or fund in any manner the fossil fuel industry if we have any chance of survival as a civilization on this planet. You’ve taken a courageous and moral step that will hopefully embolden others to join you. Good on you! Best, Carol Ross, Missouri, US

Good decision. I’ll support you as much as I can, which unfortunately is not much as I live on age pension only. Keep up the good work, we need it desperately! Ursula Brandt, South Australia

I am absolutely delighted by this decision. So many people pledge to do something about Climate Change, but few actually are willing to get uncomfortable and DO it. I am very proud of you as my favourite source of Information and this only makes a case for me to donate next time to you again. Christiane Gross

It was great reading what The Guardian is doing re the climate. As a Guardian on-line reader from The Netherlands I’m going to contribute monthly now instead of ‘now and again’. The amount will be relatively small as I do not have a great income. I really hope more of your supporters will do so, because it is really great what you are doing.
With kind regards, Aleida Oostendorp, Netherlands

I congratulate you and your team on taking this step regarding fossil fuel companies. The Guardian’s stance on the environment and its excellent coverage of related stories and events is the major reason for my support. Well done, and good luck in the future. Deirdre Moore

Love your new policy about accepting money from fossil fuels. Will contribute more to help make up for the shortfall. Todd Misk

I live on a fixed income with a strict budget so my continuing support of your excellent news organisation represents my commitment to the fight to address climate change. Every step counts. Barbara Hirsch, Texas, US

Only when we speak truth to power can change take place. thank yo for your courageous and expensive decision. Nancy Shepherd, Vermont, US

Love your journalism, especially your investigative work and the climate change topic. And with the bold statement about not receiving any more sponsorship from the fossil extracting companies? Well, the already great newspapers became even more impressive now. Keep up the good work. Miroslav Řezníček, Czech Republic

Thank you for taking the bold step of refusing advertising from fossil fuel extractive companies. I think it is the right thing to do & hope many more companies do the same. We must all work together if we want to save our planet. It is one of the most important issues of our times. Ginger Comstock, New York, US

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How religion divides and under-develops Africa by Reno

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Reno Omokri
Reno Omokri

By Reno Omokri

Yesterday, I saw Nigerian Shiites demonstrating against the United States and President Donald Trump, and I groaned in my spirit. When will Africans become themselves and stop being remote controlled by foreign interests?

Most Africans think they chose their religions. Not true. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of Africans had their religions handed down to them by Europeans or Arabs. How do I mean?

Let us take Nigeria as a case study. Most Nigerians are either Christian, Muslims, or Catholics. Many of them will even die to defend their faiths. But how did they get these faiths?

Most Muslims in Northern Nigerian were born into Islam. Most Nigerian Muslims did not make a conscious decision to become Muslims. They just found themselves as Muslims and accepted it. But the historical fact is that most of their ancestors were CONQUERED into Islam, either by the Usman Dan Fodio jihad of 1804, or by the Kanem Bornu empire (one of the oldest empires on Earth), or by Arabs during the the Tran Saharan Slave Trade. This is a historical fact and I do not mean to upset my beloved Muslim followers.

At first they resisted. Then they were conquered. They were FORCED to accept Islam. Those who refused were killed, and the survivors, fearing a similar fate, accepted the new religion. Then they had children who knew nothing but Islam, and the rest is history.

Nigeria was colonised by Britain. Britain is OFFICIALLY a very staunch Protestant nation, with the Church of England (Anglican Church) as the OFFICIAL state church. Have Nigerians ever wondered why the British allowed Catholicism to flourish in Nigeria even when it was suppressed in Britain for centuries? Or why they did not allow Christian Missionaries into the North?

Other than the Binis and Itsekiri, who voluntarily accepted Catholicism in the 15th Century due to their trade with the Portuguese, Catholicism only gained ground in Nigeria, and especially amongst the Igbos of the East of Nigeria, in the 19th Century.

The British had a colonial policy of Divide and Rule. They did not allow Christian missionaries into Nigeria for love of Christianity or God, or Africans. It was a deliberate colonial policy to sow discord and division in Nigeria and their other colonial territories all over the world, and to keep nations, like Nigeria, ever subservient to Europe as a supplier of raw materials and human labour in times of war (Nigerians in their thousands fought for the British in both World Wars and were often used almost as cannon fodder) and in times of peace (Nigerians are a backbone of the health sector in both the UK and US. 77% of all Black doctors in America are Nigerian).

The British decided that Anglicanism snd other forms of Protestantism should thrive amongst the Yoruba and that Catholicism should thrive amongst the Igbo, and they refused to let Christian missionaries proselytise in the North to keep it Muslim, so that both the South and the North would be perpetually divided and check each other, and will never be able to unite against the colonialists.

Every missionary that came to Nigeria was licensed by the British. The Catholicism you see in Igboland today is the fruit of four Catholic missionaries who arrived Onitsha in 1885, as part of the Holy Ghost Fathers, led by a certain Reverend Father Lutz. In fact, the house where they first stayed was owned by the Royal Niger Company (which influenced the formation of the colonial Nigerian government, and even provided personnel for them. Lord Lugard was a staff of the Royal Niger Company).

Meanwhile, as they were promoting Catholicism in Eastern Nigeria, the British were promoting Protestantism in Western Nigeria, where Henry Townsend planted the first church in Badagry, in 1842. When the British rescued Samuel Ajayi Crowther from Fulani and Portuguese slavers, he was handed over to the Church Missionary Society (the proselytising mission of the Anglican Church), who educated him, and used him to extend Anglicanism amongst the Edekiri people. Ajayi Crowther eventually changed their name to Yoruba (a bastardisation of the Fulani word Yaribansa), because the British wanted a common identity for all Edekiri people.

That is how we come to have a Nigeria dominated by Muslims in the North, Anglicans and other Protestants in the West, and Catholicism in the East. It was not by chance. It was not by the choice of Nigerians. To the largest extent, with only very few exception, it is by design of external powers.

I urge Africans to think about their religions. Do not just accept your religion because of the accident of your birth. Your eternal soul is too valuable to be left to chance.

I use myself as an example. I was born to a Catholic mother and an Anglican father. While my mother schooled in Europe, I was anglicised by the rest of the family who were Anglican.

I remained an Anglican until I went to university. Free at last from my parents, I at first became a campus evangelist at the University of Benin in 1990 at the age of 16, until I left for another university and became an atheist at age 18, and began reading The Bible, and the Quran in other to know the true God.

May God bless my parents, they did not interfere. They did not force me to go to church. They left me to choose.

For one whole year, I did not believe in God, until after reading Scripture, the Quran and Dr. Yongi Cho’s (now David Yongi Cho) book, the Fourth Dimension, I found God by myself. Alone. Without the help of Arabs, or Europeans, or my parents. That is why today, NOTHING can shake my faith. I was not born as a Christ follower. I was CONVINCED into following Christ by Scripture and a personal experience with God and I was ordained as a pastor on January 15, 2012.

If all Africans can free their minds and choose their religion by themselves, Africans will stop being divided and fighting each other on the basis of religion and region, and we will no longer by the patsies of European and Arab nations, and Africa will be truly free to become the greatest continent on Planet Earth.

Reno Omokri

Gospeller. Deep Thinker. #1 Bestselling author of Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years. Avid traveller. Hollywood Magazine Film Festival Humanitarian of the Year, 2019.

The post How religion divides and under-develops Africa by Reno appeared first on Vanguard News.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History | Art Practical

Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History

The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1

Arthur Jafa

Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are  “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.

Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.

astronaut

Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.

Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?

Christine Wertheim

Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.

The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:

“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”

The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.

Greek Islands

Sun & Sea (Marina), Lithuanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.

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

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[Mark Bunker and Pat Harney]

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

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

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


Hello,

Do you live in Clearwater?

This is very important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
——————–

Leaked document of the day

From the Valley Org documents release comes this item.

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

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

 
——————–

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

 
——————–

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

 
——————–

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

 
——————–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
——————–

THE WHOLE TRACK

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

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CATTLE DECAPITATION – Death Atlas – HEAVY Magazine – Music, Interviews, Reviews, Podcasts, Shop, News and more…

Captivating, confronting, engaging, excruciating but most of all honestly extreme. Exactly as it should be! This is a brief introduction of feelings and emotions that gripped me intensely the first time, plus all ensuing times I’ve listened to Cattle Decapitation’s 2019 masterpiece and easily my album of the year so far, Death Atlas.

Absolutely never a band to shy away from confronting their audience, it has always been Cattle Decapitation’s intent to be unrelenting and unrepentant in their extreme metal mastery. They have never made apologies within their bleak yet truthful message over the course of their past two albums, Monolith Of Inhumanity [2012] and The Anthropocene Extinction [2015] of the plight of the world and our destructive patterns and habits as a pathetic human plague destined for extinction. 

Death Atlas opens with the prologue “Anthropogenic- End Transmission”. A monologue draped by a soundscape of desolation. A fog of despair lures us into the foreshadowing world of Death Atlas as seen through the lens of Cattle Decapitation…And then the magnificently catastrophic “The Geocide” drops like a nuclear bomb on the senses, clearly setting the bleak scene yet malevolent pace at which Cattle Decap wish to, as a means of sonic visualisation, deliver their uplifting message of human extinction. “The Geocide” is the perfect opener to slate the thirst of Cattle Decapitation fans and a deathly sigh of relief shall emanate from your parched throats as you are decimated with familiar territory.

“Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts” is a pummeling fuck machine of emotion! Clearly at the beginning of the track there is nothing but hatred , yet early on there is an ebb and flow of musical brilliance and dichotomy within the band that sees them battling one another to cohesively bind eachother forming a perfect incoherent tragedy. So the song is aptly titled “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts”. A third of the way in, the chorus kicks in and here we hear vocalist Travis Ryan’s first stunning attempt at clean extreme vocal clarity with decipherable lyrics to paint a picture of what is presented before us. 

The addition of a second guitarist in Belisario Dimuzio, complimenting Josh Elmore, adds a new found songwriting element expanding the ability of more pronounced and accentuated razor slicing clarity and lead breaks rarely touched on on previous Cattle outings. The songs are harsher and thicker (courtesy of new bass player Olivier Pinard) in dimension and scope which, thanks to the incredible production capabilities of long time Cattle producer Dave Otero who has managed to produce one of the best death metal albums for this decade. 

“Vulturous” rumbles in like an imminent, destructive tsunami. Slow and full of groove it pulses with murky intent before the arrival of a wall of noise and armageddon  is erected to sand blast our ears with scathing hate. The groove that follows the previous moments is nothing short of incredible.  “Vulturous” is a song in chapters that engulfs the listeners in many emotions that is hard to honestly decipher at such an early point within the album. Following is the brief intermission of catastrophic memories of Death Atlas so far, “The Great Dying”, is a dialogue of themes we’ve already heard and are without question not done with yet. The female reader is un-subtly framed by thick choking sounds swirling around her as she warns of more unrelenting chaos to follow. Which bleeds into the first glimpse we got of Death Atlas nearly three months ago – “One Day Closer To The End Of The World”. Classic Cattle Decap! A galloping tirade of brilliant malevolence. Whilst there seems to be nothing but enormous tragedy as the main protagonist of Death Atlas, this album is Ryan’s first where he truly utilises his singing talent for the first time. And it seems as though he finds it as a means to promise albeit fruitless. You can truly get a firm grip on why Travis is without question one of the best, most gifted and diverse metal vocalists on the planet. His voice paints a myriad of pictures and emotions it is so easy to get lost in the images depicted and visualised thanks to his medium of choice. 

Out of “One Day Closer To The End Of The World” into our second unearthing of what you’ll hear on Death Atlas was “Bring Back The Plague”. Summoning the rage and clarity before us, this track embodies the album title’s true nature. No mincing words or apologies for lack of discretion. This track epitomises all that Cattle Decapitation are! Intelligent, thought provoking and unapologetic!

 An album full of idealistic hope – Negative optimism or nihilistic positivity, Death Atlas runs through a universe of unachievable hope via tales of our race’s unrepentant and destructive tendencies upon our planet and own lives regardless of our best laid plans to right the wrongs we have willingly adopted as a standard method of self-imposed annihilation. As Travis Ryan has stated recently on his thoughts of Death Atlas, we need look no further than the last twenty minutes of the album to hear their best yet bleakest work. I’ve given you enough detail as to how undeniably and simply perfect Death Atlas is. Your task is to now delve into its extreme brilliance and emerge on the other side forewarned and well equipped to make a difference.

Simply, if the five members of Cattle Decapitation were the last men living on this planet, it will be because they exemplify and harnessed the will through every extremity the world inflicts upon itself and they were chosen to write the soundtrack and script to the demise of the population they graciously loved but we’re forced to mourn due to complacency and self disregard!

Whilst Monolith of Inhumanity and The Anthropocene extinction were both incredible feats of extreme metal leading Cattle Decapitation up to this point, it is undoubtedly obvious underneath all their foreboding and tragic notions contained therein were precursors to what is heard within Death Atlas. Make no mistake that as we metal fans near the end of this decade and closer to our end, Death Atlas is a superbly crafted, perfect album delivered by Travis, Josh, David, Belisario and Olivier which will for many years to come be Cattle Decapitation’s shining light disguised as a tragic legacy.

Death Atlas, courtesy of Metal Blade is out on Black Friday – November 29th and can be pre-ordered here

DON’T MISS CATTLE DECAPITATION’S 2020 AUSTRALIAN TOUR

THURSDAY 13TH FEBRUARY – THE BRIGHTSIDE BRISBANE

FRIDAY 14TH FEBRUARY – THE FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY

SATURDAY 15TH FEBRUARY – CAMBRIDGE HOTEL, NEWCASTLE

SUNDAY 16TH FEBRUARY – THE BASEMENT CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY – MAX WATT’S MELBOURNE

THURSDAY 20TH FEBRUARY -PELLY BAR, FRANKSTON

FRIDAY 21ST FEBRUARY – ENIGMA BAR, ADELAIDE

SATURDAY 22ND FEBRUARY – AMPLIFIER BAR, PERTH

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Keanu Reeves Goes Public with Girlfriend for the First Time in Decades

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If there’s one thing that the internet can agree on, it’s that Keanu Reeves is an all-around great guy. From his roles in some of our favorite action thrillers, to his more dramatic roles in films like Dracula, he’s a multi-talented actor, sure – but that’s not why the internet loves him so much. He’s also known for being one of the nicest (and least problematic) celebrities on the planet.

Reeves has lived a life marred by tragedy, and has only ever come out of it with generosity and kindness for the world around him. The internet is basically obssessed with this incredible dude.

But his latest red carpet appearance has got everyone excited – because he’s finally gone public with a girlfriend!

He currently resides in the Hollywood hills after gaining fame in an impressive range of massively successful movies.

He first rose to fame in a pretty unlikely franchise.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) told the story of two slackers travelling through time. It was so successful that it was followed by a sequel: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991.

But Reeves has never stuck to just one genre.

In 1992, he starred in Gothic horror-romance, Bram Stoker’s Dracula – although his performance in this rather overblown movie has been pretty much universally panned.

Reeves is perhaps primarily known for his roles in action movies.

He starred in buddy-cop thriller, Point Break, in 1991, alongside Gary Busey and Patrick Swayze. It was a commercial smash and went on to garner a cult following.

He continued this trend in 1994’s Speed.

The suspenseful thriller told the tale of a rigged bus that would explode if it slowed down. Reeves starred alongside Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper, but has since shaded the film by refusing to star in the sequel. His reason? “The movies I wanted to make were movies I wanted to see.” Ouch.

But there’s no doubting where Reeves gained most of his fame.

His role as Neo in The Matrix franchise is what really made Keanu Reeves into a household name. The movies are still thought of as touchstones within the science fiction genre.

But Reeves isn’t just an actor.

He’s also a talented musician and spent many years playing bass for alternative rock band, Dogstar, in the ’90s.

There are many strings to his bow.

He’s made a name for himself particularly because of his versatility, playing leading men, brooding heroes, and goofy losers with equal panache.

But aside from his professional achievements, Reeves hasn’t had such an easy life.

via: Shutterstock

He’s faced a life that one wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. First, he and girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, suffered a tragic loss when their premature baby was stillborn in 1999.

via: Shutterstock

Soon after this tragedy, in 2001, Syme crashed her car into three parked cars and was thrown from the vehicle, dying instantly.

But Reeves hasn’t let this tragedy make him bitter.

via: Shutterstock

Instead, he’s become an incredible philanthropist. He’s well known for supporting a wide range of charitable causes, from PETA to Stand Up To Cancer.

And that isn’t all.

It was recently revealed that Reeves gave all his profits from the sequel from The Matrix to the crew. And he didn’t even want credit for it, saying, “I’d rather people didn’t know that. It was a private transaction. It was something I could afford to do, a worthwhile thing to do.”

Reeves has been fairly quiet on the acting scene in recent years.

But that’s all set to change in coming months as Reeves will be starring in the third part of the John Wick franchise, Parabellum, out this month.

But, in spite of his fame, Reeves is known for being fairly private.

In the past, he was always less-than-eager to take part in interviews and was known by the press for being a little difficult to deal with.

Including what’s going on with him romantically.

Until now, that is. Because last night, Keanu walked the red carpet at the ACMA Art + Film Gala, and he wasn’t alone.

Reeves made a public appearance with his long-term girlfriend, Alexandra Grant (who looked totally gorgeous, by the way).

Grant is a full-time visual artist.

And a super talented one at that. Her Instagram page is filled with beautiful images she’s created. We knew Keanu would pick a good’un.

Reeves and Grant have acutally collaborated on some creative projects together. This includes the 2011 “grown-ups picture book” Ode to Happiness, written by Reeves and with illustrations by Grant.

This is one of the cutest couples we’ve ever seen – and it seems the internet agrees. Images of the two being generally adorable are cheering everybody up.

For more on Keanu, keep scrolling!

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