Parkrun fanatic ticks off Dumbarton venue in her global quest – Daily Record

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Parkrun has become a global phenomenon and, despite still being in its infancy, Levengrove’s event is already attracting new visitors to Dumbarton.

German Parkrun fanatic Julia Loecherbach is one of those who has travelled to the shadow of the Rock to take on the Levenside venue’s challenging trails.

And for Julia it’s far from the first time she’s travelled for an event.

She told the Lennox Herald: “I’ve now done 44 different Parkruns including some in Germany, Ireland and Poland.

“I’m from Germany originally but since 2012 I’ve lived in Scotland, first in Edinburgh and now because of work I live in Alloa.

“Initially, it was quite a slow burner. I’ve been doing Parkruns since 2013 and that’s how I got into running in the first place.

“It was quite far away from me in Edinburgh and on Saturdays, I was involved in cycling and other things, so it was difficult to have the time. But Parkrun gave me a bit of a focus.

“It was through that and getting involved in social media groups that I realised that Parkrun tourism was a bit of a thing.

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“My partner is Irish and we always look at doing Parkruns when we’re away, but when we were over there we made it our aim to do one in Portrush in Northern Ireland where you actually run along the beach.

“I was also at a conference in Germany which didn’t start until mid-morning, so I printed off the barcode at the hotel and ran down to take part in that. I also had one at my old university which is based near the border with Poland where I just crossed over the border to say that I’d done one there too.

“In Scotland, I was once in Stonehaven for a triathlon and went up a day early to take part in the Parkrun, and I’ve done one in St Andrews when I was doing the Chariots of Fire race as well.”

The amount of events Julia has completed looks even more impressive when you consider that she’s keen to reduce her carbon footprint along the way.

She continued: “I pledged not to fly this year, so I won’t be doing many overseas, but I still have aims.

“Last time I got the train to Germany I went down on the sleeper to London, went on a Parkrun in London and then got the Eurostar into Europe.

“The Parkrun alphabet is also a thing too, so I’m trying to organise a train that stops in York because there are only two Parkruns in the country that start with a Y at the moment.”

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Parkrun tourism is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country, and with new events popping up across the country every week there’s always a new challenge for runners.

Davie Black, who runs the Parkrun Scotland Friends Facebook page which has more than 3000 members, attended Levengrove’s first run – and explained what attracts so many people to Parkrun tourism.

He said: “It’s an incredibly friendly thing to belong to, but it’s been made more addictive since the beginning of Parkrun challenges.

Alloa

“People are keen to do the alphabet, but often they have to travel to Poland as it’s the easiest one to get to that begins with a Z, but there are also plenty of smaller challenges.

“There’s the Staying Alive challenge where you have to do runs beginning with B, then E, E, G, E, E or the pirates challenge which is seven beginning with a C and then an R.

Davie himself is one of a select group of just three (at the time of writing) to have completed all 58 Parkruns in Scotland, whilst he’s crossed the line at 87 different runs – and 520 times at Parkruns in total.

However he refused to pick a favourite.

He said: “Stornoway is one of the most interesting events, the course and the estate it’s on are really interesting.

“Shetland’s Bressay Parkrun is fantastic as well, it’s all run on roads which sounds dangerous but I think in the whole time there I saw two cars!”

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And both visitors were impressed by what Levengrove had to offer runners.

Julia said: “Levengrove Park is really nice, the views are great and I didn’t find it that hilly which was good.

“The paths are quite wide too so you really could say that it’s perfect for a Parkrun.”

Whilst Davie was glowing in his praise of the venue

He added: “It’s a lovely park in a great location and I think it could be a jewel in the crown for Parkrun in Scotland.

“The park has a lot to offer. I’m not usually a fan of laps but there is so much to look at that I didn’t mind.

“When you look up you can see the monuments, the Rock, the river and you can see that it’s a park that has had plenty of investment.”

The appeal of Parkrun is also clear for both Julia and Davie, who urged newcomers to come along.

Julia said: “It’s for everyone, anyone can come along and have a look or volunteer, you don’t have to take part in it, they are totally open to anybody and that’s what makes them so special.”

Davie concluded: “You’re never alone at a Parkrun, that’s what I always say.

“It’s really just people who have met for a blether when a run broke out, and the running part is 50/50 with the social part of it.”

More than 270 attended last week, with co-event director Anna Napier keen to highlight why it was so successful.

She said: “Whether people are walking, jogging, running or volunteering everyone is equally welcome at Parkrun.

“For us it’s about getting as wide a range of people involved as possible, we have some very quick runners, but there are also plenty of people who come along and walk the route, and that takes about an hour.”

To find out more about Levengrove’s Parkrun, visit parkrun.org.uk/levengrove/

For more local news from West Dunbartonshire click here

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

&The Cannes Film Festival and Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tromsø International Film Festival 

Festival Director: Martha Otte

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

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

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

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

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

Rotterdam International Film Festival 

Festival Director Bero Beyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gothenburg Film Festival 

Festival Director: Jonas Holmberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berlin Film Festival 

Head of the Berlinale: Dieter Kosslick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stockfish Film Festival 

Festival Director: Marzibil Snæfríõar Sæmundardóttir

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

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

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

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

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

Bergamo Film Meeting 

Artistic Director: Angelo Signorelli

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

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

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

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

Qumra  

Festival Director: Fatma Al Remaihi

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

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

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

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

Hanaa: We had a long debate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

London Taiwan Film Festival UK

Festival Director: Aephie Huimi

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

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

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

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

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

CPH: DOX 

Festival Head: Tine Fischer

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

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

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

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

Panama Film Festival 

Artistic Director: Diana Sanchez

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

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

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

CineMAS 

Artistic Director Joe Wihl

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

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

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

Cannes 

Festival Director: Thierry Frémaux

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

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

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

Kultur Symposium Weimar

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

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

London Indian Film Festival

Festival Director: Cary Rajinder Sawhney

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

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

Nordic Youth Film Festival

Festival Director: Hermann Greuel

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

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

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

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

Karlovy Vary Film Festival 

Festival Director Karel Och

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

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

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

Locarno Film Festival 

Festival Director: Lili Hinstin

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

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

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

Venice Film Festival 

Festival Director: Alberto Barbera

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

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

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

Toronto Film Festival 2020

Artistic Director and Co-Head: Cameron Bailey

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

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

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

El Gouna Film Festival 

Festival Director: Ihtishal Al Timimi

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

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

Zurich Film Festival 

Artistic Director: Karl Spoerri

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

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

London Film Festival 

Festival Director Tricia Tuttle

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

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

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

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

Lumière Film Festival 

Festival Director: Thierry Frémaux

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

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

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

Red Sea Industry Workshop

Red Sea Festival Director: Mahmoud Sabbagh

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

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

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

Films From the South 

Festival Director: Lasse Skagen

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

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

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

Ajyal 2019 

Festival Director: Fatma Al Remaihi

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

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

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

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Fans can actually pay a visit to the Phoenix Club, which is in fact St Gregory’s Social Club in Farnworth, and guided tours are available upon request.

Try a pint at one of the town’s many breweries

Bolton is awash with great breweries at the moment and beer lovers certainly don’t have a shortage of options to choose from.

Two of the finest are Northern Monkey and Bank Top, both of which have opened their own tap rooms in the town, while honourable mentions also go out to Blackedge Brewing Company and Rivington Brewing Company.

Enjoy a hike up the Pike

Bowling

For many families, an Easter hike up Rivington Pike is an annual tradition.

Hundreds of keen walkers clamber up to the summit, which stands at 1,191 feet, where they are rewarded with spectacular views across Bolton and the West Pennine Moors.

But the views are best enjoyed on a quieter day, away from the crowds. It’s an ideal spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Sample local delicacies at Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe

Bolton is blessed with several great bakeries, but a trip to this family-run shop is a must for anyone visiting the town.

Dating back to 1898, Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe has been serving generations of families from its modestly-sized shop on Churchgate.

TripAdvisor users even rate it as the best bakery in Greater Manchester. High praise indeed.

Try the Bolton institution that is Carrs Pasties

Another of Bolton’s finest pasty institutions, Carrs’ products can be found right across the town.

But for the proper experience, you need to visit one of their three shops dotted around the borough.

The family-run bakery counts radio presenter Chris Evans among its admirers; the former Top Gear host has rated their pasties among the finest in the country.

Take part in the Ironman. Or maybe just watch.

Easter

Bolton has played host to the biggest Ironman race in the UK 11 times now.

Thousands of entrants descend on the town’s streets each year to take on a gruelling course involving a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon.

If you aren’t quite in shape to take part, you could always join the thousands of others who turn out to line the streets and cheer on those who are.

Last year, a 5k night run was introduced on the Friday, while athletic youngsters can also join in an Ironkids event.

Learn about the history of steam

Bolton Steam Museum boasts one of Britain’s largest collection of working steam mill engines.

The volunteer-run museum delves into the area’s industrial heritage through the engines, which powered Bolton’s mills and helped transform it into the town it is today.

Take a stroll around Jumbles Country Park

Extraordinaire

Situated about four miles to the north of the town centre, the woodland trail and reservoir is a popular spot for dog walkers and those out for an afternoon stroll.

A sailing club is also based at the reservoir and hosts regular training days and races.

Boasting picturesque views, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than paying a visit to Jumbles.

Shop at Bolton Market

Bolton’s market tradition stretches back hundreds of years to 1251 when the town was granted a charter by King Henry III.

Centuries later, the town’s market continues to thrive, although the range of products on offer has come a long way.

The market moved to its current base in Ashburner Street during the 1930s and boasts hundreds of stalls selling everything from fresh fish to cotton reels.

Try some African cuisine at Nkono

One of Bolton Market’s most popular traders is Nkono, a Cameroonian street food stall.

Finding it is no issue as the voice of its larger life than life owner, Alain Job, can often be heard booming through the indoor market hall as he entertains customers.

Nkono opened back in 2014 and quickly became a hit. With a range of exotic dishes, many of which are accompanied by jollof rice and sweet dumplings, it soon established itself as one of the town’s best eateries.

If you’re feeling especially experimental, why not try one of their goat curries?

Learn about the history of Turton Tower

Henry III

Set in relaxing woodlands on the edge of a popular walking area, the distinctive 15th century English country house has fascinating period rooms displaying a huge collection of decorative woodwork, paintings and furniture – all re-telling the lives of the families who lived there.

Dig for hidden gems at X Records

An institution in the town since the 1980s, this record shop serves as a treasure trove for Bolton’s music lovers.

Head down to its Bridge Street base and get lost in its vast collection of records. You might even find yourself a bargain.

Spend an afternoon with family at Moss Bank Park

Kazer

A sprawling park with a large play area including a sand pit area for children, the park is an ideal destination for a family afternoon out.

While the much-loved children’s zoo and tropical butterfly house are no more, there are plenty of other attractions to keep kids entertained including a mini steam train, crazy golf and fairground rides.

Feed the animals at Smithills Open Farm

Smithills has a wide range of animals from pigs and cows to snakes and owls.

As well as families, large groups of children visit from schools and nurseries with some coming from miles away to say hello, feed and cuddle the animals.

Children get the chance to feed the lambs and there are plenty of other hands on opportunities with snakes and chicks.

The venue also offers tractor rides, on toy ones as well as the real thing, and donkey rides too.

With bouncy castles, a sand pit and adventure playground it’s a popular place for day visits and children’s birthday parties.

Check out the town’s street art

Moss Bank Park

Some spectacular murals have sprouted up around Bolton over the last year or so.

The local artist behind them is Kazer, a joiner by trade who got into graffiti-style art after watching a series of YouTube.

You’ll find some of his eye-catching designs adorning the walls of several of the town’s pubs, including the Sweet Green Tavern, The Greyhound, and The Beer School in Westhoughton.

Enjoy a tour of Smithills Hall

Nkono

Set in restored formal gardens and a 2,000 acre estate leading to the West Pennine Moors, the beautiful old hall is an architectural gem dating back to the 14th century.

Travel in time through medieval, Tudor and Victorian rooms or enjoy the various walks on offer in the splendid surrounding countryside.

Sample a local delicacy at Rice n Three

The phenomenon that is rice and three has spread right across Greater Manchester since its creation at some point in the 1980s.

A base of rice topped with a choice of three curries, it’s affordable, filling and homely, making it the fast food go-to for many.

Rice and three’s origins are uncertain, but Bolton may well lay claim to it.

The Essa family bought the Northern Quarter’s This and That in the 1980s after coming to Manchester from Uganda claim rice and three as their creation.

They later sold the cafe and took the idea to Bolton, where they have since opened two restaurants, in Bradshawgate and Deane Road.

Is it really the original rice and three? Maybe. Is it tasty? Most definitely. It’s affordable too – one meat, two veg and rice costs just £5.00.

Visit the shops at Market Place

one of the founder members

Originally designed and opened in 1855, the Bolton Market Hall was said to be ‘the largest covered market in the kingdom’.

It was reopened as Market Place Shopping Centre by Queen Elizabeth ll in 1988 and has undergone a £25 million refurbishment transforming it into the town centre’s shopping heart.

Some of the biggest high street names can be found there, including Debenhams, Next, H&M and Zara.

Enjoy an evening in The Vaults

Prime Minister

The Vaults dining and leisure venue opened below Market Place back in 2016 and has fast become the go-to socialising spot for many Bolton families.

Based in the renovated Victorian vaults, which are part of the original market halls, several restaurant chains can be found there, including Nandos and Prezzo.

Watch a film at the Light Cinema

One of just a handful across the UK, the town centre venue was opened by independent cinema chain The Light back in 2016.

Dubbed ‘sociable cinema’, the whole experience is a little more laid back than your standard cinema trip, with reclining seats, and you can even have a drink from the bar in there too.

Learn from the top chefs at food and drink festival

Queen

Taking place across the August bank holiday weekend, the annual event is one of the biggest food and drink events in the north west.

Some of the world’s best-known celebrity chefs have appeared at the event to entertain crowds with cookery demos and book signings in recent years, with James Martin even hailing it the best festival of its kind in the UK.

There are markets aplenty too, with the streets around Victoria Square and Le Mans Crescent packed with street food stalls (including Thai, toasties, Polish BBQs, Italian desserts, Green meze, and Yorkshire pudding wraps) and produce to take away with you.

Visit Barrow Bridge

A picturesque model village to the north of Moss Bank Park, Barrow Bridge was created during the Industrial Revolution to house workers at nearby mills.

The cotton mills have long since gone, but the quaint cottages remain. The charming village is a haven of tranquility and is a perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

Explore the town’s paranormal activity

Bolton is apparently a hotbed for paranormal activity. 

Ghost Walker Extraordinaire Flecky Bennett offers a number of ghost walks throughout the town, which are part history, part theatre and part paranormal. 

Covering haunted bookshops and pubs, as well as the Bolton Massacre, all the stories you hear are based on real people and actual events.

Unlock the mysteries of Ancient Egypt

retail

Bolton’s connection to Ancient Egypt is little-known, but its collection of treasures is one of the country’s finest.

Bolton Museum’s multi-million pound Egyptology gallery reopened last year following a £3.8 million refurbishment and more than 275,000 have stepped back into the land of the Pharoahs since then.

Rivington Pike

One of the oldest pubs in Britain, Ye Olde Man & Scythe is thought to have been built in Churchgate some time before 1251.

But its place in the town’s history was cemented in 1651 when the Earl of Derby, James Stanley, was executed outside the pub for his part in the Bolton Massacre, which led to the death of 1,600 people.

The royalist spent the final hours of his life in the pub, which his family owned at the time, and it still contains the chair he supposedly sat on before being taken outside to be beheaded.

His spirit is also said to linger in the pub and has seen it named one of the country’s most haunted.

Catch a show at The Albert Halls

Samuel Crompton

Located within Bolton Town Hall, the 670-theatre is a popular spot for families looking to enjoy a pre-Christmas pantomime.

The iconic building is perhaps best known as the setting for Peter Kay’s stand-up DVD, ‘Live At The Bolton Albert Halls’, which was filmed there in 2003.

A recent refurbishment included the addition of a new restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Paul Heathcote, which has promised to champion ‘proper northern, old-fashioned food’.

Visit Hall i’th’ Wood Museum

Originally built as a half-timbered hall in the 15th century, this handsome building was owned by wealthy yeomen and merchants.

Later rented out, it was home to a young Samuel Crompton whose Spinning Mule invention revolutionised the cotton industry. Links with Crompton remain in its interactive museum.

Take a stroll around Queens Park

street food stalls

Just north east of the town centre, this Victorian park is a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle.

For generations, it has been a place where Bolton families have gone to play, relax, have a picnic and feed the ducks.

Opened in 1866 by the Earl of Bradford, it has undergone a £4.3 million refurbishment in recent years.

It now boasts a children’s play area, a cafe, as well a series of grade II listed statues, including one of the former prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Spend an idyllic afternoon at Turton and Entwistle Reservoir

Sweet Green Tavern

This breathtaking beautyspot, tucked away down quiet country lanes on the moors north of Bolton, is the perfect spot for an afternoon walk.

A path runs around the edge of the reservoir, while other trails lead off into the surrounding woods.

The reservoir contains almost 3,4 million litres of water and, with along with nearby Wayoh Reservoir, provides about 50% of Bolton’s drinking water.

Grab a scoop at Holden’s Ice Cream

With flavours including Vimto, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, Eccles Cake and Manchester Tart, there are plenty of reasons to venture out to Edgworth for a scoop of this home made ice cream.

Known locally for their special family recipe they have been making their ice cream in the same premises since the 1930s.

Rock out at The Alma Inn

This Bradshawgate pub is a haven for lovers of rock, punk and metal music and hosts live gigs every weekend.

The 250-capacity venue is usually crammed with loyal regulars trying to catch the next big upcoming bands.

It’s reputation isn’t a secret, though. In 2015, it was shortlisted as one one of Britain’s best small music venues by music magazine NME.

Catch a show at The Octagon Theatre

Top Gear

The theatre is currently undergoing a major makeover, but is expected to throw open its doors again in the summer.

Dominic Monaghan and Sue Johnston are among the famous names to have trod the boards at the celebrated venue.

A diverse range of events are held throughout the year, ranging from classic and contemporary plays to musicals and festive productions for youngsters.

Fish and chips at Olympus

A popular pre-theatre spot, the town centre chippy is often ranked among Bolton’s best and has been attracting visitors from across the North West for more than 30 years.

The family run restaurant offers great fish and chip meals and has seating for more than 200 people, as well as a takeaway next door.

Tackle Go Ape in Rivington

Explore the forest canopy via a treetop rope course on the outskirts of Bolton.

The Go Ape adventure is a must-go attraction for a thrilling day out.

It’s a hit with adrenaline lovers as they embark on the challenging course featuring 13-metre-high platforms.

So get your trainers on and be prepared for the thrill of your life.

See the sights on a night out in Bradshawgate

Bolton’s nightlife comes in for a fair bit of stick, but it is still a good place to let your hair down.

Many bars and clubs can be found off Bradshawgate, which comes to life as revellers descend on the town centre on a Friday and Saturday evening.

Pay homage to Fred Dibnah

Victoria Square

One of Bolton’s most famous sons, the celebrity steeplejack found national fame through his BBC programmes celebrating Britain’s industrial heritage and the golden age of steam.

Following Fred’s death, his grade II listed former home was converted into a heritage centre so that fans could see his tools and machinery.

It closed in 2018 and the property is currently up for auction, but Fred’s legacy is still preserved in his hometown where a statue of him takes pride of place in the town centre.

Marvel at Le Mans Crescent

Art Gallery

The jewel in Bolton town centre’s crown, Le Mans Crescent is an architectural triumph on par with anywhere else in the North West

The grade II listed crescent is currently home to Bolton Museum, Art Gallery, Central Library and Aquarium, while plans are afoot to transform the former magistrates’ court into a luxury boutique hotel.

In recent years it has also proved a popular filming location for television dramas, including Peaky Blinders and Bancroft.

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Will there be a draft? Young people worry after military strike | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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For decades, American men over the age of 18 have gone through the ritual of registering with the government in case of a military draft. In recent years, this action has felt more like going through the motions, simply checking a box.

But today, after a U.S. drone strike in Iraq killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, prompting concerns about the possibility of a new war in the Middle East, that oft-forgotten paperwork became a reason for spiking anxiety among many Americans.

“World War III” started trending on social media. Young men suddenly recalled registering after their 18th birthdays, many having done so while applying for college financial aid. One Twitter user posted that he had blocked the account of the U.S. Army, with the (faulty) reasoning that: “They can’t draft you if they can’t see you.”

Interest was so high that it apparently crashed the website for the Selective Service System, the independent government agency that maintains a database of Americans eligible for a potential draft. “Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time,” the agency said on Twitter, adding, “We appreciate your patience.”

Here is an explanation of the current military system and what it would take to enact a draft in modern times.

Is there going to be a military draft?

The United States first conscripted soldiers during the Civil War and continued to use the draft in some form on and off through the Vietnam War, said Jennifer Mittelstadt, a professor of history at Rutgers University who has studied the military.

But there has been no conscription since 1973, when the draft was abolished after opposition to fighting in Vietnam. “There was huge support for ending the draft across the political spectrum,” Mittelstadt said.

The modern-day military is now an all-volunteer force, with about 1.2 million active-duty troops.

To change that, Congress would have to pass a law reinstating the draft, and the president would have to sign it, actions that would likely require broad political support.

What is the draft age?

All men from 18 to 25 years old are required to register with the Selective Service System. Many young men check a box to register when getting a driver’s license. Others sign up when applying for federal student aid to attend college.

But just because you have registered does not mean you will be drafted. “Right now, registering for selective service really means nothing about the likelihood of you serving in the current military,” Mittelstadt said.

Joe Heck, chairman of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, a committee created by Congress to evaluate the Selective Service System, put it this way: “Registration is ongoing. A draft would require an act of Congress.”

What are the consequences if you don’t register?

If you do not register for Selective Service as a young man, you can be subject to lifetime penalties. For example, men who did not register cannot receive federal financial aid, and they cannot work for the federal government, Heck said.

To check if you have registered, visit the Selective Service System’s website (once it is up and running again).

Can women be drafted?

No.

Historically, only men have been eligible for the draft. But the question of whether to register women has gained traction in recent years, as women have taken on broader roles within the military.

In 2015, the Pentagon opened up all combat jobs to women. Last year, a federal judge in Houston ruled that excluding women from the draft was unconstitutional.

As part of its work, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is considering whether to expand the registration requirement to include women. The group’s final report, on that and other issues, is expected to be released in March.

Are there arguments for reinstating the draft?

In the 1860s, mobs of mostly foreign-born white workers took to the streets in New York City to protest conscription during the Civil War, burning down buildings and inciting violent attacks against black residents.

A century later, burning draft cards became a symbol of protest against the war in Vietnam.

“I think it’s fair to say that the draft has never been wildly popular,” Mittelstadt said.

But she said there were arguments in favor of a modern-day draft, including the potential to make the military more representative of society. The current all-volunteer force is more likely to recruit people from the working class, she said, with higher percentages of nonwhite Americans serving in uniform.

“I don’t know what it means in a democracy that you let some people fight your wars and everybody is not responsible,” she said. “American citizens are not implicated in the consequences — bodily human life, economically — of war, and they should be.”

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Naples Senior Center offers drum circle twice a month to senior members

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Naples Senior Center members move to beat of a drum


Liz Freeman


Naples Daily News
Updated 8:00 AM EST Nov 26, 2019

Martha Davis arrives early for drum circle at Naples Senior Center, a giveaway she’s fond of the activity.

“It just makes you feel happy,” Davis, 82, said. “I know it’s healthy for us. (Afterward) I’m full of energy I didn’t have before.”

The 45-minute drum circle sessions began earlier this year as an experiment to see if it held any appeal to members. The center offers 40 different programs each week to keep seniors engaged and active.

Scheduled initially for once a month, attendance at the drum circle quickly mushroomed. The center’s purchase of eight drums didn’t suffice.

Now drum circle is twice a month. The center has purchased a dozen drums and counting.

Jim Sernovitz, 74, is a volunteer who leads drum circle. He wasn’t surprised how quickly it became popular with the seniors.

Drum instructor Jim Sernovitz, center, leads the drum circle, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

“It helps everybody. With drums, you really don’t have to know a lot about music. In a group, it is so loud if you make a mistake, nobody knows.”

The drumming provides exercise through the hand movement, and the vibration can be a stress reliever.

“You feel good when you are done,” he said.

Jackie Faffer, the center’s president and CEO, said drum circle provides members with a connection to others and a sense of interpersonal support.

“This epitomizes the purpose of Naples Senior Center,” she said. “We are all about connecting, energizing and supporting all who participate in our programs. And, when you see the smiles on the faces of our drummers, you know we are also all about having a good time, too.”

Mary-Rina Longo, left, Terry Butts and Carolyn Mulligan participate in a drum circle class, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

Sernovitz started a recent session with some warm up drumming before picking up the tempo. Most of the participants in a recent session were women, except for Art Sturm, 86. He started coming to drum circle three months ago.

“It kind of relaxes me,” Sturm said, adding that he likes it when Sernovitz picks up the pace.

Drum circle events are plentiful in Southwest Florida, with gatherings held in Cambier Park in Naples, at Shangri-La Springs in Bonita Springs and in Centennial Park in Fort Myers, according to a public Facebook page, Fort Myers Drum Circle.

Participants play drums in a drum circle class, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

The Naples center purchased djembe drums, which hail from West Africa. The drum traditionally is carved from a single piece of African hardwood with animal skin as the drumhead, according to a detailed history on the website, drumconnection.com, and is affiliated with a drum circle program in Boston.

Numerous websites refer to health benefits of drum circles as a way to address stress, provide a sense of belonging and a connection to others. Drumming is a way to decrease anxiety and depression, and can improve motor skills and energy.

Terry Butts plays her drum during a drum circle class, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

For Terry Butts, 89, the drum circle at the senior center doesn’t help with her essential tremor, a neurological condition that causes involuntary shaking, but it makes her feel good.

“I love it,” she said. “I like the rhythm. I like the camaraderie.”

The drum circle helps her forget that she’s got essential tremor.

 “I don’t think about it, and the people here are nice,” she said.

Mary-Rina Longo participates in a drum circle class, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Naples Senior Center.
Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

Naples Senior Center is located at 5025 Castello Drive.

For more information, go to naplesseniorcenter.org or call 239-325-4444.

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Selfless Uncle With Mental Disorder Praised For Arranging Worshipers’ Shoes at Jumaat Prayers

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Through his selfless act, a Chinese man in Singapore shows us what it means to live in a melting pot country.

According to Berita Harian, Mr Steven Tan Lee Meng, 55, or ‘Uncle Steven’, made it his weekly routine to arrange Muslim worshippers’ shoes and slippers around Masjid Al-Mawaddah at Sengkang, Singapore, every Friday during Jumaat Prayers.

It is almost impossible to not notice the man break a sweat and work diligently outside of the mosque to make sure that the place is neat and in order.

Not only that, this selfless man would even help handle the traffic afterwards to ensure that everything flows smoothly.

As a sign of respect, Uncle Steven said that he only roams outside of the mosque and tried his best to avoid stepping into the praying area.

“Everyone that came from either their workplace or home would be wearing their shoes. But after that, some of them would have a hard time finding them and or even lose them.”

The man, who used to work as a computer technician, said that by doing so, he felt that his life is “accomplished”.

Source: Facebook

Everyone who notices the cheerful and hardworking man will always greet him and some would even offer him cash or food.

“Sometimes people would give me money but I told them that I’m not there for rewards, I just want to help.”

“But they would still insist on it, saying that maybe I could donate it somewhere instead,” said the atheist man, who is known to regularly donate money to the mosque.

Uncle Steven is also known to have a little bit of mental disorder, specifically Bipolar Disorder (a mental health condition causing people to have extreme mood swings) and he lives with his brother at Hougang who is also suffering from a mental disorder.

Even so, a permanent volunteer of Masjid Al-Mawaddah, Mr Shahrudin Rudin, 60, said that he would never disturb anyone. “If he’s not around, I would have to do all of it myself,” he said.

His simple action is touching, which is evident as worshippers there commented,

“When I look at him… I feel touched that there are still people like this in Singapore.”

“Even when he is mentally ill and he isn’t a Muslim, his heart is noble.”

Source: Facebook

According to Uncle Steven, he doesn’t only do his good deeds at the mosque, but also at the temple and church.

On a serious note, he admitted that an outbreak of sensitive issue could possibly occur as he regularly goes to the mosque.

“But I’m not scared, because I know that everyone here is honest.”

Thank you, Uncle Steven, for showing us that race and religion shouldn’t stop us from being compassionate with each other.

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Bernie Sanders Hails Volunteer Army As Advantage Over Rivals

Volunteers for the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have organized and hosted over 11,000 events, including more than 2,000 in California, the campaign announced Tuesday evening.

The achievement, which top Sanders campaign organizers revealed in a conference call with over 7,000 supporters, reflects what the Sanders campaign sees as a secret weapon as it seeks to stand out in a crowded field of candidates: a “distributed” ― or volunteer-run ― organizing system that it innovated in the 2016 race and has fine-tuned.

Joining the call with volunteers after several of his advisers spoke, Sanders affirmed that, although the campaign would engage in conventional tactics like television and radio advertisements, its strength was the devotion of its supporters, many of whom have become volunteers.

“We are going to win this campaign because we … are going to have the strongest grassroots movement of any campaign,” he said. “That is how we win this thing. We win this going to our base, our strength of support.”

The conceit of distributed organizing, which has its fair share of skeptics, is that campaigns can amplify by orders of magnitude the effect of the staff they employ directly by empowering exceptionally motivated volunteers to run their own house parties, lead their own canvasses and develop, and monitor their own voter contacts by phone and text message. It differs from traditional campaign volunteering in terms of the resources and technology the Sanders campaign, and others inspired by it, have expended on creating an infrastructure to facilitate the work of its most dedicated supporters.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in San Francisco on Aug. 23.

It will be difficult to fully measure the organizing technique’s effectiveness prior to Feb. 3, when Sanders competes in Iowa’s Democratic caucus.

On Tuesday evening’s call, the campaign said its volunteers had made 2 million calls and sent 30 million text messages to voters in early states. It also recently concluded a two-week campus organizing boot camp, or “summer school,” that it says graduated more than 1,500 college and graduate school students who plan to serve as campaign ambassadors and organizers at their universities.

A viral initiative earlier this month asking Sanders supporters to share on social media the life experience that brought them to the campaign ― dubbed “#MyBernieStory” ― doubled as a volunteer recruitment technique. The campaign directed Sanders supporters who used the campaign’s organizing app, Bern, to post “#MyBernieStory” on Twitter or Facebook to use a digital tool to contact several other voters by text message and encourage them to get involved in the campaign. The campaign estimates that it reached the equivalent number of voters through those digitally facilitated connections as it would normally reach from knocking on 63,000 doors.

Critics of distributed organizing argue that it is no substitute for the professionally run field organizing teams that have powered successful presidential campaigns. And on that front, Sanders got a later start than some of his rivals, beginning hiring field organizers in the early states only in May. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, by contrast, already had 50 staff members in Iowa by that time.

The Sanders campaign insists, though, that distributed organizing aims not to supplant traditional field organizing but to magnify its impact. It now has dozens of paid, full-time field organizers in each of the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, as well as in California, a Super Tuesday state with a primary open to all registered voters.

The conference call noted the campaign’s distributed organizing strategy has gone from identifying and recruiting volunteers to now putting that volunteer army to work more aggressively. Campaign organizing leaders invited call participants to volunteer in real time to host a “Plan to Win” house party in September, where volunteers will bond with their peers and receive marching orders for the next phase of the campaign. The campaign said it received 1,700 commitments from volunteers on the call to host such house parties.

The Sanders campaign is hoping to capitalize on the momentum it has developed in recent weeks after a series of high-profile policy rollouts and endorsements, including his first official declaration of support from a national labor union

The Sanders campaign, which has tangled bitterly with media outlets and pollsters for what it believes is bias against the Vermont senator, touted a national poll released Monday that showed Sanders in a statistical three-way tie for first place with Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden.

But Sanders still trails Biden in the averages of polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that are essential to his success.

His campaign has argued that polls, which generally survey a universe of likely voters, do not account for the ways in which his campaign is seeking to turn out infrequent and new voters often left out of polling. At least one leading pollster has disputed the Sanders campaign’s analysis of the polls’ shortcomings.

Still, the Sanders campaign believes its success hinges on reaching those non-traditional voters ― and sees distributed organizing as a key tool to do it.

“We will win this election ― we will win the Democratic nomination, we will defeat Trump ― because we are going to bring out people who, in many cases, have not participated in politics before,” Sanders said Tuesday evening. “And I’m talking about a generation of young people who in my view are the most progressive generation in the history of our country ― anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-religious bigotry.”

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L Brands CEO accuses Jeffrey Epstein of misappropriating money

Alan Dershowitz

New York (CNN Business)L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner is accusing multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein of misappropriating “vast sums of money” from him and his family, according to a letter to Wexner Foundation members.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the letter. CNN has obtained a copy of the letter, which was not signed by Wexner or dated.
“This was, frankly, a tremendous shock, even though it clearly pales in comparison to the unthinkable allegations against him now,” the letter said.
    Epstein’s attorneys could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
    The Wall Street Journal reported that 2008 tax records indicate that Epstein “transferred $46 million worth of investments to a Wexner charitable fund.”
    CEO
    “Mr. Wexner said the transfer was only a portion of the funds that his money manager had allegedly misappropriated,” the newspaper reported.
    Epstein, 66, pleaded not guilty in July to federal charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. From 2002 to 2005, prosecutors say, he paid girls as young as 14 to have sex with him. Prosecutors also allege he paid some of the girls to recruit other victims. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
      In July, Wexner told L Brands (LB) employees that Epstein was his former personal money manager. Epstein also served as a trustee of the Wexner Foundation. The Wexner Foundation works to develop Jewish professional and volunteer leaders across North America and public leaders in Israel.
      Wexner became embroiled in the Epstein scandal when one of Epstein’s accusers said he sexually assaulted her in Wexner’s home, according to an affidavit filed in a New York court in April. The affidavit is part of a defamation lawsuit against high-profile attorney Alan Dershowitz, claiming that he made “false and malicious” statements about a woman who has accused Epstein. Dershowitz has repeatedly denied the accusations.

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