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by MediaExpert

Beauty Meets Despair in Racial Injustice Movie ‘Beale Street’

Some films about race in America are angry, many are passionate, or terrifying or heartbreaking, and a few are funny.

If Beale Street Could Talk, opening in U.S. theaters in major cities Friday, is marked by a quiet beauty and dignity, despite the despair that runs through it.

Based on the 1974 novel with the same title by the late James Baldwin, the film is director Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his 2016 Oscar-winner Moonlight.

It is the latest in a slew of movies by or about African-Americans that were nominated last week for Golden Globe Awards, including Spike Lee’s Ku Klux Klan thriller BlacKkKlansman, superhero movie Black Panther, and 1960s road trip Green Book.

​If Beale Street Could Talk is the story of two hopeful young lovers in Harlem whose future is ruined when the man is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Baldwin said Beale Street could stand for any black community in the United States.

Jenkins said he was drawn to make the film because of its blend of “sensuality and love — both physical and emotional love — but also this other voice that was very, very clear about social critique and taking America to task for the role it has played in the lives and the degradation of black folks.”

Yet Jenkins, who also adapted the screenplay, says rage is not in his wheelhouse as a filmmaker.

“I feel like anger has never been the best place for me to work from,” he said.

In contrast to the more strident tone of the novel, the film is made from the perspective of young and pregnant Tish, played by newcomer KiKi Layne, and her loving family.

“Tish is so young and pure and wide-eyed and so innocent, that to work from any other place than that would have felt like a false move,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins sees Beale Street and Moonlight as companion pieces, partly because he wrote both films during the summer of 2013. They are also about black families, albeit very different.

Moonlight depicted a young black gay man growing up in a hard-scrabble neighborhood of contemporary Miami.

“I still get notes and letters from total strangers who feel their lives have been impacted or in some ways improved because of the visibility that Moonlight brought to their personal lives,” he said.

Jenkins hopes Beale Street leaves audiences with “a sense of optimism that the lives and souls of black folks in America have often been rooted in despair and degradation, and yet there has always been love, joy, family and community.”

by MediaExpert

Golding’s ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Performance Leads to More Roles

Even though Henry Golding garnered instant fame from starring in the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians, the British-Malaysian actor isn’t sure if he’ll ever eclipse his meteoric success in the box-office hit.  


“I don’t know how I’m going to top this year. It’s all downhill from here,” he told The Associated Press recently, with a twinge of sarcasm.  


Even Golding knows that viewers are clamoring for more of the 31-year-old actor, who starred in his first-ever movie role as the suave, Oxford-educated heir Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians, the romantic comedy that spent three weeks at the top of the North American box office and grossed more than $173 million in North America alone.  


It was the first Hollywood film to have a predominantly Asian-American cast since The Joy Luck Club, which debuted 25 years ago.  


Golding had a sense the movie would resonate with audiences when filming it because it “was an amazing work of art.” But it wasn’t until after the movie’s release that he was able to measure its impact on viewers.  


“That’s when I started getting messages. People were coming up to me saying, ‘The movie is amazing,’ ‘You guys did such a fantastic job,’ ‘It means so much to me to see our faces portrayed on the big screen,’ ” he said. “For me, it was wild.”    

For Golding, his rise has certainly been pretty wild since director Jon M. Chu chose him to star in Crazy Rich Asians without any movie appearances. Golding had primarily worked as a television host for shows on BBC, Discovery Channel Asia and ESPN Asia networks.  


Now, Golding is on the fast track as others are seeing the potential in him. After Crazy Rich Asians, he took on a much darker role in Paul Feig’s thriller A Simple Favor starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick.  


Next, Golding will be playing a gay British-Vietnamese man who travels to his birth country in Vietnam to scatter the ashes of his parents in the film Monsoon, expected to be released in 2019. He’ll also star in Guy Ritchie’s Toff Guys with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Beckinsale.  


Golding said his recent projects have given him more confidence. He’s been putting in extra work through acting classes to hone his skills.  


“If you’re looking for longevity, you have to be a hard worker,” he said. “You have to put in the due diligence. You’ve got to be that people person. Essentially you become a commodity. You need to be that showman. … It’s a long road, but I’m getting to that point.” 

by MediaExpert

New Golden Globes Honor Will Be Named After Carol Burnett

The Golden Globe Awards will introduce a new TV special achievement trophy at next month’s telecast and name it after its first recipient — comedic icon Carol Burnett.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association said Tuesday the Carol Burnett Award — the small-screen version of the group’s film counterpart, the Cecil B. DeMille Award — will annually honor someone “who has made outstanding contributions to television on or off the screen.”

The first Carol Burnett Award will, fittingly, go to Burnett, a five-time Golden Globe winner who was the first woman to host a variety sketch show, “The Carol Burnett Show.”

In a statement, association President Meher Tatna said: “We are profoundly grateful for her contributions to the entertainment industry and honored to celebrate her legacy forever at the Golden Globes.”

by MediaExpert

Egypt Probes Images of Naked Couple Atop Pyramid

Egyptian authorities have launched an investigation into images said to show a naked couple who scaled the Great Pyramid that has sparked outrage in the conservative Muslim country, an official said Tuesday.

In a video titled “Climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza”, Danish photographer Andreas Hvid appears to scale the 4,500-year-old tomb on the outskirts of Cairo at night with an unidentified woman who is later seen taking off her top.

Hvid says the video was taken in late November but it was published on YouTube on December 8.

A photograph released by Hvid appears to show the couple completely naked on top of each other while looking in the direction of a nearby pyramid with the horizon illuminated.

“The public prosecution is investigating the incident of the Danish photographer and the authenticity of the photos and video of him climbing the pyramid,” Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme antiquities council, told AFP.

If the video was actually filmed at the top of the pyramid, that would make it a “very serious crime”, Waziri said.

The nearly three-minute video has taken social media by storm and has been the subject of late night talk shows. It has notched up almost three million views on YouTube alone.

“A 7,000-year-old civilization has turned into a bed sheet,” a Twitter user in Egypt lamented.

Another protested that “they want to soil the dignity and pride of Egyptians because the pyramid reflects the glory and grandeur of the Egyptian people”.

The authenticity of the images has been disputed with some arguing the photograph showing the pair naked appears to be very bright whereas the video showed them scaling the pyramid at night.

Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told government newspaper Al-Ahram that the video has stirred “anger and outrage among Egyptians”, and that officials in charge of guarding the pyramids would be punished if found to have been negligent.

Hvid, 23, explained back home to the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that he had “dreamed for many years of climbing the Great Pyramid” as well as of taking a naked photograph.

“I’m sad that so many people have got angry but I’ve also received a lot of positive responses from many Egyptians,” he said in an interview.

The young Norwegian, who runs his own YouTube channel, said he had absolutely no interest in stirring up a crisis such as that triggered by cartoons in Western newspapers of the Prophet Muhammad.

As for the girl in the video, she was not his girlfriend. “It was just a pose. We did not have sexual relations,” Hvid said.

The Great Pyramid, also known as the Khufu pyramid, is the largest in Giza, standing at 146 meters (480 feet) tall, and the only surviving structure of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

Climbing pyramids is forbidden in Egypt.

In 2016, a German tourist was barred from entering the country for life after he posted online footage of climbing one of the ancient structures.

by MediaExpert

Slain Saudi Writer, Other Journalists Named Time’s ‘Person of the Year’

Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi is among a group of journalists who were named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” Tuesday.

The publication recognizes a person or a group of people who most influenced the news and world affairs over the past year “for better or for worse.”

Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal announced on NBC’s “Today” show the 2018 person of the year are the “guardians and the war on truth.”

In addition to Khashoggi, the other “guardians” are the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five members were killed in a mass shooting at the newspaper’s offices in June.

Also honored were Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, who was arrested on tax evasion charges, and Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been imprisoned in Myanmar for nearly a year.

The magazine cited Committee to Protect Journalists statistics, noting 262 reporters were imprisoned in 2017 and that the group expects the number to be high again this year.

Editor-at-Large Karl Vick wrote, “This ought to be a time when democracy leaps forward,” but “Instead, it’s in retreat.”

While “old-school despots” favored censorship decades after the Cold War, Vick wrote, the modern despot “foments mistrust of credible fact” and “thrives on confusion loosed by social media.”

Vick went on to say, “That world is led, in some ways, by a U.S. President whose embrace of despots and attacks on the press has set a troubling tone.”

On social media and at campaign rallies, President Donald Trump has regularly accused the media of being “the enemy of the people.”

by MediaExpert

Researchers Announce Items That Survived Brazil Museum Fire

Researchers from Brazil’s National Museum say that they have recovered more than 1,500 pieces from the debris of a massive fire. 

The items found include Brazilian indigenous arrows, a Peruvian vase and a pre-Colombian funeral urn. 

In October, researchers recovered skull fragments and a part of the femur belonging to “Luzia,” the name scientist gave to a woman who lived 11,500 years ago. 

The progress was announced Monday morning, along with details of a $205,000 donation from the German government for conservation equipment. 

The museum in Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s oldest. It housed more than 20 million pieces before being gutted by a massive fire on Sept. 2. 

Authorities have yet to say how the fire started. 

by MediaExpert

Editorial Cartoons Pack Powerful Messages

Editorial cartoons — also known as political cartoons — have been around as long as there’s been political discourse and dissent. 

In the U.S., they’re a vibrant part of American culture and history, and no matter how controversial, are protected as free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the late Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist Doug Marlette described them as “the acid test of the First Amendment.” 

An unusual calling

Matt Wuerker is a staff cartoonist for Politico, an American political journalism company based just outside the nation’s capital. 

He says it’s an unusual job.

“We’re a strange mix of things in that we are making serious commentary on serious topics, but we’re doing it not so seriously,” he says. “We like to see ourselves as opinion columnists that you’d see in a newspaper or somebody on TV who’s offering their opinion… and we get to draw our opinions with silly pictures!”

The Pulitzer-Prize winning cartoonist says the main advantage of a political cartoon is being able to communicate an opinion very quickly. 

“I can draw a picture and put in a little word bubble and you can read it in about four seconds and you get it,” he says. “So it’s a very interesting vehicle for expressing an opinion if you do it right.”

“It has to hit you in the face kind of hard and fast and you know it when you’ve been hit.”

A good example of that is his popular Thanksgiving cartoon where he shows a family gathered around the dinner table about to partake in the much-revered Thanksgiving meal. While Mother brings the turkey to the table, family members are shown immersed in their mobile phones instead of paying attention to this time-honored ritual.

He was inspired by a popular painting by American artist Norman Rockwell who painted idyllic scenes reflecting American culture. 

While Wuerker created the cartoon for an American audience, its message is universal; a striking example of how technology is disrupting such simple rituals as meal time.

A variety of styles

Wuerker’s cartoons are very ornate and detailed and painted in a variety of colors. But he’s a bit envious of other cartoonists he says, who can express themselves with a simple line drawing. They can “make the statement with very little drawing and it can be just as effective, if not maybe more effective,” he says.

The format of cartoons has evolved, he says.

“When I started 40 years ago doing cartoons, an editorial cartoon was a black-and-white single-panel cartoon in a newspaper. And now cartoons can be color, they can be animated, they can be graphic novels that are political.”

Like the 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning work by journalist Jake Halpern and illustrator Michael Sloan currently on display at the Newseum in Washington. 

“They did something quite extraordinary,” says Patty Rhule, Vice President of Exhibits at the Newseum. “They did a 20-part series in the New York Times following the story of two Syrian immigrants who fled the war in Syria to come to this country and start a new life with their families.”

It marked the newspaper’s first Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

Rhule says editorial cartoons “bring faces and art to current events and tell stories in a way that journalists who are reporting strict facts can’t always do,” adding that the graphic novel format the two journalists used “takes cartooning to a whole new level; they add a note of commentary on what is happening in the world.”

Editorial cartoons have always been an important part of American culture, she adds.

“Since the beginning of this country, editorial cartoons have been framing issues and framing debate — from Ben Franklin’s Live Free or Die [Join, or Die], the segmented snake that rallied the 13 colonies together. So it’s always been a part of this country and the world’s way of freely expressing ideas and debate, and so I hope they never go away.”

Cartoon backlash 

But free expression sometimes comes at a heavy price. 

In 2015, Islamic terrorists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine, after it published unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Twelve people were killed in the attack, including several prominent cartoonists.

“And within their [Islamic] culture they are certainly entitled to be offended, but they’re not entitled to decide that they’re going to go to Paris and kill the people who created that cartoon that was really intended for a French audience,” Wuerker says.

He has great respect, he says, for cartoonists who keep working despite the dangers.

“In the course of my career I’ve gotten to know a lot of cartoonists from different parts of the world, and the ones that really impress me are the ones that keep drawing despite having to live with constant threats all the time.” 

“Many cartoonists have had to flee their country because they were brave enough to take on regimes or political figures that don’t understand that a free press is a salutary thing,” he adds.

He hopes that in these troubled times, people will appreciate cartoons for what they are.

“The times have become so vitriolic and people are so quick to anger. I think the good kind of political cartooning is something that slips in a really good political point with a certain amount of good humor and wit that people will process and hopefully won’t make them angry but will make them think.”

by MediaExpert

One House, Many Voices: Art Depicting the Best of US

Three hundred local artists in the Washington DC area came together to showcase the American values using their visual art skills. The installation art they created featuring immigration stories makes a powerful visual statement that diversity is the strength of the US. VOA’s June Soh visited the One House Project exhibit at the BlackRock art center outside the capital.

by MediaExpert

Transgender Boxer Wins First Professional Fight

A 33-year-old boxer entered the history books Saturday.

Pat Manuel is the first transgender male to fight professionally in the United States.

In a unanimous decision, Manuel was declared the winner in a fight against Mexican super-featherweight Hugo Aguilar in Indio, California.

“I’m a professional boxer now,” Manuel told the Los Angeles Times.

Saturday was not Manuel’s first foray into the boxing ring, however.

Olympic trials

He competed as a female in the 2012 Olympic trials for the London Games. A shoulder injury after just one fight dashed his Olympic dreams of competing in the first Olympic boxing tournament for women.

The end of one dream allowed him to pursue another dream he had held even longer — transitioning from a female to a male.

After months of hormone replacements and surgery, Manuel was ready to enter the ring again, but this time as a male.

California boxing authorities were not sure about issuing Manuel a boxing license. That all changed, however, when the International Olympic Committee ruled before the 2016 Rio Games that female-to-male transgender athletes could compete “without restriction.”

California license

California issued Manuel a license.

Aguilar, Manuel’s opponent Saturday, learned only two days before the fight about Manuel’s transition.

“It doesn’t change anything for me,” Aguilar said. “In the ring, he wants to win and I want to win, too.”

by MediaExpert

IOC Eases Off Support for Electronic Gaming as Olympic Event 

The International Olympic Committee has slowed its support for recognizing electronic gaming as a sport. 


After an Olympic leaders’ meeting on Saturday, the IOC said “discussion about the inclusion of esports/egames as a medal event on the Olympic program is premature.” 


Enthusiasm has seemed to dim since the IOC hosted a July conference with esports organizers and players. 


Sports bodies are now advised to “continue to engage with this [gaming] community, whilst at the same time acknowledging that uncertainties remain.” 


The IOC rules out cooperation with violent games, and suggests virtual and augmented reality could become more popular with young people. 


“Commercially driven” gaming was also compared unfavorably with “values-based” sports. 


The IOC said governing bodies would continue meeting gaming industry officials “to explore jointly collaborative projects.”  

by MediaExpert

Rome Opera Hires Gatti, Who Lost Job Over #metoo Allegations

Rome’s opera house on Friday defended hiring conductor Daniele Gatti, who was fired by an Amsterdam-based orchestra last summer over sexual misconduct allegations.

Teatro dell’Opera di Roma spokesman Renato Bossa said that the theater signed Gatti this week to a contract running through December 2021 as musical director because, in a country with “rule of law, one is innocent until a trial proves otherwise.” Still, Bossa termed the allegations “certainly very grave.”  

Gatti has denied the allegations that triggered his firing by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Conducts Rome opera season premiere

He conducted the Rome opera house’s season premiere, Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” earlier this week, the third straight year he has led the theater’s season opener. 

The Rome opera theater quoted Gatti as saying about his new role: “I am particularly happy to be able to intensify my work here and link myself to a theater that has recently distinguished itself for the outstanding quality of its projects and the work of all the people involved in realizing them.”

But the theater announced the 57-year-old maestro had to skip Thursday’s performance due to a heart arrhythmia. Playing a role in the health setback could also have been “the strong emotions” Gatti felt when the theater announced the signing to the audience on Tuesday, Bossa said.

He added that Gatti was feeling better and would conduct the orchestra, in the same Giuseppe Verdi work, on Sunday.

Gatti has ‘health problems’

But separately, Gatti’s personal spokesman, Paolo Cairoli, said that the conductor “due to health problems” was canceling several 2019 engagements in Germany as a precaution.

Engagements being scrapped include those with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig on Feb. 21 and 22, and staged performances of Verdi’s “Otello” with the Berlin Philharmonic at Baden-Baden in April followed by concert versions at Berlin’s Philharmonie, along with a concert leading the German National Youth Orchestra.

“Maestro Gatti expresses all his regret and looks forward to future collaborations with all musical institutions involved,” Cairoli said in a statement.

The Berlin Philharmonic announced that Zubin Mehta will replace Gatti for the “Otello” performances.

Hiring to boost profile

For several years, the Rome institution has been intent on improving its profile in a country where Milan’s La Scala reigns supreme in the opera world. The theater suffered a hard blow a few years ago when conductor Riccardo Muti, weary of union disputes, abruptly ended his collaboration with Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. 

The theater’s top executive, Carlo Fuortes said that hiring Gatti “will complete our plan to revive the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.” 

Fuortes lauded Gatti’s “extraordinary artistic career” as well as the “reciprocal establishment of trust he has nurtured with the orchestra and the chorus.”

Earlier this year, the Concertgebouw said ended its affiliation with Gatti as chief conductor in the wake of a Washington Post story in which the conductor was “accused of inappropriate behavior.” It also cited reports from women who came forward after the article’s publication. The orchestra said the developments “irreparably damaged the relationship of trust between the orchestra and the chief conductor.”

‘Smear campaign’

Gatti’s lawyer denounced the allegations as a “smear campaign” and said the maestro had asked his lawyers to “protect his reputation.” Gatti had become the Dutch orchestra’s chief conductor at the start of the 2016-2017 season.

The Milan-born Gatti has in the past been principal conductor of Rome’s Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and chief conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Gatti was the third important conductor in the past year to lose his job over allegations of inappropriate behavior. 

Charles Dutoit resigned as artistic director and principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic after The Associated Press late last year reported sexual assault allegations against him.

James Levine, music director emeritus of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, was fired after the company said an investigation had found evidence of sexual abuse and harassment. Both men denied any improper behavior.

by MediaExpert

Egyptian Actress Questioned Over Revealing Dress at Gala

It’s a dress that has shaken Egypt and the uproar continues — prosecutors on Wednesday questioned actress Rania Youssef for at least four hours on accusations of public obscenity over a revealing dress she wore to a cinema gala last week, her lawyer said.

Youssef was allowed to go free after the questioning, pending the completion of the investigation, said the lawyer, Shaban Said.

But he added that she still faces trial on Jan. 12, a date set by court, and could face up to five years in prison, if convicted.

The initial complaint against the 45-year-old Youssef was filed by a group of lawyers with a reputation for moral vigilantism but they said they withdrew their complaint Tuesday.

The lawyers, Wahid al-Kilani, Hamido Jameel al-Prince, Amr Abdel Salam and Samir Sabry, said they decided to forego legal action after Youssef made a public statement.

Though she stopped short of an outright apology, Youssef said she did not mean to offend anyone with her long black dress, its see-through skirt revealing her legs in their entirety. She wore the dress last Thursday for the closing ceremony of this year’s Cairo International Film Festival.

Images of Youssef in the dress were widely shared on social media in Muslim-majority Egypt, where ostensibly secular authorities often side with religious conservatives.

Her case prompted the country’s Actors Guild to declare it intended to investigate and discipline actors who wore “inappropriate” attire during the opening and closing ceremonies of the weeklong film festival, arguing that they clashed with “traditions, values and ethics of the society.”

A guild representative, Ayman Azab, attended Wednesday’s questioning, Youssef’s lawyer said.

Youssef said in a Facebook post that she may have misjudged how people would react to the dress.

“If I had known, I would not have worn this dress,” she said. “I want to repeat my commitment to the values and ethics we have been raised by in Egyptian society.”