'Persepolis' Broadcast: Tunisian Television Station President Apologizes to Offended Muslims
Three days ago a group of 200 Fundamentalist Muslims protested outside the headquarters of a television station in Tunis for showing Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi's Academy Award-nominated animated feature Persepolis. What irked the crowd was that Persepolis features an image of God, while Islam forbids all such depictions.
“Arab Spring” or no, Nessma TV Nebil Karoui has apologized for the broadcast, saying “I believe that to have broadcast this sequence was a mistake. We never had the intention of attacking sacred values.”
Of course, whether the vast majority of Tunisians gives a damn whenever God is portrayed in a film is something else altogether. In fact, after apologizing Karoui himself added he “never imagined that this would elicit such an outcry. This film has already been shown in its entirety in several cinemas in Tunisia and never elicited such agitation.”
But Tunisia is getting ready for its historic Constituent Assembly elections two weeks from now, and perhaps the anti-Persepolis outcry was one way for a relatively small but well-organized group of radical Muslims to put on a little power display. Not coincidentally, one of the possible tenets of Tunisia's new constitution is “whether a separation of religion and state becomes law.”
And before anyone starts blaming Muslims in general for attempts at cultural censorship, bear in mind that radical Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc. – at times abetted by their politically correct counterparts – can be just as vociferous and, if allowed to have their way, just as dangerous.
Persepolis picture: Sony Pictures Classics
Iranian Actress Marzieh Vafamehr Freed; Other Filmmakers Less Lucky
Marzieh Vafamehr, the Iranian actress sentenced to one year in jail and 90 lashes for taking part in Granaz Moussavi's 2009 Australian drama My Tehran for Sale, was released on Monday night (Oct. 24). According to Amnesty International, an appeals court reduced Vafamehr's jail time to three months and overturned the flogging sentence.
In My Tehran for Sale, Vafamehr is shown in one scene without the head-covering scarf. In another, she “appears to drink alcohol.”
Despite the good news regarding Vafamehr, Iran's filmmakers continue to be persecuted by that country's rabid Islamic regime. On September 17, documentary directors Hadi Afarideh, Naser Saffarian, Mohsen Shahrnazdar, and producer and distributor Katayoun Shahabi were arrested for having allegedly sold their films to several broadcasters, including the BBC. As per Amnesty International, the first three were released on bail, but Shahabi remains in custody. Amnesty adds that director Mehran Zinatbakhsh “is also believed to have been arrested in September and is being held in Evin Prison. The exact charges against him are not known.”
Another documentary filmmaker behind bars is Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who was also arrested on September 17 for his role in the Jafar Panahi documentary This is Not a Film, which will be screened at this year's AFI FEST in Los Angeles. Panahi, along with filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment last December after being convicted of “acting against state security” and “propaganda against the system.” Both filmmakers were also banned from traveling abroad and talking to domestic or international media.
An appeals court has upheld Panahi's sentence, though Rasoulof's was reduced to one year; a travel ban against him was lifted in May 2011. According to Amnesty, both Panahi and Rasoulof remain free awaiting the implementation of their sentences.
Iranian Actress Marzieh Vafamehr Sentenced to 90 Lashes, One Year in Prison
Oct. 11: Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr, the wife of veteran filmmaker Nasser Taghvai, has been sentenced to 90 lashes and a year in prison for appearing without a headscarf in Granaz Moussavi's 2009 drama My Tehran for Sale, reports Deadline.com. Imprisoned since July, Vafamehr's sentence was announced by the Iranian opposition website Kalameh.com.
Now, whether Iran's theocratic dictatorship has been set afire by Vafamehr's “immodesty” is debatable. After all, My Tehran for Sale sounds like a highly subversive film, featuring Iran's thriving underground society thumbing its nose at their rabidly religious leaders.
The Australian production company Cyan Film's synopsis of My Tehran for Sale reads:
Marzieh is a young female actress living in Tehran. The authorities ban her theatre work and, like all young people in Iran, she is forced to lead a secret life in order to express herself artistically. At an underground rave, she meets Iranian born Saman, now an Australian citizen, who offers her a way out of her country and the possibility of living without fear.
According to the producers, the film was not to have been shown in Iran. Bootlegged copies, however, have made the rounds in the country.
Liv Ullmann Returns to Film Acting in Drama/Thriller 'Two Lives'
German director Georg Maas' mix of family drama and political intrigue Zwei Leben / Two Lives, a rare German-Norwegian co-production, has received US$900,000 in grants from the German regional film fund Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, reports the Norwegian Film Institute. [Photo: Liv Ullmann.]
Two Lives is of particular interest because of its cast: Juliane Köhler, who was outstanding in the 1999 drama Aimee & Jaguar, and who also starred in the Oscar-nominated Downfall and the Oscar winner Nowhere in Africa (she'd also worked with Maas in the romantic drama New Found Land); Devid Striesow of Downfall, Yella, and the Oscar winner The Counterfeiters; and former Ingmar Bergman muse and two-time Best Actress Oscar nominee Liv Ullmann (The Emigrants, Face to Face), in her first major film role in nearly two decades.
Set in the early 1990s, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Two Lives revolves around a World War II orphan-turned-STASI spy, Katrine (Köhler, who is currently learning Norwegian for her role). Her shady past now behind her, Katrine lives in Bergen, where she is a successful photographer with a Norwegian husband and family. Needless to say, the past eventually catches up with her.
Two Lives was written by Maas, Christoph Tölle and Ståle Stein Berg. Also in the film's cast: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Rainer Bock, Sven Nordin, and Susanne Bormann.
The Two Lives budget, including funds from the Norwegian Film Institute, is expected to total $4.3 million. The film will be shot both in German's Nordrhein-Westfalen region and in Bergen, Norway.
As for Liv Ullmann, I should add that last year she returned to the Norwegian stage after a two-decade hiatus. Ullmann starred as Mary Tyrone in Riksteatret's touring version of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, in the role played by Katharine Hepburn in Sidney Lumet's 1962 film version. Ullmann will turn 73 next December 16.
Liv Ullmann photo: Erling Hægeland/Dagbladet
Israel-Set Documentaries 'Precious Life' & 'Strangers No More' screening
Two Israel-set documentaries, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon's Oscar-winning short subject Strangers No More and Shlomi Eldar's feature Precious Life (right), will screen as the next installment in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 30th annual “Contemporary Documentaries” series on Wednesday, October 19, at 7 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. Admission to all screenings in the series is free. The information below is from the Academy's press release:
… Strangers No More introduces the students from 48 countries attending the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, many of whom are refugees from war, as they learn to deal with the diversity of their new environment. The film received an Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject.
Precious Life tells the story of a Palestinian infant with a life-threatening immune disorder awaiting a bone marrow transplant in an Israeli hospital during the 2008–09 blockade of Gaza. As filmmaker Shlomi Eldar uses his influence to seek financial help for the family, the complexities of life in the volatile area give rise to troubling exchanges between Eldar and the baby's mother. The film was directed by Eldar and produced by Ehud Bleiberg and Yoav Ze'evi.
The 30th annual “Contemporary Documentaries” series continues through December 7, showcasing feature-length and short documentaries drawn from the 2010 Academy Award nominations, including the winners, as well as other important and innovative films considered by the Academy that year.
All films will screen at the Linwood Dunn Theater at the Academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., except for the IMAX presentation on December 7. Doors open at 6 p.m. All seating is unreserved. The filmmakers will be present at screenings whenever possible.
The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. Free parking is available through the entrance on Homewood Avenue (one block north of Fountain Avenue). For additional information, visit the Academy's website or call (310) 247-3600.
'The Hurt Locker' lawsuit dismissed
Kathryn Bigelow thanked a whole array of uniformed U.S. personnel when she accepted her Academy Award statuettes for Best Director and Best Picture for the Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker back in early 2010. Now, I can't recall her thanking Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver (photo).
Shortly before the 2010 Oscar ceremony, Sarver sued the Hurt Locker producers, including Bigelow and Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal, claiming that his deeds as a member of a bomb disposal unit in Iraq formed the basis for Boal's screenplay. Sarver also accused the filmmakers of presenting him in a false light, leading to his being ridiculed by his Iraq War peers.
Additionally, he declared in a sworn statement that the “defendants have essentially placed a bulls-eye on the back of my army uniform/bomb suit for my current and future deployments.” If that weren't all, Sarver said he coined the phrase “hurt locker.”
Today, however, Sarver has had his lawsuit dismissed by a U.S. federal judge. Sarver's lawyer says his client plans to appeal the decision, as they want a jury to decide on the matter. Reports on the dismissal of the lawsuit have quoted the judge's statement that The Hurt Locker's merits lie with the film's production team, even though that doesn't seem to have much to do with either Sarver's claims or his lawsuit.
Boal, for his part, has claimed that the character played by Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker is based on the experiences of several different soldiers.
Sarver statement quote: AP
Arturo Ripstein Rips San Sebastian Film Festival & Frances McDormand
Mexican filmmaker Arturo Ripstein isn't at all happy his film Las razones del corazón / The Reasons of the Heart failed to win the Golden Shell at the 2011 edition of the San Sebastian Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. As quoted in the Mexican publication La Jornada (via the Basque publication Vara), Ripstein has lashed out against the festival and its 2011 jury, with sharp barbs aimed straight at jury president Frances McDormand, and jury members Guillermo Arriaga and Alex de la Iglesia.
Ripstein, who'll turn 68 next December 13, asserts he'll never return to San Sebastian, as it's no longer a “serious” film festival. After calling the 2011 jury “very lamentable,” Ripstein referred to Frances McDormand as “an actress who has never left Pennsylvania.” (Not true: McDormand was born in Illinois and has visited Los Angeles at least once, when she won the Best Actress Oscar for Fargo back in early 1997.)
Ripstein then added that “the gringos never understand anything, they have never watched a film with subtitles. They can't read them.”
Guillermo Arriaga was next in line: “There was also a Mexican filmmaker; in other words, a personal enemy due to the fact that he's Mexican. Because megalomania is such that nothing else seems to exist; [it makes] the trash one writes look like gold. One can easily confound fame with kindness, but being famous and being kind may seem the same thing, but that isn't correct.”
As for Alex de la Iglesia, Ripstein said that he had beaten the Spanish filmmaker back in 2000, when Ripstein's La perdición de los hombres / The Ruination of Men won the Golden Shell. He then affirmed: “And that's something one doesn't forget.”
Wrapping it up, Ripstein dismissed the rest of the San Sebastian jury as consisting of “an unknown cinematographer [Sophie Maintigneux], un unknown Danish director [Bent Hamer], and two shoddy actresses [Bai Ling and Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo].
Isaki Lacuesta's Spanish drama Los pasos dobles / The Double Steps was this year's Golden Shell winner. Ripstein, who began his film career as an uncredited second-unit director in Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel, has taken home two Golden Shells: for Principio y fin / The Beginning and the End (1993), which tied with Dariush Mehrjui's Sara, and for the aforementioned The Ruination of Men (2000). Additionally, five of his movies have won Ariel Awards – Mexico's Oscars – for Best Picture.
“I'm very sorry about all this,” Ripstein concluded, “because it's a place I used to love. But I'll never go back.”
Disney to Release 'Beauty and the Beast' & 'Finding Nemo' in 3D
The Lion King 3D, a movie originally released in standard format back in 1994, has become the sleeper hit this early fall in North America. Whereas most new releases are bombing right and left, The Lion King 3D has brought in nearly $80 million domestically (it'll pass that mark today) and about $20 million internationally since its rerelease two-and-a-half weeks ago.
No one needed an MBA or facsimile to predict that Disney – and likely other studios – would be rereleasing old 2D movies converted to the 3D format. Next in line for Disney are Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and the Pixar titles Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc.
As per The Hollywood Reporter, Beauty and the Beast 3D begins its limited theatrical run next Jan. 13. Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and featuring the voices of Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Stiers, and Jerry Orbach, Beauty in the Beast became the first animated feature to receive a Best Picture Academy Award nomination back in early 1992.
Finding Nemo 3D will follow suit on Sept. 14 and Monsters, Inc. 3D on Jan. 18, 2013. The Little Mermaid 3D comes out on Sept. 13, 2013.
“Great stories and great characters are timeless, and at Disney we're fortunate to have a treasure trove of both,” Walt Disney Studios president Alan Bergman was quoted as saying. In other words: “If we can make a quick buck by recycling old stuff, we'll go for it.”
So, expect the chance to smell The Lion King's Musafa and all the fish swimming about in Finding Nemo if either Odorama or Smell-o-Vision ever catches on.
Beauty and the Beast picture: Walt Disney Studios.
Steve Jobs dies: Apple CEO
Apple honcho Steve Jobs died today after a long battle with cancer. He was 56.
While Apple was credited for revolutionizing personal computers and mobile devices, Jobs – and/or his subordinates – had a hand in the development of technology used in the Pixar movies. He is thanked in the credits of several of those, including Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. Jobs was also credited as executive producer of the original Toy Story.
In life, Jobs had a reputation for genius and creativity, arrogance and megalomania, in equal measure. Many of the Apple products were also highly criticized in some quarters for being user unfriendly. Additionally, some claimed they were popular merely because of Apple's brilliant marketing techniques, which made pricey iPods and iPads and iPhones must-have items whether or not people actually had any need for them.
In death, as per various reports and tweets, Jobs has been beatified as the man who – thanks to iPads, iPods, iPhones, Mac computers, and Pixar movies – more than any other changed the world in the last several decades.
Susan Sarandon & Michael Moore + Jane Fonda support Occupy Wall Street protesters
Susan Sarandon was one of several show business celebrities who personally visited with Occupy Wall Street protesters to lend them support.
“I don't know that much about Wall Street,” Sarandon was quoted as saying in The Associated Press, “but if I was running a business and I made that big of a mistake and lost that many people's future, I don't think I would get a bonus or even keep my job.”
That, of course, depends on how high up one is in any business, including the movie business.
Anyhow, the presence of people like Sarandon, her former companion Tim Robbins, Michael Moore, Penn Badgley, Mark Ruffalo, Roseanne Barr, Kanye West and Russell Simmons irks right-wingers who insist that if you're rich, you can't – in fact, you have no right to – strive for a just socioeconomic system. Unless, of course, you give all your money away and live in rags, begging for money in street corners.
Among other show business celebrities who aren't begging in street corners, but who believe in the Occupy Wall Street cause all the same, are Jane Fonda and Yoko Ono.