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How Meryl Streep’s Speech Became Golden For Journalists As HFPA Dishes Out Annual Grants

Pete Hammond

8/3/2017 12:00:00 AM

You can always tell when the marathon movie awards season is approaching. Talk of movies going to Toronto, Telluride and Venice starts accelerating, campaign consultants start asking me what upcoming fall release contenders I may somehow have already managed to get an early look at, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has its annual dinner to hand out lots of money for worthy endeavors at their official Grants Banquet.

True to form it was held last night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and according to brand new HFPA president Meher Tatna, this year more than $2.8 million in donations to a total of 55 institutions of one sort or another was dispersed. Most notably this time around, one of the recipients of a $200,000 grant came directly from a suggestion made in a Golden Globes speech in January: Meryl Streep, in accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, urged the HFPA to support the Committee to Protect Journalists, a natural fit considering the makeup of the organization.

Tatna said Streep’s speech (which got lots of attention coming as it did just days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, a prime target of her remarks) inspired her and the group. Now it has put its money where its mouth is, a fitting and generous gesture as the HFPA celebrates 75 years and its Diamond Anniversary this year.

There was less talk about Trump at this event than at the Globes or most other awards gatherings this past season, but host Chelsea Handler did get a great zinger in at the beginning of the presentation. “Tonight we celebrate the three things Donald Trump hates the most: foreigners, the press, and actually donating money to charity,” she said to big laughs from the crowd, which was filled with representatives of the many organizations winning grants from the cash rich HFPA, publicists eager to curry early favor in the upcoming season from the many Globe voters all in one room, and a celebrity lineup of presenters and accepters who may also just coincidentally have a movie or TV show that could be a Golden Globe contender.

Among the latter were Armie Hammer, Bob Odenkirk, Chrissy Metz, Anthony Mackie, Elisabeth Moss, Matt Bomer, Patrick Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Chadwick Boseman, Kathryn Hahn, Ava DuVernay, Kumail Nanjiani and Dustin Hoffman to name a few. Hoffman accepted the annual check (this year, $350,000) for Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, which over the years has been the beneficiary of millions of dollars toward film preservation and restoration from the HPFA. That gift was preceded by a filmed message from Scorsese himself.

In addition to restoring more than 90 films, HFPA grants have committed nearly $30 million since this practice was started in 1989, and more that 1500 scholarships. Additionally at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the org donated a cool $500,000 to the International Rescue Committee.

Among the many who benefit this year, DuVernay accepted a grant on behalf of The American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop For Women, while Hahn and Nanjiani welcomed a new grant this year for the Los Angeles LGBT Center and its Outset: Young Filmmakers project promoting at-risk LGBTQ youth with hands-on filmmaking experience. Another $10,000 grant went to helping Veterans in Film & Television, a worthy endeavor that gives support to military vets breaking into the film business after their (in many cases) numerous tours of duty.

Entertainment was provided by Keala Settle, singing a powerhouse rendition of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love Of All.” Settle, nominated for a Tony last year for her supporting role in Waitress, could be headed for Globe and/or Oscar recognition for her first big film role as the Bearded Lady in the 20th Century Fox holiday release The Greatest Showman which stars Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum. As noted in my coverage of Fox’s presentation at CinemaCon in March, Jackman was effusive in praise of Settle. Certainly her performance last night won’t hurt in continuing the buzz for the as-yet unseen film musical. I am told she has a Jennifer Hudson Dreamgirls-style show-stopper from the film musical’s score by Oscar and Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Among executives in the crowd at the Beverly Wilshire was Fox chairman Stacey Snider, who seems to be holding a hot hand this awards season with numerous Oscar possibilities — hopefully including the summer hit War For The Planet Of The Apeswhich is truly epic and thought-provoking. Fox is taking their survival drama The Mountain Between Us starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba to Toronto.

Among other execs I saw were NBC’s Robert Greenblatt (still thrilled over Dear Evan Hansen’s Tony win, as well as all those Emmy nominations for This Is Us); Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg, who was praising its Thurgood Marshall drama Marshallstarring Boseman; Reigning Best Picture champ (Moonlight) A24’s  David Fenkel and Daniel Katz , both understandably excited to be releasing their Cannes pickup The Florida Project, a real discovery of a movie; and  Lionsgate’s Patrick Wachsberger who has Jake Gyllenhaal in TIFF World Premiere Stronger, and Julia Roberts November release Wonder in the mix.

And so another season is knocking at the door.

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Meet Martin Scorsese’s partner in saving African cinema

DAVE MCGINN

7/27/2017 12:00:00 AM

Aboubakar Sanogo spent years trying to track down a copy of Soleil O, one of the most important African films ever made.

"There is before and after Soleil O in the history of African cinema," said Sanogo, an assistant professor of film studies at Carleton University in Ottawa.

The movie, the directorial debut of Med Hondo, about an immigrant who moves to Paris in search of a better life, only to encounter racism and humiliation, has popped up in theatres here and there over the years, but never received wide distribution after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1970. Imagine not being able to find a print of Mean Streets. This isn't just the sad state of Soleil O, but of much of African cinema itself, Sanogo said.

It's why he's so excited about his latest undertaking, the African Film Heritage Project, launched in partnership with Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation World Cinema Project and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The goal of the initiative will be to not only preserve and restore African cinema, but to help raise awareness of African films by getting them shown in theatres and at film festivals around the world.

"Preservation is only half the battle," Sanogo said. "The real battle is: Get it seen."

Scorsese's involvement in the project is a personal dream come true for Sanogo, who counts the director among his favourite filmmakers. But more importantly, it gives the project a profile it might otherwise lack.

"He's a Hollywood filmmaker, yet he's acutely aware that Hollywood is simply not enough, that our experience of the world is incomplete if we only see films that Hollywood offers us," Sanogo said.

Scorsese's World Cinema Project, which aims to preserve and restore neglected films, has restored, preserved and exhibited 31 films from around the globe, including Africa, since its launch in 2007.

Hollywood's offerings are so well promoted and vastly distributed that they often push other movies from our sites, intentionally or not, which has certainly been true of African cinema, Sanogo said.

"It has been marginalized precisely because the screens of Africa and the screens of the world are dominated by the cinema of one country primarily," he said.

It's an unfortunate state of affairs for all, regardless of where they come from or call home, Sanogo said.

"The world is not complete if it does not have the African lens to it," he said. "It is a truism that the world was born in Africa. And therefore, to know Africa is to know oneself."

But, he cautioned, "It's important that people don't keep in mind only the historical aspect, but Africa as it moves, as it lives today."

There is a rich tradition of documentaries and experimental and feature films made in Africa, as well as films that date back as far as the early 1900s, but unfortunately many of them are hard to find or are in poor condition, Sanogo said. Just visit the archives in many African countries and you'll see for yourself, he added.

"It brings tears to your eyes."

While it is important to preserve these films and show them to a global audience, it is profoundly necessary to make them available to Africans themselves, Sanogo said.

"The act of seeing oneself on screen is an affirmative act," he said, adding that when we see ourselves on screen, we are able to recognize so much about our lives. "This is the beauty of the culture, this is the beauty of the way we have invented to the world – in our own manner, in our own language, in our own cuisine, in our own music – our own stories, our own institutions, our own ways of being together. That is what cinema does that really makes it a life-affirming medium."

Sanogo was finally able to watch Soleil O after meeting Med Hondo in person.

The African Film Heritage Project has already made it easier for others to see the film. Thanks to the efforts of the project, Soleil O screened in the Cannes Classics section of the famed film festival earlier this year, and then was exhibited at a film festival in Italy last month.

Fighting Hollywood is certainly no easy task, but like every struggle for equality, it is one that benefits us all, Sanogo said. "If all cinematic traditions were treated equally, if the distribution processes and institutions were open to all cinema, the world itself would be much richer."

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Shine a Light: Scorsese’s Film Foundation Leads a Charge to Preserve 50 Endangered Gems of Africa’s Cinema History

Ryan Stewart

7/21/2017 12:00:00 AM

Having touched on the rich cultural heritage of West Africa with “Feel Like Going Home,” an episode in his 2003 documentary series The Blues, which explored the African roots of the Delta blues, Martin Scorsese had another fortuitous opportunity to engage with the continent’s artistic offerings in 2007.

That year, he was invited to Mali by Souleymane Cissé, a celebrated Malian director who shared with him the joys of African cinema, as well as its struggles.

“Cissé was very urgent in expressing the need for African cinema to be preserved,” said Margaret Bodde, executive director of Scorsese’s preservation-focused nonprofit organization, The Film Foundation. “The great flowering of African cinema of the 1960s and ’70s has not really been available where the films were made. So we’ve always had it on our minds to try to tackle this issue.”

The right circumstances were ultimately initiated by FEPACI, or The Pan African Federation of Filmmakers, an organization formed in 1969 in North Africa to be a continent-wide (and diaspora) voice for promoting African cinema interests. Concerned with the urgent need to preserve African film heritage, FEPACI developed an idea for a program to identify and select 50 films across the continent for preservation. They also began having discussions with The Film Foundation about joining the effort.

“From that point on it became clear that this was a world heritage cultural patrimony issue, so we sent a proposal in to UNESCO,” said Bodde. UNESCO—the Paris-based agency of the United Nations dedicated to cultural, educational and scientific endeavors—responded two months later.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova explained: “Protecting African audiovisual heritage is inseparable from the safeguarding of African cultural and natural wonders. It is a source of pride and dignity. It is a driver of social cohesion and belonging. It is also an accelerator for economic growth, job creation and revenue generation. Films shape our opinions and the way we see the world. They give confidence and courage to transform societies for the better.” Bokova sees the project as “a source of enrichment for humankind.”

A letter of agreement between the entities was formalized on June 7, 2017, with the creation of the African Film Heritage Project initiative.

Going forward, the partners will rely on the expertise of a FEPACI advisory board of archivists, filmmakers and scholars tasked with seeking out the initial 50 films. The alliance already has a success under its belt that predates the letter of agreement, with the restoration of celebrated Mauritanian director Med Hondo’s 1969 drama Soleil O (Oh, Sun). A critique of neocolonialism, the film was shot over a period of four years and tells the story of an African immigrant’s journey to Paris to find his ancestors.

The film’s restoration took place at the L’Immagine Ritrovata lab in Bologna, Italy and was financed by The Film Foundation and the George Lucas Family Foundation, with the work being completed in time for a screening at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Having seen the film, Bodde describes it as “a film of righteous anger…poignant and heartbreaking.”

“The partnership with the Film Foundation will help further increase the visibility of Soleil O, not only in Africa but across the world,” said Aboubakar Sanogo, North American Regional Secretary for FEPACI. “This film more than ever contributes to bringing us together in a world where misunderstanding among peoples is increasing.”

Sanogo also stressed that an overarching goal of the partnership will be bringing the film heritage of Africa to Africans themselves. “One of the objectives [of FEPACI] is always to have a conversation with African audiences through the cinema,” Sanogo said. “That conversation before was made difficult by the fact that African screens were occupied by Hollywood, Bollywood, Hong Kong films and European films. Part of this partnership is about putting these films back into the circuit in Africa itself.”

The films selected for preservation will include narrative features, documentaries, avant-garde works, shorts and newsreels and will be broad enough in their temporality to paint a multifaceted portrait of a 20th-century Africa both independent and under colonization. By confining its selection timeframe to the hundred year period from 1889 to 1989, the partnership hopes to reconstitute, in the words of Sanogo, “a really credible history of African cinema.”

“We have to go far back to be able to reconstitute the complexity of the narrative of African cinema, and resituate it properly in the general history of cinema itself,” Sanogo said. “Those who write the history of cinema tend to begin African cinema history with independence in the late 1950s and early ’60s, but even in colonial times and around the time of the Lumières, Africans were making films.” MM

Photograph: (L-R) African Film Festival director Mahen Bonetti, FEPACI’s Aboubakar Sanogo, Martin Scorsese, UNESCO’s Irina Bokova and New York University associate professor Yemane Demissie launch the African Film Heritage Project. Photograph by Dave Alloca/ Starpix / Courtesy of The Film Foundation

This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Summer 2017 issue.

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American Director Leads Project to Protect African Films

7/20/2017 12:00:00 AM

American filmmaker Martin Scorsese is supporting an international project to preserve African movies.

It is called the African Film Heritage Project. Its goal is to protect the work of Africa's most important directors, and restore some of the films.

The Film Foundation, a nonprofit launched by Scorsese, created the project. According to Scorsese, its goals are similar to the Film Foundation’s World CinemaProject.

"The idea of the world cinema foundation was to restore and make available as best as possible films made in areas that really don't have the infrastructure, the archivalinfrastructure to take care of these films and take care of that cultural heritage."

The project will locate, restore, and preserve these films. Many important films from the continent are difficult to find, especially for the average movie viewer.

The Film Foundation is partnering with the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI) and UNESCO in this project.

FEPACI’s advisory board is identifying 50 films for restoration. The board is made up of archivists, scholars, and filmmakers who are active in Africa. Scorsese says the films are a hidden part of the continent's history.

"Those films were made by Africans, about Africans for Africans, for the world and it is time to take that as another facet of the culture. The creative thinking, the creative action of the entire continent."

Director Yemani Demissie teaches filmmaking at New York University. He says:

"Many African films that were made in the previous century don't have the opportunity to be screened by filmmakers all over the world.”

Demissie adds that this project will allow a wider audience to see these films.

Irina Bokova is UNESCO director-general. She says the project will “give justice to the African history” and encourage creativity among young filmmakers.

Scorsese agrees:

“I think it is something that could be very fruitful, for young people who are beginning to make their own films or are making their own films."

In the past ten years, Scorsese's World Cinema Project has helped restore films from Egypt and Senegal as well as from India, Armenia, Brazil, and the Philippines.

I’m Phil Dierking.

 

Arzouma Kompaore reported this story for VOA News. Phil Dierking adapted the report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Are there important films from your country that you think everyone should see? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

 

archive - n. a place in which public records or historical materials are kept​

cinema - n. the film industry​

fruitful - adj. producing a good result​

infrastructure - n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly​

preserve - v. to keep (something) in its original state or in good condition​

restore - v. to return (something) to an earlier or original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc.​

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