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Journalist Theo Padnos Recounts Years as Syrian Prisoner in Documentary “Theo Who Lived”

Director David Schisgall says Padnos' story is a rare eyewitness account of life inside a jihadi group by an outsider with a deep understanding of the region's language and culture

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In this photo taken Tuesday Aug. 30, 2016, Theo Padnos poses at the family's house in remote Reading, Vt. In 2012, journalist, Padnos slipped into Syria to cover its unfolding civil war and was promptly kidnapped by members of an al-Qaida branch. Image source: VOA

reelance journalist Theo Padnos in 2012 slipped into Syria to cover its unfolding civil war and was promptly kidnapped by members of an al-Qaida branch.

The group held the Massachusetts native for nearly two years before releasing him in August 2014 as they were convinced he was a CIA agent because he spoke Arabic.

Now, Padnos is retracing his journey in “Theo Who Lived,” a documentary being screened Sept. 30 in Cambridge. Its theatrical premiere is in New York City on Oct. 7, followed by a wider release.

Padnos, 47, who has been living in Paris and Vermont, tells the Associated Press he’s grateful to have survived.

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The ordeal not only changed his outlook on life but also gave him perspective on the Syrian conflict that he feels is important to share.

Padnos is working on a nonfiction book, a play and a novel drawing on his experience. He wrote about his captivity for the New York Times Magazine shortly after his release and is trying to continue writing about the region as a journalist.

” I had a real spiritual voyage, which was terrifying for me and my family at the time,” Padnos said from his family’s vacation home in Vermont. ” But looking back, this is what life gave me and I’d like to take what I learned and turn it into some positive benefit.”

The film follows Padnos as he returns to places in Turkey and Israel that figured prominently in his 22-month capture. The film crew never set foot in Syria. Padnos reflects on his captivity on sets emulating his tiny prison cell and the room where he was subjected to torture and beatings.

Along the Turkey-Syria border, he recalls the moment when his traveling companions instruct him to dash across the field and hop the razor wire fence separating them from Syria.

It’s a moment Padnos says he’d replay in his mind for months after.

The trio of men had claimed they were providing supplies to the Free Syrian Army and offered to take him across the border with them. But they were actually affiliated with al-Qaida. They staged a fake interview, beat him and took him hostage shortly after crossing the border.

” This is where I threw my life away. It’s like a precipice that I walked up to and I actually jumped,” Padnos says in the film. ” Now I’m back in a safe place and I’m thinking why did I ever jump?”

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Padnos also details a series of failed escapes, including one in which cellmate and American photojournalist Matthew Schrier managed to sneak out through a narrow prison window but Padnos could not.

Padnos’ mother, Nancy Curtis, who is interviewed in the documentary, says she still has mixed emotions about her son’s release. During the ordeal, she became close to the parents of other Americans kidnapped by extremists overseas. Many of them were not as fortunate as her family, she says.

Curtis and other family members, working with the U.S. and Qatari governments, successfully arranged for Padnos’ release just days after the Islamic State beheaded New Hampshire journalist James Foley in a video. The family maintains that no ransom was paid.

” I always clung to the hope that he’d come home,” Curtis said. ” But I also don’t feel great joy and happiness. Probably anyone who has had a solider in the war who came home but knows others that didn’t have similar emotions.”

Director David Schisgall says Padnos’ story is a rare eyewitness account of life inside a jihadi group by an outsider with a deep understanding of the region’s language and culture.

Having spent years prior studying Arabic and Islam in Yemen and Syria, Padnos was able to build trust and friendships with some of his captors.

Near the end of his captivity, he was given greater freedoms and even traveled personally with the then-high commander of al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate in Syria.

“The real intimacy he developed with his captors was remarkable,” Schisgall said. ” It’s a very important message for Americans to see these people fighting as complicated individuals who are both very dangerous but also very human.” (VOA)

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Filmmaker Rohit Shetty Does Not Believe in Showing Police Brutality in Films

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Rohit Shetty
Filmmaker Rohit Shetty says he does not believe in showing police brutality in his films. Wikimedia Commons

Filmmaker Rohit Shetty, who has created a Bollywood cop universe with films like the “Singham” series, “Simmba” and the upcoming “Sooryavanshi”, says he does not believe in showing police brutality in his films. This is the latest bollywood news.

Shetty’s assertion came at the trailer launch of his upcoming Akshay Kumar-Katrina Kaif starrer “Sooryavanshi”, when he was told that he is often accused of glorifying police brutality in his film, in terms of encounter killings and violence.

“Brutality in my films? I have never shown (police) brutality in my films. It’s a completely wrong question. You haven’t seen any of my films. You must have seen some other films,” Shetty said.

Rohit Shetty
“Sooryavanshi” is an upcoming action film directed by Rohit Shetty. Wikimedia Commons

Also present at the trailer launch were the film’s lead stars Akshay and Katrina, co-producer Karan Johar, along with Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh, who enact cameos in “Sooryavanshi” as Bajirao Singham and Sangram Bhalero, their avatars from the “Singham” films and “Simmba” respectively.

Akshay Kumar’s character was announced towards the end of Shetty’s 2018 directorial “Simmba”.

In “Sooryavanshi”, Akshay plays DCP Veer Sooryavanshi, who heads Anti-Terrorism Squad. Did the thought came across in his mind to make “Sooryavanshi” while he was shooting for ‘Simmba’? Shetty replied: “I didn’t think much about it. I knew it (‘Simmba’) will work and we will start another film on similar lines. I can show off by giving a long lecture on it but I felt that I should take this franchise forward and people will like it, so that’s how I made it.”

Asked if he took inputs from Maharashta Police while making “Sooryavanshi”, the filmmaker said: “We did a lot of research. Many police officers helped us while making this film, and we acknowledge their contribution in the opening credits. I feel like I have created a brand for cop films. We just need to tell them that we are shooting for a certain film and they are instantly ready to help us.

Also Read- B-Town Veteran Actor Rishi Kapoor Shares an Advice For Young Filmmakers

“Sooryavanshi” is directed by Rohit Shetty and written by Sajid-Farhad. Produced by Shetty, Karan Johar, Aruna Bhatia, Hiroo Yash Johar and Apoorva Mehta, the film also features Gulshan Grover, Abhimanyu Singh, Niharica Raizada, Jackie Shroff, Sikandar Kher, Nikitin Dheer and Vivan Bhatena.

It is to be theatrically released in India on March 24. (IANS)

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Top-Tier Facets Of a Lucrative Filmmaker

A Great Filmmaker usually has Confidence in pursuit, Clarity of vision and Master Plan approach

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Filmmaker
A Great Filmmaker usually has Confidence in pursuit, Clarity of vision and Master Plan approach. Inordinate filmmakers intend to make films and work on stories which entice them and are Unique in their own Aesthetic. Pixabay

-By Kashish Rai

 “I want to Direct what I feel is interesting, not what is supposed to be my Zone. This is what defines me as a Filmmaker” – Imtiaz Ali

 Movies have become an integral part of our lives. As lovers of good cinema we seek good films. Some films usually leave such a strong impact on our minds that we remember them for years to come and the person who spares tremendous efforts to make a movie so special for us is a Filmmaker.

All the greatest filmmakers have managed to get decent flicks from time to time. People usually say that it takes Courage, Talent, Creativity, Passion and Hard Work to make a Film – INDEED IT IS TRUE! But there are a lot more things which define a Successful Filmmaker who is praised by many. Have a Look at the Top facets of a Successful Filmmaker in this Article.

  1. Embracing PERFECTIONISM Through INVENTIVENESS

 The topmost quality that discerns legendary Filmmakers from mediocre ones is their propensity to fabricate excellent movies with a sense of creativity along with sheer consistency. A Great Filmmaker usually has Confidence in pursuit, Clarity of vision and Master Plan approach. Inordinate filmmakers intend to make films and work on stories which entice them and are Unique in their own Aesthetic.

  1. Working with a LIBERAL APPROACH

 All the greatest Filmmakers are broad-minded in the sense that they know about certain ideas to present a story without a Bias or Judgement. They readily accept various addendums and consider not just one bit various points of view regarding their story.

  1. Possessing VIRTUOUS COMMUNICATION SKILLS

 Communication plays an important role to express one’s Thoughts and Ideas. A Filmmaker should have good Communication Skills to Articulate their production goals and work along with the crew to accomplish these goals.

  1. Being PATIENT and ASTUTE To Tackle Immense Pressure

 Issues arise any and every time! As a leader of the whole production unit the A Filmmaker needs to be calm and composed to handle situations with ease. Great Directors should take firm decisions with patience to ensure that the production doesn’t go Off-Track. Greatest Filmmakers serve grace under pressure.

Filmmaker
The person who spares tremendous efforts to make a movie so special for us is a Filmmaker. Pixabay
  1. AUDACITY to TAKE CRITICISMS and EMBRACING THE CRITIQUE

 Constructive and healthy criticisms help a Filmmaker to analyse where they went wrong or what can be done to improve the quality of the work. Last but not the least- A Filmmaker must possess this quality of being open to criticism and Suggestions. No one ever does anything with sole perfection,  so listening to others’ point of view is equally important.

ALSO READ: Health Researchers may Start Testing Vaccine Against Coronavirus

“Pick up a Camera. Shoot something. No matter how small. No matter how cheesy. No matter whether your friends and you sister star in it. Put you name on it as a Director. Now You’re a Director.” – James Cameron

 All the ambitious and budding filmmakers should consider these qualities to emerge as Lucrative Filmmakers – As it will be the variance between springing up to eminence or stagnating in nonentity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Everyone Goes Through Difficult Phases of Self-Doubt and Low Confidence”, Says Filmmaker Karan Johar

"Love, matchmaking, and hosting -- ‘What The Love! With Karan Johar' has given me three things that come naturally to me, all in one go!", Says Karan Johar

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Karan
The filmmaker has turned into a host of Netflix dating makeover show "What The Love! With Karan Johar". It will go live on the streaming site on January 30. Wikimedia Commons

Filmmaker Karan Johar says every one goes through difficult phases of self-doubt and low confidence, and that affects ones ability to put oneself out there.

The filmmaker has turned into a host of Netflix dating makeover show “What The Love! With Karan Johar”. It will go live on the streaming site on January 30.

Karan
Filmmaker Karan Johar says every one goes through difficult phases of self-doubt and low confidence, and that affects ones ability to put oneself out there. Wikimedia Commons

“Love, matchmaking, and hosting — ‘What The Love! With Karan Johar’ has given me three things that come naturally to me, all in one go! We’ve all been through difficult phases of self-doubt and low confidence, which often affects our ability to put ourselves out there. Through this show, I want people to look inward and truly love and accept themselves, so that they can find their path to their happily ever after,” Karan said.

ALSO READ: Canon India Ramps Up Effort To Tap Growing Healthcare Imaging, Security Market

Produced by BBC Studios India, the show brings together people who are in search of true love. Karan along with fashion and style expert Maneka Harinsinghani and make-up and hair artist Shaan Muttathil will help in participants’ transformation. (IANS)