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US and China head to deepen Art and Cultural ties, China to Invest in Hollywood

In August, Fenton will be taking a group of U.S. lawmakers to China to look at the country's growing entertainment and media industry, with the hope of even more Chinese investment in Hollywood

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U.S. first lady Melania Trump and China's first lady Peng Liyuan listen as students perform for them during a visit to Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida,Source-VOA

Los Angeles, May 24, 2017: On the political and military front, U.S.-China relations have been an often-tense dance between governments. However, in arts and education, many say the relationship is deepening. There is debate among Americans as to whether the ties are positive or negative.

Some say this is progress that is reaping economic and cultural benefits for citizens in both countries.

“When people collaborate on making anything artistic, there’s an emotional pull inside of that and if it works well, you not only have a great business, you also have a great diplomatic cohesion between the two countries,” said Chris Fenton, U.S.-Asia Institute Trustee and the President of DMG Entertainment.

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In August, Fenton will be taking a group of U.S. lawmakers to China to look at the country’s growing entertainment and media industry, with the hope of even more Chinese investment in Hollywood.

On Jan. 21, 2011, then-Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the The Confucius Institute which is housed at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago.
On Jan. 21, 2011, then-Chinese President Hu Jintao visits The Confucius Institute which is housed at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago. VOA

 

Chinese language and culture

China has also been investing in educating Americans in language and culture through its Confucius Institutes. Mandarin immersion kindergarten teacher Carol Chen says the University of California Los Angeles Confucius Institute has been a good resource for her and her students.

“For example, books and also resources of our Chinese cultures. One of the years, they actually brought Chinese folk culture tradition to the campus,” said Chen, who teaches at Broadway Elementary, a dual language immersion school.

Funded by the Chinese government, there are nearly 500 Confucius Institutes globally, most on university campuses. The UCLA Confucius Institute taps into the local Mandarin-speaking population to develop a pipeline of Mandarin teachers. It also provides cross-cultural programs in the arts.

“Bringing more artists together and exposing them to each other’s culture and to shared cultural experience with China, you’re sort of training, sort of a new generation of diplomats,” said Susan Pertel Jain, UCLA Confucius Institute Executive Director.

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But long-time critic and academic Perry Link says Confucius Institutes are an example of China’s soft power.

“Soft power is cultural or educational things that cause people in other countries to view one’s own country in a more friendly way. To reach out into the world with soft power is a new thing from the Chinese government’s point of view, but an important thing because the rest of the successful world seems to be doing it,” said Link, who is the University of California Riverside’s Chancellorial Chair for Innovation in Teaching Across Disciplines.

But Link says the presence of the Confucius Institutes on university campuses is dangerous because it often limits academic freedom to discuss China’s human rights issues.

“It’s induced self-censorship. That is, ‘We are going to give you these funds and you can invite speakers about China and the fund comes from Beijing and you know that and we know that.’ Now, as the director of a Confucius Institute, do you think, ‘Oh, I’ll invite the Dalai Lama’ to speak? No.Of course you don’t do that,” Link said.

But Jain said the UCLA Confucius Institute does not back away from touchy topics.

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“Whether it’s artists that we present there who were active in sort of [an] anti-government movement or whether it’s the screening of films that are maybe not officially approved by the government, we don’t shy away from that, but what we always tell our colleagues in China is that we promise to always present everything in a fair and balanced way,” said Jain.

The Hollywood Sign is pictured Aug. 23, 2016, in Los Angeles.

The Hollywood Sign is pictured Aug. 23, 2016, in Los Angeles.

Entertainment industry

In the past, Hollywood movies have been America’s example of soft power.

Last fall, 16 members of Congress wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office to express national security concerns about the growing number of Chinese investments in the United States, including in the media and entertainment industry.

“There is definitely a self-censorship. There is no doubt. I think the most obvious version of that was when self-censorship was not used and it really backfired,” said Fenton.

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China is close to becoming the top global market at the box office and one that is much desired by Hollywood executives. If China closes that door to certain production studios in Hollywood, it will hurt financially.

“It’s a very large piece of the pie because it’s roughly seven billion in dollars,” Fenton said. “If you’re thinking like a business person, there is a certain creative vision you should have for the content you’re making that if you want to call it self-censorship that’s fine, or you call it just good business.”(VOA)

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Film ‘The Florida Project ’ Shines Bright Light on Hidden Homeless

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Florida project film
Writer-director Sean Baker, from left, actress Brooklynn Prince and actor Willem Dafoe pose together to promote their film, "The Florida Project,". voa

Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” takes place in a blindingly purple low-budget motel named the Magic Castle, just down Route 192 from Disney’s Magic Kingdom. For the children of single parents who live there, the Kissimmee, Florida, motel is a playground — even if they’re living in poverty.

The Florida Project,” which opens in theaters Friday, is an ebullient, candy-colored movie wrapped around the very real issue of hidden homelessness. Families nationwide are living below the poverty line and eking out an existence in cheap motels, but the problem is particularly acute — and ironic — in the shadows of Walt Disney World.

The Florida Project stars Willem Dafoe as the kindly father-figure manager Bobby, but its central characters are played by newcomers. The feisty, scamming Halley (Bria Vinaite) is the 23-year-old mother to Moonee (7-year-old Brooklynn Prince), a free-spirited troublemaker who, with her friends (including the 6-year-old Valeria Cotto), are a delightful menace to Bobby and the motel’s residents. (voa)

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Documentary ’78/52′ Explores The Killer From Hitchcock’s Classic ‘Psycho’ : Watch Trailer and Latest Updates

It is captivating, it is enthralling ; from the very first glimpse of the trailer, 78/52 appears to be a promising film.

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78/52
The iconic 3 minute murder sequence from Psycho has been honored with an entire documentary titled 78/52 devoted to its brilliance. Youtube
  • New documentary ’78/52′ draws upon Alfred Hitchcock’s celebrated film Psycho
  • The documentary examines how Hitchcock  shot the shower scene that went on to make history
  • 78/52 will have a theatrical release on October 13

Washington D.C, September 1, 2017 : The trailer to 78/52 opens with Alfred Hitchcock’s distinctive voice that instantly brings goose-bumps, “I once made a movie. It was intended to cause people to scream and yell, but I was horrified that some people took it seriously.” Hitchcock’s film ‘Psycho’ changed the heartbeat of the world, and made the shower-scene immortal. And the documentary 78/52 aims to explore just that!

78/52, directed by Alexandre O. Philippe will present a detailed frame-by-frame analysis of the iconic shower scene from Psycho in an attempt to know more about ‘the man behind the curtain’.

The title of the documentary sounds as intriguing as the original sequence was.

If you are wondering about it, ‘78/52’ refers to the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts that were taken to accomplish the iconic shower scene; a singular event that had taken one-quarter of Psycho’s shooting schedule.

For director O. Philippe, the murder in the shower scene was a critical and defining cultural moment; he calls it “the most important scene in the history of motion pictures”. According to him, the 3-minute long scene was “the culmination of decades of experimentation for Mr. Hitchcock, and the purest expression of his absolute mastery of the art and craft of film-making.”

Analyzing ‘The Man Behind The Curtain’

Hitchock had once admitted that the shower scene was his only motivation to make a film in the first place. And rightly so! The film (and the scene) went on to become one of the most celebrated works in the global film-making industry.

ALSO READ New Documentary on Princess Diana accounts Prince William’s and Harry’s Last Memories with their Mother

As per the trailer, 78/52 presents a captivating analysis of O. Philippe’s interpretation of this iconic scene that altered the course of world cinema.

The documentary is believed to explore the murder scene wherein the crook Marion Crane (character played by Janet Leigh) was repeatedly slashed with a knife by an intruder from different angles and perspectives. Additionally, the documentary will pay special emphasis on the technical aspects of shooting and the sequence’s impact on the culture and practice of movie-making.

ALSO WATCH Trailer of documentary 78/52

The trailer also reveals that the documentary aims to uncover the depiction of violence by critically studying the allusions and double meaning created by Hitchcock in the original 3 minutes-long sequence.

Following its Sundance premier, the makers have now released the trailer of the documentary ahead of its theatrical release which has generated immense curiosity among viewers worldwide.

Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, the documentary features in-depth interviews of filmmakers, critics and fans including Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eli Roth and Peter Bogdanovich among others.

It is captivating, it is enthralling; 78/52 is being touted as a multifaceted master class that makes for a intriguing piece of cinematic detective work.

78/52 will be officially released across all digital platforms on October 13


 

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)