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Friday, June 29, 2018

Movies

Jessica Chastain still fighting for gender equality on the big screen. Jessica Chastain's in "Woman Walks Ahead." Which she's doing. She's way out there. On fire despite the red hair. Photographers crowded the building where her film screened. Others mobbed the room she'd enter. Like a wedding cake, layers of PR types with clipboards, cards, phones, attitudes. Plus bulletins: "Two minutes away .?.?. she arrived .?.?. in the elevator .?.?. coming to you now .?.?. she's here!" "I play Catherine Weldon, a late-1800s portrait painter from Brooklyn who travels to a Lakota Indian reservation for a portrait of Sitting Bull. She gets embroiled in the struggle for their land and lives there." What Sitting Bull wore when not sitting, who knows. For sure, her wardrobe living there wasn't the decollete black-and-white silk Givenchy with matching high-heel sandals she did at the screening. A feminist, she's opined on gender imbalance, passive portrayal of women in films, lack of female movie critics and their limited power positions in Hollywood. On this particular movie, there's a female director. "It's important to speak out and amplify our imbalance in the moviemaking industry. I have experienced no backlash from anyone since making my views public. I certainly wasn't afraid to do it. Glad I did it. It's taken a long time to get this far, and I'm out front for those who cannot speak out. We must turn this around." In 2011, I interviewed relatively new star Jessica. She was in "The Help" and almost seems to be in most films these past few years. Like months back in "Molly's Game." "I still manage to get time off, but the truth is, I love what I do." (PageSix)

Filmmakers Back Right to Boycott Israel Following German Festival Controversy. Viggo Mortenson, James Shamus, Laurie Anderson, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh are among those to have attacked the Ruhrtriennale festival's "repressive" decision to drop Scottish band The Young Fathers for their support of the pro-Palestinian BDS movement. A number of figures from the film world have given their support to those who choose to participate in the cultural boycott of Israel following a series of developments at a leading European festival. Earlier this month, Germany's Ruhrtriennale arts festival due to take place Aug. 18-Sept. 30 announced that Scottish hip-hop trio The Young Fathers would be dropped from the lineup due to their support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, a pro-Palestinian activist group that seeks to cut, among other things, global cultural ties with Israel. The band was among several names who pulled out of Berlin's Pop-Kultur festival due to its sponsorship by the Israeli embassy, listed as a partner. A statement from the Ruhrtriennale director Stefanie Carp said that the Mercury Prize-winning group had "regrettably failed to distance itself from BDS." However, following an international backlash one that saw the festival accused of "McCarthyism," with several other artists pulling out in solidarity with The Young Fathers Ruhrtriennale has now reversed its decision, re-inviting the group and actually encouraging them to actively discuss their support of BDS while on stage. An open letter signed by filmmakers including Viggo Mortenson, James Shamus, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Danny Glover and Aki Kaurismaki branded the initial decision by the festival as a "particularly alarming form of censorship, 'blacklisting' and repression." Patti Smith and Massive Attack, who have performed at the festival in previous years, were also among the signatories. "We stand firmly against all forms of racism and identity-based discrimination, including anti-blackness, sexism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and homophobia," the letter added. "Conflating nonviolent measures to end Israel's illegal occupation and human rights violations with anti-Jewish racism is false and dangerous. It denies Palestinians their right to peaceful protest and undermines the struggle against antisemitism." In another statement, signed by those who had withdrawn from the festival including artist and filmmaker Laurie Anderson rejected the notion that "institutions, in any way, should have the power to demand of artists to renounce their political principles in exchange of participating in their programs." It added that any decision to disinvite an artist from a festival based on political stances "constitutes a punitive response to a position of conscience." The growing BDS movement is a highly sensitive subject matter in Germany, which has traditionally avoided any criticism of Israel, with opponents branding it as anti-Semitic. Even in re-inviting The Young Fathers, Carp said, "as a German, it is of course difficult for me to be linked to a movement that boycotts Israel." As a BDS activist told The Hollywood Reporter, "Germany is finally waking up to the cultural boycott." The open letter comes just months after a similar statement was made in defense of New Zealand singer Lorde, who in November cancelled a decision to perform in Israel, saying she had received an "overwhelming number of messages and letters" from her fans asking her to reconsider. Following attacks against the star including a full-page advert in the Washington Post that branded her a "bigot" (a similar message was sent by Roseanne Barr via tweet) a number of figures, including Mark Ruffalo, John Cusack and Julie Christie signed a letter defending Lorde's "freedom of conscience." (Hollywood Reporter)

China Cracks Down on Celebrity Pay, Citing Tax Evasion and "Money Worship". The move is viewed as a response to the recent controversy surrounding actress Fan Bingbing and her alleged use of fraudulent contracting to evade taxes. China's media regulators are cracking down on the high pay enjoyed by movie stars, while also taking action to prevent tax evasion in the country's film industry, state-backed news sources reported late Wednesday. The move was widely viewed as a response to the recent controversy surrounding actress Fan Bingbing and her alleged use of fraudulent contracting to hide her true income. The total pay for a film's cast should be capped at 40 percent of the total production budget, according to a joint directive signed by five government regulatory bodies, including the Propaganda Department and other film and tax authorities. Payments to stars also should not exceed 70 percent of the total wages paid to the cast, the notice said. Celebrity pay is a sensitive issue in the Chinese industry, where surging ticket sales have often resulted in bidding wars over the limited number of top actors who are believed to guarantee box-office results. The "new" guidelines are the same as a set issued by the China Alliance of Radio, Film and Television last year. But the greater authority of the government bodies behind Wednesday's decree could mean that enforcement will be taken more seriously. The statement added that illegal payment practices, such as the underreporting of star pay for the purpose of tax evasion, was inflating production costs and damaging the Chinese film industry. Last month, well-known Chinese TV host Cui Yongyuan, publicly posted a pair of film contracts thought to belong to Fan Bingbing, China's highest-paid actress. The contracts, one for just $1.6 million and the other for $7.8 million, were meant to lay bare the allegedly widely-used practice of "yin-yang" contracting, a system that allows stars to only report the smaller sum to tax authorities. The document also chastised the entertainment industry for encouraging the "blind chasing of stars" and the "growing tendency towards money worship" among the Chinese youth, as well as the "the distortion of social values." It added that the film industry's top priority should be "social benefits," while the single-minded pursuit of box office returns and online clicks should be "firmly opposed." The state directive clearly indicates that the authorities mean to take the issue of celebrity pay seriously. But many within the Chinese industry are still bracing to see whether there will be further repercussions from Cui's public revelations. Fan's personal film studio issued a statement in the immediate aftermath denying all wrongdoing and saying that Cui's social media posts amounted to personal insults and an infringement on her rights. But the tax authorities in Jiangsu province, where her company is based, have also said that they are investigating tax evasion by "certain film and television professionals as alleged in online discussions." (Hollywood Reporter)

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