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Date: Friday, 18 Apr 2014 05:02

The Cannes Film Festival has finally announced its full lineup of films. The films in Competition include several legendary auteurs such as Jean-Luc Godard, David Cronenberg, The Dardenne Brothers, Atom Egoyan, Mike Leigh, and Ken Loach. In the Un Certain Regard section, the highly anticipated film by actor-turned-director Ryan Gosling.  Those in the business will be happy to find Alison Thompson in her new company, Sunray Films, selling Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner. Two films out of 18 in Competition are by women, but across all sections there are 15 women directors. Further in Competition, three films are from Canada;  two are from U.S. one film is from Latin America (Argentina); one is from Japan; one from Turkey; one from Russia and the rest are European.

Opening Night Film :

Grace of Monaco (Producer: Stone Angels/ U.S. The Weinstein Company) from France by Olivier Dahan

In Competition

Clouds of Sils Maria (ISA: MK2/ U.S. Distribution: IFC Films) from France/ Gremany/ Switzerland by Olivier Assayas 

Saint Laurent (ISA: EuropaCorp) from France by Bertrand Bonello

Winter's Sleep aka Kis uykusu (Producer: Zeynofilm ) from Turkey by Nuri Bilge Ceylan who has a great website.

Maps to the Stars (ISA: Entertainment One) from Canada by David Cronenberg

Two Days, One Night (ISA: Wild Bunch/ U.S. Distribution: IFC Films) from Belgium and France by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Mommy (ISA: Seville International) from Canada by Xavier Dolan

The Captive (ISA: Entertainment One) from Canada by Atom Egoyan.  You can watch the trailer here.

Goodbye to Language aka Adieu au Langage (ISA: Wild Bunch) from France by Jean-Luc Godard 

The Search (ISA: Wild Bunch/ U.S. Distribution: Worldview Entertainment) from France by Michel Hazanavivius 

The Homesman (ISA: Europacorp) from U.S. by Tommy Lee Jones 

Still the Water (ISA: MK2) from Japan and France by Naomi Kawase ♀ 

Mr. Turner (ISA: Sunray Films/ U.S. Distribution: Sony Pictures Classics) from U.K. by Mike Leigh.  Sunray Films is Alison Thompson's new company and she brought the film over from her former employer Focus Features International when they left the international sales business.

Jimmy's Hall (ISA: Wild Bunch) from Ireland and U.K. by Ken Loach 

Foxcatcher (ISA: Panorama Media/ U.S. Distribution: Sony Pictures Classics) from U.S. by Bennett Miller  

Le Meraviglie (ISA: The Match Factory) from Italy, Switzerland and Germany by Alice Rohrwacher ♀ 

Timbuktu (ISA: Le Pacte) from France by Abderrahmane Sissako

Wild Tales (ISA: Film Factory Entertainment/ U.S. Distribution: Palmera International) from Argentina by Damian Szifron 

Leviathan (ISA: Pyramide International) from Russia by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Un Certain Regard 

Party Girl (ISA: Pyramide International) from France by Marie Amachoukeli ♀ , Claire Burger ♀ , Samuel Theis

Jauja (ISA: NDM) from Argentina by Lisandro Alonso

The Blue Room (ISA: Alfama Films) from France by Mathieu Amalric

Misunderstood aka Incompresa aka L'Incomprise (Production: Paradis Films) from Italy by Asia Argento  ♀ 

Titli (ISA: Westend Films) from India by Kanu Behl

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (ISA: Myriad Pictures/ U.S. Distribution: The Weinstein Company) from U.S. by Ned Benson

Bird People (ISA: Films Distribution) from France by Pascale Ferran  ♀ 

Lost River (ISA: Sierra/Affinity) from U.S. by Ryan Gosling

Amour Fou (ISA: Coproduction Office Paris) from Austria by Jessica Hausner ♀

Charlie's Country (ISA: Visit Films) from Australia by Rolf de Heer

Snow in Paradise (ISA: The Match Factory) from U.K. by Andrew Hulme 

A Girl at My Door (ISA: CJ Entertainment) from So. Korea by July Jung ♀

Xenia (ISA: Pyramide International) from Greece by Panos Koutras

Run (ISA: Bac) from France by Philippe Lacote

Turist from Sweden and Norway by Ruben Ostlund

Beautiful Youth aka Hermosa Juventud (Producer: Fresdeval Films) by Jaime Rosales

Fantasia by Wang Chao

The Salt of the Earth (ISA: Le Pacte) from Germany and Brazil by Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Away From His Absence (ISA: Bizibi) from Israel by Karen Yedaya ♀

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Author: "Sydney Levine"
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Date: Friday, 18 Apr 2014 00:59

So what is Steven Spielberg going to direct next? That's a question even he probably doesn't quite know the answer to yet, not that he isn't giving himself options. "Robopocalypse," which was supposed to be his next project, is on hold while he's also got "Montezuma" and a possible "West Side Story" remake to consider, and now he's throwing another on the pile.

The Weinstein Company and DreamWorks have teamed up, nabbing the rights to David Kertzer's book "The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara," slating Tony Kushner ("Lincoln," "Munich") to write the screenplay, for Spielberg to possibly direct. Not a bad way to start, and the material is pretty compelling. It tells the story of a young Jewish boy, who in 1858, is snatched by the authorities from his home, winds up being raised Catholic and becomes a priest. Here's the full blown book synopsis from Amazon

Bologna: nightfall, June 1858. A knock sounds at the door of the Jewish merchant Momolo Mortara. Two officers of the Inquisition bust inside and seize Mortara's six-year-old son, Edgardo. As the boy is wrenched from his father's arms, his mother collapses.  The reason for his abduction: the boy had been secretly "baptized" by a family servant.  According to papal law, the child is therefore a Catholic who can be taken from his family and delivered to a special monastery where his conversion will be completed. 

With this terrifying scene, prize-winning historian David I. Kertzer begins the true story of how one boy's kidnapping became a pivotal event in the collapse of the Vatican as a secular power.  The book evokes the anguish of a modest merchant's family, the rhythms of daily life in a Jewish ghetto, and also explores, through the revolutionary campaigns of Mazzini and Garibaldi and such personages as Napoleon III, the emergence of Italy as a modern national state.  Moving and informative, the Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara reads as both a historical thriller and an authoritative analysis of how a single human tragedy changed the course of history.

Sounds like it has great potential, and Kushner is familiar with it, having been tapped to adapt the story in 2008, before bouncing to do "Lincoln" instead. This isn't expected to be Spielberg's next project, it's one to keep an eye on his other options rise and fall through the development process. [THR]

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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Friday, 18 Apr 2014 00:46

The Minority Independent Producer's Summit describes itself as an organization that is dedicated to furthering the growth and development of minority independent film producers and entertainment organizations, as well as individual artists.

And this June in New York City, the MIPS will launch its first ever summit, with its dedicated goal being to "recognize, celebrate and promote minority independent producers and content creators from a diverse community of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Middle Eastern, Women, and LGBT people."

The summit will empower “minority independent film and TV producers to achieve greater access and sustainability with the focus on 1) Access and Sustainability 2) Business Partnership and 3) Collaboration Breaking the Distribution Blockade."

The event will take place from June 25 – 27 and the locations for the event will include the Tribeca Cinemas, the SVA Theater and the MIST Harlem Cinema.

To find out more about the summit ,and to subscribe to their official newsletter for upcoming up-to-date news about the summit, you can go to the website HERE, although it won't be fully functioning until May 1st, so be sure to always check it for the latest developments.

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Author: "Sergio"
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Date: Friday, 18 Apr 2014 00:05

After almost four months in office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has finally, to the relief of Hollywood, named Cynthia Lopez as the new commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting. Katherine Oliver, who served in the post during former mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure in office, stepped down in January upon Bloomberg's departure. Ever since then, the post has remained vacant.

While Lopez and Oliver both come from television, the latter worked in the private sector and the former worked in the public sector. Prior to being appointed to the position of Film Czar by Bloomberg, Oliver served as General Manager for Bloomberg Television and Radio. Her background in broadcast news, along with her professional rapport with Bloomberg, which pre-dated her appointment, contributed immensely to the success of her initiatives to boost production in NYC.

How then, does Lopez step into such well-made shoes? She doesn't actually have to because she came prepared with her own.

Since 2006, Lopez has served as the executive vice president and co-executive producer on the PBS documentary series "POV." While the appointment of Lopez came as a surprise to some, her hands-on experience producing "POV" for close to a decade indicates she not only has the skills to oversee the sustainability of the initiatives implemented by Oliver, but is also mindful of how an independent filmmaker might benefit from them.

During her tenure on the show, "POV" has garnered numerous awards including 33 Emmy Awards, 15 George Foster Peabody Awards, three Academy Awards and two IDA Awards for Best Continuing Series. Furthermore, under Lopez's leadership, "POV" was one of just 13 nonprofit organizations from around the world to receive a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, which includes $1 million.

Her experience in the public sector suggests a tide change in the Mayor's office. With production employing more than an estimated 130,000 New Yorkers, as well as contributing $7.1 billion to the local economy -- up from $5.1 billion in 2004 -- Lopez's appointment could suggest more opportunities for creative professionals outside the studio system in conjunction with the rapid growth. If that is the case, then the city's independent filmmaking community has much to look forward to in the coming months and years.

The official announcement of Lopez's appointment is expected to be made on Friday.

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Author: "Shipra Gupta"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 23:55

Music has always been a big part of Clint Eastwood's career, with the filmmaker also serving as composer and songwriter for a strong handful of his films, yet he's never actually made a musical. Outside of the biopic "Bird" and an episode of the PBS series "The Blues," Eastwood has never really had the chance to dig elbows deep into movie with wall-to-wall music, but now the director who seems to have done it all, will cross the genre off his bucket list.

The first trailer for "Jersey Boys" is here, bringing all the songs of the hit Broadway show to the big screen. Starring John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda and Christopher Walken, and penned by John Logan ("Hugo," "Skyfall"), the films will tell the tale of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, documenting the rise and fall of the successful rock 'n' roll group of the 1960s, one of the best-selling bands of all time. 

So, will this win over audiences this summer, where another big screen musical adaptation based off a hit show failed? (We're looking at you "Rock Of Ages"). Hit theaters on June 20th to find out. Watch below.

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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 23:20

If you're in the UK, congrats to you, because Biyi Bandele's Half Of A Yellow Sun - a film adaptation of celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Orange Prize-winning novel of the same name - opened in UK theaters last week Friday, April 11; so I'm sure some of you across the pond have seen the film already, over the last week, while the rest of the world waits in anticipation (it opens in Nigeria, where the film is set, on April 25; and hits USA theaters, courtesy of Monterey Media, on May 16th).

I'm a subscriber to the blog belonging to Richard Morrison - one of the world’s leading designers of film title sequences, who happens to be based in the UK, where the film is currently in release. I wasn't aware that he had been hired to create the title sequence for Half Of A Yellow Sun until today, as I browsed through my subscription news feed, and saw the below video on Mr Morrison's blog.

Along with the sequence clip, Morrison discusses its contents in brief - specifically, summarizing how he and his team came up with what you see below, including extensive notes from director of photography, Jonathan Le Roux.

Here's a snip:

The search for the idea for the opening sequence started with thinking around the ‘main title’. Our next thought was what would give us a moving metaphor? Something which would deliver a journey, bright, glamour and hopeful. Also most importantly, an object from the time, mid 60’s in which the movie is set. The answer - Mirror Ball. As with all our sequences, a seamless entry into the first scene of the movie is imperative and the Mirror Ball again answers this with the addition of taking the view visually to Nigeria / Lagos, as you will see.

Indeed. It was immediately clear to me what they were going for; The mirror ball is an interesting choice as a focal point. I'm not sure if it would've been my choice for this particular story, but I understand why they went with it. I do appreciate how it eventually comes to represent the globe, with the African continent in focus, and Nigeria specifically highlighted. And of course, you can never really go wrong with a Miriam Makeba song (Naughty Little Flea, in this case) to compliment.

It's simple enough, but I suppose it works.

DP on the title sequence, Jonathan Le Roux, adds:

The approach we took to filming the mirror ball was to see it as a beautiful woman. So lighting her was fun. I created a black box around the mirror ball with black Polyboards and black out. This would stop any reflections in the mirror ball. I cut a small hole in the Polyboard and created a window for the lens to peek through.

Read the rest of Le Roux's notes on Morrison's blog HERE.

Before you watch it, here's a little about the man responsible for it, Richard Morrison: In a career spanning three decades, he's created over 150 title sequences – from Hollywood blockbusters such as Batman, Enemy at the Gates, A Fish called Wanda and A Passage to India, to cult classics like Brazil, Sweeney Todd and Quadrophenia, for directors as varied as Sir David Lean, Kenneth Branagh and Stephen Frears, to Jean-Jacques Annaud, Ridley Scott and Tim Burton. Over the course of 30 years, he has become the most prolific British films titles designer. He is also an author, graphic designer and lecturer, and has been chairman of Europe’s leading film and animation conference “Pencil to Pixel” since 2002. He is also a filmmaker, and is currently producing the big screen adaptation of The Dragon Conspiracy, based on a trilogy of books by P. R. Moredun.

Biyi Bandele's feature film directorial debut, stars Chiwetel EjioforThandie Newton, John BoyegaAnika Noni RoseJoseph Mawle and Genevieve Nnaji, in a drama that weaves together the lives of four people swept up in the turbulence of civil war, with a newly independent 1960s Nigeria as the backdrop.

Produced by Bafta award-winner Andrea Calderwood (The Last King of Scotland) and Gail Ega (The Constant Gardner), the film is a British/Nigerian co-production and was shot at Tinapa Film Studio in Nigeria and in the UK.

For more info on the film's release, visit http://montereymedia.com/halfofayellowsun/.

Watch the title sequence below:

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Author: "Tambay A. Obenson"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 22:39

“Life’s a bitch and then you die,” rapper Nasir Jones spit on Illmatic, his groundbreaking 1994 debut album. A grim, cynical statement, Nas was simply following the tradition of hip-hop — reflecting your environment back to the audience. As Chuck D of Public Enemy once famously said, rap music was the “CNN for black people.” And so with Illmatic, Nas’ now-landmark ‘90s record, the rapper changed the game, broadcasting his pains, frustrations, ugly truths and hardships to a nation of listeners through a filter of lyrically dense, angry, blunt rhymes and jazz-inflected boom-bap beats. “It was real. He spoke the truth,” Alicia Keys says in the documentary, seemingly still taken aback now by Nas’ unflinching approach.

Directed by multimedia artist One9, written by Erik Parker, and produced by One9, Parker, and Anthony Saleh, “Time Is Illmatic” is a look back on the now-cherished and seminal hip-hop record, but also focuses deeply on of the environment that created it. Traveling back way back in the day, ‘Illmatic’ leaves no bits of history unchecked, looking at Nas’ adolescence (more centered than most), parents (including his influential jazz/blues musician father, Olu Dara), the way he was raised (a strong single mother), his milieu (the rough projects of Queensbridge, Queens, as the New York crack epidemic was about to explode), and the friends and formidable experiences that produced this talented young artist.

Well shot and composed, the doc spends ample time delving into the milestones of the rapper’s life and heritage: his father’s move from Mississippi to Queens, the marriage that eventually fell apart when the strain from the musician father’s constant touring took its toll; dropping out of school in the eighth grade; a tragic shooting of a child hood friend and the young rapper's drive to make good and get out of the hood. Meanwhile, musical context is delivered: the nascent days of rap and where it was heading; the Queensbridge hip-hop sound (the Juice Crew) and the rap beefs that defined it; meeting Roxanne Shanté for an early support gig; early performances and the like.

But if “Time Is Illmatic” is the deconstruction of environment, the rapper himself, and legendary hip-hop record, enough connective tissue is missing to preclude the doc from becoming the definitive portrait of any of these topics. And ultimately focus is part of the issues at hand. “Time Is Illmatic” is comprehensive, even wisely holistic, but still feels as though something is missing; it’s as if in trying to cover the history, the music, the ecosystem, the upbringing and the man itself, each cancels out the other out, leaving only a surface exploration.

A well-composed and put together individual, Nas is so even-keeled and mature, he’s in many ways a tough subject; there’s no warts-and-all perspective to be had. And not to undermine the insurmountable obstacles Nas faced living in the projects – as the film suggests, just making it out alive or not incarcerated was an achievement in itself, let alone breaking through to create a hip-hop masterpiece. But the doc lacks the kind of dramas that make music documentaries so enticing. Dare it to say that Nas is almost boring compared to most rappers. If Jay-Z’s braggadocio makes him a rap star, in comparison, Nas is more akin to a well-respected jazz musician who earns quiet respect for his excellent chops.

“Time Is Illmatic” is also lacking the bite and immediacy of the record it hopes to commemorate. It’s also neither here nor there; pleasing without ever ingratiating itself, honest without ever being raw; “Time Is Illmatic” is almost too centered and a little grit and roughness around the edges might have shaken it up a bit. While stopping short of hagiography, while the celebratory Nas doc is respectfully told portrait of perseverance over grim socio-economic and cultural conditions, “Time Is Illmatic” is perhaps a little too respectful.

While often self-serious and even somber, “Time Is Illmatic” isn’t humorless either, thankfully. In particular, the story of The South Bronx (KRS 1 & The Boogie Down Productions) feud against Marley Marl’s Queensbridge-based Juice Crew (and Nas’ “oh shit!” recollections of this beef as a fledgling teenager) is deeply entertaining. But one sometimes wishes the doc as infectious, natural and loose as these segments. Featuring appearances by seminal hip-hop figures like Busta Rhymes, Alicia Keys, Marley Marl, Roxanne Shanté, DJ Premier, MC Serch, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Q-Tip and L.E.S., all these musicians weigh in on the “genius” of Nas, but a greater music context is absent. Nas great work is explored, but where it fits alongside what was happening in the early 90s of rap is missing. We’re told it’s seminal, but we’re rarely given the context to feel like, “ahh, yes, this is why it matters.”

“Time Is Illmatic” charts the journey to Illmatic, but isn’t as interested in the destination as much as one would think. Missing is its New York context (how it separated from the spirit of the Native Tongues-inspired alternative rap of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Jungle Brothers) and how Illmatic’s dense lyricism prowess impacted hip-hop (the album was so influential at the time, lyricism soon took a front seat once again after the album was heralded by The Source with a rare five mics review). Illmatic is a terrifically produced and nuanced record, but most of the music in the film is presented in a live form –distorted vocals over equally distorted beats, killing the nuance of all the music. 

One can’t help but compare the hip-hop documentary to another recent Tribeca-premiered documentary “Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest.” That doc effortlessly balanced context, musical legacy, drama, hardship and little human victories stupendously. And it wasn’t afraid to pull-no-punches to get to some deeper emotional truths (Tribe were notoriously unhappy with the doc because it opened up their internal, deeply personal struggles to the world, but in the end it made for an extremely rich and moving portrait of brotherhood).

Solidly built and mostly engaging, “Time Is Illmatic” is – don’t get it twisted – a worthwhile documentary that doesn’t shy away from some serious issues integral to the formation of its central subject, but it doesn’t crackle like it should. If Illmatic was an arresting, landmark and quintessential hip-hop record that changed the game and forced you to sit up straight and pay attention, you sometimes wish the documentary could take you by the scruff of the neck with the same swagger, energy and aplomb. [B-]

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Author: "Rodrigo Perez"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 22:10

It hasn't yet reached its campaign goal (25 days still to go, and another 55% to be raised) but, given how much in contributions its been able to attract to date, it has become the highest/most-funded film fundraising campaign in the history of crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

First, some quick back-story on the feature film project...

Almost a year ago, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of a baby born alive in a botched abortion, who prosecutors said would have survived if the doctor had not “snipped” its neck with scissors. The sentence was part of an agreement that the 72-year old Gosnell reached with the Philadelphia district attorney’s office under which he waived his right to appeal the first-degree murder conviction, and two charges of conspiring to kill two other babies, as well as an involuntary manslaughter charge in the case of a woman who died after being given too much anesthetic in Dr. Gosnell’s West Philadelphia abortion clinic.

Under the agreement he was spared the death penalty, which prosecutors previously said they would seek. 

The 2-month trial featured testimony about botched late-term abortions and became a battleground for both sides in the national abortion debate. Many of the 250-plus counts against Gosnell were tied to violations of state abortion law, which prohibits terminating pregnancies after 24 weeks. The most serious charges stemmed from allegations that Gosnell delivered babies alive during late-term abortions and then snipped their spinal cords or directed his assistants to do so.

The allegations against Gosnell were detailed in a 300-page grand jury report that described his clinic as a "filthy house of horrors full of broken-down equipment, splattered with blood, and staffed by unlicensed employees who did much of the medical work. Aborted fetuses and their body parts were stockpiled in cabinets and freezers, in plastic bags, bottles, even cat-food containers. Jars with severed feet lined shelves."

After a 2010 raid of the clinic, prosecutors charged 9 workers, including Gosnell's wife, with crimes ranging from perjury to murder. 8 pleaded guilty and others took the stand, testifying against Gosnell.

And now Gosnell is becoming the subject of a feature film from director Phelim McAleer, who calls Gosnell "America's biggest serial killer." The film will also focus on what the filmmaker argues was a lack of bureaucratic and media attention that allowed Gosnell and his clinic to continue operating as described until he was arrested in 2011. McAleer claims liberal mainstream media bias against the anti-abortion movement, which influenced the lack of coverage of the story.

The Gosnell project will be a scripted drama (not a documentary) and will be based largely on public information available via the trial - specifically the 280-page grand jury report which includes graphic photos, as well as details of Gosnell's "bizarre" business practices, like charging several different prices for anesthesia depending on how much pain a patient was willing to endure, and racial biases, including specifics on how white women patients were given cleaner rooms and medical equipment than women of color.

The proposed telepic will be produced by McAleer's Hat Tip Productions as a TV movie that he plans to pitch to cable TV channels. 

He hopes to raise the project's $2.1 million budget via crowdfunding site Indiegogo - a service he used to previously successfully raise money ($212,265) for his last film FrackNation, a documentary that accuses another documentary, Gasland, of errors in its reporting.

The Indiegogo campaign was launched on March 28, and since then, it's raised $915,954 of its $2.1 million budget, with 25 days to go until the campaign ends, making it, as of today, the highest-funded film project on Indiegogo, eclipsing the previous most-funded film project, Video Game High School? a very popular web series set in an unusual, exciting future earth, which raised $898,139 in February of this year, and, Shemar Moore's romantic comedy, The Bounce Back, which raised $638,983 last summer, at the time, the highest-funded film campaign on Indiegogo.

With 25 days still to go, and 45% of its goal raised, there's a good chance that McAleer's Dr. Kermit Gosnell scripted feature will reach its goal. It also happens to be, not surprisingly, the "top trending" film project on Indiegogo currently.

Says McAleer: "Gosnell is a fascinating monster; a hoarder, mad man and megalomaniac. He's a black man who is racist against blacks and Hispanics. He's a real-life Hannibal Lecter. It’s an omission that Hollywood is ignoring the biggest serial killer in American history, and we’re going to fill that gap."

I previously admitted my ignorance on the Gosnell story, when I first learned about the project a month ago, even though I consider myself a news junkie. So it was all quite monstrously fascinating to me, and I did do some further reading on the matter to inform myself. A Google search will return links to coverage of the trial, for those who weren't fully aware. But this is a film that I'm fairly certain will divide audiences, whenever it's made. It covers almost every broad hot-button issue - matters of race, class, gender, and of course the long-standing abortion debate, and a woman's right to choose and have full autonomy over her own body.

You can read the 280-page report from the trial HERE.

Further details on the project HERE.

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Author: "Tambay A. Obenson"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 21:26

Inevitably, the long-planned merger of Lionsgate and Summit's marketing operations is finally coming to pass.

It's remarkable, actually, how much the Summit label has endured since Lionsgate acquired Summit and its co-chiefs, Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, who run the Lionsgate motion picture group and brought in Erik Feig to run production. They also kept going a parallel Summit marketing division headed by studio veteran Nancy Kirkpatrick, who worked with Friedman at Warner Bros. and Paramount, to handle that label's films, including the hugely successful final "Twilight" film and would-be franchises "Ender's Game," which disappointed, and $85-million "Divergent," which did modestly ($127 million domestic) but already has three sequels in the pipeline. With marketing costs factored in, that's not a great number. 

Sometimes it serves corporate executives well to sacrifice a marketing exec when a venture disappoints. With $50 million in the foreign till so far, a $177 million cumulative worldwide gross for a supposed franchise is not the expected outcome. Following the rushed "Twilight" timeline may not have worked out in this case, where the book was smaller and the brand less established. 

When I wrote about "Divergent," producer Lucy Fisher thanked Kirkpatrick for her support on the film. "Summit said 'yes,'" said Fisher. "They knew this audience better, very well. After it got bought by Lionsgate, they both knew this audience. That's a big resource for how you go about this and maximize it with publicity and the internet. It was a franchise from the beginning, which was odd, because the book was not yet big....They got behind it and greenlit it very fast off the first draft and put it in the pipeline fast. We were lucky to have that marketing  team, between "Hunger Games" and "Twilight" Lionsgate are the biggest experts in the world on this audience. We were lucky to be tied in with those movies, mailing lists, email addresses, handing out books at the premiere, putting the trailer on "Hunger Games." That was a great thing for us."

Now that Lionsgate and Summit are finally merging their marketing divisions into one entity--which was always the plan--Kirkpatrick, Summit's six-year president of worldwide marketing, will resign at the end of the month. Expanding his responsibilities is Lionsgate’s chief marketing officer Tim Palen, who can claim marketing credit for the "Hunger Games" success--which would have been hard to mess up. He will not only run marketing of the Lionsgate and the Hispanic label Pantelion Films, but will take over the Summit slate and oversee merchandising, theme park attractions and other franchise business opportunities.

Stated Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairs Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger: 

“Now was the right time to take the next step in integrating the marketing departments of our Lionsgate and Summit film labels as we continue to achieve significant operational synergies following the acquisition of Summit Entertainment two years ago. Under the leadership of our innovative Chief Marketing Officer Tim Palen, we will continue to develop fresh marketing strategies that strengthen our brand, cultivate new film properties and leverage our existing franchises into exciting new businesses.”

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Author: "Anne Thompson"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 20:44

In case you haven't noticed, the forthcoming "Godzilla" doesn't have a whiff, suggestion or note of the campiness some of the previous incarnations of the movie monster may have had. And there's a very specific reason for that.

In a few featurette for the upcoming film, director Gareth Edwards discusses the approach, and wanting to take the material seriously. Why? In his view, because the original Toho Productions movie did, serving as much as an allegory as a thrillride, and it's something Edwards respected. Even more, the filmmaker takes sci-fi in general quite seriously, and it's refreshing to hear him reference Steven Spielberg in terms of the scale and craft he wants to bring to the movie hitting next month.

Still, the marketing department is having a bit of fun with this new, old school style poster. "Godzilla" crushes cars on May 16th.

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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 20:00

Is "The Wolf Of Wall Street" trailer the new "Downfall" when it comes to endless parodies? It's certainly on its way, as yet another one has crossed our desk and yes, it's well worth the watch. And it might just be for closers only.

Richard Trammell has cut together yet another mashup for Martin Scorsese's film, this time taking the trailer editing and design and applying it to "Glengarry Glen Ross." And of course, the results are pretty great. Namely because both films deal with outsized assholes to varying degrees, though there is no replacement for Shelley "The Machine" Levine. He is forever. But this is pretty good stuff, and while we're not sure if it gets the keys to Cadillac, it will certainly go home with a set of steak knives. Don't agree? Put that coffee down....

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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 19:41
Meanwhile, Michael B. Jordan continues to line up projects...

The young actor is reportedly attached to star in Fox's Men Who Kill, which the studio picked up a pitch for, to be developed by T.J. Fixman (Ratchet and Clank).

Men Who Kill is described as "an international Bad Boys-style" feature action drama (referring to the Will Smith, Martin Lawrence franchise, which, by the way, is rumored to be seeing a 3rd film in the series). Details are being kept underwraps at the moment, as the studio is being tight-lipped on the pick up.

Since his breakout role in Fruitvale Station (although he'd been around longer before that), Jordan has certainly been in demand. How much in demand? Let me count the ways: He'll be playing Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot; he's been rumored to be in contention for "a major role" in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day sequels (likely as a replacement for Will Smith, who's exited the franchise); director John Hillcoat's (The Road) wanted him for his crime drama Triple Nine; he will star as the grandson of Apollo Creed - the character played by Carl Weathers in the first 4 Rocky movies, which his Fruitvale Station director, Ryan Coogler, will also helm, based on a screenplay he co-wrote; he reportedly met with director Zack Snyder for a possible role in Batman vs. Superman.

The part was described as a physically fit black male in his 20s, and there was speculation that the character would be either cyborg Victor Stone or the Green Lantern. It would be a small role in Batman vs. Superman with potential for a larger role in other DC Comics films.

And there's more, but I'll end there. Now we wait to find out which of the above becomes a reality - those rumored, and those confirmed.

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Author: "Tambay A. Obenson"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 19:36

These days horror movies, for the most part, tend to come fast and cheap, with little in the way of craft other than loud noises and found footage aesthetics. But classic genre banner Hammer are doing things differently as they return to big screen productions. They scored a big hit with "The Woman In Black," a stylish and genuinely spooky ghost story and now they're back with "The Quiet Ones," another period tale that looks like it has an actual budget and something to say.

Co-written by Oren Moverman ("The Messenger," "Rampart"), and starring Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck-Byrne, and Olivia Cooke, the film follows a London professor in the mid-70s, who works with his students on conducting eerie experiments, that of course, lead to supernatural trouble. Yeah, we know, sounds pretty generic but we're digging the overall mood, and we're hoping that Hammer continues to bring more to the table than just jump scares and shaky cams.

A new trailer for the film has dropped, which you can watch below, along with a clip and featurette. "The Quiet Ones" arrives on April 25th.

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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 18:51

When Indiewire first joined forces with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Switzerland's Locarno Film Festival in August to run a workshop for college-age film critics, we had no idea if our idea had legs: Cineastes around the world had grown frustrated with the seemingly dwindled marketplace for film criticism, and even though we knew differently—from an expansive point of view, there are more advanced ways of practicing film criticism than ever before—it was hard to say whether our initiative would make the case.

Two years later, we can say this with certainty: If you're at an early stage of your career, want to be a film critic and think you have the right stuff, the Critics Academy is designed for you. Encouraged by the success of recent editions, we've expanded the number of participants we're accepting for this year's workshop from eight to 10, with an additional program for Swiss participants. Film Comment has been added a new partner in the program.

The details:

  • Over the course of this year's Locarno Film Festival, which runs August 6 - 16, those accepted to the workshop will take part in candid discussions with working critics, distributors, publicists and other members of the industry to provide a professional context to the discipline. Participants will also contribute to Indiewire's Criticwire blog, FilmComment.com, and the festival's Pardolive newsletter. During this time, they will collaborate with experienced editors to refine their work and ensure it has an impact. As the festival winds down, participants will be encouraged to find new ways of sustaining their careers beyond the workshop.
  • One of the oldest festivals in the world, Locarno's program contains a rich grab bag of international cinema, from obscure, experimental works to large commercial achievements, retrospectives and more. Whether or not the marketplace for film criticism was ever actually in decline (and, really, was it ever easy?), the Critics Academy, part of the festival's larger educational program at its Summer Academy, provides one definite means of determining how to do the work you want to do—for the sake of both film criticism and global film culture at large.
  • More than simply allowing young critics to simulate the experience of their profession, the Critics Academy gives them the fuel to start their careers and keep them afloat. Many alumni continue to publish work in our outlets and elsewhere. Others have used the resources provided by the workshop to find other job opportunities in the film community.
  • Travel expenses as well as noon and evening meals will be at the participant's expense. Locarno will provide housing at the local youth hostel. Indiewire may assist with a share of travel expenses depending on the country of origin of the participant.
  • Applicants must have a demonstrated interest in film criticism as well as the ability to speak and write fluently in English.
  • There is no age restriction in order to apply, but we're looking for participants who are either in the middle of university studies or have recently completed them.

Interested? Applications to the Critics Academy can be submitted from April 16 through May 25, 2014 using the form downloaded from the box on the right side of this page.

Here's what applications must include:

  • CV: A basic one-page resume
  • A 300-word statement of intent. Tell us about your background and why you would make an ideal candidate for the Critics Academy. Also note any particular interests you have as a critic (genres, national cinemas, etc.). Passion, strong writing skills and a deep knowledge of film history matter more than overall experience, so this is your chance to really make a case for yourself
  • Four writing samples about film. These can take the form of film reviews, blog posts, college newspaper clips, or any other written work that you think demonstrates your writing skills. College papers are allowed but not encouraged. (Swiss participants may submit articles in German, French or Italian.
  • A photograph of yourself

Please send applications in the body of an email by May 25 to SUMMERACADEMY@PARDO.CH.

Remember, you must also fill out the form on the right hand side of the page at this link and send it along with your application as an attachment. For more practical information, go here.

If you have any questions, please feel free to direct them to eric@indiewire.com.

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Author: "Eric Kohn"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 18:37
Call it Paranormal Activity part 7... except this one really is based on "real-life" events.

It's a story I only just learned about today, when I read the news report that a film inspired by it is in development by Relativity Media.

To summarize, in 2011, Gary, Indiana-based Latoya Ammons claimed that her children were being attacked and possessed by demons. The mother of 3 told police that she witnessed her children walking up walls, levitating and speaking in different voices. She further claimed that she once found her seven-year-old son inside a closet talking to another boy only he could see. When she asked what they were talking about, Ammons claimed that he told her the unseen presence was describing what it felt like to be killed. The young boy was also reportedly thrown by a "malevolent spirit" out of a bathroom, and her 12-year-old daughter required stitches to her head after an attack.

When two psychics later visited the terrified mother, they told her there were more than 200 demons haunting the house. Even official reports from a 2012 document on paranormal activity within the house, supported Ammons' claims, as psychologists stated on-the-record that they witnessed her 9 year-old speak in "different voices" and walk "up the wall backwards."

After visiting the house and interviewing Ms Ammons, the local police chief himself admitted that he was a "believer," according to the Indianapolis Star.

State documents filed by the Department of Children Services detailed further strange events at the house, which were said to have been witnessed by medical experts and people outside the family.

Naturally, as you'd expect in this kind of situation, there were skeptics.

The family would eventually move out of their house, about a year later, in 2012. New tenants now live on the property, and there have been no complaints of hauntings nor possessions.

Apparently, the story was a hot property, with Relativity winning a bidding war to acquire Ammons' life rights.

The "haunted house," "child possession" movie sub genres are quite overdone, thanks in part to the recent rash of qualifying titles. From the Paranormal Activity franchise (which seems endless), to The Conjuring (which has spurned its first sequel, as well as a spin-off), Insidious 1 & 2, to all the films that start with The Exorcism of..., and many more.

They're so overdone that they have become fodder for movie spoofs (for example, see Marlon Wayans' Haunted House - itself becoming a franchise, with a sequel on the horizon).

Maybe the *freshness* to be found in Latoya Ammons' story is that black people are the central characters - this is assuming Relativity doesn't do anything funny, like, you know, make the characters in the film adaptation white.

Watch the Indianapolis Star report on the case below.

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Author: "Tambay A. Obenson"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 18:25

You might not know his name, but Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa is no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival. In 2010 he appeared in competition with "My Joy," and returned to the category in 2012 with "In The Fog," picking up the FIPRESCI Prize for his efforts. And now he's back with a project that documents one of the most dramatic moments in recent history.

Set to play as a Special Selection, "Maidan" finds Loznitsa in documentary mode, exploring the protests in Kiev, Ukraine against the government from the ground level. The first trailer for the film is here and it's potent stuff. Here's the official synopsis (edited for clarity): Maidan, is the central square of Kiev, capital of Ukraine. Starting in November 2013, citizens of all ages and all faiths gathered to protest against the regime of President Yanukovych, who was forced to resign in late March. From November to March, Sergei Loznitsa filmed Maidan. 

No U.S. distribution for this one yet. Watch below.

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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 17:57

Look, we know not all Photoshop artists were created equally, and perhaps poster art is not the domain for real art these days (folks like Neil Kellerhouse and Drafthouse artisans aside), but this recent poster for James Gray's upcoming indie drama "The Immigrant" is… let’s say politely, something else. Sure, even the original French poster had the three stars Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner photoshopped together like they were members of the European 'Avengers,' but this North American poster for the film butchers Cotillard's beautiful face.

Worse, Harvey Weinstein, or someone at TWC decided her headband was too French so it had to be photoshopped out, making her look even weirder (see the side by side comparison here). Hey, we get it. Photoshop poster art is often not very good, see Professor X blowing flame farts out of his wheelchair in the last X-Men poster for random example, but this one is egregiously poor. But maybe we should just count our blessings. After all, "The Immigrant," was once going to be relegated to the Radius-TWC world of VOD, but the company decided to change gears earlier this spring and release the movie as a proper Weinstein Company release (though its release will still be limited). And this is great because Darius Khondji’s beautiful chiaroscuro-draped cinematography needs to be seen on the big screen.

Anyhow, to wash away the taste of painful looking posters, here's the U.S. trailer for the film and a batch of new pics. Due in theaters on May 12th, if you live in New York you'll be able to see the movie early at BAMcinematek on May 5th. Director James Gray will be in house and the Q&A will be moderated by The Playlist's Rodrigo Perez.

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Author: "Edward Davis"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 17:34

Forbes has a new interview with director Zack Snyder. You know, the guy that’s directing possibly the most geek-anticipated film of all time, “Batman Vs. Superman.” Don’t get too excited, Snyder reveals almost zero details. He doesn’t talk Ben Affleck, Lex Luthor, the Justice League or anything. Perhaps more interestingly he discusses his beef with Terry Gilliam over “Watchmen.”

In short: Gilliam was one of the directors initially set to make “Watchmen” but as development is wont to do, Gilliam eventually left the project. Snyder obviously went on to make the super-hero film. Fast forward to years later, former producer Joel Silver said Snyder’s version was like a “slave” to the comic book. Snyder hit back, but in doing so took a swipe at Terry Gilliam, the director on the project when Silver was producing saying, “So, finally I made ['Watchmen'] to save it from the Terry Gilliams of this world." Gilliam then also responded, but his response was really more of a cheeky subtweet that didn’t outwardly diss Snyder.

Talking about “Watchmen,” Snyder sidetracked into a tangent about the Gilliam feud. “It’s funny, Terry Gilliam and I having this ridiculous back and forth—by the way, Terry Gilliam is literally one of my favorite filmmakers, and literally 'Brazil' is one of my favorite movies of all time. I consider it a masterpiece… I don’t know, I just find the whole conversation, that whole thing that happened, that whole thing that happened, ludicrous.”

Fair enough, but wasn’t it Snyder who brought Gilliam into the beef with Silver in the first place? Gilliam hadn’t put him on blast (though to be fair, in the past Gilliam had acknowledged he thought the movie didn’t work either).

“Exactly [I was trying to rescue it from being changed],” Snyder continued. “That’s exactly how I meant it. I just meant that, you know– all I wanted to do was do it as close as I could to the way it was in the comic book. That was my entire point of view. And everyone was like, ‘You can’t do it like it was in the comic book, you have to figure out a way around it.’ And I just said, ‘Well, let’s try it — and maybe we’ll fail — but that’s the idea.’ So yeah, I agree. Look, I have nothing but respect for Terry Gilliam, and I think he’s a genius. So, that’s that.”

OK, beef over? Back to the small bits of “Batman Vs. Superman” talk. When will we see footage, photos and whatnot from the film? There's no, timeframe right now. “That all gets tied to marketing and strategies for the movie. It’s not just a free-for-all, which I’d love it to be.” Snyder told Forbes he has a photo of the new Batman costume on the wall of his office “And I’m like, ‘God, I want to send this to the Internet immediately.’ But I know I’m not allowed to [laughs]! I do value the sort of excitement of the way the film is [revealed]… the pieces that are released and sort of trickle out to everybody, and those reveals are exciting milestones for us.”

When are those milestones? Unclear. Okay, so how did they arrive on Batman as the “villain” for Superman to face-off in the movie? Snyder doesn’t really say, but does give a long rambling answer.

After ‘Man of Steel’ finished and we started talking about what would be in the next movie, I started subtly mentioning that it would be cool if he faced Batman. In the first meeting, it was like, “Maybe Batman?” Maybe at the end of the second movie, some Kryptonite gets delivered to Bruce Wayne’s house or something. Like in a cryptic way, that’s the first time we see him. But then, once you say it out loud, right? You’re in a story meeting talking about, like, who should [Superman] fight if he fought this giant alien threat Zod who was basically his equal physically, from his planet, fighting on our turf… You know, who to fight next? The problem is, once you say it out loud, then it’s kind of hard to go back, right? Once you say, “What about Batman?” then you realize, “Okay, that’s a cool idea. What else?” I mean, what do you say after that?

Snyder does also confirm what basically everyone already knows: Wonder Woman is in the film (though this might be the first time he’s publicly acknowledged it).

And then we have Wonder Woman, you know, all three of them in the same shot. Even just for a [camera] test [shot], you really have to go, "Wow, that’s crazy!" Not only is it the first time that I’m seeing them, it’s the first time they’ve ever existed together on screen in a movie. And that’s kind of a huge deal. Even just Batman and Superman standing next to each other… [i]t’s kind of epic. You do sort of sense the weight of the pop culture iconography jumping out of its skin when you’re standing there looking at the two of them and Wonder Woman. It’s crazy. But it’s fun. I mean, I have the first photo, I’ve got it in my archive because I was like, ‘Okay, I better keep this, it’s gonna be worth something.

“Batman Vs. Superman” is set for a May 6, 2016 release date. The ongoing war over “Watchmen” is hopefully over.

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Author: "Edward Davis"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 17:28

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the ABC Television Network has announced the dates for the 87th Oscars.  After going down a week later this year because of the Olympics, the ceremony will again move to the final Sunday of February, which is 2015's case will be February 22nd (and thus the earliest the Oscars have aired since 2009).

Here's the key dates for the Academy Awards season:

Saturday, November 8, 2014   
The Governors Awards

Wednesday, December 3, 2014   
Official Screen Credits and music submissions due

Monday, December 29, 2014   
Nominations voting begins 8 a.m. PT

Thursday, January 8, 2015   
Nominations voting ends 5 p.m. PT

Thursday, January 15, 2015   
Oscar nominations announced

Monday, February 2, 2015   
Oscar Nominees Luncheon

Friday, February 6, 2015   
Final voting begins 8 a.m. PT

Saturday, February 7, 2015   
Scientific and Technical Awards

Tuesday, February 17, 2015   
Final voting ends 5 p.m. PT

Oscar Sunday, February 22, 2015   
87th Academy Awards begins 7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT

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Author: "Peter Knegt"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 17:26

As far as experiments go, Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" was a real roll of the dice. Would a drama shot for a few days each year, chronicling the real-time (but fictional) coming-of-age of a young boy, work when all the material is cut together? Well, the answer from the Sundance and Berlin film festivals was a resounding "yes," and new images from the epic film have arrived.

Featuring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, but led by newcomer Ellar Coltrane, the film follows a family, through the eyes of a young boy, who are dealing with divorce and the obligations and responsibilities that come with the territory. But sprawling over two hours, and spanning nearly a decade, the film takes viewers on a journey through the experiences and changes of the lead character, in a way that we haven't quite seen before. And indeed, our review called the film "a remarkable accomplishment that won’t be forgotten anytime soon."

"Boyhood" opens in limited release on July 11th. Check out the new images below.

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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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