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"Argo" fake movie, real story 

By Clémence Duranton

Old spies and old spy dramas seldom die. Putting the 30-year-old story of the American hostages in Iran on the screen proves it. Ben Affleck took the challenge of directing "Argo" and playing the lead role of Tony Mendez. 

"When I got the script, I couldn’t believe how good it was. They said, 'This is our best script,' and I thought that was some executive hyping me on it, but it really was pretty incredible," said Affleck in an interview on the iamROGUE website. "I was amazed. I talked to Grant [Heslov] and George [Clooney] and said, 'Look, I really want to do this. This is amazing!' And they said, 'Okay, great! Let’s do it!'

Agent Mendez, named one of the CIA's top 50 officers of its first 50 years, outlined what was at stake with his mission.  "Before "Argo" was an unorthodox operation, designed out of frustration, a form of risk taking that would probably not be approved in today's political environment. Today, the impact lingers on. A presidency was lost, America's relationship with Iran was severed, and radical Islam had struck its first blow," he said in a Reuters interview.   

"Argo" is set in 1979.  During the Iranian revolution, the U.S. embassy is taken by militants, making 52 Americans hostages. Six of them succeed in leaving the building and the Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor offers them refuge.  The CIA starts to think about an exfiltration. Agent Mendez comes to save them. But the task is hard because Americans are not allowed in the territory. 

Mr. Mendez risks his life. He devises an original plan to enter Iran. He uses the excuse of making a movie and builds a team of operatives as his production crew.  Hollywood meets the CIA, in essence, to produce the fake movie called ARGO and, subsequently, rescue the hostages. 

This mission of the CIA was made public in 1997. 

"Argo" hit the No. 1 spot at the box office in mid-November. It cost $45 million to produce and quickly earned $60.8 million.  It is believed "Argo" is eyeing a $100 million finish. 

And about the other spy drama on the big screen in 2012: Skyfall? Maybe we will discover that at first James Bond was an excuse to rescue the Queen.

 

From being bullied to being crowned Queen

By Pauline Gilgemann

In her shocking new memoir called Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith,  American gymnast Gabrielle Douglas reveals how she struggled during her adolescence -- mainly  because of the color of her skin.   The 2012 Olympic champion shares tales of homelessness, derision, bullying, and outright racism.  All of this happened within the confines of her gymnastics teams from 2004 to 2010.

“It was definitely hard. I would come home at night and just cry my eyes out.  Like, ‘What did I do to deserve this?'" said Douglas. She describes having orders barked at her by teammates instead of being welcomed as an equal.  “One of my teammates was like, ‘Could you scrape the bar?’ And they were like, ‘Well why doesn’t Gabby do it? She is our slave.’ It was just very offensive.”

So offensive she writes that she “felt being bullied, and isolated from the group” at Excalibur Gymnastics.   Ironically, it is her ability on the uneven bars that made her friends call her the “flying squirrel.”  

Hard to imagine those tortured years when you remember Douglas' sparkling performances in the summer of 2012 in London.  Gabby won two Olympic gold medals, including the most prestigious of all: the individual all-around event. (Her overall score of 62.232 set a record under the Code of Points created in 2006).  But the journey to this glory was obviously complicated. Due to the problems inside the gym, she almost quit the sport. 

And the atmosphere outside the gym was not better. The Olympic champion writes  that she and her family “were homeless and lived in a van.”  But the saving grace was her mother who did everything she could to support Gabby’s pursuits.   With her mother's consent, the 12-year-old left her family and her hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., behind to train with a new coach, Liang Chow, in W. Des Moines, Iowa.

A change for the best.  Paradoxically, all the terrible living and training conditions may have pushed her along. “That always motivated me and drove me to wanting to achieve my dreams,” said Douglas who, contrary to the ones who bullied her, is part of history as the first African-American athlete crowned queen of gymnastics. The constant smile on her face is not ready to fade. A real fairy tale, eventually.















 

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Tiny Gabby Douglas (above, center) soared, despite homelessness and attacks from within her own gymnastics team, she wrote in her new book.

Affleck directs his third movie and portrays lead spy Tony Mendez. Photo  Allenna

Photo ChristianPost.com

Special Report Grading the International Community

Women’s safety  in Morocco since the Arab spring


By Nabil Ethan Hajji


Domestic violence plagues Morocco’s male-dominated society, with more than 85% of the women in the country as victims, according to an investigation conducted by Morocco World News.  Furthermore, the Islamic party (PJD) has controlled the freedom of women and human rights advocates since 2011.


For women like the departed Amina El Filali (she committed suicide instead of marrying her alleged rapist) maybe there is a glimmer of hope. But for the time being, it is not coming from the international community, said activist Khadija Ryadi.


"There's no concrete help or pressure. We are counting on international human rights NGOs, their reports and recommendations by the United Nations' commissions. Governments always put political and economic interests at the top of their priorities, at the expense of human rights."


Ms. Ryadi estimates that 85% of the AMDH budget comes from volunteers  and activists, both Moroccan and foreign (mostly Europeans). The association counts 12,000 members and several partnerships worldwide. Director Ryadi, though generally optimistic, shows certain skepticism when it comes to the international community.


Back in time,  King Mohammed VI and the previous Prime minister Abbas el-Fassi (of the Independence party) enhanced women rights in 2004 in a revised family law called Moudawana. But the current Islamic government (PJD) of Abdelilah Benkirane is not really keen to take up the torch.  “Many ministers in the government are among those against NGOs protecting women and demands coming from the human rights' movement. Generally speaking, Islamists fight against universal human values and their advocates," argued Ms. Ryadi.

Above left   She helps the serial killer trap himself in SK1 case   Above right A guarantee for free net?  Below LBJ speaks for silenced Eric Garner

Voices from India Special Report

India – moving against marital and same-sex rape


By Audrey Vaugrente


The UN senses a ground-breaking change could be on the way in protecting women in India. The newly-formed Verma Committee suggests punishment for marital rape, domestic rape and rape in same-sex relationships. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the Indian government to move toward the reforms.


“This report and its far-reaching recommendations are […] a testament to the power of the young women and men of India, and the broader civil society, who have joined hands across the nation to say ‘Enough is enough,’” Mrs. Pillay said.


“As a father of three daughters myself, I feel as strongly about this as each one of you,” declared Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh when he formed the Committee.  Dr. Singh admitted that attention had to be focused on rape laws after the highly-publicized gang rape and murder last year.  “My wife, my family and I are all joined in our concern for the young woman who was the victim of this heinous crime.”


The report by the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Laws combined the analyses of  professionals with suggestions from civil society.  One of the major recommendations is the change of the definition of rape. The term now designates that rape occurs with any form of penetration against the woman’s consent.


The Verma Committee, created in late December 2012, enabled the government to put in place harsher laws – though temporary – against accused rapists.  The former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, led the committee's work.

Responding to cries that ‘Enough is Enough,’ J.S. Verma (center) leads committee. Photo: Courtesy Indian government

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The ugliness of America’s history on silver screen


By Chaïma Tounsi


With seven new movies about American slavery in the works, the sensitive subject will stay in front of cinema audiences.   That follows  the last year in which three

blockbusters earned $800

million and 88 major awards.

The ugliness of America’s

history dominates the big

screen currently because

the country never solved

its race-based problems,

director Steve McQueen

explained.


“When you walk down the street,

you see evidence of slavery everywhere.

It’s something we’re not dealing with yet,” said Mr. McQueen, the British director of '12 Years a Slave.' “I would like to apologize for all crimes, cruelty, and slavery throughout the world which exists even today,” he said on the Colbert Report television show.


Indeed, American society still struggles with social issues: Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012 is a good example just as the stop-and-frisk controversy in New York. But Mr. McQueen explained that as a global trade, slavery opened a  “psychological wound” across borders.


Is America really prepared to talk about that subject? For Mr. McQueen, the answer is yes. In producing '12 Years a Slave,' the first movie based on a book written by a slave, he attempted to open the minds of Americans. 


“It has helped people to talk about slavery,” he said.  “It’s difficult but necessary.” And it works. According to Mr. McQueen, Solomon Northup’s 1853 novel sold 100,000 copies in two months. Americans buy into stories about American heroes and want to discuss them.

Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays Mr. Northup.


'Lincoln,' 'Django Unchained,' '12 Years a Slave'…  these movies spotlight America’s history of torturous behavior, racism, inhumanity and brutality toward others.  This period is labeled the American Holocaust by some.

Producing movies on this narrow theme takes place as part of a larger on-screen trend. In recent years, the black experience in the United States has gotten more coverage, for example, with the Jackie Robinson movie called '42' and 'The Long Road to Freedom' about Nelson Mandela's life. 

 $800 m in ticket sales ensures more movies on slavery. Mars Distribution

Mandela as music muse through the decades


By Antoine Kharbachi


Songwriters and creative geniuses from around the world chose Nelson Mandela as their musical muse during his life and especially during his imprisonment. This definitely served as an honor for Mandela, who once said: “It is music and dancing that make me at pace with the world.”

 

From Johnny Clegg to Stevie Wonder to U2 and Youssou N’Dour, a lot of artists paid homage to the iconic political figure over the last 3 decades.

 

Most of these musical tributes protested against the injustice of Mandela’s imprisonment by the South African government. Jamaican reggae musician Peter Tosh released his anti-apartheid album “Equal Rights” in 1977 when Mandela was serving his sentence on Robben Island.

 

Stevie Wonder recorded “It’s Wrong” in 1985, joining Mandela’s call against the brutal measures taken against black people in South Africa: “The pain you cause in God’s name points only to yourself to blame for the negative karma you will be receiving, because when people are oppressed with atrocities that test, the future of all mankind we, the world won’t stand seeing. You know apartheid’s wrong, like slavery was wrong, like the holocaust was wrong.”

 

Senegalese artist  N’Dour titled his second album “Nelson Mandela” and called for his release. At the same time, Carlos Santana included “Mandela” -an instrumental tribute- on his 1987 album “Freedom”.

 

Last but not least, white Zulu artist Johnny Clegg composed “Asimbonanga,” which became the true anthem of the anti-apartheid movement. Two years later, Madiba walked out of prison.

 

Comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all time in the name of peace, democracy and freedom. I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you the people,” said Mandela, shortly after his release from prison. 

 

Most recently, U2 and its frontman Bono contributed to the soundtrack of “Long Walk to Freedom,” a biographical film directed by Justin Chadwick and starring Idris Elba as Madiba. They re-recorded “Ordinary Love” in November 2013, and that Mandela-inspired version captured the Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

Super heroes under study by academics


By Maxime Renaud


Next summer at one of the leading

academic conferences in America,

graphic novels and comic books will

finally earn their due respect. After

regular box office victories worldwide,

Batman and The Avengers have

conquered several academic minds,

too.  But why? 


"Maybe if we start thinking a little

bit more like these guys, after all

we did create them …they have a lot

to teach us," said Grant Morrisson,

New X-Men's writer said on The

Dylan Ratigan Show in 2011.


In September that year the Scottish

University of Dundee launched a

comic book degree.  Dr. Chris Murray,

director of the degree program, said on BBC News that it was a "unique opportunity to give this important medium the attention it deserves."


And they certainly did! Over the past decade comic books attracted a lot of academic studies with the best example being the Comics Art Conference in San Diego. According to Dr. Mel Gibson, a comic book expert at Northumbria University, it started in the 80s. She explained to Simon Armstrong of BBC News that the genre matured mainly thanks to British writers.


Graphic novels such as Alan Moore's Watchmen treat the subjects of society and gender in a particular way. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a graphic novel  as a fictional story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.  Graphic novels and comic books have graduated from the stereotype of light reading into a true literary genre in academic circles.

Academics explore the real story beyond the comic book cover

How will France judge Dujardin’s latest? 


By Pedro Fonseca


Jean Dujardin's captivating new thriller «La French» reveals the story of a drug-smuggling scheme from France to the United States in the 1960s and early 70s. Dujardin portrays police magistrate Pierre Michel, who works to dismantle the so-called French Connection.


“I was told he was handsome and slender, but also cold and ironic. His irony pleased me,” Dujardin said in a interview with France's BFMTV. As a 10-year-old, Dujardin remembered the actions of the real-life law man. “I couldn’t refuse to play a character like him -- incorruptible, honest, brave. He is a French hero and they are rare in these days,” said Dujardin, the current version of a French hero because of his Best Actor Oscar for «The Artist» in 2012.

 

The judge focuses on bringing down Gaetan Zampa (played by Gilles Lellouche), the criminal mind behind the heroine trafficking of the time. Zampa controlled the highly-organized operation because of his reputation for being untouchable. Dujardin and Lellouche worked together on «The Players,» a 2012 release which earned $24 million.


Taking direction from Cedric Jimenez and meeting with magisrates in Paris and Marseille prepared Dujardin for the rôle. The also found a source of inspiration closer to home.


“It was a challenge to play the judge. My father was the manager of a small metalwork company. I saw him defend his company with aplomb. In certain scenes, I noticed that I wasn’t playing Judge Michel anymore but my father. I was inspired by him,” he responded during an interview with TéléStar. 


The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and opened in France in early December. 

Solange Doumic cracked the case ~ AFP

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Exclusive

“Plunged into the horror” of the SK1 confession and award-winning movie 


By Damien Miagoux


L’Affaire SK1 received the Jacques Deray Award as best French thriller of 2015. In a riveting hour-long inteview, attorney Solange Doumic unraveled for me how serial killer Guy Georges confessed his murderous deeds to her.


"What happened in fact, an expert asserted that clothes had been cut by a killer who held the knife in the left hand and Guy Georges said: ‘I am right-handed, thus, it is not me,’’’ Ms. Doumic said. 


She continued: «I question Guy Georges by telling him, ‘You tell me that you are a right-handed. The expert says that it is a left-handed person who killed the victims. But I do not understand well because you pushed photos with the left-hand and you moved the microphone with the left-hand.»


The attorney pressed him further: “Then Guy Georges, how does your being right-handed mean you are innocent? And he answers me: ‘It is clear.’  And he brandishes his fist. I say: ‘Guy Georges, when you strike, it is with the right-hand?’ And that makes him relive his act. He answers: ‘Yes that's it.’


“And with a knife, you hold it with the right hand? He said ‘yes,’ and he really mimes a murder.”

«We were plunged into the horror,’’ she said.


Mr. Georges, charged with the murders and rapes of seven women, received a life imprisonment sentence in 2001. Pascale Escarfail, a 19-year-old humanities student, dies first in his killing spree.


Trapped by his demonstration, Mr. Georges changes radically from heing an  affable man on the witness stand. The defendant reveals another part of his personality as he realizes his changing fate.


“In a fraction of a second, we had a kind of brute. His face was transformed. His eyes became black; his complexion became hard. The way he mimes the act was so strong that we all knew that we had just seen the gesture of the killer. Then 48 hours later, he eventually answered, ‘Yes, I am guilty.’’’

 

The director of Affaire SK1 re-enacted the scene with Ms. Doumic’s input. She won’t hold it against him, however: “Frédéric Tellier did not consult me. I think that he wanted to keep artist's freedom instead of sticking to the formal truth because sometimes it is a little necessary to change. I regretted it at the time, but his movie is very well done,” she said before talking about her double in the screen: “I found that Alexia Barlier was really magnificent. I was very proud to be brought to life on screen by her.”