Much-anticipated action film “Top Gun: Maverick” was expected to have a big opening and it did not disappoint, taking in an estimated $151 million in North America for the four-day Memorial Day weekend, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported.
Viewers had to wait 36 years to see the sequel to the original “Top Gun,” but critics say the Paramount/Skydance production was worth the wait, with some calling it superior to the original film.
“The source material remains strong, the execution is excellent, and Tom Cruise makes it work impeccably well,” said analyst David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research.
The film — whose release had been delayed two years by the COVID-19 pandemic — notched $124 million for the first three days of the holiday weekend and took in the same amount overseas, despite not playing in China or Russia. It was Cruise’s first opening to top $100 million.
He again plays cocky (if grayer) navy test pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, now a captain, as he trains to bomb a rogue nation’s uranium enrichment facility. A strong supporting cast includes Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller and Jon Hamm; original “Top Gun” veteran Val (Iceman) Kilmer appears briefly.
Slipping a notch to second place was “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which in its fourth weekend took in $16.4 million for the Friday-through-Sunday period and $21.1 million for the full four days.
The Disney film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, had opened to a year’s best $187 million.
In third spot was 20th Century’s new “Bob’s Burgers Movie.” The animated film, based on a popular television show, earned $12.6 million for three days and $15 million for four.
Focus Features’ “Downton Abbey: A New Era” took fourth place, with $5.9 million for three days and $7.5 million for four. Based on the hugely popular British series, it again stars Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery.
And in fifth was Universal’s family-friendly animation “The Bad Guys,” at $4.6 million for three days and $6.1 million for four.
Rounding out the top 10 were:
“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” ($2.5 million for three days; $3.1 million for four)
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” ($2.5 million; $3.1 million)
“The Lost City” ($1.8 million; $2.3 million)
“Men” ($1.2 million; $1.5 million)
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” ($905,000; $1.1 million)
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra, which won the Eurovision this year, has auctioned its trophy for a $900,000 donation to a foundation that helps the Ukrainian army.
The trophy — a large crystal microphone with the song contest’s logo — was put up for auction on Facebook.
The bidding ended Saturday night and was won by WhiteBIT, a Ukrainian bitcoin company.
“You guys are amazing!” Kalush Orchestra wrote on Facebook late Sunday announcing the winner.
“Special thanks to the WhiteBIT team who bought the trophy for $900,000 and are now the rightful owners.”
The band said that funds raised in auction, which could be entered using cryptocurrencies, will be donated to the Prytula Foundation, which helps the Ukrainian army.
The group Kalush Orchestra won the European contest on May 14 with its song “Stefania” mixing hip-hop and traditional music.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, was excluded from the competition.
Indian police are investigating the murder of a popular Punjabi rapper who blended hip-hop, rap and folk music, a day after he was fatally shot, officials said Monday.
Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, also known around the world by his stage name Sidhu Moose Wala, was killed Sunday evening while driving his car in Mansa, a district in northern India’s Punjab state. Moose Wala, 28, was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead.
Punjab state’s top police official VK Bhawra said the initial investigation has revealed the killing to be an inter-gang rivalry.
A day before the attack, the Punjab government had pulled security cover for over 400 individuals, including Moose Wala, in a bid to clamp down on VIP culture, local media reports said.
Moose Wala started off as a songwriter before a hit song in 2017 catapulted his singing career, making him well known among the Indian and Punjabi diaspora in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada.
Most of his singles have an English title even though the songs were mainly sung in Punjabi. His glossy music videos were most famous for his rap lyrics and often focused on macho culture. His debut album in 2018 made it to Canada’s Billboard Albums chart.
Moose Wala was a controversial figure, in part due to his lyrical style. In 2020, police charged him under India’s Arms Act for allegedly promoting gun culture in one of his songs.
His latest track, “The Last Ride,” was released earlier this month.
The rapper joined India’s Congress Party last year and unsuccessfully ran in the state’s assembly elections.
Punjab’s chief minister Bhagwant Mann said, “no culprit will be spared” and that he was deeply shocked and saddened by the murder.
Rahul Gandhi, a senior Congress leader, took to Twitter to express his condolences over the killing.
“Deeply shocked and saddened by the murder of promising Congress leader and talented artist,” he said.
Forget breaking the sound barrier: Tom Cruise just soared past a major career milestone.
The 59-year-old superstar just got his first $100 million opening weekend with “Top Gun: Maverick.” In its first three days in North American theaters, the long-in-the-works sequel earned an estimated $124 million in ticket sales, Paramount Pictures said Sunday. Including international showings — its worldwide total is $248 million.
It’s a supersonic start for a film that still has the wide-open skies of Memorial Day itself to rake in even more cash. According to projections and estimates, by Monday’s close, “Top Gun: Maverick” will likely have over $150 million.
“These results are ridiculously, over-the-top fantastic,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “I’m happy for everyone. I’m happy for the company, for Tom, for the filmmakers.”
Though undeniably one of the biggest stars in the world — perhaps even “the last movie star,” according to various headlines — Cruise is not known for massive blockbuster openings.
Before “Maverick,” his biggest domestic debut was in 2005, with Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” which opened to $64 million. After that it was “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” with $61 million in 2018. It’s not that his films don’t make money in the long run: They just aren’t enormously frontloaded.
“Top Gun: Maverick” had an extremely long journey to get to the theaters. The sequel to the late Tony Scott’s “Top Gun,” which was released in 1986, was originally slated to open in the summer of 2020. Its marketing campaign technically started back in July 2019. The pandemic got in the way of those plans, however, and it was delayed several times. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and co-produced and co-financed by Skydance, the sequel reportedly cost $152 million to make.
But even as the months, and years, went by and many other companies chose to compromise on hybrid releases, Cruise and Paramount didn’t waver on their desire to have a major theatrical release. A streaming debut was simply not an option.
“That was never going to happen,” Cruise said in Cannes.
And it is major, with 4,735 North American theaters (a record) showing “Top Gun: Maverick.” It also opened in 23,600 locations in 62 international markets.
“This is one of the longest runways for a marketing campaign for any film ever. And it only served to create more excitement around the movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “This movie literally waited for the movie theater to come back.”
The buildup has been just as flashy, with fighter-jet-adorned premieres on an aircraft carrier in San Diego and at the Cannes Film Festival, where Cruise was also given an honorary Palme d’Or, and a royal premiere in London attended by Prince William and his wife Kate.
“The feeling you get when you watch this film with an audience, it’s pretty special,” Aronson said. “The first big screening we had, there was spontaneous applause during the movie.”
Reviews have been stellar, too, with the film notching a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, who were 58% male, gave it an A+ CinemaScore, according to exit polls.
The new film has Cruise reprising the role of Maverick, who returns to the elite aviation training program to train the next generation of flyers, including Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Greg Tarzan Davis, Danny Ramirez, Lewis Pullman and Jay Ellis. Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Val Kilmer, reprising his role from the original, also star.
“This solidifies the notion that the movie theater is a singular and a vitally important outlet for people,” Dergarabedian said. “People are looking for a great escape from everything that’s going on in the world right now.”
“Maverick” is now among the top pandemic era openings, still led by “Spider-Man: No Way Home” with $260 million, followed by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” with $187 million and “The Batman” with $134 million.
Notably, “Top Gun: Maverick” is the only non-superhero movie in the bunch. It also attracted a wide swath of age groups to the theater. An estimated 55% of the audience was over 35.
“Superhero movies aren’t for everybody. This movie is for everyone and that’s what sets it apart,” Aronson said. “The theatrical exhibition business has challenges ahead of it, but this is a shot in the arm for that.”
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” was the only new release that dared go up against “Top Gun.” Released by 20th Century Studios and Disney, the animated pic earned $12.6 million from 3,425 locations. It opened in third place, behind “Doctor Strange 2,” which earned $16.4 million in its fourth weekend in theaters.
“Top Gun” will continue to essentially have the skies to itself until “Jurassic World: Dominion” opens June 10.
“It has a really nice, open marketplace to play,” Dergarabedian said. “Tom Cruise has always been about consistency. His movies are about the marathon. This is the first movie of his that is sprinting to big box office numbers. Here, he gets the sprint and the marathon.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Tuesday.
“Top Gun: Maverick,” $124 million.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $16.4 million.
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” $12.6 million.
“Downton Abbey: A New Era,” $5.9 million.
“The Bad Guys,” $4.6 million.
“Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” $2.5 million.
“Everything Everywhere All At Once,” $2.5 million.
“The Lost City,” $1.8 million.
“Men,” $1.2 million.
“F3: Fun and Frustration,” $1 million.
Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s class warfare comedy “Triangle of Sadness” won the Palme d’Or at the 75th Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, giving Ostlund one of cinema’s most prestigious prizes for the second time.
Ostlund, whose art-world send-up “The Square” took the Palme in 2017, pulled off the rare feat of winning Cannes’ top award for back-to-back films. “Triangle of Sadness,” featuring Woody Harrelson as a Marxist yacht captain and a climactic scene with rampant vomiting, pushes the satire even further.
“We wanted after the screening (for people) to go out together and have something to talk about,” said Ostlund. “All of us agree that the unique thing with cinema is that we’re watching together. So, we have to save something to talk about, but we should also have fun and be entertained.”
The awards were selected by a nine-member jury headed by French actor Vincent Lindon and presented Saturday in a closing ceremony inside Cannes’ Grand Lumière Theater.
The jury’s second prize, the Grand Prix, was shared between the Belgian director Lukas Dhont’s tender boyhood drama “Close,” about two 13-year-old boys whose bond is tragically separated after their intimacy is mocked by schoolmates; and French filmmaking legend Claire Denis’ “Stars at Noon,” a Denis Johnson adaptation starring Margaret Qualley as a journalist in Nicaragua.
The directing prize went to South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy,” “The Handmaiden”) for his twisty noir “Decision to Leave,” a romance fused with a police procedural.
Korean star Song Kang-ho was named best actor for his performance in Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film “Broker,” about a Korean family seeking a home for an abandoned baby.
“I’d like to thank all those who appreciate Korean cinema,” said Song, who also starred in Bong Joon Ho’s Palme d’Or winning film “Parasite” in Cannes three years ago.
Best actress went to Zahra Amir Ebrahimi for her performance as a journalist in Ali Abbasi’s “Holy Spider,” a true-crime thriller about a serial killer targeting sex workers in the Iranian religious city of Mashhad. Violent and graphic, “Holy Spider” wasn’t permitted to shoot in Iran and instead was made in Jordan. Accepting the award, Ebrahimi said the film depicts “everything that’s impossible to show in Iran.”
The jury prize was split between the friendship tale “The Eight Mountains,” by Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felix Van Groeningen, and Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski’s “EO,” about a donkey’s journey across a pitiless modern Europe.
“I would like to thank my donkeys,” said Skolimowski, who proceeded to thank all six donkeys used in the film by name.
The jury also awarded a special award for the 75th Cannes to Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, two-time Palme-winners and long a regular presence at the festival, for their immigrant drama “Tori and Lokita.” Swedish-Egyptian filmmaker Tarik Saleh took best screenplay at Cannes for “Boy from Heaven,” a thriller set in Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque.
The award for best first film, the Camera d’Or, went to Riley Keough and Gina Gammell for “War Pony,” a drama about the Pine Ridge Reservation made in collaboration with Oglala Lakota and Sicangu Lakota citizens.
Saturday’s closing ceremony brought to a close a Cannes that attempted to fully resuscitate the annual France extravaganza that was canceled in 2020 by the pandemic and saw modest crowds last year. This year’s festival also unspooled against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, which sparked red-carpet protests and a dialogue about the purpose of cinema in wartime.
Last year, the French body horror thriller “Titane” took the top prize at Cannes, making director Julia Ducournau only the second female filmmaker ever to win the Palme. In 2019, Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” triumphed in Cannes before doing the same at the Academy Awards.
This year, the biggest Hollywood films at Cannes — “Elvis,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Three Thousand Years of Longing” — played outside Cannes’ competition lineup of 21 films. But their presence helped restore some of Cannes’ glamour after the pandemic scaled down the festival for the last two years.
Karmila Purba revs her motorbike under the lights of an Indonesian night carnival and rides up horizontally inside a wooden cylinder called Satan’s Barrel, drawing gasps from spectators looking down into the drum.
With a smile on her face, Purba delights onlookers as she fearlessly pings around the bowl in Bogor, West Java, spreading her arms to collect tips waved by those above.
The gravity-defying daredevil is among a handful of women that perform the stunt in Indonesia, zipping around a structure more commonly known as the “Wall of Death.”
Women becoming “Wall of Death” riders is “extremely rare,” the 23-year-old told AFP before the show.
“When I started there was no one else … so I wanted to be something different, doing something that no one else was doing.”
For decades, the Satan’s Barrel — or “Tong Setan” — has been the main attraction at traveling funfairs in Indonesia, particularly in rural areas where there are few options for affordable entertainment.
Using centrifugal force, riders sling their bikes around the motordrome at high speeds without protective gear as the smell of rubber fills the air.
Purba came from humble beginnings, earning a meagre living as a street busker on the island of Sumatra in western Indonesia before switching jobs eight years ago for a better income of around 6 million rupiah ($410) a month.
She can also earn up to 400,000 rupiah ($27) in tips on a good day.
But at the beginning of her daredevil journey, she faced questions about her career choice.
“People were saying to me, ‘You are a woman, why do you do something like that? It’s not for females’,” she said.
“There was a lot of criticism.”
Fans eventually began to praise Purba, giving her the nickname “the Princess of the Wall of Death.”
Now she is one of the star acts of the carnival.
“(A) female wall of death rider is very interesting and has become the main attraction in this night market because people are curious,” spectator Sumarno told AFP while watching the show.
“They didn’t believe a woman could do something extreme like that.”
Experts say Mali’s struggle against Islamist militants is putting its World Heritage sites at risk. For the first time in modern history, officials say, the annual replastering of the mud mosque in the town of Djenné in central Mali will likely be canceled because of security concerns. The concerns cast doubt onto the government’s claim it is winning the fight against terrorism.
The Great Mosque of Djenné is the largest mud brick building in the world and was a main attraction in Mali’s formerly thriving tourism industry.
Each year the mosque is replastered in an event known as the “crépissage.” This year, the event is on the verge of cancellation for the first time, as Mali’s decadelong conflict has gradually moved south into the center of the country.
A Djenné resident who wished to remain anonymous, speaking via a messaging app from Djenné, said that in recent weeks he saw ambulances circulating in town and military helicopters flying overhead, signs of unrest in neighboring villages. The Malian army said on its Twitter account this month that four soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack near the town.
He said that due to insecurity, village residents have decided not to hold the crépissage this year, an event he has participated in since he was a child.
Abdramane Dembele, deputy mayor of Djenné, said that the crépissage has not yet been officially canceled, but has been delayed due to insecurity. If rescheduled, it would need to be held before the rainy season begins in June. One of the objectives of the crépissage is to protect the building from rain.
Abdoulaye Deyoko is an engineer and city planner and founder of Bamako’s School of Engineering, Architecture, and Urbanism, and a tireless advocate for Mali’s mud architecture.
Deyoko explained that the mosque is built from “banco,” a mixture of mud and small pieces of rice bran.
When it rains, he said, these small pieces have a tendency to break away. Traditionally, villagers have a celebration, a type of ritual that allows them not only to repair the mosque but to celebrate.
Deyoko said that despite this, he thinks the Djenné mosque can hold up for a year or two without the crépissage, although he said the event is important for the social life of the town, not just for technical maintenance.
The Djenné mosque and surrounding mud brick town is on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger.
Ali Daou, UNESCO’s culture program director in Mali, said Djenné, like all of Mali’s four World Heritage sites, is in danger because of the ongoing hostilities. It is not just the threat of direct conflict, he said, but the difficulty of conducting the annual crépissage that puts the site at risk.
In recent months, Mali’s military government has launched a highly publicized offensive against Islamists. Many locals, though, say that these military operations target civilians rather than extremists.
The army claimed to have killed 200 terrorists in the village of Moura in March, while residents said the majority of those killed were innocent civilians.
The arrival of the pandemic intensified feelings of loneliness and social isolation for millions of older people, many of whom were already battling depression and other health issues. For those struggling, a robot companion might make a difference, and states like New York are starting to provide them to residents free of charge. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more. Camera: Adam Greenbaum
A documentary about discrimination within the ranks of Dutch police has sparked a national conversation in the Netherlands about racism, with many officers and others hoping it will finally bring about change.
The Blue Family, or De Blauwe Familie in Dutch, discusses a culture of bullying and fear in the national police force. It premiered on Dutch television Monday, timed around the second anniversary this week of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police.
“There is no way back,” Peris Conrad, one of the officers featured in the film, told The Associated Press.
Born in the former Dutch colony Surinam, Conrad dreamed of being a police officer as a child. He moved to the Netherlands when he was 4 years old, and after a stint in the military, became a security guard.
While in that job, he had an encounter with police officers who were looking for information about crime in the Surinamese community. The officers encouraged him to join the force himself, which he did, ultimately spending 26 years in service.
But Conrad, who is Black, recalled how in his first year at the police academy, colleagues hung a picture of him with cell bars drawn on it. The caption read: “Our monkey in a cage.”
Police leaders received an early showing of the film and promised action.
“The personal stories make it painfully clear how great the impact is (of the racism), and how long it will last,” Police Chief Henk van Essen said in a statement. “We all have something to do; not just executives, but all 65,000 colleagues. Because safety outside starts with safety inside.”
“There is no room for racism and discrimination in our police,” Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgöz told Dutch talk show RTL Boulevard.
The Dutch parliament voted by a large majority this week to place police leaders under stricter supervision, citing the suicides in recent years of three officers who had complained about discrimination.
Last year, a Dutch newspaper published messages from police group chats that showed officers making racial slurs and joking about killing non-white people. “One less Turk” one officer wrote, in response to the slaying of a 16-year-old girl who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in her high school’s bicycle shed.
As in other countries, the problems in the Netherlands have a long history. A 1998 report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs said discrimination was driving out police officers with a “migration” background — defined as having at least one parent born abroad.
While 24% of the Dutch population meets that definition, only 14% of the police force does. The National Police Corps employs some 65,000 people, and around 40,000 work as officers.
Margot Snijders has spent 30 years on the national force, including several years working on diversity and inclusion efforts. After years of frustration, she took a step back from that role.
“People don’t trust us, and they don’t want to work for us,” Snijders, who also appears in The Blue Family, told The Associated Press.
George Floyd’s death in the U.S. two years ago prompted protests of racial injustice in the Netherlands and around the world. Controle Alt Delete, an advocacy organization that pushes for better law enforcement practices, wanted to highlight problems within the Dutch police force.
The group brought on board filmmakers Maria Mok and Meral Uslu to direct and produce the documentary, which was backed by Dutch public broadcaster KRO-NCRV.
Problems with racism, as well as discrimination against women and members of the LGBTQ community, are widespread and systemic within police ranks, said Jan Struijs, the chairperson of the country’s largest police union.
Struijs also took part in the film. “I hope this is a historic turning point,” he told the AP.
The first article of the country’s constitution, which is displayed on posters in every police station, outlaws discrimination against any group. The Dutch consider themselves to be some of the most open-minded, tolerant people in the world.
There’s been no significant criticism of the The Blue Family, those involved in the documentary welcomed the response to it.
“I have been saying the same things for years, only now do they get a positive reaction,” Snijders said.
The Dutch police union is calling for better mental health counseling for officers and more accountability for ones who make racist jokes.
Conrad sees a need for widespread change, both in policy and leadership.
In the meantime, he’s forbidden his 20-year-old son from joining the force.
“I don’t want him to experience this,” he said.
A former director of the Louvre Museum in Paris has been charged with conspiring to hide the origin of archaeological treasures that investigators suspect were smuggled out of Egypt in the chaos of the Arab Spring, a French judicial source said Thursday.
Jean-Luc Martinez was charged Wednesday after being taken in for questioning along with two French specialists in Egyptian art, who were not charged, another source close to the inquiry told AFP.
The Louvre, which is owned by the French state, is the world’s most visited museum with around 10 million visitors a year before the COVID-19 pandemic and is home to some of Western civilization’s most celebrated cultural heritage.
The museum declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
French investigators opened the case in July 2018, two years after the Louvre’s branch in Abu Dhabi bought a rare pink granite stele depicting the pharaoh Tutankhamun and four other historic works for 8 million euros ($8.5 million).
Martinez, who ran the Paris Louvre from 2013-21, is accused of turning a blind eye to fake certificates of origin for the pieces, a fraud thought to involve several other art experts, according to French investigative weekly Canard Enchaine.
He has been charged with complicity in fraud and “concealing the origin of criminally obtained works by false endorsement,” according to the judicial source.
Martinez is currently the French foreign ministry’s ambassador in charge of international cooperation on cultural heritage, which focuses in particular on fighting art trafficking.
“Jean-Luc Martinez contests in the strongest way his indictment in this case,” his lawyers told AFP in a statement.
Arab Spring looting
“For now, he will reserve his declarations for the judiciary, and has no doubt that his good faith will be established,” they said.
French investigators suspect that hundreds of artifacts were pillaged from Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries during protests in the early 2010s that became known as the Arab Spring. They suspect the artifacts were then sold to galleries and museums that did not ask too many questions about previous ownership.
Martinez’s indictment comes after the German-Lebanese gallery owner who brokered the sale, Robin Dib, was arrested in Hamburg in March and extradited to Paris for questioning.
Marc Gabolde, a French Egyptologist, was quoted by Canard Enchaine as saying that he informed Louvre officials about suspicions related to the Tutankhamun stele but received no response.
The opening of the inquiry in 2018 roiled the Paris art market, a major hub for antiquities from Middle Eastern civilizations.
In June 2020, prominent Paris archaeology expert Christophe Kunicki and dealer Richard Semper were charged with fraud for false certification of looted works from several countries during the Arab Spring.
They also had a role in certifying another prized Egyptian work, the gilded sarcophagus of the priest Nedjemankh that was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2017.
Gabolde said an Egyptian art dealer, Habib Tawadros, was also involved in both suspect deals.
After New York prosecutors determined that the sarcophagus had been stolen during the revolts against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Met said it had been a victim of false statements and fake documentation, and returned the coffin to Egypt.
Indian writer Geetanjali Shree and American translator Daisy Rockwell won the International Booker Prize on Thursday for Tomb of Sand, a vibrant novel with a boundary-crossing 80-year-old heroine.
Originally written in Hindi, it’s the first book in any Indian language to win the high-profile award, which recognizes fiction from around the world that has been translated into English. The $63,000 prize money will be split between New Delhi-based Shree and Rockwell, who lives in Vermont.
Translator Frank Wynne, who chaired the judging panel, said the judges “overwhelmingly” chose Tomb of Sand after “a very passionate debate.”
The book tells the story of an octogenarian widow who dares to cast off convention and confront the ghosts of her experiences during the subcontinent’s tumultuous 1947 partition into India and Pakistan.
Wynne said that despite confronting traumatic events, “it is an extraordinarily exuberant and incredibly playful book.”
“It manages to take issues of great seriousness — bereavement, loss, death — and conjure up an extraordinary choir, almost a cacophony, of voices,” he said.
“It is extraordinarily fun, and it is extraordinarily funny.”
Shree’s book beat five other finalists including Polish Nobel literature laureate Olga Tokarczuk, Claudia Pineiro of Argentina and South Korean author Bora Chung to be awarded the prize at a ceremony in London.
The International Booker Prize is awarded every year to a translated work of fiction published in the U.K. or Ireland. It is run alongside the Booker Prize for English-language fiction.
The prize was set up to boost the profile of fiction in other languages — which accounts for only a small share of books published in Britain — and to salute the often-unacknowledged work of literary translators.
Wynne said the prize aimed to show that “literature in translation is not some form of cod liver oil that is supposed to be good for you.”
Tomb of Sand is published in Britain by small publisher Tilted Axis Press. It was founded by translator Deborah Smith — who won the 2016 International Booker for translating Han Kang’s The Vegetarian — to publish books from Asia.
The novel has not yet been published in the United States, but Wynne said he expected that to change with “a flurry of offers” after its Booker victory.
In Britain, “I would be gobsmacked [astonished] if it didn’t increase its sales by more than 1,000% in the next week,” Wynne said. “Possibly more.”
Ray Liotta, the actor best known for playing mobster Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” and baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams,” has died. He was 67.
A source at the Dominican Republic’s National Forensic Science Institute who was not authorized to speak to the media confirmed the death of Ray Liotta and said his body was taken to the Cristo Redentor morgue. The Hollywood Reporter and NBC News cited representatives for Liotta who said he died in his sleep Wednesday night. He was in the Dominican Republic to film a new movie.
The Newark, New Jersey, native was born in 1954 and adopted at age six months out of an orphanage by a township clerk and an auto parts owner. Though he mostly grew up playing sports, including baseball, during his senior year of high school, the drama teacher at the school asked him if he wanted to be in a play, which he agreed to on a lark. And it stuck: He’d go on to study acting at the University of Miami. After graduation, he got his first big break on the soap opera “Another World.”
Liotta’s first big film role was in Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild” as Melanie Griffith’s character’s hotheaded ex-convict husband Ray. The turn earned him a Golden Globe nomination. A few years later, he would get the memorable role of the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams.”
His most iconic role, as real life mobster Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” came shortly after. He, and Scorsese, had to fight for it though, with multiple auditions and pleas to the studio to cast the still relative unknown.
British prosecutors said Thursday they have charged actor Kevin Spacey with four counts of sexual assault against three men.
The Crown Prosecution Service said Spacey “has also been charged with causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.”
The alleged incidents took place in London between March 2005 and August 2008, and one in western England in April 2013. The alleged victims are now in their 30s and 40s.
Rosemary Ainslie, head of the service’s Special Crime Division, said the charges follow a review of evidence gathered by London’s Metropolitan Police.
Spacey, a 62-year-old double Academy Award winner, was questioned by British police in 2019 about claims by several men that he had assaulted them. The former “House of Cards” star ran London’s Old Vic Theatre between 2004 and 2015.
Spacey won a best supporting actor Academy Award for the 1995 film “The Usual Suspects” and a lead actor Oscar for the 1999 movie “American Beauty.”
His celebrated career came to an abrupt halt in 2017 when actor Anthony Rapp accused the star of assaulting him at a party in the 1980s, when Rapp was a teenager. Spacey denies the allegations.
The charges were announced as Spacey was testifying in a courtroom in New York City in the civil lawsuit filed by Rapp. He was on the witness stand Thursday and not immediately available for comment.
A criminal case brought against him, an indecent assault and battery charge stemming from the alleged groping of an 18-year-old man at a Nantucket resort, was dismissed by Massachusetts prosecutors in 2019.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, Western nations have sidelined a raft of Russian artists, dancers and musicians with links to President Vladimir Putin. That includes star opera singer Anna Netrebko, who was dropped by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Netrebko, however, is making a comeback of sorts with an appearance Wednesday night in Paris — underscoring a broader debate over the limits of cultural boycotts.
Soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska received a standing ovation starring earlier this month in Puccini’s Turandot. The Ukrainian singer took her curtain call at New York’s Metropolitan Opera draped in her country’s flag.
Celebrated Russian sorprano Anna Netrebko was originally tapped for the role. But the war in Ukraine changed that. Netrebko has condemned the conflict, but not Russian President Vladimir Putin.
She publicly endorsed Putin’s reelection in 2012, although not in 2018. In 2014, she was photographed alongside a Russian-backed separatist leader from Ukraine’s Donbas region. She recently told Le Monde newspaper her intentions hadn’t been political, and said she was uninformed about the area’s history.
Now Netrebko is back on stage — singing at the Paris Philharmonic with another Russian, mezzo-soprano Elena Maximova. Beyond a last-minute appearance in Monaco, the event is considered her formal return to the Western stage.
The Paris Philharmonic declined an interview request. But in a statement, it said that while it has canceled artists formally linked to the Russian government, it aims to keep ties whenever possible with those who are not. After Netrebko’s criticism of the war, it noted, Russia’s Duma, the lower house of parliament, called her a traitor.
The Paris institution has a different position from the Metropolitan’s, where Netrebko will not be singing for the foreseeable future.
Russian singers aren’t the only ones under Western scrutiny. Dancers and other Russian artists are being boycotted for their ties to Moscow. It’s a very different situation from Cold War days, when artists from the United States and the former Soviet Union were often welcomed on each other’s stages.
“The two superpowers were in a competition for hearts and minds the world over, and they were attempting to demonstrate to the world and to one another’s populations that theirs was the superior system,” said Kenneth Platt, a professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “So from the perspective of each of the superpowers, it was their interest to showcase their culture and to engage their cultural exchanges.”
Today, it will be hard for Russia to overcome Western revulsion over its reported atrocities in Ukraine. Still, Platt is one who does not support a blanket boycott of Russian artists.
“My basic position on canceling and national identities is if you want to cancel people, cancel them because they are in support of the war, or aligned with this inimical Russian state or because their books and films are pro-war. Not because they are Russians, or their books are Russian,” he said.
That’s also the position of Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, who spoke to France 24 TV at the Cannes Film Festival going on now. The festival has banned Russians with official ties to the Kremlin and slotted time for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak at the venue via video link.
“Yet I do not agree with excluding those Russian authors, artists, filmmakers who are against this war, who are just like the rest of the civilized world — just trying to fight against the evil,” he said.
Loznitsa is not in lockstep with some of his compatriots who back a broader ban of Russian artists.
Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania’s Platt has his doubts about Netrebko’s operatic return.
“I think Ms. Netrebko has a prominent public voice,” he said. “I would want her to see her using that voice far more vociferously to condemn this war and Putin’s dictatorial regime in the strongest possible terms — much more so than she has done — before welcoming her back into the limelight.”
The Paris Philharmonic has also welcomed Ukrainian musicians who fled the war in their homeland, It’s working with the head of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra to place them in various French orchestras. Some have already performed in concerts in recent weeks.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appears to be having an unanticipated impact in cyberspace — a decrease in the number of ransomware attacks.
“We have seen a recent decline since the Ukrainian invasion,” Rob Joyce, the U.S. National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, told a virtual forum Wednesday.
Joyce said one reason for the decrease in ransomware attacks since the February 24 invasion is likely improved awareness and defensive measures by U.S. businesses.
He also said some of it is tied to measures the United States and its Western allies have taken against Moscow in response to the war in Ukraine.
“We’ve definitively seen the criminal actors in Russia complain that the functions of sanctions and the distance of their ability to use credit cards and other payment methods to get Western infrastructure to run these [ransomware] attacks have become much more difficult,” Joyce told The Cipher Brief’s Cyber Initiatives Group.
“We’ve seen that have an impact on their [Russia’s] operations,” he added. “It’s driving the trend down a little bit.”
Just days after Russian forces entered Ukraine, U.S. cybersecurity officials renewed their “Shields Up” awareness campaign, encouraging companies to take additional security precautions to protect against potential cyberattacks by Russia itself or by criminal hackers working on Moscow’s behalf.
And those officials caution Russia still has the capability to inflict more damage in cyberspace.
“Russia is continuing to explore options for potential cyberattacks,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Matthew Hartman told a meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week.
“We are seeing glimpses into targeting and into access development,” Hartman said, noting Russia has for now held back from launching any major cyberattacks against the West. “We do not know at what point a calculus may change.”
FBI cyber officials have likewise voiced concern that it could be a matter of time before the Kremlin authorizes cyberattacks targeting U.S. critical infrastructure, including against the energy, finance and telecommunication sectors.
U.S. and NATO officials on Wednesday also cautioned that it would be a mistake to think that just because there have been few signs of “catastrophic effects” that Russia has not tried to leverage its cyber capabilities to its advantage.
“It has been happening and it’s still happening,” said Stefanie Metka, head of the Cyber Threat Analysis Branch at NATO. “There’s a lot of cyber activity that’s happening all the time and probably we won’t know the full extent of it until we turn the computers back on.”
Said the NSA’s Joyce: “If you look at Ukraine, they have been heavily targeted. What we’ve seen are a number of wiper viruses, seven or eight different or unique wiper viruses that have been thrown into the ecosystem of Ukraine and its near abroad.” Wiper viruses are viruses that erase a computer’s memory.
These included a cyberattack against a satellite communications company, which hampered the ability of Ukraine’s military to communicate and had spillover effects across Europe.
But with help from the U.S. and other allies, Ukraine was able to mitigate the impact, Joyce said.
“The Ukrainians have been under threat and under pressure for a number of years, and so they have continued to adapt and improve and develop their tradecraft to the point where they mount a good defense and, equally as important, they mount a great incident response,” he said.
Some cybersecurity experts say that ability to respond might be one of the biggest take-aways, so far, from the invasion.
“Resiliency matters,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, the founder of the Silverado Policy Accelerator and the former chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, at Wednesday’s virtual forum. “The Ukrainians have gotten really, really good at rebuilding networks, quickly mitigating damage.”
Another key lesson, he said, is the limitations of cyber.
“If you’ve got kinetic options, if you can create a crater somewhere, take out a substation, take out a communication system, that’s what you’re going to prefer to use,” Alperovitch said. “That’s what’s easiest [to do] to get lasting damage.”
Gallaudet University in Washington hosted its first undergraduate commencement ceremony since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Gallaudet is the only university in the world where deaf, deaf-blind and hard-of-hearing students live and learn bilingually in American Sign Language and English. Keynote speaker Apple CEO Tim Cook and Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, among others, addressed the graduating students. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has the story
Meta, the company that owns Facebook, is hosting its second annual Africa Day campaign to promote Africans who are making a global impact.
The content producer for the film project, South African filmmaker Tarryn Crossman, said Meta identified eight innovators, creators and businesspeople on the continent whose stories the company wanted told for the “Made by Africa, Loved by the World” campaign.
Crossman’s company, Tia Productions, teamed up with Mashoba Media to find four fellow filmmakers in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their job was to make two- to three-minute documentaries about the subjects.
“So, for example we did Trevor Stuurman here in South Africa,” Crossman said. “He’s a visual artist and his line was, I just loved so much, he says: ‘Africa’s no longer the ghost writer.’ We’re telling our stories and owning our own narratives. That’s kind of the thread amongst all these characters. They all have that in common.”
Nairobi-based filmmaker Joan Kabangu made a movie about Black Rhino VR, a Kenyan virtual reality content producing company which has worked with international brands.
“They are the pioneers around creating VR content, 360 content, augmented mixed reality kind of content in Kenya, in the wider Africa. And it’s a company which is run by a young person and everybody who is working there is fairly young. And they are really getting into how tech is being used to elevate the way we are creating content in 2022, going forward,” Kabangu said.
Of Meta’s Africa Day campaign she said, “I feel it’s celebrating the good in Africa.”
In Ghana, Kofi Awuah’s movie making has been delayed by floods in the capital, Accra. But he is determined to finish. His innovator is designer Selina Beb, whose work can be seen on Instagram and is sold online, often to buyers in the U.S. and Britain.
“She’s very unique,” Awuah said. “Based on material she uses and even the processes she uses are kind of things that tell a Ghanian or African story. For instance, she uses a certain kind of stone that you can find only in the northern parts of Ghana.”
Awuah said being a part of the campaign is the chance of a lifetime.
“My manager called me to tell me that we gotten a contract from Meta and I almost, like I had a heart attack,” she said. “When that call came, I felt this is the moment for me to express myself to the millions or billions of people who are using Facebook, who are using social media.”
Meta will also be hosting free virtual training sessions throughout the week. These include training on monetization, cross-border business and branded content.
Facebook parent Meta said it will start publicly providing more details about how advertisers target people with political ads just months ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.
The announcement follows years of criticism that the social media platforms withhold too much information about how campaigns, special interest groups and politicians use the platform to target small pockets of people with polarizing, divisive or misleading messages.
Meta, which also owns Instagram, said it will start releasing details in July about the demographics and interests of audiences who are targeted with ads that run on its two primary social networks. The company will also share how much advertisers spent in an effort to target people in certain states.
“By making advertiser targeting criteria available for analysis and reporting on ads run about social issues, elections and politics, we hope to help people better understand the practices used to reach potential voters on our technologies,” Jeff King wrote in a statement posted to Meta’s website.
The new details could shed more light on how politicians spread misleading or controversial political messages among certain groups of people. Advocacy groups and Democrats, for example, have argued for years that misleading political ads are overwhelming the Facebook feeds of Spanish-speaking populations.
The information will be showcased in the Facebook ad library, a public database that already shows how much companies, politicians or campaigns spend on each ad they run across Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. Currently, anyone can see how much a page has spent running an ad and a breakdown of the ages, gender and states or countries an ad is shown in.
The information will be available across 242 countries when a social issue, political or election ad is run, Meta said in a statement.
Meta collected $86 billion in revenue during 2020, the last major U.S. election year, thanks in part to its granular ad targeting system. Facebook’s ad system is so customizable that advertisers could target a single user out of billions on the platform, if they wanted.
Meta said in its announcement Monday that it will provide researchers with new details that show the interest categories advertisers selected when they tried to target people on the platform.
One of the most prominent events in the world of contemporary African art is kicking off in the Senegalese capital after a four-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 14th edition of the Dakar Biennale features the work of hundreds of artists from around the world, ranging from immersive installations to costumed performances.
About 100 spectators gathered on Dakar’s ocean walkway as dancers outfitted in traditional West African costumes gyrated to the sound of djembes. One dancer, dressed as a broomstick, twirled about, while another, donning a mythical lion costume, approached those filming on cellphones to offer a roar. Behind them, a young woman covered in mud held still as an artist covers her in powdered pigments.
The event is one of hundreds set to take place in Dakar over the next month.
The official 2022 biennale selection includes 59 artists from some 30 countries, but hundreds of other spaces, both in Dakar and throughout Senegal, are showcasing art. Even restaurants and hotels have converted their walls into miniature museums.
“The Dakar biennale is unique because it brings together the great majority of audio-visual creators from around the African continent and its diaspora,” said Khalifa Dieng, a scenographer for the National Gallery exhibit. The gallery is hosting works by Senegalese painter El Hadji Sy for the event.
Nigerian painter Tyna Adebowale traveled from her home base in the Netherlands to show her work. She completed an artist residency in Dakar and said she was inspired by the sense of community she found.
“I love the creative vibe of Senegal as a whole,” Adebowale said. “There’s no ego, it’s towards one goal, which is art and culture for the sake of the whole country, the community, the people. I love the collective support that I see. It’s a very beautiful spirit, very vibrant. I really admire it.”
The energy at the festival is perhaps more amplified this year as the 2020 event was postponed due to COVID19, making this the first biennale in four years.
This year’s theme is “Ndaffa,” which means to forge out of the fire in Serer, one of the languages spoken in Senegal.
It refers both to the need to recalibrate as we emerge from the pandemic into a new world, as well as to the history of African creation and its influence on contemporary African art.
Lou Mo is one of four official international curators. Her exhibit, “Havana: Forge of the South,” seeks to link Havana with Dakar via shared themes of migration, race and creolization. Dakar, she said, has become one of Africa’s leading art hubs.
“Both with the biennale that’s now 32 years old, to different institutions, different artists,” she said. “And I think there’s definitely an international trend of raising the importance of African art. So, I think there’s many possibilities for Dakar in the future.”
The event will continue through June 21.