Nelson Mandela: South African Prisoner, Liberator and Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 95

Nelson Mandela: South African Prisoner, Liberator and Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 95

Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa and served as his country’s first black President, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday night at the age of 95.

Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty, to the liberation underground, to a prison rock quarry, to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. When his first term in office was up, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease, but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace.

Mr. Mandela overcame a personal mistrust bordering on loathing to share both power and a Nobel Peace Prize with the white president who preceded him, F. W. de Klerk. And as president, from 1994 to 1999, he devoted much energy to moderating the bitterness of his black electorate and to reassuring whites with fears of vengeance. When the question was put to Mr. Mandela in an interview in 2007: “After such barbarous torment, how do you keep hatred in check?” His answer was almost dismissive: “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.

Read more about Nelson Mandela in the New York Times here.

Nelson Mandela Dies at 95: South Africa’s First Black President Remembered

The World Celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday

Mandela’s Campaign Against South African Apartheid

On August 5th, 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested after living in underground hiding for seventeen months, and was initially imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. He was imprisoned after being charged with involvement in planning armed action and a conspiracy to help other countries invade South Africa. The arrest was made possible because the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tipped off South African security police as to Mandela’s whereabouts and disguise. Mandela was later imprisoned on Robben Island, where he remained for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison.

In March 1982, Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, in part to enable discreet contact between him and the South African government. In 1990, State President F.W. de Klerk reversed the ban on anti-apartheid organizations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison. Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on February 11th, 1990, an event that was broadcast live all over the world.

South Africa’s first multi-racial elections were held on April 27th, 1994. The African National Congress won 62% of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on May 10th, 1994, as the country’s first Black President, with the National Party’s de Klerk as his first deputy. As President from 1994 until 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

Mandela’s leadership was recognized when he was awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mandela’s London Arrival for the Birthday Celebrations

Nelson Mandela arrived in London on Monday, June 23rd, 2008, for a week of events to celebrate his 90th birthday. Mandela met with Queen Elizabeth II, as well as with a number of other high-profile celebrities who included Gordon Brown, the former U.S. president Bill Clinton and the talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. The outdoor concert in honor of the former South African President was scheduled to take place at Hyde Park, London, on Friday, June 29th, with performers including Amy Winehouse, Josh Groban, Annie Lennox, Leona Lewis, Queen and the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Celebrating Mandela’s 90th Birthday: The 90th Birthday Concert

40,000 Fans Pay Tribute to Mandela

Will Smith charmed the huge 90th Birthday Concert crowd, and Amy Winehouse wowed them with her performance. However, Nelson Mandela proved to be the biggest star of all at the concert Friday in honor of the South African statesman’s 90th birthday.

Acts including Queen, Razorlight, Leona Lewis and a host of African stars joined more than 40,000 music fans for the outdoor show in London’s Hyde Park. Josh Groban and the Soweto Gospel Choir also performed at the event, which came 20 years after a 70th birthday concert for an absent Mandela at London’s Wembley Stadium. Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist, had at that point been imprisoned in South Africa for 25 years. He told Friday’s crowd that that concert made a big difference in his eventual release and the fight against the racist system, which was dismantled in the early 1990s.

Your voices carried across the water to inspire us in our prison cells far away,” said Mandela, who received the biggest cheers of the night. “We are honored to be back in London for this wonderful celebration.”

But even as we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete.”

Amy Winehouse Performs: Mandela’s 90th Birthday Concert

Josh Groban Performs at the Birthday Concert

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Wasp: The Searing Desperation of a Forsaken Young Mother

Wasp: The Searing Desperation of a Forsaken Young Mother

Through the years, Mother’s Day films have presented moms both good and bad, and Wasp features a most down-on-her-luck mother in contemporary Britain, an unfortunate mom who certainly isn’t going to be winning any Mother of the Year Awards. Wasp is an acclaimed short film directed by British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, which won the 2005 Academy Award for Live Action Short Film and the Jury Prize for International Short Filmmaking at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Wasp has been credited as having revived the genre of social realism in British cinema, and this short film has gained the status of a modern classic through Arnold’s sensitive humanistic approach, combined with modern filmmaking techniques.

The film is a searing and intimate portrait of Zoë, a forsaken young woman in contemporary England, who is mired in poverty, but who desperately wants something for herself aside from the oppressive limitations of being a single-mother of four. Despite the responsibility she bears, when a former crush unexpectedly reappears showing his first bit of romantic interest in her, Zoë jumps at the opportunity to go out on a date with him, behaving in painfully irresponsible ways.

On another level, Wasp is a stinging critique of the agonizing worship of the faux-celebrity lives manufactured by today’s pop-media, public relations machines. For Zoë, the Beckhams are the ideal family, the epitome of the fashionably idolized, providing an illusory escape from the harsh realities of her own life. They’re the idealized depiction of a family with three terribly good-looking young sons, a family whose real existence never steps in the way of their living the glamorous life. For Zoë, the Beckhams represent the false pinnacle of desire: never-ending luxury, fashionable motherhood and physical perfection in marriage. But there’s a gut-wrenching sadness to Zoë’s idealized obsession, for she can barely even feed her own children.

It is just phenomenal how much this film gets right; the level of deftness in the writing and presentation is stellar. Having already noted that Wasp has achieved the status of a modern classic, it would be very worthwhile for you to watch this engrossing film. Wasp is a perfect reintroduction to dramatic live-action short films: it is almost mandatory viewing for short film fans. Enjoy.

Wasp: The Searing Desperation of a Forsaken Young Mother

Read more about this film at Short of the Week here.

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The Snowman: A Magical Journey of Adventure, Friendship, Death and Loss

The Snowman: A Magical Journey of Adventure, Friendship, Death and Loss

The Snowman is a magical, classic animated short film directed by Dianne Jackson, based on the best-selling children’s story by Raymond Briggs. The film premiered on the United Kingdom’s BBC Channel 4 on Christmas Eve 1982, and has aired every year since then. The Snowman won the 1983 BAFTA TV Award for Best Chilcren’s Program and was nominated for a 1983 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

The Snowman tells the wordless story of a young boy whose snowman comes to life on Christmas Eve and takes him on a series of adventures, only to melt into nothingness by dawn of the next day. It is a beloved holiday tradition; for many children of the 1970s and 1980s it was the first program they ever saw that addressed the issues of death and loss.

The Snowman: A Magical Journey of Adventure, Friendship, Death and Loss

A sequel to the silent Christmas classic The Snowman, titled The Snowman and the Snowdog, is scheduled to air this Monday on BBC’s Channel 4, more than 30 years after the original film’s premiere.

A Sequel to The Snowman: The Snowman and the Snowdog

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Musical Poetry of the Dark Unconscious: Scott Walker’s “Epizootics!”

Musical Poetry of the Dark Unconscious: Scott Walker’s “Epizootics!”

“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
-Albert Camus

Epizootics! is the new ten-minute short film/music video recently premiered by avant-garde musical mastermind Scott Walker, a track from his forthcoming album Bish Bosch. Walker has accomplished the near impossible, showcasing an album that’s more ambitious, experimental and surreal than anything he’s created before. This first taste from his upcoming album is filled with dramatic artistry and shows promise that Bish Bosch will be considered one of the most thought-provoking albums released in years.

For those not familiar with Scott Walker’s work, Walker has been described as one of the greatest living avant-garde artists, with hardly any other American musician having had greater influence upon rock music, while at the same time remaining almost completely unknown to his countrymen. Walker grew up in Texas, New York City and Southern California, but he became a celebrity in England during the mid-1960s as part of the Walker Brothers band. The Walker Brothers was a vocal trio, which wed soaring vocal harmonies, lush soundtrack arrangements and a patently somber worldview into a uniquely theatrical package.

Scott Walker’s voice has been described as perhaps the most beautiful male non-soul voice of that era, and an increasingly free-thinking “Beat” attitude was at the core of the group’s appeal. Although the Walker Brothers became huge in Europe, Scott Walker’s eccentricity cast a dark cloud over the band’s public image. Scott began to write increasingly complicated interlaced music, and its sense of bleakness was intensified by his mix of translated Jacques Brel tunes with distinctly arty and pained original numbers. By 1969, his works were failing to appear on music charts at all.

An increasingly elusive Scott Walker slowly withdrew from public view. His voice began to lose some of its former pop-music sense of majesty, a reflection of his new interest in the experimental synth-driven avant-garde, which he helped revolutionize to major critical success, but only minor public attention. Walker seemed to vanish, while artists as diverse as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Julian Cope, Bryan Ferry, Ultravox and Marc Almond became fiercely ardent supporters of his unique body of work, citing him as a primary influence on their careers. Gale Harold (the actor in Queer as Folk) served as an Associate Producer, along with David Bowie as Executive Producer, of the acclaimed 2006 documentary about the influential artistic vision of Walker’s experimental musical work, Scott Walker: 30th Century Man.

Musical Poetry of the Dark Unconscious: Scott Walker’s “Epizootics!”

Scott Walker: 30th Century Man

Scott Walker is celebrated as an influential musical visionary by a roster of superstars, including Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, David Bowie and Brian Eno. The enigmatic and notoriously shy former pop idol is the subject of Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, the revealing 2006 documentary by Stephen Kijak. Walker was born in Ohio and sang with Fabian on television as a teenager. However. after achieving immense popular fame in England as the lead singer of the boy band The Walker Brothers, he has lived mostly in seclusion, while creating avant-garde compositions and releasing critically acclaimed, idiosyncratic albums.

Scott Walker: 30th Century Man

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A Horrible Reality: The Boy Who Wanted to Be A Lion

A Horrible Reality: The Boy Who Wanted to Be A Lion

And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”

The Boy Who Wanted to Be A Lion is a beautiful, but melancholy animated short film directed by Alois Di Leo, which was his 2010 graduation animation film at the National Film and Television School in England. The film was very well-received at a number of film festivals, including: the 2010 London Film Festival, the 2010 Annecy Animation Festival (France) and the 2010 Cannes Critique Week Festival (France).

Max is a seven-year-old deaf boy, whose failure to connect with his parents or any students around him, causes him to escape passionately into a world of fantasy. One day he goes on a school trip to the zoo, where he sees a lion for the first time. A feeling begins to grow inside him that will change his life forever. Excited by Max’s unusual eagerness to engage after the trip to the zoo, his mother sews a lion’s outfit for him. However, once Max puts it on, he refuses to change back.

The film can be viewed as an ode to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, but instead of the rejuvenation through fantasy that Sendak’s Max experiences, our young Max confronts the horrible reality suggested in a famous Sendak line: “But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go- We’ll eat you up- we love you so!

A Horrible Reality: The Boy Who Wanted to Be A Lion

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode, with Scaling Off)

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Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Horrific Bloody Mess!

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Horrific Bloody Mess!

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is a finalist in The Wrap’s 2012 Short Films Festival, a new festival presenting 12 award winning short films selected from this year’s top international film festivals. Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared screened at the 2012 Sundance and 2012 Sundance London Film Festivals and the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, where it received the SXSW Midnight Jury Award.

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is a wonderfully bizarre three-min. animated short film created by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling from the London-based This Is It Collective. The short begins innocently enough, with a small cast of sort-of identifiable characters sitting around a table and sing-talking about being “creative.” Then again, it looks like a rather lame children’s video, telling kids how to do what they do really naturally anyway, use their imaginations. But suddenly, it turns into a extremely disturbing free-association sequence, hinting at some very bleak psychological states, more like Black Swan than Sesame Street.

The filmmakers zero in on adult insecurities about self-expression, then delve into the perils of creativity. Such dangers quickly lead to terrifying glitter-covered animal organs (real, bloody ones, not made from the felt everything else in this video is made of), seizures and death. But just as quickly as the characters are served a gory meat cake, everything goes back to normal. And, just like any other children’s television show, the lesson learned is repeated at the end of the segment. And just what is that lesson? Never, never be creative. Unless you want to die.

Watch this video to the very end and you won’t regret it. Or will you?

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared: A Horrific Bloody Mess!

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On the Road with The Kills: Dream and Drive

On the Road with The Kills: Dream and Drive

The Kills just celebrated their ten-year anniversary as a band, but it feels like they’re just getting started. Singer Alison Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince have taken their time on their rise from anonymous newcomers to veritable rock stars. Last year they put out their fourth album, Blood Pressures, and played some of the biggest venues of their career. Now, on September 4th, they’ll release a book of photographs, Dream and Drive, taken by their longtime friend Kenneth Cappello.

Photographer Cappello has gotten to know Mosshart and Hince pretty well over the last 10 years. Through lonely deserts and stages crawling with fans and sweat, Cappello captured many of the band’s most public and private moments. “He’s seen it all, the good and the bad, the broken down and the weird,” says Mosshart in the forward to Dream and Drive, Cappello’s collection of photographs of life on the road with The Kills.

The Kills: Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” (2012)

The Kills: The Last Goodbye

The Last Goodbye is a powerfully emotive music video portrait of the rock duo Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, directed by the Oscar nominated actress Samantha Morton. The Kills celebrate ten years of musical partnership with this poignant and captivating video. The melancholic song The Last Goodbye offsets the usually hard-edged sound that Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince are known for, with haunting vocals and a nostalgic piano loop. Shot in monochrome on crisp, silvery 35mm film, the video reflects the beautiful simplicity of the track, while using an old-school photo-booth to provide an intimate backdrop for Mosshart’s intense and heart-warming opening performance. Her introduction is followed by a series of touching poses that casts a tender light on the musicians’longstanding and spirited friendship, as Mosshart and Hince share memories of their first meeting and a decade of collaboration.

The Kills: The Last Goodbye

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

Photo-Gallery: The Kills: Dream and Drive

(Please Click Image to View Photo-Gallery)

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