Trump jails children for immigrating, new film


This 4 December 2018 video says about itself:

Icebox 2018 Official Trailer. Written & Directed by Daniel Sawka. Premieres on HBO on Dec. 7 at 8PM.

The NHMC [National Hispanic Media Coalition] supports programming that includes Latinos/as in prominent roles in front and behind camera, such as this feature, ICEBOX, which explores the grim realities of the current U.S. immigration system through eyes of Oscar, a 12-year-old school boy from Honduras, whose unsolicited connection with a violent local gang has led his parents to smuggle him out of the country in hopes of escaping to [US] America.

Caught by border agents in the Arizona desert and sent to an immigrant processing center for minors, Oscar struggles to gain control of his fate inside the “Icebox”.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Icebox: The US government locks up children

11 December 2018

Icebox, a film about young asylum seekers locked up by US authorities, is available for free streaming by nonsubscribers at HBO starting Monday, Dec. 10: here.

We reviewed the film and interviewed the director and actors at the Toronto film festival in September. Directed by Daniel Sawka and produced by veteran American writer-director-producer James L. Brooks (best known for his extensive work in television spanning four decades), Icebox focuses on a 12-year-old Honduran boy, Oscar (Anthony Gonzalez), forced by gang activity to flee his home country and head for the US, where an uncle lives.

The trip north in a truck is frightening enough, organized by thugs who, at one point, pick out the women they think attractive enough to work as prostitutes. In the desert, the group of immigrants climb a border fence and ride off across the desert on bicycles provided by the smugglers. Oscar has a problem with his bike, and finds himself alone in the wasteland.

A sinister US border patrol drone, hovering in the sky like a bird of prey, spots Oscar and agents take him into custody. He ends up in a detention center, better known as the icebox. Here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, children are locked up in cages. They shiver at night under plastic “space blankets.”

Oscar repeatedly attempts to telephone his uncle, without initial success. Other young detainees pour cold water on his illusions about being able to stay in the US: “They’ll send you back.” “Would they build places like this if they wanted us to stay?” “There is no asylum. They’re sending us all back.”

Oscar meets a female journalist (Genesis Rodriguez), and prevails upon her to contact his uncle for him. The latter, Manuel (the talented Omar Leyva), finally comes for Oscar. Manuel is in the US on a temporary visa and has hesitated to help Oscar because of fears about his own precarious situation. Picking up Oscar at the detention center, he mutters, “Never been so scared in my life.”

At the farm near Phoenix, Arizona where Manuel works in the fields, he and Oscar fill out forms and prepare for a hearing before an immigration judge. They have no legal counsel to assist them. Nonetheless, they persevere in the face of the bureaucratic red tape.

Oscar dresses up for his hearing. The judge (Forrest Fyre), perfectly civil and polite but without any comprehension of or perhaps interest in the violent, dangerous conditions in Honduras, asks Oscar whether he was forced to join the gang in question. In his ruling, the judge notes that gang violence is “prevalent” in Honduras, and we “can’t give you asylum.”

Manuel now faces a moral dilemma. He has vouched for Oscar. If he aids his nephew to go underground in the US, what will happen to his own chances of staying in the country? “If I let you run, I’ll lose everything!” On the other hand, if he helps send Oscar back to Honduras, will he be responsible for what happens to the boy?

Daniel Sawka’s film is sincere and intelligently done. Preparatory work on Icebox was begun under the Obama administration, which deported hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants. Donald Trump has made vicious, venomous attacks on immigrants a centerpiece of his government’s right-wing policies.

Border Angels, a migrant rights group, estimates that 10,000 men, women and children have died since 1994 attempting to cross the increasingly militarized US-Mexico border. Icebox bends over backward to portray the circumstances in the detention center in the most impartial manner and clearly has no wish to condemn either ICE or the border patrol as an institution. One suspects the everyday conditions are considerably worse than those depicted in Sawka’s film. But this only has the effect of making the objective brutality of incarcerating children, whose sole wrongdoing is attempting to cross a border, all the more cruel and depraved.

The film places great emphasis on the intimidation Oscar’s uncle feels in the presence of any representatives of US law and order. None of the various agents acts here improperly or with particular violence. Again, this only reinforces the inhumanity of a situation where millions of men and women are obliged to live in terror for the crime of attempting to make a living for themselves and their families.

Sawka’s Icebox concentrates on gang violence as the principal factor in the decision of Oscar’s family to send him away to the US. In part, this is no doubt an effort to build a “stronger case” dramatically and emotionally. Oscar, literally, has no choice—gang members are threatening his life unless he takes part in their activities.

But drug and gang violence themselves are only symptoms of the barbaric social realities confronting the working class and rural poor in Central America, whose impoverished countries have been wracked by intense violence produced, above all, by decades of US imperialist domination. Those generalized conditions have driven vast numbers to head north, where they face further repression and threats to the elementary right to work and live.

The greatest strength of Icebox is that the filmmakers have decided, to their credit, to tell the story from the point of view of a 12-year-old Honduran refugee and with unquestionable sympathy and anger.

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Franco dictatorship in Spain, new film


This 6 December 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

“The Silence of Others”: New Film Warns Against Spain’s Fascist History Repeating Itself

A far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion political party in Spain has made gains in regional elections, prompting protests in the streets.

Members of Spain’s younger generation are too young to remember the brutal 40-year military dictatorship under General Francisco Franco. But a remarkable new documentary titled “The Silence of Others”, or “El Silencio de Otros”, hopes to remind Spaniards of the country’s fascist past, lest history repeat itself. The film follows several survivors of the Franco regime in their pursuit of justice. We speak with Spanish filmmaker Almudena Carracedo, who, along with Robert Bahar, wrote, produced and directed “The Silence of Others.”

Singer Maria Callas, new film


This September 2018 video says about itself:

Maria By Callas | Official US Trailer HD

Tom Volf’s MARIA BY CALLAS is the first film to tell the life story of the legendary Greek/American opera singer completely in her own words.

Told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs—nearly all of which have never been shown to the public—the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time.

Assembling the material for the film took director Volf four years of painstaking research, which included personal outreach to dozens of Callas’s closest friends and associates, who allowed him to share their personal memorabilia in the film. When recordings of Callas’s voice aren’t available, Joyce DiDonato, one of contemporary opera’s biggest stars, reads her words.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Maria by Callas: A documentary on the life of the famed opera singer

8 December 2018

From France, Tom Volf’s Maria by Callas is an engrossing documentary about the legendary Greek-American opera soprano. An intimate portrait of Maria Callas (1923-1977) is presented through archival material, television interviews, home movies, family photographs and unpublished memoirs. Opera star Joyce DiDonato reads Callas’ words, when recordings of Callas are unavailable.

Volf’s research is meticulous. He tracked down a global array of people with expertise on Callas, filming interviews with 30 of the singer’s friends in nearly a dozen countries who “opened up their cupboards and pulled out 8mm films, audio tape reels, letters, and photos. He quickly realized that a large part of this memorabilia was previously unseen and had never been shown in public before,” according to the movie’s production notes.

Says Volf: “I understood very quickly that she was not only a phenomenon in her lifetime, she was still a phenomenon in 2013, nearly four decades after her death.”

One of the film’s highlights is Callas’ 1970 interview with commentator and television host David Frost. Portions of the 17-minute interview are interspersed throughout the documentary, which toggles between her career and personal life. A key theme of Maria by Callas is Maria’s comment to Frost, “There are two people in me actually, Maria and Callas … If someone really tries to listen to me, he will find all of myself there.” Volf is adept at presenting, as he says, “how the two communicate and sometimes struggle, and sometimes sacrifice one to the other.”

One segment shows dedicated young people waiting, and sleeping, on line in New York City for a chance to hear Callas sing. Also mentioned is her notorious (she was ill) 1958 “Rome Cancellation”, as well as her publicized conflict with the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager (1950-1972) Rudolf Bing. There is, as well, in-depth footage of her complicated relationship with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Longtime friend Nadia Stancioff (author of Maria Callas Remembered) and Georges Prêtre, one of her favorite conductors, also form part of the film’s fabric.

Notably, Callas worked with Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini on his film, Medea (1969), her only film role, and developed a close friendship with the influential director and writer.

The film brings out the immense pressures exerted on Callas by the demands, on the one hand, of an art form that requires constant artistic obsession and near perfection and, on the other, of her status, in the words of a commentator, as “one of the world’s first international celebrities, especially after she began her affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1959. The paparazzi couldn’t get enough of her.” The combined pressures may well have helped lead to her early death from a heart attack at the age of 53, while living in considerable isolation.

Undoubtedly, one of the film’s most breathtaking moments is Callas’ 1958 performance in concert of “Casta Diva” (Chaste Goddess), the famed aria from Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.

This music video shows that 1958 performance.

Sung at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra in Paris, it is, according to the movie’s production notes, “presented for the very first time in color and shows a Callas at the pinnacle of her career. We will see her Norma seven years later in the film, when she has to abandon the stage in Paris in 1965. It’s the last time she ever sang it and her last but one performance ever on an operatic stage. One could say her career started with Norma (back in 1947) and ended with it.”

Also featured are sublime performances of arias from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata —“Addio del passato” (Farewell to the Past, 1958); Georges Bizet’s Carmen —“L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a Rebellious Bird, 1962); and Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca—“Vissi d’arte, Vissi d’amore” (I Lived for Art, I Lived for Love, 1963).

Volf’s films does not choose to take up the more controversial question of Callas’s activity, while still a teenager, in occupied Greece during World War II. In The Unknown Callas: The Greek Years, author Nicholas Petsalis-Diomidis discusses the singer’s performances at concerts attended by Italian and German troops. He takes note of “the number of Greek singers who took part, although the events were organized by the loathed enemy. Even those with leftist political views seldom missed such opportunities to make a public appearance, to further their careers and be rewarded for their services, usually with food that could not otherwise be obtained at any price. Of course there was no question of their being accused of collaboration.”

However, in Callas’ case, “her accusers have concentrated much more on her social intercourse with Italians … than on her ‘collaboration’ in the field of music. … In [Callas’] case it is beyond question that she did have close friendships with a number of Italians on a clearly personal basis.”

In a review of Petsalis-Diomidis’s book, the Telegraph wrote, “There is also a lot here about Callas’ personal life. Her mother, as they used to say, was no better than she should be during the war, with lovers ranging from an Italian colonel to German officers. Callas took up with a Fascist major, a paratrooper, a German music critic, a British officer who got her a job at Army HQ and a Greek businessman (shades of things to come), who paid for her return ticket to America.”

It should be noted that left-wing Italian artists such as Pasolini and Luchino Visconti did not consider Callas’ wartime activities an obstacle. Visconti first directed the singer in a 1954 production of Gaspare Spontini’s La Vestale at Milan’s La Scala. Four other collaborations (one of them conducted by Leonard Bernstein) followed over the course of several years. In a 1969 joint television interview, Visconti explained, “I started to direct opera because of … no, not because of, but for Maria Callas.”

Buzzcocks punk musician Pete Shelley, RIP


This music video is called THE BUZZCOCKS – FAST CARS (LIVE 1981).

From the BBC, 6 December 2018:

Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley dies at 63

Buzzcocks lead singer Pete Shelley has died at 63 of a suspected heart attack.

The punk band are best known for their hit, Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).

Their management told the BBC that Shelley died on Thursday in Estonia where he was living.

BBC music correspondent Lizo Mzimba said Buzzcocks, who formed in Bolton in the 1970s, were regarded as more polished, but musically no less influential, than the Sex Pistols.

The band have tweeted saying Shelley was “one of the UK’s most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks”.

His music inspired generations of musicians over a five-decade career with his band and as a solo artist, they said.

Cambrian animals’ eyes, new research


This video says about itself:

Colours of Life – The Evolution of Colour Vision Expressed in Musical Colours – Iris Stal

23 August 2018

A composition by Iris Stal.

This is a composition I wrote for a university assignment for a course on interdisciplinary evolution. It’s the very first composition I’ve ever written! 🙂 This piece for orchestra is supposed to express how colour vision has evolved throughout its evolutionary timeline, using musical colours.

Our eyes use cones to detect the colours in the light waves that we pick up. In the music, I attempted to explain which cones came up with which group of animals and how that affected the way they saw their environment. If important, I also tried to take important events or circumstances along in the atmosphere, such as natural selection influences or extinctions. I followed the lineage from one of the very first light-sensitive eyecups all the way up to human eyes. Lineages that branched off I didn’t include as it would be too much.

The coloured bars on the left show what cones the animals had. The cones symbolize cones for blue light, red, green and UV. I used video footage and/or illustrations that I edited to show how the species potentially perceived their environment. It’s not super accurate, but it’s hard imitating a colour the human eye can’t see. 😀 Looking at you, ultraviolet!

This project was sooo much fun to create! It was tons of work but it was absolutely worth the effort. I finished the project with a 9/10. It inspired me to continue with my passion for music. I hope you enjoy the video! 🙂

From the University of Bristol in England:

Enhancing our vision of the past

December 5, 2018

An international group of scientists led by researchers from the University of Bristol have advanced our understanding of how ancient animals saw the world by combining the study of fossils and genetics.

Ancestors of insects and crustaceans that lived more than 500 million years ago in the Cambrian period were some of the earliest active predators, but not much is known about how their eyes were adapted for hunting.

Work published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B today suggests that when fossil and genetic data are assessed in tandem, previously inaccessible and exciting conclusions about long dead species can be made.

By examining the morphological characteristics of fossils’ eyes, alongside the genetic visual pigment clues, a cross-disciplinary team led by a collaboration between the University of Bristol’s Davide Pisani, Professor of Phylogenomics in the School of Earth Sciences and Nicholas Roberts, Professor of Sensory Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences, were able to find that ancient predators with more complex eyes are likely to have seen in colour.

Professor Pisani remarked: “Being able to combine fossil and genetic data in this way is a really exciting frontier of modern palaeontological and biological research. Vision is key to many animals’ behaviour and ecology, and understanding how extinct animals perceived their environment will help enormously to clarify how they evolved.”

By calculating the time of emergence of different visual pigments, and then comparing them to the inferred age of origin of key fossil lineages, the researchers were able to work out the number of pigments likely to have been possessed by different fossil species. They found that fossil animals with more complex eyes appeared to have more visual pigments, and that the great predators of the Cambrian period may have been able to see in colour.

Dr James Fleming, Professor Pisani and Roberts’ former PhD student, explained: “Animal genomes and therefore opsin genes (constituting the base of different visual pigments) evolve by processes of gene duplication. The opsin and the pigment that existed before the duplication is like a parent, and the two new opsins (and pigments) that emerge from the duplication process are like children on a family tree.

“We calculated the birth dates of these children and this allowed understanding of what the ancient world must have seemed like to the animals that occupied it. We found that while some of the fossils we considered had only one pigment and were monochromat, i.e. they saw the world as if looking into a black and white TV, forms with more complex eyes, like iconic trilobites, had many pigments and most likely saw their world in colours.”

The combinations of complex eyes and multiple kinds of visual pigments are what allows animals to distinguish between different objects based on colour alone — what we know as colour vision.

Professor Roberts commented: “It is remarkable to see how in only a very few million years the view those animals’ had of their world changed from greys to the colourful world we see today.”

The project involved scientists from all across the world — from the UK as well as Denmark, Italy, Korea and Japan, where Dr Fleming has now moved to work as a postdoctoral researcher. Each of them brought their own specialities to this multidisciplinary work, providing expertise in genetics, vision, taxonomy and palaeontology.