Musician Django Reinhardt, new film


This 12 January 2017 video is called Berlin: Etienne Comar ‘Django’ at the 2017 Festival.

Another video which used to be on YouTube used to say about itself:

9 February 2017

The Berlin International Film Festival opens on Feb. 9th with the premier of Etienne Comar’s “Django.” The biopic is set in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1943 and tells the story of Sinti jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

By Bernd Reinhardt in Germany:

A film about the legendary guitarist: Django

4 March 2017

Finally, a feature film about the legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt!

The timelessness of his music makes one too easily forget that it emerged in a very real and troubled world—characterised by an enthusiasm for everything American in the 1920s and 1930s, by socialist aspirations, by the threats of French fascists, by mass strikes—a time when Paris was regarded as a Mecca for American jazz musicians, the period of the German occupation of France, the Resistance and the flood of refugees from the war across Europe.

Django, the debut film of Étienne Comar—who deals relatively loosely with Reinhardt’s biography—focuses on the year 1943, when the Nazis tried unsuccessfully to convince Django to undertake a tour of fascist Germany.

Reinhardt (Reda Kateb, whose father was an Algerian actor) is initially uncertain. He is drawn to the prospect of sold-out concert halls. He is also of the opinion that the war between rival groups of “Gadjos” (non-Gypsies) is none of his business. In the end, artistic considerations lie behind his rejection of the offer. The Nazis, who could not entirely block the spread of jazz in Germany, demand a “clean” jazz from Django, preferably without syncopation, without blues, played only in optimistic major tones and with very brief improvisations; in short, a completely neutered music. This is unacceptable to the artist.

A blonde admirer, Louise de Klerk (Cécile de France), advises him to flee, but the vain musician enjoys his reputation in Paris as the “King of Swing” (following the departure of a number of outstanding American musicians) and continues to rely on the protection of a jazz-loving Nazi officer. Only when the pressure increases and Manouche [Romani people in France] are sent to “work deployments” in Germany—as the deportations are officially called—does Django flee with his family to the French-Swiss border.

For the many Manouche and Sinti [Romani people of Central Europe] in Django, who speak exclusively in their language, Romanes, the film must have been an affair of the heart. Comar (who also co-wrote the screenplay, based on a 2013 novel by Alexis Salatko) dispenses with such banalities as presenting Roma as spontaneous anarchists who instinctively reject bourgeois society, or as representatives of a nature-based, alternative way of life. Roma families playing idyllically in a forest are suddenly confronted with Nazi machine guns. In the next scene we see Django Reinhardt, the acclaimed guitarist, in a magnificent concert hall. This is the tightrope that someone in his position walks.

The illiterate Django laps up the glamorous world of the rich and famous, and imitates Hollywood film star Clark Gable. On the Swiss border, however, the King of Swing becomes a defenseless refugee whose mother (Bimbam Merstein) fights for her son to play for a few francs in a pub in order to feed the family. When Django plays the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” the bar-keeper’s face lights up.

Occasionally Django is contemptuous of Gadjos, but the film refrains from condemning his audiences and refrains from clichés about “other” forms of culture. Rather it reveals the lack of perspective of an oppressed minority, which has internalized its suffering as fugitives and outsiders over many generations. On several occasions Django makes clear that the French police and military hounded Roma with the same ruthlessness as the Nazis. But we also witness Roma joining the Resistance.

Django lives in the middle of Paris. He is not indifferent to the opinion of Gadjos who also play in his band. What Django shared with “non-gypsies” of his generation was, above all, an enthusiasm for America and its music. The arrival of jazz in Europe was a major cultural event and something of a symbol of freedom. Already as a 13-year-old banjo player, Reinhardt listened enthusiastically to bands from the US. Unfortunately, the film makes barely any reference to this formative period that contributed to Reinhardt’s original musical path.

The film’s Django exudes a strong attachment to traditional gypsy music (the film features prominently at the start his well-known “gypsy” song “Black Eyes”—albeit in swing style). In fact, the real Django Reinhardt drew inspiration from many sources. He was interested in the music of Bartok and Debussy (the latter inspired many Hollywood composers), he went to the ballet and began to paint. Unlike many European contemporaries, he was able to swing as well as the best American jazz players and (according to legend) could personally replace a whole rhythm section. This is why so many of the US greats lined up to jam with him.

Reinhardt’s music is finely played in the film by the outstanding Stochelo Rosenberg Trio. Kateb plays the guitarist with the “poker face,” who, with bells attached to his ankles, could entice an entire concert hall of the “master race” into dancing to his tune. Even the hardline Nazis, who raise their glasses and quote the German poet Friedrich Rückert for a “free, a German Europe”, succumb to the power of his music and lose control for a short time.

Reinhardt undoubtedly undergoes a development in the film. At the outset he is very naive. On seeing Hitler in 1943 for the first time in a cinema, Django chortles at the “clown” on the screen. At the end of the film, however, Reinhardt’s “Requiem” is performed; a piece he composed for and devoted to all the Roma victims of the Second World War. His tonal language has changed and become more universal.

The score of the “Requiem” has been lost and only fragments remain. Nevertheless, the score based on the fragments composed by the Australian musician and composer Warren Ellis is deeply touching, in particular during the choral section (sung in Romanes). The notion that Django Reinhardt might have opened up different musical paths is fascinating and, one hopes, may encourage young Manouche and Sinti musicians to go further than the limits imposed by playing exclusively gypsy swing.

Django is to be welcomed for dealing with a neglected chapter of history—the persecution of Roma under the Nazis. At the same time, Comar shows the contradictory nature of his main character who pragmatically tries to survive “between the fronts.” His ignorance of social and political developments and not least his egoism render Reinhardt blind to the impending catastrophe. He is free only in music. In the film, he is able to make it to Switzerland with his family. In reality, Reinhardt’s situation was more desperate. Swiss officials refused him entry due to his status as a “gypsy.”

Film on 1871 Paris Commune reviewed


This video from London, England says about itself:

15 February 2017

The New Babylon is a 1929 Russian silent film about the 1871 Paris Commune. It was directed by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, with a musical score by Dmitri Shostakovich. Ian Christie, Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck College, explains the importance of this film from a political and film history context.

New ‘Star Wars’ ape species discovered in China


This video from India says about itself:

Conservation of the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon

6 June 2011

Now wouldn’t that call make just the perfect mobile ring tone?

In the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh‘s Mehao national park, Wilderness Films India sent a team to film the Hoolock Gibbon in its natural habitat.

The Hoolock gibbon or Uluk, belongs to the ape family. It is only found in the deciduous forests of China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India. The average lifespan of these gibbons is thirty years in captivity. A male Hoolock Gibbon is recognized by his black fur and a white strip above his eyes while the female gibbon is recognized by her pale fur with shades of tan.

The gibbons move around by using their arms. They are mostly found in trees and rarely come onto the ground. Hoolock gibbons are primarily omnivorous and consume various types of plants, insects and birds’ eggs. The various activities of the gibbon during the day include feeding, resting, foraging, travelling with the rest of the troupe. They indulge in other activities such as calling for territorial behavior and play. Territories are defended through disputes usually led by the group’s adult male.

Intergroup encounters occur often and usually consist off vocalisation and counter vocalization with the males chasing one another. Grooming is often seen during the group’s social activities and it serves in the maintenance of social bonds. Mating usually occurs during the summer season with births during the winter.

Gestation occurs for around 6-8 months followed by the birth of an offspring. For the first two months, the infants cling on to their mother’s belly. The infant starts showing signs of independence at the age of 6-8 months. However, the bond is so strong between the mother and child that the infant continues to sleep with the mother until the birth of a new infant. The infants emigrate from their group when they become mature adults.

Out of all the gibbons, the Hoolocks have the most haunting call. The calls of these Gibbons are not sex-specific, a fact that differs them from all other species of gibbons. Calls are usually uttered during long call outs or duels and occur mainly in the morning. Once calling commences, call outs are often responded to by other hoolock gibbons throughout the forest. Functions of calling include the maintenance of the pair bond, mate attractions, defense, mate solicitation, territorial reinforcement and the maintenance of social ties.

Some of the proposed steps for conservation of the gibbons are: restoration of degraded landscapes, combining efforts made by the government industry, NGOs and communities in Northeast India. Increasing and nationalizing existing protected area network and protected area management. It is important to ensure the enforcement of these goals for the protection of this incredible species and to prevent them from disappearing from the surface of the earth.

This video was researched by Saurabh Bhatia of The Shri Ram School, Gurgaon, during a summer internship with WFIL, in May-June 2011.

From the BBC:

‘Star Wars gibbon’ is new primate species

By Rebecca Morelle, Science Correspondent, BBC News

4 hours ago

A gibbon living in the tropical forests of south west China is a new species of primate, scientists have concluded.

The animal has been studied for some time, but new research confirms it is different from all other gibbons.

It has been named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon – partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean “Heaven’s movement” but also because the scientists are fans of Star Wars.

The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.

Dr Sam Turvey, from the Zoological Society of London, who was part of the team studying the apes, told BBC News: “In this area, so many species have declined or gone extinct because of habitat loss, hunting and general human overpopulation.

“So it’s an absolute privilege to see something as special and as rare as a gibbon in a canopy in a Chinese rainforest, and especially when it turns out that the gibbons are actually a new species previously unrecognised by science.”

Hoolock gibbons are found in Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar. They spend most of their time living in the treetops, swinging through the forests with their forelimbs, rarely spending any time on the ground.

But the research team – led by Fan Peng-Fei from Sun Yat-sen University in China – started to suspect that the animals they were studying in China’s Yunnan Province were unusual.

All hoolock gibbons have white eyebrows and some have white beards – but the Chinese primates’ markings differed in appearance.

Their songs, which they use to bond with other gibbons and to mark out their territory, also had an unusual ring.

So the team carried out a full physical and genetic comparison with other gibbons, which confirmed that the primates were indeed a different species.

They have been given the scientific name of Hoolock tianxing – but their common name is now the Skywalker hoolock gibbon, thanks to the scientists’ taste in films.

Dr Turvey said the team had been studying the animals in the Gaoligongshan nature reserve, but it was not easy.

“It’s difficult to get into the reserve. You have to hike up to above 2,500m to find the gibbons. That’s where the good quality forest usually starts – everywhere below there has been logged.

“Then you have to wake up really early in the morning and you listen out for the haunting song of the gibbons, which carries in the forest canopy.

“And when you hear it, you rush through the mud and the mist, and run for hundreds of metres to try and catch up with these gibbons.”

The researchers estimate that there are about 200 of the Skywalker gibbons living in China – and also some living in neighbouring Myanmar, although the population size there is currently unknown.

The team warns that the primates are at risk of extinction.

“The low number of surviving animals and the threat they face from habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and hunting means we think they should be classified as an endangered species,” said Dr Turvey.

In response to the news, actor Mark Hamill – the original Luke Skywalker – said on Twitter that he was so proud to have a new jungle Jedi named after his character.