What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

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Updated 16 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

Mark Synnott’s The Third Pole transport readers to Mount Everest during the 2019 climbing season as he searches for the remains of Sandy Irvine that may help prove the British summited Everest in the 1920s.

This was an interesting look into Synnott’s quest to find the body of Irvine who was lost on Everest in 1924.

A mountaineer and rock climber himself, Synnott skillfully describes early 20th century exploration, then dives into a story about Everest that merges mystery, adventure and history into a single tragic bundle.

Synnott writes a compelling story that combines the 2019 season on Everest, historical attempts to climb Mt. Everest, and mountaineering culture as a whole.

He “describes horror stories about frostbite and strokes (blood clots are more likely at high altitudes) and oxygen tanks that hit empty at the worst possible moment,” Edward Dolnick said in a review for The New York Times.

Synnott “knows how to keep readers turning the pages, and they will speed their way to his mystery’s resolution. But any Everest story today has an unavoidable dark side.” said Dolnick.


‘Titane’ wins top Cannes honor, 2nd ever for female director

Updated 17 July 2021

‘Titane’ wins top Cannes honor, 2nd ever for female director

  • Julia Ducournau is the second female filmmaker to win the festival’s top honor in its 74 year history
  • Saturday’s win was mistakenly announced by jury president Spike Lee at the top of the closing ceremony

CANNES, France: Julia Ducournau’s “Titane,” a wild body-horror thriller, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
This made Ducournau just the second female filmmaker to win the festival’s top honor in its 74 year history.
The win on Saturday was mistakenly announced by jury president Spike Lee at the top of the closing ceremony, broadcast in France on Canal+, unleashing a few moments of confusion. Ducournau, a French filmmaker, didn’t come to the stage to accept the award until the formal announcement at the end of the ceremony. But the early hint didn’t diminish from her emotional response.
“I’m sorry, I keep shaking my head,” said Decournau, catching her breath. “Is this real? Why am I even speaking English right now?”
After several false starts, Lee implored Sharon Stone to make the announcement, explaining: “She’s not going to mess it up.” The problems started when Lee was asked to say which prize would be awarded first. Instead, he announced the evening’s final prize, as fellow juror Mati Diop plunged her head into her hands and others rushed to stop him.
Lee, himself, spent several moments with his head in his hands before apologizing profusely for taking a lot of the suspense out of the evening.
Decournau’s win was a long-awaited triumph. The only previous female filmmaker to win Cannes’ top honor — among the most prestigious awards in cinema — was Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993. In recent years, frustration at Cannes’ gender parity has grown, including in 2018, when 82 women — including Agnes Varda, Cate Blanchett and Salma Hayek — protested gender inequality on the Cannes red carpet. Their number signified the movies by female directors selected to compete for the Palme d’Or — 82 compared to 1,645 films directed by men. This year, four out of 24 films up for the Palme were directed by women.
Cannes’ closing ceremony capped 12 days of red-carpet premieres, regular COVID-19 testing for many attendees and the first major film festival to be held since the pandemic began in almost its usual form. With smaller crowds and mandated mask-wearing in theaters, Cannes pushed forward with an ambitious slate of global cinema. Last year’s Cannes was completely canceled by the pandemic.
In 2019, the Palme went to Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” which later took best picture at the Academy Awards, too.
The other were spread out across a slate of films that included many leading international filmmakers.
The Grand Prix award was a joint honor split between the Iranian drama “A Hero” and Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s “Apartment No. 6.”
Best director was awarded to Leos Carax for “Annette,” the fantastical musical that opened the festival. The award was accepted by the musical duo Sparks, who wrote the script and music for the film.
Nadav Lapid’s “Ahed’s Knee” won the jury prize, while Caleb Landry Jones took home the best actor prize. Renate Reinsve won best actress for Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World.”
The Croatian coming-of-age drama “Murina,” by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović, took the Camera d’Or award, a non-jury prize, for best first feature. Kusijanović was absent from the ceremony after giving birth a day earlier.
Lee was the first Black jury president at Cannes. His fellow jury members are: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Song Kang-ho, Tahar Rahim, Mati Diop, Jessica Hausner, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Mylène Farmer.

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Saudi performing arts chiefs unveil major plans to boost theater sector

Updated 15 July 2021

Saudi performing arts chiefs unveil major plans to boost theater sector

  • Authority will work to establish partnerships to create advanced theater industry that meets goals of Vision 2030

RIYADH: Saudi performing arts chiefs on Wednesday raised the curtain on an ambitious new strategy to create a thriving theater industry in the Kingdom.

The Theater and Performing Arts Authority has unveiled plans aimed at promoting Saudi talent, job opportunities, and standards of entertainment in the sector.

The authority’s chief executive officer, Sultan Al-Bazai, said: “Our main mission is to stimulate the development and growth of the theater and performing arts sector by empowering Saudi talents to build successful careers and create content that inspires audiences.”

Alongside an employee awareness campaign about the strategy, he pointed out that the authority would be working to establish partnerships in the sector to create an advanced Saudi theater industry that met the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Ministry of Culture.

The initiative, backed by Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, was launched in the presence of Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, Al-Bazai, and other prominent figures.

Deputy Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez

Fayez said: “This strategy has been set, among its objectives, to provide support in different models, care for infrastructure, and societal and geographical access to each city, in addition to a comprehensive development of the sector with all its components, on top of which is the development of talents and capabilities that abound in the Kingdom.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us until we reach the establishment of a great theatrical industry that perpetuates our culture, documents our stories, expresses our concerns, our arts, and our ambitions.

“We also have a lot of challenges to overcome in providing empowerment opportunities for all fields that fall within the scope of theater and performing arts, in order to achieve the goals and outputs that everyone aspires to,” he added.

The strategy will cover all forms of performing arts including theater, dance, circus shows, stand-up comedy, street and motion performances, and opera. It will also encompass venues, content, production, and the prevalence of the culture of performing arts in the Kingdom.

Sultan Al-Bazai

The authority’s vision, according to its website, was “to create inspiring performances with exceptional talents on every stage.”

Its key aims were to enhance the quantity and diversity of content, increase the number and variety of local productions, improve access to the theater and performing arts sector, raise appreciation levels among members of the public and practitioners, and generate audience demand.

In meeting the objectives, the authority would be looking to create an effective theater space for Saudi talent, strengthen the sector’s contribution to economic growth, promote culture as a way of life, and boost levels of professionalism and creativity.

A total of 26 initiatives to develop the sector will be implemented in stages through to 2030. They will include talent development involving education, training, talent-spotting, school theater, traditional dance, cultural business incubators, theater academies, career development schemes, graduate recruitment, and sector awards.

Work to upgrade the country’s performing arts infrastructure, national theater, and Riyadh theater district will also be undertaken, and funding will be made available to help support local productions, the staging and hosting of shows, and the financing of events and content.

On modern technology, the strategy will introduce an innovation support program and multi-screen initiative. And to drive audience figures, the authority intends to subsidize ticket prices, carry out audience satisfaction surveys, promote critical reviews of theater performances, raise awareness of local and international works, and encourage community participation and cultural tourism.

Through the provision of educational and training courses, officials hope that around 4,500 graduate performers and 4,200 qualified trainees will emerge.

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Saudi-Japanese anime to premiere in 6 European countries

Updated 15 July 2021

Saudi-Japanese anime to premiere in 6 European countries

  • Koch Media is scheduled to begin distributing and showing the much-anticipated film to European audiences
  • “The Journey” by Manga Productions is the first Saudi film to present a movie experience in 4DX technology

RIYADH: Manga Productions, a subsidiary of the Misk Foundation, announced the signing of a cooperation agreement with Koch Media, a leading film distribution company, to distribute the “The Journey” in Germany and five other European countries: Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

The deal comes as part of the subsidiary’s strategy of becoming a global competitor in the film industry.

The signing took place digitally, in the presence of representatives from the two companies in Riyadh and Berlin.

Koch Media is scheduled to begin distributing and showing the much-anticipated film to European audiences, providing viewers with the opportunity to learn about the culture of the Arabian Peninsula and its rich and inspiring stories.

 

 

Dr. Essam Bukhary, CEO of Manga Productions, said: “We will continue in our mission to create inspirational content for all audiences and our heroes in the future. Let us reveal our Saudi creativity to the world.”

Stefan Kapelari, managing director of Koch Media and Koch Films in Planegg, Germany, said: “Koch Media always seeks to attract original and high-quality content. From this point, we are happy to release ‘The Journey’ as the first anime from the Arab market, as we view it as a high-quality movie in terms of drawing, animation and story. We hope that this partnership will be the beginning of a long-term relationship with Manga Productions in the creative content industry.”

Manga Productions, a subsidiary under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Charitable Foundation, produces animation projects and video games aimed at conveying the Saudi message globally through professional works that include distinguished creative content.

The company also provides training opportunities for Saudi talent in partnership with Japan’s Toei Animation, with the aim of transferring knowledge and localizing the creative industry in the Kingdom.

“The Journey” is the first Saudi film to present a movie experience in 4DX technology. It is one of the milestones in the journey of Manga Productions, which seeks to be a pioneer and global leader in the production of creative content in the Arab world and beyond.

Directed by Shizuno Kobon, the film tells an epic tale about the ancient civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, and establishes a historical fantasy for future generations.

 

 

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Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Film Production unveils two new films at Cannes 

Updated 14 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Film Production unveils two new films at Cannes 

  • The films are part of Ithra’s commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries
  • Both movies, which are being produced under the Ithra Film Productions banner, are scheduled for release in 2023

RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is unveiling two new films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The projects are part of its contribution to the Saudi Pavilion, which is being hosted by the Saudi Film Commission at the festival.
Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy will introduce his Ithra-commissioned film “Sea of Sands” alongside the unveiling of Saudi independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad’s “Valley Road.” 
The films are part of Ithra’s commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries.

Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy will introduce his Ithra-commissioned film “Sea of Sands” alongside the unveiling of Saudi independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad’s “Valley Road.” (Arab News/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

Both movies, which are being produced under the Ithra Film Productions banner, are scheduled for release in 2023.
Ithra said the cast and crew for both would consist of aspiring Saudi talent, which would nurture a generation of film creatives.
They follow the successful international release of Ithra’s first commissioned film “Joud,” which is described as “an unconventional meditation on the cycle of life” and an “ancient poem for modern times.”
The film uses an experimental story structure derived from a pre-Islamic form of poetry, the qasida, and is dialogue-free. It was shot in 16 locations across Saudi Arabia and screened at several international film festivals.

Ithra said the cast and crew for both would consist of aspiring Saudi talent, which would nurture a generation of film creatives. (Arab News/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

“Ithra Film Productions is a leading indie film producer in Saudi Arabia,” said Majed Z. Samman, head of performing arts and cinema at Ithra and producer of both new films. “We support the Kingdom’s growing film industry by nurturing homegrown talent and fostering cinema and filmmaking in Saudi Arabia. We are honored to announce our next two projects at one of the world’s most prestigious film fairs as part of the Saudi Pavilion at Cannes Film Festival.”
Hefzy has written, produced and co-produced nearly 40 feature films in Egypt, the US, the UK and the Arab world. 
“Sea of Sands” is a coming-of-age story about a young Bedouin orphan and a camel who form a special bond and embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia.
“Ithra has played a significant role in supporting independent filmmakers from Saudi Arabia at a critical time just as the Kingdom’s booming film industry begins to take shape,” said Hefzy. “I am thrilled to work with them and all the Saudi and Arab talent who will be joining this exciting project.”

“Sea of Sands” is a coming-of-age story about a young Bedouin orphan and a camel who form a special bond and embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia. (Arab News/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

The film will be shot in various locations across Saudi Arabia.
“Valley Road” follows the journey of an autistic man called Ali who gets lost on his way to see a doctor. He finds himself alone in the middle of nowhere, but a series of obstacles and challenges cannot stop him from discovering the world ahead of him.
Apart from Ithra’s commissioned films, the center is also the driving force behind several initiatives supporting the Kingdom’s film industry.
Ithra Cinema provides a space for the country’s film talent to hone their skills and showcase their work.
It is home to initiatives and programs such as Saudi Film Production, Saudi Film Days, and the Ithra Film Society.
Ithra is also the cradle of the annual Saudi Film Festival, which supports local talent and focuses on content development.
Ithra Film Productions has produced 20 films, of which 15 have won local, regional and international awards.
The center also offers people a learning experience through a training and shadowing program, providing an opportunity for those who are passionate about filmmaking to craft their career in the field.

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What We Are Reading Today: Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza

Updated 09 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza

Author: Gilles Deleuze

In this remarkable work, Gilles Deleuze, the renowned French philosopher, reflects on one of the thinkers of the past who most influenced his own sweeping reconfiguration of the tasks of philosophy. For Deleuze, Spinoza, along with Nietzsche and Lucretius, conceived of philosophy as an enterprise of liberation and radical demystification. He locates in Spinoza “a set of affects, a kinetic determination, an impulse” and makes Spinoza into “an encounter, a passion.”
Expressionism in Philosophy was the culmination of a series of monographic studies by Deleuze (on Hume, Bergson, Nietzsche, Proust, Kant, and Sacher-Masoch) and prepared the transition from these abstract treatments of historical schemes of experience to the nomadology of Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, co-authored with Félix Guattari). Thus, Expressionism in Philosophy is both a pivotal reading of Spinoza’s work and a crucial text within the development of Deleuze’s thought.