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Fifteen films bid for top prize in Africa’s premiere film fest

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Fifteen films bid for top prize in Africa's premiere film fest
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Fifteen feature-length movies are vying for the top prize in next month’s FESPACO festival, Africa’s top cinema event, the organisers announced Friday.

Launched in 1969, the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) draws thousands of movie fans and professionals from across the continent.

It is also closely followed by the US and European movie industries, which scout the event for new films, talent and ideas.

A total of 170 films are competing across 11 categories in the February 25-March 4 event, including short film, documentaries, TV series and animation, FESPACO said.

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Under festival rules, films chosen for competition have to be made by Africans and predominantly produced in Africa.
This year’s theme is “African cinema and culture of peace” — an invitation, say the organisers, to reflect on how movies can encourage reconciliation in troubled times.

FESPACO’S host country Burkina Faso is in the grip of a seven-year-old jihadist insurgency that has killed thousands of people and driven around two million from their homes.

Following are the feature films vying for the Golden Stallion of Yennenga — a trophy named after a beast in Burkinabe mythology:

– “The Planters’ Plantation”, directed by Dingha Eystein Young (Cameroon)

– “Our Father, the Devil”, Ellie Foumb (Cameroon)

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– “Ashkal”, Youssef Chebbi (Tunisia)

– “Under the Fig Trees”, Erige Sehiri (Tunisia)

– “Sira”, Appoline Traore (Burkina Faso)

– “Abu Saddam”, Nadine Khan (Egypt)

– “Bantu Mama”, Ivan Herrera (Dominican Republic)

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– “Mami Wata”, de C.J.”Fiery” Obasi (Nigeria)

– “Maputo Nakuzandza”, Ariadine Zampaulo (Mozambique)

– “Our Lady of the Chinese Shop”, Ery Claver (Angola)

– “Shimoni”, Angela Wamai (Kenya)

– “Simin Zetwal”, David Constantin (Mauritius)

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– “The Blue Caftan”, Maryam Touzani (Morocco)

– “The Last Queen”, Damien Ounouri (Algeria)

– “Xale, Les blessures de l’enfance”, Moussa Sene Absa (Senegal)

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Sylvia Syms, ‘Ice Cold in Alex,’ and ‘The Queen’ star, dies

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Sylvia Syms, 'Ice Cold in Alex,' and 'The Queen' star, dies

Actress Sylvia Syms, who starred in classic British films including “Ice Cold in Alex” and “Victim,” has died, her family said Friday. She was 89.

Syms’ children said she “died peacefully” on Friday at Denville Hall, a London retirement home for actors and entertainers.

“She has lived an amazing life and gave us joy and laughter right up to the end,” children Beatie and Ben Edney, said in a statement. “Just yesterday we were reminiscing together about all our adventures. She will be so very missed.”

Born in London in 1934, Syms became a British cinema stalwart, appearing in many of the best-remembered British movies of the 1950s and 60s.

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She starred opposite John Mills in World War II adventure “Ice Cold in Alex” in 1958 and appeared the next year in rock musical “Expresso Bongo” with Laurence Harvey and Cliff Richard. She played the wife of Dirk Bogarde’s closeted gay lawyer in the 1961 thriller “Victim,” the first British film to deal openly with homosexuality.

Other notable films in a career that stretched over seven decades included 1974′s Cold War drama “The Tamarind Seed,” with Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif.

Syms played British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1991 TV film “Thatcher: The Final Days,” and appeared as the Queen Mother Elizabeth — mother of Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth II — in Stephen Frears’ Academy Award-winning 2006 film “The Queen.”

The following year, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by the real queen at Buckingham Palace.

Syms had a recurring role on the BBC soap opera “EastEnders” between 2007 and 2010, and continued to perform in film and television well into her 80s.

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Syms married Alan Edney in 1956; the couple divorced in 1989. She is survived by her daughter and son.

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Rick Astley sues rapper Yung Gravy over ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ soundalike

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Rick Astley sues rapper Yung Gravy over 'Never Gonna Give You Up' soundalike

Rick Astley has sued the rapper Yung Gravy over a song that borrowed heavily from the British singer’s signature “Never Gonna Give You Up,” claiming that the new song illegally used an impersonator who imitated Astley’s distinctive baritone.

The complaint filed on Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court said Yung Gravy’s 2022 song “Betty (Get Money)” violated Astley’s right of publicity by featuring the singer Popnick, who imitated Astley’s voice so well that listeners thought Astley was actually singing.

“In an effort to capitalize off of the immense popularity and goodwill of Mr. Astley, defendants … conspired to include a deliberate and nearly indistinguishable imitation of Mr. Astley’s voice,” the complaint said. “The public could not tell the difference.”

Astley’s lawsuit seeks “millions of dollars” in damages, as well as profits from “Betty.”

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Among the defendants are Yung Gravy, whose real name is Matthew Hauri, and his record label, Universal Music Group’s (UMG.AS) Republic Records.
Universal and a representative for Yung Gravy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Astley, 56, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988 with “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The song saw resurgent popularity about two decades later through the “Rickroll” internet meme, where it unexpectedly interrupts unrelated content.

Astley’s lawyer Richard Busch is known for representing Marvin Gaye’s family against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over their alleged copying of the song “Got to Give It Up” for their “Blurred Lines.”
Thursday’s complaint said Astley’s claim resembled a 1988 case where Bette Midler successfully sued Ford Motor Co (F.N) for using a soundalike to sell vehicles, though Ford had licensed her song “Do You Want to Dance” for a commercial.

“Mr. Astley owns his voice,” Busch said in an email. “California law is clear … that nobody has the right to imitate or use it in a new sound recording without his permission, or pass it off as if he did approve the use.”

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Film academy reviewing Oscar campaigns after surprise nomination

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Film academy reviewing Oscar campaigns after surprise nomination

Hollywood’s film academy said on Friday it was reviewing this year’s campaigns for Oscar nominations, a day after a media report raised questions about the surprise nod for British actress Andrea Riseborough.

On Tuesday, Riseborough was nominated for best actress for playing an alcoholic single mother in little-seen film “To Leslie,” a shock to awards pundits who had not expected her to be in the mix.

Media newsletter Puck reported on Thursday that the unexpected nomination had sparked questions about whether an aggressive campaign for Riseborough had violated lobbying rules set by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The academy issued a statement on Friday that said the organization was “conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated.” The statement did not name Riseborough.

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The review also aims “to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication,” the statement said.

The academy limits how studios can reach out to voters, how often and what they can say in any communications as part of their Oscars campaigns.

Puck reported that the wife of the film director, actress Mary McCormack, and friends had “emailed and called tons of members of the Academy’s actors branch, begging them to see the little-watched alcoholic drama and post online about Riseborough’s searing performance.”

Dozens of A-list stars then “sang her praises and helped win her the coveted nomination,” Puck said.

Representatives for McCormack and Riseborough did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“To Leslie” has collected $27,000 at movie box offices since its release in October, according to Box Office Mojo.

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“We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances,” the academy statement said.

Winners of the Academy Awards will be announced on March 12.

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