Monthly Archives: March 2019

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Syd-Hob terrifying at times: Hinze-Clark

Australian model Kristy Hinze-Clark was terrified at times during her maiden Sydney to Hobart race aboard come-from-behind line honours winner Comanche.

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The 36-year-old, who co-owns the 100-foot supermaxi with billionaire American husband Jim Clark, steered the boat across the finish line on Monday night and later described the 628-nautical mile trek.

“There was a bunch of emotions that went on: pure terror at one stage, excitement and now just total joy and fulfilment,” Hinze-Clark told reporters.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

Her fear peaked on the first night when the boat sustained damage.

“I was scared at one point: we lost a dagger board, I’m not sure how – we might have hit something – but it kind of tore through our rudder and that sound was terrifying,” she said.

Hinze-Clark turned to skipper Ken Read for reassurance that everything was okay.

Read said the race debutante stepped up and contributed during the race – spending time at the wheel and also on the grinders.

“They kept an eye on me and made sure I was okay every step of the way,” Hinze-Clark said of the Comanche crew.

Before suffering damage on Saturday night the boat responded well, leaving Sydney in impressive form, the 36-year-old said.

“It was amazing, a great start … the boat performed exactly how we expected, it took off like a rocket.”

Despite her husband’s protestations before the race that it would cost too much time and money to bring Comanche back to Australia for another Sydney to Hobart campaign, Hinze-Clark has other ideas.

“It’s not going to be the last time she’s here … not if I’ve got anything to do with it,” she said of the supermaxi built to break records.

But first the boat needs some major repair work, or as her model owner put it: “She needs a facial”.

It matters that 27 percent of the scripts on the 2015 Black List are female-driven stories

While the number of female directors helming the year’s biggest films is still paltry, there are a couple of bright spots in the film industry for women.

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After years of statistical stagnation, circumstances finally seem to be crawling in the direction of parity when it comes to the ratio of films featuring female leads, at least according to this year’s Black List.

Since 2005, Franklin Leonard has published an annual survey culled from film industry executives that asks them to submit lists of up to 10 screenplays they most liked, but which went unproduced. Leonard, 37, then tallies the results, and the top vote-getters make up the Black List.

In the list’s inaugural year, Juno, written by Diablo Cody, was the second-highest vote-getter, bested only by Things We Lost in the Fire. Cody made the list again in 2007 with her screenplay for Jennifer’s Body.

The Black List quickly became a go-to in the film industry for spotting talent and upcoming projects. More than a third of the 987 movies that have been featured on the Black List have been produced as features and released in theaters. Three of the last six films that won the Best Picture Oscar were Black List films, and nine of the last 14 winners for best screenplay made Black List appearances, too.

Now 11 years old, the Black Lists from each year contain valuable data about movie-industry trends: among them, what’s interesting to screenwriters and studio execs, and the sorts of movies that executives think should get made even if they’re not necessarily guaranteed blockbusters.

The lists also offer an opportunity to examine if there’s been any progress in terms of gender parity. Of the 81 scripts on this year’s list, 22 of them (or 27 percent) are stories that would explicitly require female leads, which represents an enormous uptick.

Maybe all that talk about the lack of roles for women is starting to pay off.

The Washington Post conducted an analysis of 10 years of Black Lists by examining the log lines (a brief description of the project) for each script on the list from 2006 to 2015. We did not include 2005 because it contained about three times as many films as subsequent lists, and log lines were not available for each screenplay. We did not include ensemble casts, scripts written with couples as co-leads, or log lines in which gender was left ambiguous.

Because of this, Hunger Games, which made the 2010 Black List, was not included in the count, despite the fact that it was eventually made as a starring property for Jennifer Lawrence. Its log line was: “Based on the book by Suzanne Collins. In an America of the future, young boys and girls are forced to participate in a televised battle to the death.” Similarly, Butter, which Jennifer Garner toplined, was also excluded. However, these instances represented a minute number of exceptions, not the rule.

The graph functions as a measure of how many films on each Black List actually begin with women in mind. As you read through Black List log lines a pattern quickly emerges: Almost everything is about men (or boys) doing stuff. Men killing people, men solving mysteries, men falling in love, men falling out of love, men going to space, men on voyages of self-discovery, men crafting genius works of art, men going to war.

Men, men, men, men, men.

When women are mentioned, it’s overwhelmingly in roles that support the main male character’s story. This has been the case in the male-dominated film industry for decades: Men get to drive interesting and important stories on screen while women serve mainly decorous purposes, save for a few properties that actually allow an actress to be considered for an Oscar for best actress in a leading role.

The lack of parity in opportunities for actresses – not to mention pay – and for female directors to tell stories, has dominated the discussion for the last couple of years, and it seems that things may finally be shifting.

There was an 11-point jump in the ratio of Black List scripts featuring women in lead roles between 2014 and 2015. If growth continues at that clip (which we admit is unlikely), we could see parity in those scripts in less than three years. This year, Leonard estimated, 40 percent of the Black List’s 700 or so voters were women.

As the Black List’s profile has grown in Hollywood, so has its influence. Leonard’s site now hosts a script database that connects writers with buyers and representatives. (The script for the HBO film Nightingale, which starred David Oyelowo, was discovered that way.) He began a podcast this year, The Black List Table Reads, which features the best scripts that are submitted to the site.

“The diversity issue – I don’t want to talk about it in terms of diversity; I want to talk about it in terms of parity and meritocracy – is one that means a great deal to me,” Leonard said.

“I grew up as a black kid in south Georgia. I was acutely aware of the way in which access issues affect the aspect of parity in all facets of American life. So for us, it’s really important that we are raising the profile, not just of people who are already doing great work in the field, but people who are showing promise that they can do great work and … providing an example of people who have come before so that people who think they don’t belong, or that the stories they’re interested in telling, know that there’s a reason to continue to fight.”

Sundance, through its writers and directors labs and fellowships, has played a large role in nurturing the careers of female and minority filmmakers such as Gina Prince-Bythewood. Next year, 41 percent of the films in competition will boast female directors. That’s important because of the role the festival plays in setting the agenda for what filmgoers can expect to see throughout the year in terms of movies that aren’t major studio blockbusters or the standard fare of sequels, reboots and franchises. This year, Tangerine, Brooklyn, Dope, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and others were Sundance films. Me and Earl was a Black List script.

“That’s a high for anybody in this business,” Leonard said. “I think they deserve an extraordinary amount of credit for having numbers that high. And I say that not to suggest they have some aggressive affirmative-action program. I say that because it means not only are they being conscious about making those choices, but it means they’ve done a helluva lot of work to gestate filmmakers who could make great films that could then be submitted to Sundance. … I’m actually really excited for Sundance this year for that reason.”

Drowned Syrian toddler’s family in Canada

The uncle of a drowned Syrian toddler whose body pictured on a Turkish beach three months ago prompted worldwide sympathy for the plight of the region’s refugees, has arrived in Canada with his family.

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CBC Television broadcast the arrival of Mohammad Kurdi, his wife and five children in Vancouver, where they had an emotional reunion with his sister Tima Kurdi. She lives in British Columbia and sponsored the family’s relocation to Canada.

The family chanted: “Thank you Canada” shortly after being reunited on Monday.

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“I am happy, very happy,” Mohammad Kurdi told reporters at the city’s main airport.

The family came to prominence in September after a photograph of the tiny body of Alan Kurdi, face down in the surf of a Turkish beach, appeared in newspapers around the world. Alan was originally reported to be 3 years old, but some subsequent reports said he was 2.

The image brought international attention to the refugee crisis and sparked outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations to deal with the issue.

The child’s brother and mother were among those who died when two boats capsized as they tried to cross the waters from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos. The children’s father, Abdullah, who is Mohammad Kurdi’s brother, survived .

Tima Kurdi said at the time she had tried to sponsor Mohammad to come to Canada but was not successful. She had hoped to sponsor Alan and his family next.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government came under fire after it emerged the family had wanted to emigrate to Canada. The Conservatives lost the October election to Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, which pledged to swiftly bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees.

Tima Kurdi told reporters she was thankful to Trudeau “for opening the door” and showing other countries how do deal with the refugee crisis.

Earlier this month, Trudeau was in Toronto to greet the first plane-load of Syrian refugees sponsored by the Canadian government.

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Iraq PM vows to defeat IS in 2016

A triumphant Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has declared that the coming year will see his forces defeat Islamic State, after his military achieved its first major victory since collapsing in the face of the fighters 18 months ago.

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Iraqi forces flew the national flag above the main government complex in Ramadi earlier on Monday, declaring they had recaptured the city, a provincial capital west of Baghdad which fell to Islamic State fighters in May.

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“2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when Daesh’s presence in Iraq will be terminated,” Abadi said in a speech broadcast on state television, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State that the hardline group rejects.

“We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal and final blow to Daesh,” he added. Mosul, northern Iraq’s main city, is by far the largest population centre in the self-proclaimed caliphate Islamic State rules in Iraq and Syria.

The army’s apparent capture of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province in the Euphrates River valley west of Baghdad, marks a major milestone for US-trained force that crumbled when Islamic State fighters charged into Iraq in June 2014. In previous battles since then, Iraq’s armed forces have operated mainly in a supporting role beside Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias.

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Soldiers were shown on state television on Monday publicly slaughtering a sheep in an act of celebration.

Gunshots and an explosion could be heard as a state TV reporter interviewed other soldiers celebrating the victory with their automatic weapons held in the air. A separate plume of smoke could be seen nearby.

US Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for a US-led coalition backing Iraqi forces, said in a statement: “The clearance of the government centre is a significant accomplishment and is the result of many months of hard work.”

He said the coalition had provided more than 630 airstrikes in the area over the past six months as well as training, advice and equipment to the army, counter-terrorism forces and police.

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The US-led coalition, which includes major European and Arab powers, has been waging an air campaign against Islamic State positions in both Iraq and Syria since a third of Iraqi territory fell to the fighters in mid-2014.

The Iraqi army was humiliated in that advance, abandoning city after city and leaving fleets of American armoured vehicles and other weapons in the militants’ hands. One of the main challenges of the conflict since then has been rebuilding Iraq’s army into a force capable of capturing and holding territory.

Baghdad has said for months that it would prove its forces’ rebuilt capability by rolling back militant advances in Anbar, a mainly Sunni province encompassing the fertile Euphrates River valley from Baghdad’s outskirts to the Syrian border.

After encircling the provincial capital for weeks, Iraqi forces launched an assault to retake it last week and made a final push to seize the central administration complex on Sunday. Their progress had been slowed by explosives planted in streets and booby-trapped buildings.

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Security officials said the forces still need to clear some pockets of insurgents in the city and its outskirts.

Japanese schoolgirl culture: cute or creepy?

It’s hard to miss the images of Japanese schoolgirls on advertisements, anime and music videos on the streets of Tokyo.

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The schoolgirl trend has been widely popular, earning businesses and music producers big bucks. 

Now others are trying to cash in on the trend with their staff. 

So-called ‘JK cafes’ are the latest to make the most of the schoolgirl trend. 

Joshi-Kosei, or high school girls, as young as 16 earn about eight dollars an hour to socialise and serve food and drink to men often twice their age. 

The girls dress in their actual school uniform, which consists of a short skirt and fitted sweater.

The cafe has a no dating policy, but sometimes customers bring expensive gifts for the girls. 

Cafe owner, Hideki Yamanaka says his staff of 80 female highschool students must have a signed permission slip from their parents. 

Other JK businesses go a step further in their attempt to capitalise on the trend.

There are JK Massage Palours and even clothing stores selling supposedly used underwear. 

Some businesses offer “JK Walking Dates”, where customers can pay for an hour and leave with a girl. The walks are unsupervised. 

Child advocacy groups say walking dates are a common front for prostitution. 

In an interview with CNN the executive director of the Lighthouse Centre for Human Trafficking Victims, Shihoko Fujiqwara, said Japan’s shame-based culture and victim blaming maked it difficult for girls to speak up and seek help. 

In October, organisations and activists fighting child pornography called on the Japanese government to do more to protect young victims and crack down on the producers and consumers of child porn.

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“There is no denying that Japan remains a country tolerant of child pornography,” they said in a petition signed by a number of leading non-government organisations, including Lighthouse.

The petition calls for the law to be revised to outlaw much of the JK trade, including underage massages and walking dates.

The age of consent in Japan is 13, though individual prefectures and cities often have their own legislation governing this area, meaning it varies between 13 and 17.