For those who realize more happened than just the Google/YouTube deal this week, Issue 40!
OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
UK CHEERS...Screen Nation, a relatively new powerful organization in the UK dedicated to supporting cultural diversity on screen held its annual Screen Nation Film & Television Awards at the London Hilton. After a nice banquet, the two-hour Golden Globes-style award ceremony honored many in the UK film and television pioneers. Also recognized were international achievements by such winners as Terence Howard, who sent in a very heartfelt pre-recorded speech. Other winners included Thandie Newton, who was in the house, and "Lost's" Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. But most touching was the way in which these recipients reacted to the awards! The energy, the happiness--all at just being recognized. Sponsored in part by BBC and Sky, Screen Nation is providing a wonderful platform there that easily rivals the NAACP Image Awards! Go UK, Go.
BOBBY'S SONG...Music producer Bryan Michael Cox's pr peeps gmailed to tell us that the Grammy winner, who has worked with Whitney Houston, Usher, and other top R&B acts, was just tapped to create the title track for the soundtrack to much-hyped film Bobby. The upcoming Weinstein Company flick about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy is directed by Emilio Estevez and stars a slew of actors from Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Hopkins, and Harry Belafonte to Joy Bryant, Sharon Stone, and Lindsay Lohan. Sounds like the film's music supervisor--and casting director--are a little hipper than most.
PROPS FOR HIP HOP...BET has announced the nominees for the first ever BET Hip Hop Awards. "Best Hip Hop Movie" nominees are: ATL - Director: Chris Robinson (photo, right), Beef: 3 - Director: Peter Spirer, Boss'n Up - Director: Dylan C. Brown, Get Rich or Die Tryin' - Director: Jim Sheridan, and Waist Deep - Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall. "Best Video Director" nominees are: Benny Boom, Dr. Teeth, Hype Williams, Little X, and Sanaa Hamri. Accolades are always great, but we hope that these awards will carry some clout and result in deals and dollars for those in the hip-hop film and video world.
NAACP SEEKS ENTRIES...The NAACP Image Awards is accepting submissions for its Motion Picture, Television, Recording and Literature categories. Send in nomination by December 1, 3:00 PST. Get submission forms at http://www.naacpimageawards.net/.
HOLLYWOOD AIDS FUNDRAISING...Kenneth R. Reynolds gave us a heads up on the Black AIDS Institute's sixth annual Fundraiser "Heroes In The Struggle 2006," November 16 at the Directors Guild of America, Los Angeles. Honoring Dionne Warwick and Friends (Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder), there'll be performances by comedian J. Reid and singer Cheryl Lynn with special invited musicians Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Ray Parker, Jr. Reynolds is producing for LVT & Associates/Public Relations+. So head on over to the DGA to support a worthy cause.
LAST COMIC STANDING...Crown Royal whisky brand just kicked off its highly anticipated, Walther Latham-produced Crown Royal Bad Boys of Comedy Tour (http://www.lathamentertainment.com/) at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis last week. Hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh is hosting the 12-city tour, with funnymen Bruce Bruce and Earthquake headlining. The tour also includes up-and-coming comedians as it hits Phoenix, Cincinnati, and D.C., among other stops. If Latham has as much success with this as he did with The Kings of Comedy, expect a film followed by a DVD soon. HBFF CALL FOR ENTRIES...The Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) is seeking entries for The Eighth Annual HBFF 2007, to be held June 5-10, 2007 in Beverly Hills. It will feature narrative and documentary features, short and student films, music videos and animation in its competitive program. HBFF will also present a Storyteller Competition for screenwriters. HBFF founder and festival director Tanya Kersey tells us the festival will accept submissions through February 15, 2007. Films must have been completed since September 2004 and one of the film's creative principles (director, writer, or producer) must be Black or of African heritage. Obtain submission forms at www.hbff.org. REVISITING BEBE'S KIDS...Director Topper Carew (http://www.toppercarew.com) has captured the life and funny times of the late comedian Robin Harris in the documentary Robin Harris--We Don't Die: We Multiply. Harris, who became famous for creating BeBe's Kids as well as his scene-stealing roles in Do the Right Thing, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and House Party, died at the age of 36 from a heart attack in 1990. In the doc, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer, DL Hughley, Robert Townsend, Joe Torry, and more reflect on the Harris' groundbreaking humor. While completed in 2005, We Don't Die: We Multiply is making the rounds at film festivals. Harris' unforgettable humor is what shines, and hopefully the film picks up a distribution deal from this latest round of festival showings.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT...A new Urban DVD is hitting the shelves--Who Made The Potatoe Salad? starring Eddie Griffin goes on sale November 7th. Tagged as the urban version of Meet the Parents, the DVD from Key Video, a division of Fox Home Entertainment, also includes Jaleel White, Clifton Powell, and DeRay Davis. While writer/director Damon Daniels is looking for an at-home audience for his 2002 flick, Who Made The Potatoe Salad? is yet another Urban film that went straight to video. We'll see if Griffin has enough lingering appeal to pull in some DVD sales.
DIDDY TV...With Sean Combs and fast food giant Burger King teaming up to purchase a channel on YouTube.com, http://youtube.com/diddytv, for cross promotional reasons, many wonder if this is the end of the "everyday people" approach for YouTube, especially after being gobbled up by Google earlier this week. Will the video-sharing site and MySpace.com, now owned by the Murdoch media empire, merely become commercial destinations? Seems to be the path they're taking, once again leaving true creatives and future tastemakers disconnected. PINK POWER...As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, AOL is airing the documentary of breast cancer survivor Ann Murray Paige, a TV journalist and mother. The Breast Cancer Diaries can be seen exclusively online at http://%20www.aimpages.com/thediariesfilm. The film premiered earlier this year at D.C.'s Silverdocs/AFI Film Festival. As part of AOL's "Think Pink" program, visitors can share their own stories and experiences with breast cancer, post comments, photos and user-generated videos, as well as get direct links to breast cancer information and resources. PHOTOSHOPPING HISTORY?...Not long ago we commented about the oddity of Angelina Jolie portraying Marianne Pearl, a woman of color. Now we hear, Halle Barry is has signed on as the lead for Class Act, the true story of a white teacher named Tierney Cahill (right) who ran for Congress in 2000. We applaud diversity and casting directors being open to try a new twist on reality, but wouldn't it also be great to see roles across the board--fictional ones included--being open to actors of all races? LONDON'S CALLING...Look out for our coverage of the upcoming Times BFI 50th London Film Festival (http://www.lff.org.uk/), with screenings in venues all across London, October 18-November 2. On the roster: The Last King of Scotland (UK), Bobby (US), Catch A Fire (UK), among other entries from around the globe. The A-List will be there...so you can.
SHOWTIME LAUNCHES MOBILE VIDEO
Mobile Streams and Showtime Networks Inc. have announced that Mobile Streams has built an Off-Deck WAP portal to provide mobile users with access to content from Showtime programs for the first time. WAP, or Wireless Application Protocol, allows users to access information instantly via handheld wireless devices such as mobile phones, pagers, two-way radios, smartphones, and communicators. Mobile users with 2.5G or 3G handsets will be able to access the mobile offering, subject to carrier and handset capabilities. At launch, the Showtime WAP portal gives mobile users access to video clips and wallpapers from the new Original Series "Dexter," starring Michael C. Hall, as well as video clips from "Weeds" and Damon Wayans' new sketch comedy series, "The Underground." Content from other Showtime programming, such as "Sleeper Cell," "The L Word," and "Showtime Championship Boxing" will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
CHINA PUTS HOLLYWOOD--AND JAY-Z--ON HOLD
China's Ministry of Culture has launched a campaign to promote home-grown films, pushing Hollywood releases to the backburner. With the celebration of the "October Golden Autumn Excellent Domestic Film Exhibition Month," a selection of Hollywood blockbusters have had to delay release in this substantial Asian market. The films on hold that were due to open this month include: Miami Vice, which will now open in China on November 1, and Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, which reportedly will open November 11. U.S. films aren't the only American art form on hold to enter China. The country has deemed rapper Jay-Z too offensive to perform on the mainland, canceling his October 23 concert at Shanghai's Hongkou Football stadium. While Jay-Z has been reported saying that the concert has only been postponed, some music industry observers have made note that the Rolling Stones, whose material can also be considered "lurid" under the same standards, recently performed in China.
FOREST WHITAKER GENERATES OSCAR BUZZ WITH THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
With Africa so much in celebrity news these days, it was only a matter of time another film about the Continent would be the talk of the town. While The A-List is yearning for more positive images of the Motherland to be put on the big screen--or even a recognition of some of the wonderful films that come out of the various African countries--we had to tip our hat to Forest Whitaker and his uncanny, and Oscar-worthy, portrayal of African dictator Idi Amin. But while critics are raving about the film, the studio doesn't seem to be stepping up to the plate. Nonetheless, it has been attracting an audience--when they can find a theatre playing it. The Last King of Scotland pulled in $142,899 (or $35,724 per screen) its opening weekend, on just seven screens. Fox Searchlight has increased the number of screens, yet it's still small in comparison to others. Well, while the studio may be sleeping on this Hotel Rwanda-type jewel, one of our contributors caught up with the actor to learn more about the making of The Last King Of Scotland.Q: "Amin was a very complex character, what else attracted you to the part?"
Forest Whitaker: "I thought it would interesting to get inside his skin and understand the way he worked and the way he thought, the way he felt and understand him as a person and the politics of the nation and the place. I think also it was a deeper attraction to go to the African continent and experience that too. It was like a lot of opportunities for me to be able to play a character like this."
Q: "Did you learn anything new about Amin?"
FW: "People told me the intimate details of his youth growing up [in the then-colonized country]. I met with elders of the plantation who knew him as a child. We talked about his leadership abilities, the messianic quality he felt he had because people and took him away to teach him. He was a very bright kid and then a great fighter, so they trained him to be a boxer. He was the heavyweight champion of Uganda for like nine years and he was a ball player and ultimately he was one of the best soldiers the British had. It was a social structure that was happening in Africa at the time and that's why he was put in power."
Q: "Idi Amin has been compared to Stalin and Hitler, what do you think?"
FW: "The movie deals with power, corruption, and the West going into a culture and dictating what it wants and then what kind of monsters are created. Do I think he was insane or anything like that or bipolar? I guess when I was working on the character I never really thought of it that way. I just looked at my passions and how he felt about certain things. He didn't want to be president...In his mind as a politician, he became surrounded by his enemies and then he started to behave as a soldier as he was before. The very reason why they [the West] put him in power and why they liked him in the beginning became the thing that created the downfall. When you talk to some of his generals, they have a very mixed point of view. They don't even blame him for the many massacres that occurred, so it's very complicated. Certainly when hundreds of thousands of people die you can't excuse that."
Q: "Why do you think Amin was so popular? Do you think his negative popularity and deeds were blown out of proportion by the West?"
FW: "He became even more popular because he was one of those African leaders who could kick the West out, but I think he was always very popular. He was popular in the army with the people when he was first elected. In Israel they loved him and they promoted him from nothing. He went to the OAU, he spoke and the UN in his own native tongue, tribal languages. Why the West do it? Because when you look at it from a global point of view, it's impossible to for me to comprehend that many people died, but when I look at it and I look at the numbers of leaders around the world in the West there are many leaders who are responsible for deaths more than that. So you have to ask the question why is he such a figure that everyone talks about and certainly after Idi Amin left power when Obote came back into power 500,000 people were killed. You have to look at why Amin would be the one that would be pointed at because he literally said get out Scotland, get Israel, get out America, and that's one of the reasons he's taken a position in African history books. Because they were other leaders who have done so many tragic things to so many people, but he stands out very strongly and [because of] his stance against the West."
Q: "Director Kevin Macdonald mentioned most of Amin's family welcomed the movie, but one son didn't want to meet you and is now threatening a lawsuit claiming the depiction of his father is inaccurate. What happened?"
FW: "I tried to meet with him a bunch of times and I met with his brothers and sisters and I tried to meet with Taban who was a general there and he's a busy man. I can't claim to say that he just like didn't want to meet with me because he's never told me that, but I set up maybe four meetings and they were canceled."
Q: What do you think in the context of the film Amin fascination was Nicholas Garrigan, his Scottish personal physician?
FW: "In the context of the film, Idi Amin did have a fascination with the Scottish. They were like compatriots--they had clans,like the ones in Uganda, they had an oral tradition of telling stories, music, again like in Africa. And he felt they were oppressed by the British as he was and so there was a natural attraction to the Scottish. He did say he was going to be the last king of Scottish and he would free them from the British."
Q: "This movie and your portrayal is garnering an Oscar buzz, how do you feel about that?"
FW: "It's nice when people say they like your work and I am really happy about that and I hope people would go see the movie if they keep talking about it. You have to be careful when you start thinking about awards. I have been in a position where I have been in a lot of movies that have been up for awards and projects where people have talked about my performance. It happened to me last year when I was working on the 'Shield' and I wasn't even nominated [laughs]. You have to kinda keep your focus and live in the moment and try and enjoy the moment and right now I am very happy I did my best and it was great." --Interview conducted by Samantha Ofole of The Robinson Treatment for The A-List.