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Students at the American Film Institute lead the way for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s annual Student Academy Awards.

The Academy named 16 students as winners on Thursday, including three in the narrative category from AFI. The competition received 1,615 entrants from 255 domestic and 105 international colleges and universities, the Academy said.

AFI was the only school to take more than one award. AFI students Asher Jelinsky (“Miller & Son”), Hao Zheng (“The Chef”)  and Omer Ben-Shachar (“Tree #3,”) took home awards in the narrative category. Last year, the University of Southern California was the only school to take home more than one award, with four.

Also Read: New Academy President on the Next Oscars: 'I Don't Think We Need to Be Changing the Show'

Winners of the Student Academy Awards are eligible to compete for Oscars in the Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film or Documentary Short Subject category. Past winners have gone on to nab 62 Oscar nominations and have won or shared 12 awards.

The 2019 winners join the ranks of such past Student Academy Award winners as Patricia Cardoso, Pete Docter, Cary Fukunaga, Spike Lee, Trey Parker, Patricia Riggen and Robert Zemeckis.

Here’s the full list of winners:

Alternative/Experimental (Domestic and International Film Schools)
Georden West, “Patron Saint,” Emerson College

Animation (Domestic Film Schools)
Aviv Mano, “Game Changer,” Ringling College of Art and Design
Kalee McCollaum, “Grendel,” Brigham Young University
Emre Okten, “Two,” University of Southern California

Animation (International Film Schools)
Daria Kashcheeva, “Daughter,” Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts, Prague (Czech Republic)

Documentary (Domestic Film Schools)
Eva Rendle, “All That Remains,” University of California, Berkeley
Princess Garrett, “Sankofa,” Villanova University
Abby Lieberman and Joshua Lucas, “Something to Say,” Columbia University

Documentary (International Film Schools)
Yifan Sun, “Family,” The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School, Lodz (Poland)

Narrative (Domestic Film Schools)
Asher Jelinsky, “Miller & Son,” American Film Institute
Hao Zheng, “The Chef,” American Film Institute
Omer Ben-Shachar, “Tree #3,” American Film Institute

Narrative (International Film Schools)
Zoel Aeschbacher, “Bonobo,” Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL) (Switzerland)
Rikke Gregersen, “Dog Eat Dog,” Westerdals Kristiania University College (Norway)
Charlie Manton, “November 1st,” National Film and Television School (United Kingdom)

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www.thewrap.com | 9/12/19

For months I’ve been mystified by Jay Penske’s silence over the $200 million investment stake his company, Penske Media Corporation, took from a Saudi government-backed company in February 2018. 

Since the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post opinion writer and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Saudi Arabia has become persona non grata in the world of media and entertainment if not in our government. U.S. intelligence reports confirm that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered Khashoggi killed.

Endeavor, the parent company of talent agency WME and sports conglomerate IMG, found its own $400 million investment from the Saudi Public Investment Fund untenable. The Hollywood company returned the investment in March of this year.

Also Read: WME Parent Endeavor Returns $400 Million Investment by Saudi Arabia

The United Kingdom just opened a state inquiry into a Saudi businessman’s investment into two of its newspapers, the Independent and Evening Standard, because of concerns over foreign interference.

And just last week, Nicki Minaj pulled out of a planned concert in the kingdom after facing criticism for agreeing to perform in a country accused of human rights violations and backward treatment of women.

After TheWrap requested comment for this story on Friday, a Penske spokeswoman sent an email accusing TheWrap of “desperately trying to ‘create a story'” but did not otherwise address the issue. Meanwhile, Penske Media’s WWD.com posted an updated version of its original announcement of the Saudi investment, this time noting that it came from the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). (Previously, even Penske’s own Rolling Stone and Variety have mistakenly reported the source of its parent company’s funding.)

Multiple stories on Variety.com that disclosed the investment have been updated to identify SRMG within the last week, following TheWrap’s inquiries, according to the Internet Archive. Variety did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Penske Media, which employs hundreds of journalists at Variety, Rolling Stone, Deadline, The Robb Report, WWD and others, has never publicly addressed the investment tie to the regime, either to defend or explain it.

Also Read: Nicki Minaj Asked to Cancel Saudi Arabia Concert by Human Rights Foundation

SRMG owns newspapers, an advertising division and a printing division all mainly based in the Middle East; publications include the business daily Al- Eqtissadiah and Sayyidati, a women-focused weekly. Last year SRMG pursued talks with Vice to create a joint venture around media projects, part of an initiative to “build an international media empire to combat the kingdom’s rivals and remake its image in the West,” as the Wall Street Journal reported at the time. Those talks foundered after Khashoggi was killed.

Indeed, Variety itself reported last year:

Vice’s ongoing relationship with SRMG could prove problematic as the publishing company is known for having ties to the Saudi government. SRMG ranks as the Middle East’s largest publishing company. It’s listed on the stock market and has two main shareholders: the Al Ahli Capital Fund and Al Ahli Capital Fund 4, which are operated by the National Commercial Bank, a prominent Saudi bank mainly owned by the Saudi government.

According to SRMG’s 2016 annual report, the most recent one publicly available on its website, the company had revenues of 1.4 billion riyals, or about $385 million — and produced a net loss of 56 million riyals, or $15 million.

Multiple experts in the region regard the company as an arm of “soft power” of the Saudi government. Although 30% of its shares are publicly traded on the Saudi stock market, according to the company, it is majority-owned by the Saudi government via two funds titled al-Ahli. The main investor in al-Ahli, according to its website, is the Saudi Public Investment fund. And until last year, SRMG was headed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah — a confidante of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who went on to become the country’s first culture minister.

“It’s an area of recruitment for those people that the crown prince wants to be drawing into the government. Younger, more avant-garde,” Middle East expert Dennis Ross, William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told TheWrap.

Also Read: Nicki Minaj Cancels Saudi Arabia Concert 'After Better Educating Myself on the Issues'

All of which raises a couple of questions:

• Why is Penske so reluctant to address the investment from SRMG?

• And why would Saudi Arabia — or a money-losing company tied to the Saudi government — be interested in a massive investment in U.S. media at a time when the media business is so deeply challenged as a financial investment, as anyone will tell you?

SRMG did not respond to two attempts to clarify its Penske investment, which is not listed anywhere on its website.

In his recent trips to Saudi Arabia, Ross said he’s seen changes, including the mixing of men and women in restaurants and at work. The Saudi crown prince “is carrying out a revolution from above,” Ross said. “His answer to resistance is to be quite authoritarian and not to tolerate dissent. There’s a tension there inherently. He wants a climate of innovation. But if people are constrained, afraid — it’s hard to do that. You have an authoritarian modernizer.”

He added:  “Now you’ll have meeting and a minister will have two or three women with him. You’d never see that before,” he said. “But I’m the first to admit it’s a dilemma. On the one hand, creating a successful model of development is hugely in our interest. The question is, can authoritarianism as it is being applied put that transformation at risk? And is there a role for us to play?”

As for how American media companies should behave toward Saudi investors, Ross was clear: “My instinct would be to create the ground rules based on your own principles: ‘You have no say over what we do. We will operate the way we operate.'”

When Bloomberg set up a joint venture with SRMG last September for an Arabic-language news service, the American company set strict editorial rules. According to the Guardian, Bloomberg can terminate the contract over any content deemed “deliberately offensive to any racial or ethnic minority” or “therwise bringing Bloomberg into business disrepute.”

And what of all the cloak and dagger in the case of the SRMG investment in Penske Media? On that, Ross was unequivocal. “There has to be transparency,” he said. “If there’s no transparency I’d be much less inclined to go along with it.”

As of Friday, at least, there is a start of some transparency.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Nicki Minaj Asked to Cancel Saudi Arabia Concert by Human Rights Foundation

WME Parent Endeavor Returns $400 Million Investment by Saudi Arabia

www.thewrap.com | 7/15/19

Top British officials have given the green light to the Chinese technology giant Huawei to participate in the development of the 5G wireless network in the United Kingdom, reports the Washington Post. Brian Fung and Ellen Nakashima reporting. "Britain's decision to move forward with Huawei will not be official until it is announced by the secretary for digital culture and reported to Parliament. But the council's conclusion to let Huawei participate, even in a limited way, in Britain's 5G rollout would be a significant diplomatic defeat for the United States, which has argued that Huawei's networking equipment cannot be trusted — and could be used for spying purposes or to disrupt networks."

www.circleid.com | 4/26/19

“If Beale Street Could Talk,” “You Were Never Really Here,” “Eighth Grade,” “First Reformed” and “Leave No Trace” have been nominated as the best independent films of 2018 by the Film Independent Spirit Awards, which announced its nominees on Friday morning in Los Angeles.

In one of the most evenly spread Spirit Awards fields ever, “Eighth Grade,” “First Reformed,” “You Were Never Really Here” and “We the Animals” each received four nominations, while “Beale Street,” “Leave No Trace,” “Private Life” and “The Tale” each received three.

“Madeline’s Madeline,” “Hereditary,” “Sorry to Bother You” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” each received two nominations.

Also Read: CMA Awards 2018: The Complete Winners List

Acting noms went to several presumed Oscar contenders, including Glenn Close for “The Wife,” Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Richard E. Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and Adam Driver for “BlacKkKlansman,” along with Thomasin Harcourt Mckenzie for “Leave No Trace,” Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton for “Eighth Grade,” Daveed Diggs for “Blindspotting” and Carey Mulligan for “Wildlife.”

In the Best First Feature category, the nominees were “Hereditary,” “Sorry to Bother You,” “The Tale,” “We the Animals” and “Wildlife.”

To qualify for the Spirit Awards, a film must meet a variety of criteria, including having a budget of less than $20 million. It must also contain “significant American content,”  a requirement that can be fulfilled by having the film set and shot in the U.S. or by having U.S. citizens or permanent residents in two of the three creative positions of director, writer and producer.

Also Read: 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?' Tops Critics' Choice Documentary Awards

This year, major Oscar contenders “Roma” and “The Favourite” didn’t meet the American-content requirement and were eligible only in the Best International Film category. They were both nominated in the category, along with “Burning,” “Happy as Lazzaro” and “Shoplifters.”

The Oscar-contending films that did not qualify for the Spirit Awards because of budgetary reasons include “Black Panther,” “Vice,” “Beautiful Boy,” “Widows,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Mary Queen of Scots.”

Spirit Award nominations are made by a variety of nominating committees rather than a vote of the entire membership. The final voting is open to all the members of Film Independent, which is a mixture of film professionals and movie fans who pay an annual fee.

Also Read: E's People Choice Awards 2018: Complete Winners List

Last year, three of the Spirit Awards’ five Best Feature nominees went on to receive Oscar nominations for Best Picture, while nine of the 20 acting nominees were also singled out by the Academy, including winners Frances McDormand, Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell.

Since the Oscars expanded to more than five Best Picture nominees in 2009, there has never been a year in which at least one of the Spirits Awards nominees did not also receive an Oscar nom in the top category. The high was four films nominated for both awards, which happened in 2010 and again in 2014.

In the first 26 years of the Spirit Awards’ existence, its Best Feature winner only went on to win the Best Picture Oscar once, when “Platoon” did it in 1986. But beginning in 2012, the two awards agreed five times in six years, including four in a row from 2014 through 2017. That streak came to an end last year, when “Get Out” won the Spirit Award but lost to “The Shape of Water” at the Oscars.

Also Read: 'Minding the Gap' Leads All Films in Nominations for Cinema Eye Honors

This year’s nominations were announced at a press conference by Molly Shannon and Gemma Chan.

The 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards will take place on Saturday, Feb. 23 and will be broadcast live on IFC.

The nominees:

Also Read: Glenn Close to Receive Icon Award From Palm Springs Film Festival

BEST FEATURE
EIGHTH GRADE
FIRST REFORMED
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
LEAVE NO TRACE
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

BEST DIRECTOR
Debra Granik, LEAVE NO TRACE
Barry Jenkins, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Tamara Jenkins, PRIVATE LIFE
Lynne Ramsay, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Paul Schrader, FIRST REFORMED

BEST FIRST FEATURE
HEREDITARY
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
THE TALE
WE THE ANIMALS
WILDLIFE

BEST MALE LEAD
John Cho, SEARCHING
Daveed Diggs, BLINDSPOTTING
Ethan Hawke, FIRST REFORMED
Christian Malheiros, SOCRATES
Joaquin Phoenix, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Glenn Close, THE WIFE
Toni Collette, HEREDITARY
Elsie Fisher, EIGHTH GRADE
Regina Hall, SUPPORT THE GIRLS
Helena Howard, MADELINE’S MADELINE
Carey Mulligan, WILDLIFE

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Raúl Castillo, WE THE ANIMALS
Adam Driver, BLACKKKLANSMAN
Richard E. Grant, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Josh Hamilton, EIGHTH GRADE
John David Washington, MONSTERS AND MEN

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Kayli Carter, PRIVATE LIFE
Tyne Daly, A BREAD FACTORY
Regina King, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, LEAVE NO TRACE
J. Smith-Cameron, NANCY

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
A BREAD FACTORY
EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA
NEVER GOIN’ BACK
SOCRATES
THUNDER ROAD

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD (given to one film’s director, casting directors and ensemble cast)
SUSPIRIA

BEST DOCUMENTARY
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING
MINDING THE GAP
OF FATHERS AND SONS
ON HER SHOULDERS
SHIRKERS
WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
BURNING (South Korea)
THE FAVOURITE (United Kingdom)
HAPPY AS LAZZARO (Italy)
ROMA (Mexico)
SHOPLIFTERS (Japan)

BEST EDITING
Joe Bini, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Keiko Deguchi, Brian A. Kates & Jeremiah Zagar, WE THE ANIMALS
Luke Dunkley, Nick Fenton, Chris Gill & Julian Hart, AMERICAN ANIMALS
Anne Fabini, Alex Hall and Gary Levy, THE TALE
Nick Houy, MID90S

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Ashley Connor, MADELINE’S MADELINE
Diego Garcia, WILDLIFE
Benjamin Loeb, MANDY
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, SUSPIRIA
Zak Mulligan, WE THE ANIMALS

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE
Christina Choe, NANCY
Cory Finley, THOROUGHBREDS
Jennifer Fox, THE TALE
Quinn Shephard (Writer/Story By) and Laurie Shephard (Story By), BLAME

BEST SCREENPLAY
Richard Glatzer (Writer/Story By), Rebecca Lenkiewicz & Wash Westmoreland, COLETTE
Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Tamara Jenkins, PRIVATE LIFE
Boots Riley, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Paul Schrader FIRST REFORMED

Truer Than Fiction Award
Alexandria Bombach, ON HER SHOULDERS
Bing Liu, MINDING THE GAP
RaMell Ross, HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING

Someone to Watch Award
Alex Moratto, SOCRATES
Ioana Uricaru, LEMONADE
Jeremiah Zagar, WE THE ANIMALS

Producers Award
Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams
Gabrielle Nadig
Shrihari Sathe

Bonnie Award
Debra Granik
Tamara Jenkins
Karyn Kusama

www.thewrap.com | 11/16/18