The disqualification of Nigeria’s “Lionheart” in the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film category is not a case of the Academy being unfair to Nigeria.
Instead, it’s a case of the Nigerian committee that submitted the film not following clear rules in the category.
And the people who are now lobbying for those rules to be changed may be inadvertently advocating for a category in which a non-U.S.-produced film like “The Favourite” might have won last year and “The King’s Speech,” “Dunkirk,” “The Theory of Everything” and lots more English-language movies would be nominees and likely winners.
That’s a category that would really push out countries like Nigeria.
If the minor tempest that followed Monday’s disqualification — a tempest that included a tweet from director Ava DuVernay and expressions of support from her followers — shows anything, it’s that the Academy might have moved too hastily when it changed the name of the category earlier this year from its former name, Best Foreign Language Film.
In trying to avoid the loaded word foreign and recognize that the Academy is an international organization, it may have muddied the waters and set up an expectation that language is no longer a factor in determining eligibility for the category.
But that’s not true. The category’s rules didn’t change, and they spell it out clearly, defining an international feature film as one “produced outside the United States with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.”
“Lionheart” is partially in the Igbo language, but it is mostly in English, which is the official language of Nigeria.
Diane Weyermann, the co-chair of the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee, told TheWrap that the category name was changed because “there are now political connotations to the word foreign. These filmmakers are not foreigners — these are our peers in the international film community.”
Her co-chair, Larry Karaszewski, added that the tipping point came when Alfonso Cuarón accepted the foreign-language Oscar for “Roma” in February and talked about how he’d grown up loving foreign-language films … like “Jaws,” “Citizen Kane” and “The Godfather.”
“It was so obvious,” Karaszewski said. “I think Diane and I looked at each other and said, ‘You know, we’re supposed to be in charge here. We could actually do something about this.'”
But the name change, which was announced last April, did not change the rules for qualifying in the category. Except for the United States, countries in which English is the official language are free to submit films, provided those films are not in English.
This year, for instance, the U.K. submitted Chiwetel Ejiofor’s “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” which is set in Malawi and is largely in the Chicewa language (along with a fair amount of English); Ireland submitted “Gaza,” a documentary set on the Gaza Strip with predominantly Arabic dialogue; and Australia submitted “Buoyancy,” in which the main languages are Khmer and Thai.
But if the disqualification of “Lionheart” was a simple case of the Academy responding to a clear rules violation (which the Nigerian submission committee now acknowledges), there are ways in which AMPAS could have handled it better.
For one thing, it could have moved more quickly. In the past, the executive committee has often checked on the eligibility of films before the list of qualifying films is announced. But this year, even though three or four films clearly needed further vetting, with “Lionheart” at the top of that list, it did not do so until after the film had been announced as a contender and placed on the Academy’s screening schedule.
I watched it on Netflix before the announcement of eligible films had been made and turned it off after an hour because it so clearly wouldn’t qualify — and then, when it did make the list, I watched the rest of it and knew it would only be a matter of time before it was eliminated from contention.
Obviously it’s difficult to vet submissions from 93 different countries, but “Lionheart” had red flags from the start and should never have gotten as far as it did.
And then there’s the matter of that category name. Yes, Best International Feature Film is a more inclusive title, without the U.S.-centric feel of Best Foreign Language Film. But by taking the subject of a film’s language out of the title, it allows the mistaken impression that maybe language is no longer a determining factor.
The Film Independent Spirit Awards’ comparable category is called Best International Feature, but it allows English-language films to compete: “The Favourite” was a nominee last year and “Lady Macbeth” the year before, while past winners have included “The King’s Speech,” “An Education” and “Once.”
The Academy clearly doesn’t want to go down that road, which is possible at the Spirit Awards because those films aren’t eligible in the Best Feature category.
Meanwhile, the British Academy Film Awards, handed out by BAFTA, have what might be the most accurate category title, Best Film Not in the English Language.
That’s awfully clunky, but it’s an accurate description of what the BAFTA category and the Oscar category are intended to be. And it’s an accurate description of why “Lionheart” deserved to be disqualified.
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Trump Administration ‘Intended to Sit on’ Plan for Egypt to Arrest NY Times Reporter, Publisher Says
During a speech at Brown University on Monday, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger told a story about an Egypt-based Times reporter nearly getting arrested in August 2017.
President Trump’s administration’s intended to “sit on the information” rather than intervening, Sulzberger said.
Here is what Sulzberger said about the incident and its precedent in full:
Walsh, who is currently the Cairo bureau chief for the Times, was not arrested, according to Sulzberger, who lamented that the Times was “unable to count on our own government to prevent the arrest or help free Declan if he were imprisoned.” Instead, diplomats from Walsh’s home country of Ireland were able to escort him to an airport.
Also Read: New York Times en Español Shuts Down
“Unable to count on our own government to prevent the arrest or help free Declan if he were imprisoned,” he said.
A representative for the White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
On Twitter, Walsh reacted to Sulzberger telling the story publicly for the first time and subsequently publishing his remarks as an article. Walsh wrote, “The incident occurred in August 2017 after @NYTmag published my story about Giulio Regeni, an Italian student found dead in Cairo. Italy accuses Egypt of involvement, and Egypt denies. It’s a sensitive issue.”
“I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t received that timely warning. Possibly nothing, and possibly a major problem. The workings of Egypt’s security apparatus are notoriously opaque under Mr. el-Sisi, even to Egypt experts,” he added. “Lastly, I owe a belated thanks an Irish diplomat who rushed to help in a tight spot. He was cool, swift and fearless. And to someone in Washington who took a risk to reach out.”
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Instagram has expanded hiding “likes” to six new countries, months after the Facebook-owned app launched its initial test in Canada.
On Wednesday, Instagram rolled out the test in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. Users will still be able to see how many like their posts get, but when someone else goes to their post, the total number of likes will be absent.
“We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love,” Facebook director Mia Garlick told the BBC.
The larger test comes only a few months after Instagram head Adam Mosseri told BuzzFeed News the company wants users to focus less on their like counts. Mosseri said he wanted to create “a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,” rather than an environment where people delete posts that don’t rack up enough likes.
The test also comes as there’s mounting evidence likes are detrimental to mental health.
A 2017 study from the U.K. Royal Society for Public Health reported Instagram was the social app most detrimental to mental health for people 14-24, often exacerbating their depression, anxiety or body image issues. Instagram in particular makes young women “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality,” the report said.
“The brain responds to likes like any other reward or thing that excites the brain like food, sex or gambling,” Cal State University professor Ofir Turel recently told TheWrap. “When you get likes, the reward system lights up and releases dopamine, making us feel good.”
That good feeling can become fleeting, though, as users get hooked on checking their phones for social validation after posting a picture or video. Turel, who has studied the impact of social media on the brain for more than a decade, said users habitually check their phones — including 40% of Americans while driving — because Instagram and other platforms have created a “variable reward,” something best associated with betting in a casino.
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Asa Butterfield Falling Down the Stairs in the Sex Education Blooper Reel Is Truly a Sight to Behold
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James (Jon) Castle - 7 December 1950 to 12 January 2018
Over four decades Captain Jon Castle navigated Greenpeace ships by the twin stars of ‘right and wrong’, defending the environment and promoting peace. Greenpeace chronicler, Rex Weyler, recounts a few of the stories that made up an extraordinary life.
Captain Jon Castle onboard the MV Sirius, 1 May 1996
James (Jon) Castle first opened his eyes virtually at sea. He was born 7 December 1950 in Cobo Bay on the Channel Island of Guernsey, UK. He grew up in a house known locally as Casa del Mare, the closest house on the island to the sea, the second son of Robert Breedlove Castle and Mary Constance Castle.
Young Jon Castle loved the sea and boats. He worked on De Ile de Serk, a cargo boat that supplied nearby Sark island, and he studied at the University of Southampton to become an officer in the Merchant Navy.
Jon became a beloved skipper of Greenpeace ships. He sailed on many campaigns and famously skippered two ships during Greenpeace’s action against Shell’s North Sea oil platform, Brent Spar. During his activist career, Jon spelt his name as "Castel" to avoid unwanted attention on his family.Right and wrong
Jon had two personal obsessions: he loved books and world knowledge and was extremely well-read. He also loved sacred sites and spent personal holidays walking to stone circles, standing stones, and holy wells.
As a young man, Jon became acquainted with the Quaker tradition, drawn by their dedication to peace, civil rights, and direct social action. In 1977, when Greenpeace purchased their first ship - the Aberdeen trawler renamed, the Rainbow Warrior - Jon signed on as first mate, working with skipper Peter Bouquet and activists Susi Newborn, Denise Bell and Pete Wilkinson.
In 1978, Wilkinson and Castle learned of the British government dumping radioactive waste at sea in the deep ocean trench off the coast of Spain in the Sea of Biscay. In July, the Rainbow Warrior followed the British ship, Gem, south from the English coast, carrying a load of toxic, radioactive waste barrels. The now-famous confrontation during which the Gem crew dropped barrels onto a Greenpeace inflatable boat, ultimately changed maritime law and initiated a ban on toxic dumping at sea.
After being arrested by Spanish authorities, Castle and Bouquet staged a dramatic escape from La Coru?a harbour at night, without running lights, and returned the Greenpeace ship to action. Crew member Simone Hollander recalls, as the ship entered Dublin harbour in 1978, Jon cheerfully insisting that the entire crew help clean the ship's bilges before going ashore, an action that not only built camaraderie among the crew, but showed a mariner's respect for the ship itself. In 1979, they brought the ship to Amsterdam and participated in the first Greenpeace International meeting.
In 1980 Castle and the Rainbow Warrior crew confronted Norwegian and Spanish whaling ships, were again arrested by Spanish authorities, and brought into custody in the El Ferrol naval base.
The Rainbow Warrior remained in custody for five months, as the Spanish government demanded 10 million pesetas to compensate the whaling company. On the night of November 8, 1980, the Rainbow Warrior, with Castle at the helm, quietly escaped the naval base, through the North Atlantic, and into port in Jersey.
In 1995, Castle skippered the MV Greenpeace during the campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and led a flotilla into New Zealand to replace the original Rainbow Warrior that French agents bombed in Auckland in 1985.
Over the years, Castle became legendary for his maritime skills, courage, compassion, commitment, and for his incorruptible integrity. "Environmentalism: That does not mean a lot to me," he once said, "I am here because of what is right and wrong. Those words are good enough for me."Brent Spar Action at Brent Spar Oil Rig in the North Sea, 16 June 1995
One of the most successful Greenpeace campaigns of all time began in the summer of 1995 when Shell Oil announced a plan to dump a floating oil storage tank, containing toxic petroleum residue, into the North Atlantic. Castle signed on as skipper of the Greenpeace vessel Moby Dick, out of Lerwick, Scotland. A month later, on 30 April 1995, Castle and other activists occupied the Brent Spar and called for a boycott of Shell service stations.
When Shell security and British police sprayed the protesters with water cannons, images flooded across world media, demonstrations broke out across Europe, and on May 15, at the G7 summit, German chancellor Helmut Kohl publicly protested to British Prime Minister John Major. In June, 11 nations, at the Oslo and Paris Commission meetings, called for a moratorium on sea disposal of offshore installations.
After three weeks, British police managed to evict Castle and the other occupiers and held them briefly in an Aberdeen jail. When Shell and the British government defied public sentiment and began towing the Spar to the disposal site, consumers boycotted Shell stations across Europe. Once released, Castle took charge of the chartered Greenpeace vessel Altair and continued to pursue the Brent Spar towards the dumping ground. Castle called on the master of another Greenpeace ship, fitted with a helideck, to alter course and rendezvous with him. Using a helicopter, protesters re-occupied the Spar and cut the wires to the detonators of scuppering charges.
One of the occupiers, young recruit Eric Heijselaar, recalls: "One of the first people I met as I climbed on board was a red-haired giant of a man grinning broadly at us. My first thought was that he was a deckhand, or maybe the bosun. So I asked if he knew whether a cabin had been assigned to me yet. He gave me a lovely warm smile, and reassured me that, yes, a cabin had been arranged. At dinner I found out that he was Jon Castle, not a deckhand, not the bosun, but the captain. And what a captain!"
With activists occupying the Spar once again, Castle and the crew kept up their pursuit when suddenly the Spar altered course, heading towards Norway. Shell had given up. The company announced that Brent Spar would be cleaned out and used as a foundation for a new ferry terminal. Three years later, in 1998, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) passed a ban on dumping oil installations into the North Sea.
"There was no question among the crew who had made this possible, who had caused this to happen," Heijselaar recalls. "It was Jon Castle. His quiet enthusiasm and the trust he put into people made this crew one of the best I ever saw. He always knew exactly what he wanted out of a campaign, how to gain momentum, and he always found the right words to explain his philosophies. He was that rare combination, both a mechanic and a mystic. And above all he was a very loving, kind human being."Moruroa
After the Brent Spar campaign, Castle returned to the South Pacific on the Rainbow Warrior II, to obstruct a proposed French nuclear test in the Moruroa atoll. Expecting the French to occupy their ship, Castle and engineer, Luis Manuel Pinto da Costa, rigged the steering mechanism to be controlled from the crow's-nest. When French commandos boarded the ship, Castle stationed himself in the crow's-nest, cut away the access ladder and greased the mast so that the raiders would have difficulty arresting him.
Eventually, the commandos cut a hole into the engine-room and severed cables controlling the engine, radio, and steering mechanism, making Castle's remote control system worthless. They towed the Rainbow Warrior II to the island of Hao, as three other protest vessels arrived.
Three thousand demonstrators gathered in the French port of Papeete, demanding that France abandon the tests. Oscar Temaru - leader of Tavini Huiraatira, an anti-nuclear, pro-independence party - who had been aboard the Rainbow Warrior II when it was raided, welcomed anti-testing supporters from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Philippines, and American Samoa. Eventually, France ended their tests, and atmospheric nuclear testing in the world's oceans stopped once and for all.“Moral courage”
Through these extraordinary missions, Jon Castle advocated "self-reflection" not only for individual activists, but for the organisation that he loved. Activists, Castle maintained, required "moral courage." He cautioned, "Don't seek approval. Someone has to be way out in front... illuminating territory in advance of the main body of thought."
He opposed "corporatism" in activist organisations and urged Greenpeace to avoid becoming "over-centralised or compartmentalised." He felt that activist decisions should emerge from the actions themselves, not in an office. We can't fight industrialism with "money, numbers, and high-tech alone," he once wrote in a personal manifesto. Organisations have to avoid traps of "self-perpetuation" and focus on the job "upsetting powerful forces, taking on multinationals and the military-industrial complex."
He recalled that Greenpeace had become popular "because a gut message came through to the thirsty hearts of poor suffering people ... feeling the destruction around them." Activists, Castle felt, required "freedom of expression, spontaneity [and] an integrated lifestyle." An activist organisation should foster a "feeling of community" and exhibit "moral courage." Castle felt that social change activists had to "question the materialistic, consumerist lifestyle that drives energy overuse, the increasingly inequitable world economic tyranny that creates poverty and drives environmental degradation," and must maintain "honour, courage and the creative edge."Well loved hero
Susi Newborn, who was there to welcome Jon aboard the Rainbow Warrior way back in 1977, and who gave the ship its name, wrote about her friend with whom she felt "welded at the heart: He was a Buddhist and a vegetarian and had an earring in his ear. He liked poetry and classical music and could be very dark, but also very funny. Once, I cut his hair as he downed a bottle or two of rum reciting The Second Coming by Yeats."
Newborn recalls Castle insisting that women steer the ships in and out of port because, "they got it right, were naturals." She recalls a night at sea, Castle "lashed to the wheel facing one of the biggest storms of last century head on. I was flung about my cabin like a rag doll until I passed out. We never talked about the storm, as if too scared to summon up the behemoth we had encountered. A small handwritten note pinned somewhere in the mess, the sole acknowledgment of a skipper to his six-person crew: ‘Thank You.’” Others remember Castle as the Greenpeace captain that could regularly be found in the galley doing kitchen duty.
In 2008, with the small yacht Musichana, Castle and Pete Bouquet staged a two-man invasion of Diego Garcia island to protest the American bomber base there and the UK's refusal to allow evicted Chagos Islanders to return to their homes. They anchored in the lagoon and radioed the British Indian Ocean Territories officials on the island to tell them they and the US Air Force were acting in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions. When arrested, Castle politely lectured his captors on their immoral and illegal conduct.
In one of his final actions, as he battled with his failing health, Castle helped friends in Scotland operate a soup kitchen, quietly prepping food and washing up behind the scenes.
Upon hearing of his passing, Greenpeace ships around the world - the Arctic Sunrise, the Esperanza, and the Rainbow Warrior - flew their flags at half mast.
Jon is fondly remembered by his brother David, ex-wife Caroline, their son, Morgan Castle, born in 1982, and their daughter, Eowyn Castle, born in 1984. Morgan has a daughter of eight months Flora, and and Eowyn has a daughter, Rose, who is 2.
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