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Int’l Critics Line: Fatih Akin’s ‘Rheingold’

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East and west clash in Rheingold, the latest feature from Fatih Akin, which takes him back to the streets of urban Germany after 2019’s controversial serial-killer drama The Golden Glove. This too, though, is a biopic of sorts, with a similarly notorious subject matter: Kurdish rapper, record label boss and sometime jailbird Giwar Hajabi, AKA Xatar. 

Born in a bat-infested cave under heavy bombing during the Iran-Iraq war, Hajabi — still only 40 — has had an interesting life, to put it mildly. One suspects this often warts-and-all portrait is simply the tip of a very dark iceberg (the eye-popping extent of Hajabi’s drug-dealing career is only glimpsed in a brief montage), but a charismatic, even vulnerable performance by star Emilio Sakraya is enough to keep us onside.

The start is bold, with a would-be epic set-up that it can’t quite deliver on: Hajabi and his three accomplices are delivered to a prison in Syria, where they are quizzed about a missing cache of gold. Hajabi is tortured but feigns ignorance, and before you can say Goodfellas we are treated to a précis of his life up until this point.

The film takes its title from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, referring to a legendary seam of gold that will grant immortal life to whoever owns it. Wagner’s works are very much admired by Hajabi’s musician father Eghbal, a Kurd who took his family to Germany after persecution by the Iranians and then the Iraqis. In their new life, Eghbal wants his son to follow him into the music world and pays for piano lessons. Instead, the teenage Hajabi sells porn videos to his classmates and quickly upgrades to weed-dealing.

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There’s a lot of ground to cover here, and a couple of actors play Hajabi’s younger selves before Sakraya arrives. Thankfully, he comes in at a crucial point, after the young man is taught the brutal facts about street fighting from a local tough guy: “You wanna be street? Know where the street is? On the ground! And when he’s on the ground, you run over to him and keep smacking him till he’s finished.” Hajabi takes this advice to heart and takes out a local gang in an incredibly violent revenge spree, thereby earning himself the nickname “Xatar,” a Kurdish word meaning “The Dangerous One”. 

Around the same time, he takes an interest in rap music, but his future as Germany’s very own Suge Knight goes on the back-burner while Akin returns to the subject of the missing gold: after accidentally smashing several boxes of liquid cocaine during a rainstorm, Hajabi masterminds a potentially lucrative heist involving gold teeth harvested from corpses in funeral homes. This takes us back to the beginning, although, again, there seems to be a lot missing from the recap, omitting any forensic scrutiny of any further illegalities that almost certainly accrued in the journey to and from Syria.

The old-as-time accusations of films like this glamorizing crime are applicable and, at times, do ring true, since Hajabi doesn’t really show much remorse and simply abandons crime when he has enough money to do things legally. Nevertheless, Akin does put him into context as a child of war (his first name literally means “born of suffering”), and this film certainly convinces as a very modern gangster movie, with terrific use of rap and R&B as the music that will eventually tame the savage beast. Unfortunately, at 140 minutes, it’s a reminder that “epic” is often just another word for a very long story.



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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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