VENICE, Italy — Five words sum up this year’s Venice Film Festival: “Based on a true story.”
Inside, movie screens exploded with the forces roiling our world: war, terrorism and the vast migration bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the shores of Europe.
Outside, hundreds of demonstrators — many of them barefoot — marched Friday to the festival’s Palace of Cinema to show support for those fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
Throughout the 11-day festival, as beachgoers lounged on the sands of Venice’s lush Lido island, filmmakers and actors expressed dismay at the migrants’ plight and their mixed reception in Europe.
Displaced people were onscreen in “A Bigger Splash,” where refugees plucked from the Mediterranean were background players to the story of a rock star (Tilda Swinton) and her emotional entanglements.
Luca Guadagnino’s film drew boos at its press screenings from some who found the juxtaposition crass. But Swinton said the Italian director was simply showing reality.
“The idea that it’s possible to not be aware of this reality — which, by the way, has been a reality for decades — is becoming less and less tenable,” Swinton said.
“The more people’s tendency to want to edit this out and not be aware gets squeezed, squeezed, squeezed, that’s got to be a good thing,” she added. “Everybody has got to grow up about this and take proper, human responsibility.”
Reality was hard to avoid at the festival, which ends Saturday with the presentation of the Golden Lion prize. Many of the movies told stories that seemed to come straight from the news.
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There were African child soldiers drafted into a brutal civil war in Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” Afghan civilians caught between the Taliban and Danish troops in Tobias Lindholm’s “A War” and Turkish brothers trapped in escalating political violence in Emin Alper’s “Frenzy.”
Several films depicted real-life criminals and the social forces that made them: The assassin of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, incited by extremist rabbis in Amos Gitai’s “Rabin: The Last Day”; Johnny Depp’s Boston gangster in league with corrupt cops in Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass”; kidnappers protected by a military dictatorship in Pablo Trapero’s Argentine thriller “El Clan.”
Festival director Alberto Barbera said the lineup reflected a feeling among filmmakers that “we seem to have lost control of our world.”
“They feel that they need to face reality, to reflect on reality,” he said.
Many didn’t like what they saw.
MORE:If Prague Is a Fairytale, Venice Is a Painting
“The political atmosphere in the Middle East is horrible,” said “Frenzy” director Alper, whose film premiered amid rising violence between Turkish troops and Kurdish militants.
“It’s getting more and more horrible these days. Of course Turkey is (affected) because it has a border with Syria,” he said. “Now you can see in every city there are refugees coming from Syria and they’re begging on the streets and some of them are trying to go to Europe and you see these horrible, terrible pictures.”
Those pictures — a drowned boy on a beach, a distraught father with his baby in his arms — have moved and troubled people around the world.
Canadian director Atom Egoyan attended the festival with “Remember,” a thriller about the Holocaust. He said images of migrants getting a hostile reception in a European nation like Hungary were chilling.
“Did you think that you would find in Europe that people would still be pushed into a train and taken to a place where there would be police waiting for them?” Egoyan said. “That just seems horrifying and shockingly insensitive. How can that happen again?”
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Islamic State is alleged to have developed and used warfare poisonous agents in the areas under their control. Russia’s Foreign Ministry says ISIS now has the scientific documentation necessary to produce chemical weapons. There was no mention in these reports confirming the rumors during the early days of Syria’s civil war that the “rebels” were using […]
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Lebanese activists chant slogans during an anti-government protest in front the main Lebanese government building, downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Organizers of the “You stink” protests that have captivated the Lebanese capital postponed anti-government demonstrations set for Monday evening after a night of violent clashes with police during which dozens of protesters and police officers were wounded. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko hands over a flag of a military unit as a soldier kisses the flag before a military parade on the occasion of Ukraine’s Independence Day in the capital Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Speaking at the parade, President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine would continue to increase its troop numbers in order to fend off the attacks of separatist rebels. (AP Photo/Mykola Lazarenko, Pool)Thousands of Palestinian United Nations workers demonstrate against measures the organization has taken to overcome an acute financial crisis in Gaza City, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. The protest today outside the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza headquarter was the largest in a series of demonstrations in recent weeks, called up by the agencys Local Staff Union. The protesters say they want the UNRWAs Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl to cancel amendments that allow him to impose a one-year unpaid leave on staff when needed and increase the number of students in classrooms. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)Disaster response personnel walk next to the wreckage of an Indian Air Force MiG-21 Bison aircraft that crashed in Soibugh on the outskirts of Srinagar on Aug. 24, 2015. The pilot bailed out and was rescued by an army helicopter near the crash site, after the aircraft went down on a routine training flight, officials said. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images) NASA astronauts shot this unusual photograph of a red sprite above the white light of an active thunderstorm. The sprite was 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles) away, high over Missouri or Illinois; the lights of Dallas, Texas appear in the foreground. (NASA)A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Aug. 24, 2015, in New York. As the global economy continues to react from events in China, markets dropped significantly around the world on Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average briefly dropped over 1000 points in morning trading. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) (L-R) French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with Off-duty serviceman Spencer Stone next to off-duty serviceman Alek Skarlatos on Aug. 24, 2015, during a reception at the Elysee Palace in Paris, to be awarded with France’s top Legion d’Honneur medal in recognition of their bravery after they overpowered the train attacker. (Michel Euler/AFP/Getty Images) Conservation activists hold banners as they demonstrate in Nairobi, on Aug. 24, 2015, against the release on bail of suspected ringleader of an ivory smuggling gang Feisal Mohammed Ali on Aug. 21 by a court in Mombasa, where he has been in jail since December last year after he was arrested by Interpol agents in Dar es Salaam. “Ivory kingpin” Ali is charged with possession of and dealing in elephant tusks weighing more than two tonnes — equivalent to at least 114 slaughtered elephants and worth an estimated $4.5 million (4.2 million euros). (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images) A woman squats in a window of a badly flooded hall after strong rains hit Shanghai on Aug. 24, 2015. Heavy rains brought by a cold front and enhanced by passing Typhoon Goni, currently near Japan’s Okinawa islands, brought flooding to many districts across Shanghai. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) A boy from Syria standing at the entrance of a tent cries and calls for his mother in the port of Mytilene, on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos, on Aug. 24, 2015. With 1200 to 2000 people reaching the shores of the island in inflatable boats from Turkey on a daily basis, both of the island’s transit camps are full, and many migrants choose to sleep in the port and parks. An aid groupd warned on August 18 that an unprecedented spike in refugee arrivals on Greek shores is pushing the resort island of Lesbos to “breaking point”. In the week prior to that alone, 20,843 migrants—virtually all of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq—have arrived in Greece, which has seen around 160,000 migrants land on its shores since January. (Achilleas Zavallis/AFP/Getty Images) A baby and a woman, framed by a life buoy, who were rescued together other migrants, wait to disembark from the Irish Navy vessel LE Niamh at the Messina harbor in Sicily, Italy, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Italy’s coast guard says it coordinated the rescue of some 4,400 migrants in a single day, Sunday, a record-setting number, as smugglers took advantage of idea sea conditions off Libya to launch a fleet of overcrowded, unseaworthy boats. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi) Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane departs after her preliminary hearing Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Pa. Kane is accused of leaking secret grand jury information to the press, lying under oath and ordering aides to illegally snoop through computer files to keep tabs on an investigation into the leak. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) James Stumbo (2nd L) and Kevin Norton (R) both of Iowa, stand in court during their arraignment at Boston Municipal Court in Boston, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, with their lawyers Steven Goldwyn (L) and John O’Neill, Jr., (2nd R). Stumbo and Norton were arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and other firearms charges after allegedly threatening the Pokémon World Championships at Hynes Convention Center in Boston. (Chitose Suzuki/Boston Herald via AP, Pool) Palestinian boys ride a donkey to go to school on the first day of the new school year on Aug. 24, 2015, in the West Bank village of Susya, south-east of Hebron. (Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images)
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Spaniard Manu Brabo studied photography in The School of Arts and Crafts in Oviedo and then journalism in Carlos III University in Madrid. His first big break came in 2011, coming on board with the Associated Press to cover the crisis in Libya.
Right away, Brabo started to submit photos with his signature style: Raw. He is the bona fide war zone photographer, he’s there shooting when the soldiers are shooting and he’s there afterwards photographing the wounded, the dead, and the living grieving over their dead. Sometimes, his images are so point-blank graphic, that they are painful to look at. And it is true that some pictures, though definitely impactful, I just couldn’t make myself to include in the gallery.
Perhaps it was this gutsy approach that caused Brabo to fall into Libyan captivity in 2011. Fortunately, he was later released.
Still in 2011, he moved to Egypt and in 2012 to Syria. Along with fellow AP photographers, Rodrigo Abd, Khalil Hamra, and Muhammed Muheisen, Brabo was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography.
His photos of the conflict in Syria are truly staggering. Not only does he capture the grief and suffering of the war, but also moments of joy and ordinary life. The war in Syria claimed estimated 30,000 lives and its repercussions are felt far beyond its borders, if only through the influx of Syrian refugees. It is people like Manu Brabo who remind us of its realities and sometimes also shake us up, hopefully to wake up our compassion.
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ISIS police sentence musicians to 90 lashes for playing ‘un-Islamic’ keyboard http://t.co/tOwobCZb0X pic.twitter.com/NUtnjz2vhF — Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) January 20, 2015 Musicians were beaten by ISIS religious police in Syria…
- Published in NYPOST NEWS
After noticing social media posts from Malaysians who had gone to Syria to join extremist groups, Poh Si Teng traveled to her homeland to talk with their relatives about why they became jihadists.
- Published in LENS NYTIMES
BEIRUT — The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah group says Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad more than those who published satirical cartoons mocking the religion.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah did not directly mention the Paris attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead, but he said Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people – a reference to the ISIS’s rampages in Iraq and Syria – have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history.
Nasrallah spoke Friday via video link to supporters gathered in southern Beirut.
Hezbollah is an enemy of Israel and is designated as a terrorist organization by Canada and the United States. Nasrallah’s Shiite group is fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad.
His remarks are in stark contrast to those of Sunni militants from ISIS and al-Qaida who have called for attacks on Western countries.
With a file from National Post
- Published in National Post
Wednesday’s terrorist attack on the offices of a French satirical publication was another shock taste of the future that confronts liberal and not-so-liberal Europe and other open societies.
By the afternoon there was a flood of robust commentaries agreeing with French President François Hollande, who said such attacks were aimed at destroying liberty. With the freedom of the press clearly at stake, many western journalists and editors declared they would not be cowed by such tyranny.
Although many of the stories and cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were ridiculous and highly offensive, it is impossible to argue against such sentiments. But righteous proclamations journalists will not be intimidated by terrorists must be taken with many grains of salt.
The harsh fact is the barbarism of al-Qaida and its even more virulent stepchild, the Islamic State of Iraq & Al-Sham, has already terrified western media to the point almost no journalists have tried to bear witness to the outrages being perpetrated by ISIS and like-minded groups in Syria and Iraq. Nor are their equally sane editors pushing them to go there.
As understandable as such decisions are, the upshot is there is virtually no independent information about ISIS atrocities as the jihadists seek to establish a medieval caliphate. What is available is their vile propaganda videos and the experiences of those who have fled areas they occupy.
This has not their only victory. Some western embassies have closed because of the high likelihood they would be attacked. Others remain nominally open, but only by becoming armed fortresses. They are of symbolic importance, but can achieve little because the diplomats are too scared to go out to collect reliable information about what is happening or to speak with the authorities.
Radical Islam is winning in another way. From Sweden to Spain, Italy and Britain, terrorist strikes are purpose-built to provoke a public backlash that adds additional fuel to what is the first seminal confrontation of the new millennium.
One grim paradox is that tough laws restricting freedom are introduced to protect it. One reason is to confront the threat. Another is that countries such as France, Austria, and Belgium have elected illiberal politicians who vow to further restrict freedoms in the name of freedom if they gain power.
This war within the war has been taking place for some time now in some of Europe’s most open and permissive societies. Extreme religious intolerance was equally evident in a blitz of recent attacks by Islamic terrorists on synagogues in France and Christian terrorists on mosques in Sweden.
Over the past decade, the Swedish city of Malmo has taken in many refugees from Iraq and Syria who do not feel welcome. Paris and Birmingham are now so riven by Islamic radicalism, parts have almost become no-go zones for the authorities. Disputes over Islamic clothing, Shariah courts and what should be taught in schools are commonplace.
An underlying cause is that much of Europe is in a ruinous state economically, with Muslim youths finding it harder to get jobs than anyone else. Germany, with its uniquely evil history, prospered after Hitler and the Nazis were defeated, and became an international beacon of freedom. But much of that thinking has eroded since the turn of the century.
A battle for German hearts and minds is now under way, with rallies being held by progressives and hardliners arguing for and against immigration that has mostly been coming from Islamic countries.
Despite its own brush with terrorism, when demented men with Islamic connections murdered unarmed soldiers near Montreal and in Ottawa, Canadian society has not yet ruptured the way European society has. One of the reasons is undoubtedly because the Canadian economy has performed far better than those in Europe, with Norway and Germany perhaps being the exceptions.
Without question another factor is that Canada is a nation of immigrants. Having digested generations of immigrants, newcomers are generally not regarded with as much suspicion as they are in the Old World.
Until now Canada has probably managed to strike a slightly better balance than its European allies, but there is nothing to be smug about. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of young Canadian Muslims have been seduced by the idea of global jihad. Some others who still live among us undoubtedly agree.
Although far more intimidated than we wish to admit, we must try to understand as best as we can this evil and figure out ways to confront it without making things worse. Above all else, we must remain tolerant of all ideas except those that involve the kind of violence that poisoned France Wednesday and could poison Canada again at any moment.
Preserving liberty is a tricky business. In the face of such bloody provocations, there are no easy or obvious solutions.
- Published in National Post
A high-ranking figure in the Islamic State’s self-declared police force was found beheaded in eastern Syria with a cigarette placed in his mouth and a message written on his body, the British-based the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.
The body of the man, an Egyptian known as the deputy “al- Hesbah emir” in a province in Syria, was found with a message written on it: “O Sheikh this is munkar (hateful and evil thing).”
The body was found near a power plant in the city of al- Mayadin, the human rights group reported.
“We do not know whether Islamic State killed him or whether it was local people or other fighters,” the Observatory’s Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters.
Meanwhile, a suicide blast targeting Iraqi security forces and subsequent clashes with Islamic State extremists on Tuesday killed at least 23 troops and pro-government Sunni fighters in the country’s embattled western province of Anbar, officials said.
The day’s heavy toll for the Iraqi forces came as they struggle in battles against the Islamic State group and try to claw back territory lost to the extremists during the militants’ blitz last year. Iraq’s prime minister vowed on Tuesday to dislodge IS militants from all areas under their control.
Police officials said a suicide bomber first struck a gathering of pro-government Sunni fighters near the town of al-Baghdadi, about 180 kilometres northwest of Baghdad, in the morning hours.
Soon after, IS militants attacked nearby army and police positions, setting off hours-long clashes. Police and hospital officials said 23 were killed and 28 were wounded in all on the government side. They did not give the death toll on the militants’ side, saying only that the attackers “sustained some casualties” and declining to provide further details. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In Baghdad, Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi pledged that Iraq’s forces would retake all areas that fell to IS during last summer’s stunning blitz.
“We will emerge as victorious and the day our lands are liberated is nearing,” al-Abadi told a group of newly-graduated army officers, speaking at the Military Academy as Iraq marked Army Day. “Our goal … is that peace and prosperity prevail in Iraq and end this dark period in Iraqi history.”
A parade was also staged to mark the day, complete with jet fighters, helicopters and transport planes flying overhead.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State group announced killing eight men in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad for allegedly co-operating with government forces and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition targeting the militant group.
The group posted photographs showing eight blindfolded and bearded men in orange jumpsuits, their hands tied behind their backs. Five were identified as police officers and two as informants, but no information was provided on the eighth victim. The photos show the men by a riverbank next to masked gunmen, under what looks like a bridge. They are on their knees as the gunmen appear to be readying to shoot them. Other photos show bloodied bodies of seven of the men, lying on the ground.
The Islamic State group provided no details on the purported killings. The authenticity of the photos could not be independently verified but they were posted late Monday on a Twitter account frequently used by the militant group.
However, a provincial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for his safety, offered a different account on the photos, saying Tuesday that the men depicted in the images were army officers who had abandoned the military before the militants’ takeover of their area last year. The official said the men did not co-operate with Iraqi government forces.
The Salahuddin provincial capital, Tikrit, and other nearby towns have been in militant hands since June, when the Islamic State group expanded with lightning speed across Sunni-dominated regions of northern and western Iraq as government forces collapsed.
Since then, the IS group has declared a self-styled caliphate over about a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria. But there has been growing resentment among some residents fueled by the militant group’s enforcement of its extremist interpretation of Islamic law, economic stagnation and a lack of public services.
Seeking to squash any potential uprising, the militants have started killing policemen and soldiers living in areas of Iraq under their control — especially after the U.S.-led coalition air campaign began supporting ground offensives by Iraqi government forces, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias.
- Published in National Post
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