women

Chelsea's Hayes responds to Arsenal manager criticism with poem

  • Hayes responded by reciting the verse by American Pulitzer Prize winner Frost, when asked if she would change her comments, and also related a conversation she had with her son about aggression.
  • Chelsea Women's manager Emma Hayes responded to criticism from her Arsenal counterpart Jonas Eidevall on Friday by reciting a verse from a Robert Frost poem.
  • Hayes responded by reciting the verse by American Pulitzer Prize winner Frost, when asked if she would change her comments, and also related a conversation she had with her son about aggression.
Chelsea Women's manager Emma Hayes responded to criticism from her Arsenal counterpart Jonas Eidevall on Friday by reciting a verse from a Robert Frost poem.
Accused of making "irresponsible" comments by the Swede, Hayes responded by quoting Frost's "Choose Something Like a Star".
"When at times the mob is swayed, to carry praise or blame too far, we may choose something like a star, to stay our minds on and be staid," she recited.
The dispute between Hayes and Eidevall arose after the Women's League Cup final on March 31, which Arsenal won 1-0 thanks to an extra-time winner by Stina Blackstenius.
The Chelsea boss appeared to push Arsenal's Eidevall after the full-time whistle as she took exception to an earlier touchline altercation between the 41-year-old and Chelsea player Erin Cuthbert.
Hayes later accused Eidevall of displaying "male aggression", an accusation which Eidevall condemned.
"I thought the comments that I heard after the game were very irresponsible and they were not mirroring the conduct that I had in the technical area," Eidevall said on arsenal.com.
"I think always when you make comments about other persons, you have to take into consideration what effects that may have. That's why you need to be, especially when you're a leader, you need to be very good with words.
Hayes responded by reciting the verse by American Pulitzer Prize winner Frost, when asked if she would change her comments, and also related a conversation she had with her son about aggression.
"My son said to me after the game, 'Mummy, when you push someone in school you're asked to go and take time out'," Hayes said during a press conference.
"And I said to him, 'You know what darling, you can't meet aggression with aggression. All you can do is tell the teacher'. I thought it was a really good conversation to have with my son."
Hayes, who will leave Chelsea at the end of the season to take over as coach of the US women's national team, will face no action over the incident.
nf/dj

fashion

King of leopard print, Italy's Roberto Cavalli dies at 83

BY ALEXANDRIA SAGE

  • "It is with deep regret and a great sadness the Roberto Cavalli Maison participates in the passing of its founder Roberto Cavalli," wrote the company in a statement sent to AFP. "From humble beginnings in Florence Mr. Cavalli succeeded in becoming a globally recognised name loved and respected by all," said the company.
  • Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, whose penchant for python and flamboyant animal prints made him the darling of the international jet set for decades, died Friday at 83, the luxury company said.
  • "It is with deep regret and a great sadness the Roberto Cavalli Maison participates in the passing of its founder Roberto Cavalli," wrote the company in a statement sent to AFP. "From humble beginnings in Florence Mr. Cavalli succeeded in becoming a globally recognised name loved and respected by all," said the company.
Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, whose penchant for python and flamboyant animal prints made him the darling of the international jet set for decades, died Friday at 83, the luxury company said.
"It is with deep regret and a great sadness the Roberto Cavalli Maison participates in the passing of its founder Roberto Cavalli," wrote the company in a statement sent to AFP.
"From humble beginnings in Florence Mr. Cavalli succeeded in becoming a globally recognised name loved and respected by all," said the company.
First seen in the 1970s on stars such as Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot, Cavalli's skin-baring, eye-popping styles were still favoured years on by later generations of celebrities, from Kim Kardashian to Jennifer Lopez.
With a taste for Ferraris, thoroughbred horses, fat cigars and tailored shirts unbuttoned to expose his tanned chest, the designer's private life also appeared the stuff of fantasy. 
He married a Miss Universe runner-up, owned a purple helicopter and a Tuscan vineyard, and was on a first-name basis with A-listers like Sharon Stone and Cindy Crawford.
But the designer also weathered challenges, including a dry spell in the 1980s when minimalism took hold on runways and his form-fitting, feathered creations looked out of step. 
A years-long trial in Italy on tax evasion charges ultimately ended in Cavalli's acquittal, but after his eponymous fashion house began posting losses, a majority stake was sold to private equity in 2015. 
Best known for his use of printed leather and stretchy, sand-blasted jeans, Cavalli always embraced the wow factor in his designs, never encountering an animal print he did not like.
The designer was tapped in 2005 to update the Playboy Bunnies' scanty uniform -- true to form, he introduced one version in leopard print.

Party crasher

Born on November 15, 1940 in Florence, Italy's premier leatherworking centre, Cavalli began painting on T-shirts to earn money while at art school.
He recalled in his blog in 2012 how he gate-crashed a party in 1970, and, seeking to save face when he met the host, who was a designer, told him that he printed on leather. 
When the designer asked to see some of his work the next day, Cavalli hurried to find samples of thin, supple leather onto which he printed a flower design. 
The designer was impressed, and Cavalli was hooked. 
Taking his inspiration from glove design, Cavalli began working with calfskin, patenting a new way to print leather with patterns that soon caught the eye of French luxury goods maker Hermes and the late designer Pierre Cardin.
In the 1970s, he opened a shop in Saint Tropez, playground of the world's glitterati, and debuted his collection in Paris.
He went on to present for the first time in Italy at Florence's opulent Palazzo Pitti, grabbing attention with his boho-chic patchwork designs on denim that married the unpretentious fabric with expert tailoring.
 - 'I'm copying God' -
Of his ubiquitous use of prints, the animal lover -- whose menagerie once included a monkey -- told Vogue in 2011: "I like everything that is of nature."
"I started to appreciate that even fish have a fantastic coloured 'dress', so does the snake, and the tiger. I start(ed) to understand that God is really the best designer, so I started to copy God," he told the magazine.
In the 1980s Cavalli's instantly recognisable, exotic designs were out of sync with the minimalist look that was all the rage, but the designer came back with a bang a decade later with distressed looking jeans that proved a hit.
His fashion empire expanded to home furnishings, wine, shoes, jewellery and even a line of vodka, its bottle sheathed in snakeskin. 
Taking his style to the high street, he designed a fast-fashion line for Swedish retail giant H&M and tour outfits for Beyonce, among others.
But the label began to suffer financial difficulties amid increased competition from well-funded brands owned by fashion conglomerates LVMH and Kering, and Cavalli stepped down as creative director in 2013. 
Two years later, Milan-based private equity group Clessidra bought a 90-percent stake in the company, but a restructuring failed to reverse losses. 
After filing for administration and closing its US stores, the fashion group was bought in November 2019 by Vision Investments, the private investment company of Dubai real-estate billionaire Hussain Sajwani. 
ams/ar/kjm/db

India

Rushdie's first thought on attempted assassin: 'So it's you'

  • Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie, who went into hiding in Britain.
  • Salman Rushdie, targeted for assassination since 1989 over his writing, had long wondered who would kill him.
  • Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie, who went into hiding in Britain.
Salman Rushdie, targeted for assassination since 1989 over his writing, had long wondered who would kill him. When he was stabbed almost fatally, his first thought was, "So it's you."
The novelist has recounted his thoughts on his 2022 near death in a book, "Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder," which is set for publication on Tuesday.
In an excerpt from the book which he read for the CBS News show "60 Minutes," Rushdie described "the last thing my right eye would ever see" -- a man in black clothes "coming in hard and low" like a "squat missile."
"I confess, I had sometimes imagined my assassin rising up in some public forum or other, and coming for me in just this way. So my first thought when I saw this murderous shape rushing towards me was, 'So it's you. Here you are.'"
The Mumbai-born novelist -- acclaimed for his novel "Midnight's Children," a magical realist take on the Indian subcontinent's partition -- faced a storm of criticism in the Muslim world in 1988 when he released "The Satanic Verses," which touches on early Islam including through dream sequences that reference the Prophet Mohammed.
Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie, who went into hiding in Britain. He has since become a naturalized American.
Rushdie, 76, in recent years has lived with greater openness and became a presence on the New York social circuit. He was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant in August 2022 as he prepared to speak at an arts gathering in New York state.
Speaking to 60 Minutes, Rushdie said that one of the surgeons who saved him told him, "'First you were really unlucky and then you were really lucky.'"
"I said, 'What's the lucky part?' And he said 'Well, the lucky part is that the man who attacked you had no idea how to kill a man with a knife.'"
sct/dw

fashion

Italian designer Roberto Cavalli dead at 83: Italian media

  • Italian news agency ANSA reported that the designer died at home in Florence, the city where he was born, after a long illness. 
  • Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, whose penchant for python and flamboyant animal prints made him the darling of the international jet set for decades, died Friday at 83, news media said.
  • Italian news agency ANSA reported that the designer died at home in Florence, the city where he was born, after a long illness. 
Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, whose penchant for python and flamboyant animal prints made him the darling of the international jet set for decades, died Friday at 83, news media said.
Italian news agency ANSA reported that the designer died at home in Florence, the city where he was born, after a long illness. 
First seen in the 1970s on stars such as Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot, his skin-baring, eye-popping styles were still favoured years on by later generations of celebrities, from Kim Kardashian to Jennifer Lopez.
Cavalli had a taste for Ferraris, fat cigars and tailored shirts unbuttoned to expose his tanned chest. He married a Miss Universe runner-up, owned a purple helicopter and a Tuscan vineyard, and was on a first-name basis with Hollywood A-listers.
Born November 15, 1940 in Florence, Italy's premier leatherworking centre, Cavalli was known for his use of printed leather and stretchy, sand-blasted jeans.
The designer was tapped in 2005 to update the Playboy Bunnies' scanty uniform -- true to form, he introduced one version in leopard print.
ams/db

film

Paramount shows 'Gladiator 2' as Disney goes R-rated

BY ANDREW MARSZAL

  • - R-rated Disney - Later on Thursday, Disney rounded off CinemaCon with its own star-studded presentation -- which took an unexpectedly adult turn.
  • Paramount Pictures unveiled gory first-look footage from "Gladiator 2" as Disney put on an unusually R-rated presentation for movie theater bosses at the final day of CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Thursday.
  • - R-rated Disney - Later on Thursday, Disney rounded off CinemaCon with its own star-studded presentation -- which took an unexpectedly adult turn.
Paramount Pictures unveiled gory first-look footage from "Gladiator 2" as Disney put on an unusually R-rated presentation for movie theater bosses at the final day of CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Thursday.
In an extended trailer for the long-awaited "Gladiator" sequel, star Paul Mescal does battle in a Colosseum filled with rhinos, bloodthirsty baboons and even floating Roman warships, egged on by Denzel Washington's shadowy advisor.
"It is possibly more extraordinary than the first," said director Ridley Scott, speaking via video link.
The footage was met with an enthusiastic thumbs up at CinemaCon, an annual gathering at which Hollywood studios showcase their upcoming titles for movie theater owners and managers from around the world.
Ridley Scott's sequel will hit theaters in November, nearly 25 years after the release of the original, Oscar best picture-winning historical epic "Gladiator." 
All this week, promotional marble statues for "Gladiator 2" have adorned the casino floors of Caesars Palace, the Ancient Rome-themed casino and hotel in Las Vegas where CinemaCon is held.
As the previous film's main characters, played by Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, were killed off, a new crop of actors step in.
Mescal portrays gladiator Lucius, the nephew of Phoenix's villainous emperor, who was seen briefly as a child in the original film.
Pedro Pascal plays a military general, while Denzel Washington's mysterious character is seen in the extended footage plotting to topple the Roman Empire.
"Rome must fall. I need only to give it a push," he says in one scene.
The lavish presentation raised cheers even as both Paramount and the wider big-screen industry face uncertain times.
The parent company of Paramount -- one of Hollywood's oldest studios -- is currently locked in merger talks with Skydance, a media company founded by the billionaire Ellison family.
Meanwhile overall Hollywood box office receipts are expected to fall in 2024, largely due to last year's actors and writer strikes, which shuttered and delayed film productions.
On Thursday, Paramount executives also showcased titles such as "A Quiet Place: Day One," "Smile 2," "Transformers One" and "IF" -- a new comedy from John Krasinski and starring Ryan Reynolds.
Paramount film chief Brian Robbins even joked about the merger talks, suggesting one of his executives had launched a crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign to buy the studio.

R-rated Disney

Later on Thursday, Disney rounded off CinemaCon with its own star-studded presentation -- which took an unexpectedly adult turn.
The showcase included appearances from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson -- promoting this November's "Moana 2" release -- and Amy Poehler, who returns in "Inside Out 2" this June.
Oscar-winning "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins previewed his animated prequel "Mufasa: The Lion King," which hits theaters in December.
Disney unveiled footage of Harrison Ford making his Marvel superhero film debut in next year's "Captain America: Brave New World."
But the family-friendly studio's presentation departed from the usual script with a glimpse of "Deadpool & Wolverine," Disney's first R-rated superhero movie.
The film sees Reynolds' potty-mouthed antihero team up with Hugh Jackman's beloved "X-Men" star.
Both characters were previously owned by 20th Century Fox.
But Disney bought that rival studio and its properties in 2019, and is now weaving them into its hugely popular Marvel film series.
That has resulted in a Disney superhero movie that features adult language, explicit sexual references, and several meta jokes about the studios themselves.
amz/bjt

music

Lana, Tyler, Doja headline Coachella where Swift rumored to appear

BY MAGGY DONALDSON

  • Swift is not on the lineup but speculation is abuzz that she could appear on stage with friend Lana Del Rey or with rock band Bleachers -- which is fronted by Jack Antonoff, her longtime producer.
  • Hordes of music fans were arriving in California's Coachella Valley for the premier arts festival that begins Friday and features headliners Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat and Tyler, the Creator.
  • Swift is not on the lineup but speculation is abuzz that she could appear on stage with friend Lana Del Rey or with rock band Bleachers -- which is fronted by Jack Antonoff, her longtime producer.
Hordes of music fans were arriving in California's Coachella Valley for the premier arts festival that begins Friday and features headliners Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat and Tyler, the Creator.
No Doubt -- the group fronted by Gwen Stefani, which reached peak fame in the 1990s -- will also reunite onstage for the first time since 2015.
And rumors are flying that none other than Taylor Swift, the megastar currently on break from her blockbuster, billion-dollar Eras tour, could make a surprise appearance on the festival grounds dramatically flanked by the San Jacinto Mountains.
Swift is not on the lineup but speculation is abuzz that she could appear on stage with friend Lana Del Rey or with rock band Bleachers -- which is fronted by Jack Antonoff, her longtime producer.
It would also be the perfect moment to promo her forthcoming album, "The Tortured Poets Department," which drops April 19.
But hopeful fan gossip aside, it's far from Coachella's buzziest year. 
Ticket sales were sluggish compared to seasons past, although prices have remained in the $500 range for general admission and over $1,000 for VIP passes.
A decade ago, Coachella entries were snapped up within an hour. This year, weekend one took a month to sell out, while the second round -- for which the lineup essentially remains the same -- still has tickets up for grabs.
The 2024 edition follows a hard act. Last year, Bad Bunny helmed a historic year in which none of the major acts were white for the first time and where the reggaeton titan was the first Spanish-language and Latin American act ever to headline.
And another group with an insatiable fan base, K-pop group Blackpink of South Korea, was in 2023 the first top-billed Asian act.
Meanwhile, reclusive R&B artist Frank Ocean notoriously dropped out of the second weekend after his initial set was inordinately delayed over a leg injury, angering many fans.

Virtual star, Latin revolution

Despite the slump in sales, Coachella 2024 features an eclectic line-up including many international acts, a consistent trend at the festival originally centered on alternative rock.
Japan's famed virtual singer Hatsune Miku -- a Vocaloid software voicebank whose personification is a teen girl with turquoise hair -- will make a Coachella debut after originally being booked for 2020.
The "artist" -- who is not real -- began as a virtual instrument in 2007, and has grown into a cultural icon, touring since 2014.
The stage production will include visuals and a live band.
"We have no idea what to expect from the crowd...and the crowd doesn't know what to expect," said Riki Tsuji, who is on the business team of Crypton Future Media, the company behind Hatsune Miku.
"I'm sure we're going to have a ton of people who... have probably never heard of Hatsune Miku before," Tsuji told AFP.
The Grammy-nominated Cimafunk will become the first Cuban-born artist to ever play Coachella, bringing his brand of Afro-Cubano funk inflected with disco and horns to the desert.
He is among the plethora of Latin acts that also include Puerto Rico's fast-rising star Young Miko along with Peso Pluma, the Mexican superstar who broke into the global mainstream with a string of hits over the past year.
Both are among the artists who have collaborated with Argentina's Bizarrap, one of the most streamed Latin American artists in the world whose recording partnerships have also included Shakira and Residente.
Saint Levant, the Jerusalem-born artist of Palestinian, Algerian, French and Serbian origins -- who spent much of his childhood in Gaza -- will take the stage after finding fame across social media, including for his 2023 hit "From Gaza With Love."
Britain's influential grime star Skepta will also perform, his second turn at the festival after debuting in 2017.
And none other than Sublime -- the 1990s stoner reggae rock group beloved for hits including "Santeria" -- will perform, with the late frontman Brad Nowell's son Jakob leading the way.
Coachella 2024 will take place April 12-14 and 19-21.
mdo/bjt

film

Embattled studio Paramount showcases 'Gladiator 2' footage

BY ANDREW MARSZAL

  • Promotional marble statues for "Gladiator 2" had adorned the casino floors of Caesars Palace, the Ancient Rome-themed hotel where CinemaCon is being held.
  • Paramount Pictures unveiled gory first-look footage from "Gladiator 2" to movie theater bosses at Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas on Thursday, raising cheers even as the studio and big-screen industry face uncertain times.
  • Promotional marble statues for "Gladiator 2" had adorned the casino floors of Caesars Palace, the Ancient Rome-themed hotel where CinemaCon is being held.
Paramount Pictures unveiled gory first-look footage from "Gladiator 2" to movie theater bosses at Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas on Thursday, raising cheers even as the studio and big-screen industry face uncertain times.
In an extended trailer, the sequel's star Paul Mescal does battle in a Colosseum filled with rhinos, bloodthirsty baboons and even floating Roman warships, egged on by Denzel Washington's shadowy advisor.
"It is possibly more extraordinary than the first," said director Ridley Scott, via video.
The footage was met with an enthusiastic thumbs up at CinemaCon, an annual gathering at which Hollywood studios showcase their upcoming titles for movie theater owners and managers from around the world.
Paramount -- one of Hollywood's oldest studios -- faces a turbulent future, with its parent company having entered exclusive merger talks earlier this month with Skydance, a media company founded by the billionaire Ellison family.
Meanwhile overall global box office receipts are expected to fall in 2024, largely due to last year's actors and writer strikes, which shuttered and delayed film productions.
Paramount executives nonetheless delivered a bullish presentation on Thursday, which also included titles such as "A Quiet Place: Day One," "Smile 2," and "IF" -- a new comedy from John Krasinski and starring Ryan Reynolds.
Stars including Chris Hemsworth and Lupita Nyong'o were brought on stage for the presentation.
Paramount film chief Brian Robbins even joked about the merger talks, suggesting one of his executives had launched a crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign to buy the studio.
But all eyes were on Scott's sequel to his Oscar best picture-winning 2000 historical epic "Gladiator."
Promotional marble statues for "Gladiator 2" had adorned the casino floors of Caesars Palace, the Ancient Rome-themed hotel where CinemaCon is being held.
More than two decades later, Scott returns to direct the sequel.
As the previous film's main characters, played by Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, were killed off, a new crop of actors step in.
Mescal portrays gladiator Lucius, the nephew of Phoenix's villainous emperor, who was seen briefly as a child in the original film.
Pedro Pascal plays a military general, while Washington's mysterious character is seen in the extended footage plotting to topple the Roman Empire.
"Rome must fall. I need only to give it a push," he says, in once scene.
"Gladiator 2" hits theaters in November.
amz/md

US

Harry and Meghan team up with Netflix for lifestyle, polo shows

  • Both shows are in the early stages of production, and titles and release dates will be announced "in the coming months," it said.
  • Britain's Prince Harry and his actress wife Meghan Markle are working on two nonfiction series with Netflix -- a lifestyle program and a show on professional polo, their production company announced Thursday.
  • Both shows are in the early stages of production, and titles and release dates will be announced "in the coming months," it said.
Britain's Prince Harry and his actress wife Meghan Markle are working on two nonfiction series with Netflix -- a lifestyle program and a show on professional polo, their production company announced Thursday.
The couple, who split with the British monarchy in 2020 and now reside in California, signed a deal with the streaming giant that same year for multiple projects.
So far, the partnership has yielded the much-talked-about "Harry & Meghan," a six-episode docuseries launched in December 2022.
The new projects seem far less controversial.
The first, "curated by Meghan... will celebrate the joys of cooking and gardening, entertaining, and friendship," Archewell Productions said in a statement.
Just last month, she launched the lifestyle brand American Riviera Orchard.
The second series "will provide viewers unprecedented access to the world of professional polo," the statement said. Harry is a long-time polo enthusiast.
Episodes have been mainly shot at the US Polo Championship in Florida. 
"Known primarily for its aesthetic and social scene, the series will pull the curtain back on the grit and passion of the sport, capturing players and all it takes to compete at the highest level," the Archewell statement said. 
Both shows are in the early stages of production, and titles and release dates will be announced "in the coming months," it said.
Since they stepped away from their official royal duties, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been cut off from the royal purse, forcing them to develop their own sources of income. 
The couple, who married in 2018, had a Spotify exclusive podcast deal, which came to an end last year after just one show.
They are now estranged from the royal family, after they aired repeated complaints that Meghan, who is mixed race, was mistreated during their time as working royals.
Harry briefly went to the United Kingdom for the coronation of his father King Charles III, and again after the monarch was diagnosed with cancer. 
Harry has reportedly not spoken to his brother William in months. Upon news that William's wife Kate was also battling cancer, Harry and Meghan said: "We wish health and healing for Kate and the family."
rfo/sst/acb

Cannes

Coppola's 'Megalopolis' among entries for Cannes Film Festival

BY ERIC RANDOLPH

  • Success at Cannes can give a major boost to arthouse films such as last year's winner, "Anatomy of a Fall", which went on to win an avalanche of awards, including an Oscar.  er/ah/tw
  • Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola will return to the Cannes Film Festival with his long-awaited epic "Megalopolis", 45 years after winning a Palme d'Or for "Apocalypse Now", organisers said on Thursday, announcing a line-up that includes major names of world cinema. 
  • Success at Cannes can give a major boost to arthouse films such as last year's winner, "Anatomy of a Fall", which went on to win an avalanche of awards, including an Oscar.  er/ah/tw
Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola will return to the Cannes Film Festival with his long-awaited epic "Megalopolis", 45 years after winning a Palme d'Or for "Apocalypse Now", organisers said on Thursday, announcing a line-up that includes major names of world cinema. 
The 77th edition of the festival on the French Cote d'Azur, considered the most prestigious in the film industry, runs from May 14 to 25. 
This year's competition for the Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize, includes another team-up between Emma Stone and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos -- "Kinds of Kindness" -- just weeks after Stone's Oscar win for their Frankenstein-style satire "Poor Things".
"The Apprentice", a biopic about the early years of Donald Trump by Iran-born director Ali Abbasi, is also expected to draw attention. 
But all eyes are likely to be on Coppola's "Megalopolis", marking the return of "The Godfather" director to Cannes at the age of 85. 
He has twice won the Palme d'Or -- for "The Conversation" (1974) and, controversially, for "Apocalypse Now" (1979), which was not even finished when it premiered at the festival.
He has self-funded "Megalopolis", said to be a Roman political drama transplanted to modern-day New York, starring Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker and  other stars. 
"We are overjoyed that he has done us the honour of coming to present this film," festival director Thierry Fremaux told reporters.

Gerwig's choice

This year's jury is led by "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig, who "embodies perfectly the soul of the festival", said Cannes president Iris Knobloch.
Only 19 entries of the main competition were announced Thursday -- there are usually around 22 -- though more may be added.
Among the more intriguing entries is "Emilia Perez", a musical comedy about a Mexican cartel boss undergoing a sex-change operation, with popstar-actor Selena Gomez in a supporting role. It is the latest unlikely creation from Palme-winning French director Jacques Audiard. 
Writer-director Paul Schrader reunites with his "American Gigolo" star Richard Gere for "Oh Canada", and Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino pens another love letter to his native Naples with "Parthenope", starring Gary Oldman. 
Canadian horror maestro David Cronenberg returns with what is billed as his most personal film yet, "The Shrouds", with Vincent Cassel.
Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov is to tell the true story of a radical Soviet poet "who became a bum in New York, a sensation in France, and a political antihero in Russia" in "Liminov: The Ballad of Eddie".

Gaza, Ukraine

It was already known that "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga", the latest instalment of the post-apocalyptic franchise, would get its world premiere at the festival, playing out of competition. 
So will Kevin Costner's new opus, "Horizon, An American Saga", in which the veteran star plays alongside Sienna Miller in the first of a planned series about the American West.  
Meanwhile, George Lucas -- the man behind "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" -- will receive an honorary Palme d'Or at the closing ceremony. 
A film about women's rights in China will also play out of competition. "She Has No Name" stars two of the country's biggest stars, Lei Jiayin and Zhang Ziyi.
Two highly topical films will have special screenings. 
"La Belle de Gaza" follows transsexual Palestinians moving to Israel, while "The Invasion" by Sergei Loznitsa centres on the war in his native Ukraine. 
Success at Cannes can give a major boost to arthouse films such as last year's winner, "Anatomy of a Fall", which went on to win an avalanche of awards, including an Oscar. 
er/ah/tw

opposition

Kremlin foe Navalny's posthumous memoir out in October

BY GREGORY WALTON

  • "After the poisoning attempt in 2020, everyone insisted, 'Alexey, you should write a book.'
  • Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's posthumous memoir will be released in October, chronicling his 2020 nerve agent poisoning and life in a brutal Russian prison camp, the US publisher of the book said Thursday.
  • "After the poisoning attempt in 2020, everyone insisted, 'Alexey, you should write a book.'
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's posthumous memoir will be released in October, chronicling his 2020 nerve agent poisoning and life in a brutal Russian prison camp, the US publisher of the book said Thursday.
The key opponent of Russian leader Vladimir Putin died in February in a penal colony, where he had been held in harsh conditions, sparking worldwide condemnation. 
Titled "Patriot," the book will be released on October 22, publisher Knopf said in a statement, while his widow confirmed the book would also be issued in Russian.
"It is the full story of his life: his youth, his call to activism, his marriage and family, and his commitment to the cause of Russian democracy and freedom in the face of a world super-power determined to silence him," Knopf said. 
"It expresses Navalny's total conviction that change cannot be resisted and will come."

'Halfway through life'

Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, who has taken over his mantle in exile, has accused Putin of killing her husband. She confirmed the book would be published in more than 10 languages, including Russian.
"This is not how I imagined Alexei would write his biography at all. I thought we'd be around 80 years old, and he'd be sitting at the computer by the open window, typing away," said Navalnya. 
"After the poisoning attempt in 2020, everyone insisted, 'Alexey, you should write a book.' He just shrugged it off. What kind of biography can be written at 44? It's barely halfway through life. 
"He wasn't rushing anyway -- there was still so much ahead. But things turned out differently. Horribly and very, very unfairly. It turned out there wasn't another half ahead."
Navalny began writing the memoir after the 2020 poisoning, which led to his hospitalization in Germany. He returned to Russia the next year, and was jailed.

'End of secrecy'

"Today is the end of secrecy. Alexei's book, which he started in Germany and finished in prison, will be published," said Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh. 
"I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait for you to read it."
Navalny's death has robbed Russians opposed to Putin of their most charismatic figurehead at a time when authorities have crushed the last remnants of dissent.
The crackdown has intensified since the Kremlin launched its full-scale hostilities against Ukraine in 2022.
Putin, a former KGB officer, secured a new six-year term in power in the face of no genuine challenger at elections in March.
Putin for years refused to utter Navalny's name in public, but last month broke that pattern when he alleged he had approved an initiative to swap "Mr Navalny" for unnamed Russians in Western jails days before his death.
Navalny's team says Putin ordered his killing on the eve of a prisoner swap.
Navalnaya called the 71-year-old leader a "coward" for only uttering her husband's name after his death.
EU countries agreed to impose sanctions on 30 Russian officials over the death of Navalny.
But Navalny's allies said the limited targeting of a small number of prison officials was purely symbolic and would have no impact on the Kremlin. 
arb-gw/nro

conflict

Ukraine director revives 'lost' Mariupol theatre after imprisonment

BY ANNA MALPAS

  • - Mariupol actors split -  Some of his former actors have formed a new theatre in western Ukraine and staged a show based on their experiences called "Mariupol Drama".
  • The day after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, theatre director Anatoliy Levchenko was due to stage an opening night in Mariupol. 
  • - Mariupol actors split -  Some of his former actors have formed a new theatre in western Ukraine and staged a show based on their experiences called "Mariupol Drama".
The day after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, theatre director Anatoliy Levchenko was due to stage an opening night in Mariupol. 
But the port city has been under Russian occupation since it was flattened in a brutal siege in 2022 -- with Levchenko's former theatre bombed despite civilians taking refuge there.
He was then captured by Moscow's forces and imprisoned in Donetsk for 10 months, before being released without charge and fleeing the separatist stronghold with his wife and son.
Almost two years later, he has revived his Mariupol company by staging a symbolic opening night of a dark comedy called "Light at the End of the Tunnel" in Kyiv.
"This is a show for our family, so to speak, for our own people," Levchenko said in Kyiv's Les Kurbas Centre, where Mariupol refugees made up much of the audience. The organisers had to squeeze in more seats to accommodate the audience on opening night.    
His Mariupol Drama Theatre was bombed despite the word "children" written in large letters on the ground, with hundreds believed to be hiding there. Its colonnaded building has become a symbol of Russian brutality.
Levchenko, 54, recruited young drama students from Mariupol for his new theatre in the Ukrainian capital.  
"We won a small grant competition, which was enough to pay the actors a little and rent a rehearsal room here in Kyiv," he told AFP. 

'It gives me goosebumps'

Sitting in the audience, Khrystyna Borisova, 40, was moved to see the theatre revived in Kyiv.
"It's like we lost something there and it's been moved here," she said. "It gives me goosebumps." 
Levchenko said that when he was arrested and held on suspicion of terrorism, extremism and fomenting hatred after the 2022 invasion, he was questioned about his stagings. He suspects a former colleague may have denounced him for "pro-Ukrainian activities". 
"It was very funny: 'Tell us about the play!'" he said. "I spend three hours telling them who enters when and says what."
"'Where is the propaganda of anything inhumane here?' I asked."
- Mariupol actors split - 
Some of his former actors have formed a new theatre in western Ukraine and staged a show based on their experiences called "Mariupol Drama". Others have decided to stay and perform under the occupation.
"They are putting on plays for the Russian authorities and telling horror stories about how Ukrainian nationalists would not let them live peacefully," Levchenko said. 
He began working at the Mariupol Drama Theatre in 1994, becoming its general director and trying to make it into a European-style theatre.
But his contract was terminated in 2020 -- he says over his pro-Ukrainian position -- and he founded his own theatre company, Terra Incognita, staging a mix of Ukrainian, Russian and international plays.

'Rebirth of this theatre'

His show that has just opened in Kyiv is a one-act dark comedy written by Ukrainian playwright Neda Nezhdana about two women who find themselves trapped in an underground morgue.
The women discuss possible explanations for their incarceration, from being in purgatory to a nuclear attack, before finally realising they are free to leave if they choose.
There is absurd black humour but also serious messages about personal freedom, Levchenko said.
Nezhdana attended the opening night. 
"It's an honour for me that the rebirth of this theatre is with my play," she told AFP. 
"Thanks to Anatoliy Levchenko, Mariupol has become a close, home-like place for me," she said.
Nezhdana added that she wrote the play intending the morgue to represent the Soviet Union, but now sees it as the Russian empire, which "has come to life".
"Unfortunately my play is relevant and the staging is relevant, but all the same I would like there to be light at the end of the tunnel," she said.
Levchenko said the war had forced many "to make a choice for ourselves". 
"That's why (the play) always seems to me to be topical, and now even more so." 
am/oc/spb/gv

film

Reigning Hollywood studio Universal brings 'Wicked' to movie summit

BY ANDREW MARSZAL

  • "There's not much more you could ask for than being number one at the box office, and winning the Academy Award for best picture," said chairman Donna Langley during Universal's presentation on Wednesday.
  • Universal Pictures was crowned Hollywood's top studio last year, dethroning Disney at the box office for the first time in nearly a decade with a string of mega-hits like "The Super Mario Bros.
  • "There's not much more you could ask for than being number one at the box office, and winning the Academy Award for best picture," said chairman Donna Langley during Universal's presentation on Wednesday.
Universal Pictures was crowned Hollywood's top studio last year, dethroning Disney at the box office for the first time in nearly a decade with a string of mega-hits like "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" and the Oscar-winning "Oppenheimer."
So as movie executives gathered at this week's CinemaCon summit in the face of gloomy industry forecasts and a shortage of upcoming major releases, at least one company had plenty to celebrate in Las Vegas.
"There's not much more you could ask for than being number one at the box office, and winning the Academy Award for best picture," said chairman Donna Langley during Universal's presentation on Wednesday.
"It would have been easy enough to just sort of drop the mic after that one, right? But it's not enough for us," she said, before introducing a crop of new titles, including "Wicked."
Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo and Jeff Goldblum were brought on stage to promote the starry movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. The first of two films hits theaters in November.
For many big-screen owners, Universal -- thanks to a diverse mix of original movies that does not rely on the struggling superhero genre, and some smart viral marketing campaigns -- offers a potential roadmap to recovery.
They are pinning hopes on "Wicked," and animated films like "Despicable Me 4" and "The Wild Robot," to bring much-needed customers back at a tough moment for the industry.
Overall box office receipts had been slowly recovering each year since the pandemic, but are expected to shrink in 2024.
That is largely due to Hollywood strikes that shuttered film productions for months last year, leaving major gaps in release calendars.

'Fresh'

But while rivals like Disney, Warner and Paramount have struggled for various reasons, these are heady times for Universal.
Just 12 months ago, Langley brought director Christopher Nolan onto the same Las Vegas stage, to introduce for the first time his movie "Oppenheimer."
In an expensive gamble, Universal had lured Nolan from his traditional home at Warner, promising to give his movie about the atomic bomb lavish backing.
"Oppenheimer" grossed nearly $1 billion. Nolan appeared via video on Wednesday to thank theater owners for their role.
Speaking with AFP, Universal's international distribution president Veronika Kwan Vandenberg said it has become clear the industry "can't rely on the films that have traditionally been exceptionally strong in the last 20 years."
Unlike competitors, Universal does not have any of the major superhero franchises that until recently dominated multiplexes.
That had been a stick to beat Universal with in years past. But as rivals' movies like "Madame Web" and "The Marvels" have flopped, a sense that audiences are tired of near-identical superhero fare has grown.
"All these sequels and franchises coming into the marketplace have done very well for a very long time. But we're in a place today where... the audience really wants to know, 'what's different about this?'" said Kwan Vandenberg.

'Barbenheimer'

Social media has become an increasingly key tool for movie studios.
Universal -- along with Warner -- benefited from capturing last summer's viral "Barbenheimer" phenomenon.
Because these trends are typically organic in origin, it is "an incredibly hard thing to do," said Kwan Vandenberg.
But Universal has been more successful than most, with recent examples including a TikTok dance craze for horror film "M3GAN." 
A year earlier, the "Gentleminions" trend involved teenagers dressing in suits for trips to watch the new "Minions" film.
In October, a viral trend of stealing posters and promotional cut-outs from theaters for "Five Nights At Freddy's" broke out.
While the trend was extremely frustrating for theater owners, it generated priceless publicity for the Universal movie.
"When we launched the first trailer of 'M3GAN' and we saw how viral the TikTok dance became, we started to lean into events all over the world featuring that," said Kwan Vandenberg.
"It's not something we're necessarily creating. But we are helping to support the awareness and the excitement around it."
amz/sco

film

New Amy Winehouse movie set to open in UK

BY HELEN ROWE

  • - Quest for 'truth' - After the film became the second-highest grossing documentary at the British box office, Mitch Winehouse said it dwelled too much on the negative and not enough on his daughter's fun-loving side.
  • A biopic of troubled British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse tracking her meteoric rise and very public downfall opens in UK cinemas on Friday amid a swirl of controversy.
  • - Quest for 'truth' - After the film became the second-highest grossing documentary at the British box office, Mitch Winehouse said it dwelled too much on the negative and not enough on his daughter's fun-loving side.
A biopic of troubled British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse tracking her meteoric rise and very public downfall opens in UK cinemas on Friday amid a swirl of controversy.
Even before its release, "Back to Black" has attracted backlash with criticism ranging from the casting to concerns it could exploit Winehouse's story.
"Given the vulture-like efficiency with which her life was picked over, it's near-impossible to think of a sincere reason to make a movie about Winehouse -– at least not one that isn't motivated by greed," wrote music editor Roisin O'Connor in The Independent.
Winehouse, who died from alcohol poisoning aged just 27 in 2011, was a distinctive figure with her beehive hairdo, heavy black eye makeup, multiple tattoos and smoky voice.
She shot to international fame with her Grammy Award-winning 2006 album "Back to Black" which included the track "Rehab", charting her battle with addiction.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson's biopic is the second big-screen telling of Winehouse's story, coming nearly a decade after Asif Kapadia's 2015 documentary "Amy".
That film won an Oscar but was publicly condemned by her family, in particular Winehouse's father who claimed it tried to portray him as "money-grabbing" and "attention-seeking". 

Quest for 'truth'

After the film became the second-highest grossing documentary at the British box office, Mitch Winehouse said it dwelled too much on the negative and not enough on his daughter's fun-loving side.
He hinted the family could collaborate with another filmmaker in future to correct the record.
Mitch Winehouse and his former wife Janis attended this week's premiere in London but Taylor-Johnson said the family had not contributed to her film.
"It was important to meet with them out of respect," she told Empire.
"But they didn't have any involvement in terms of... like they couldn't change things. They couldn't dictate how I was to shoot," she said.
The filmmaker, whose 2009 feature "Nowhere Boy" dramatised John Lennon's early years, said she had been after "the truth" of Winehouse's life.
"What I wanted as much as possible was the truth of Amy, and Amy's relationship was that she loved her dad, whether we think he did right or wrong," she said.
Eddie Marsan, who plays Mitch Winehouse, said he tried to avoid a "comfortable narrative" that there was "someone to blame" in some way for Winehouse's death, such as her father or her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil.

'Burden of guilt'

To research the role, he said, he approached a friend who worked with both Amy and her father in the music industry who told him Mitch had been a "loving father but he was in an impossible situation". 
"He had a daughter who was an addict, she was the most famous woman in the world, she was hounded by the paparazzi, she had unlimited resources and money. Every drug dealer in London wanted to give her drugs," the friend told him.
"Back to Black" also depicts Winehouse's turbulent relationship with Fielder-Civil who has been blamed for introducing her to heroin and who inspired the album.
He said in 2018 he would "always carry a burden of guilt" over his role in her decline. 
Marisa Abela who portrays the tragic singer said it would have been a mistake to "judge a character and a character's decisions".
"If other people who watch the film decide she shouldn't have loved a certain person, or shouldn't have trusted someone, that's fine.
"The only villains in our story are addiction and the relentless paparazzi. I'm not telling people how to feel about it," she said.

'Wayward genius'

Reviews have been mixed but some have pointed out that it is still likely to be a box office success due to Winehouse's enduring star power.
Describing a recent crop of music biopics as "far worse" than earlier efforts, Zach Schonfeld noted in the Guardian that "these movies remain profitable".
The Times's Ed Potton said the film felt "a bit lightweight".
He praised Abela's willingness to perform her own vocals but said the result was only as good as "you could reasonably hope".
Peter Hoskin in the Daily Mail said the film failed to capture the "wayward genius of the original artist".
"If they try to make you watch this movie, say: no, no, no," he wrote.
"Much better to put on Back to Black, the album, or the song, and remember what really made Amy a star," he added.
har/pdh/spb

diplomacy

Spaceland: Biden woos Japan PM with Paul Simon and moonshots

BY DANNY KEMP

  • US-Japan "ties stretch up to the Moon where two Japanese astronauts will join future American missions, and one will become the first non-American ever to land on the Moon," Biden said during a press conference with Kishida.
  • When you want to impress guests, it helps to have Moon rockets and superstar singer-songwriters on call -- and US President Joe Biden has both.
  • US-Japan "ties stretch up to the Moon where two Japanese astronauts will join future American missions, and one will become the first non-American ever to land on the Moon," Biden said during a press conference with Kishida.
When you want to impress guests, it helps to have Moon rockets and superstar singer-songwriters on call -- and US President Joe Biden has both.
Biden pulled out all the stops as he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for a gala state visit at the White House on Wednesday focused on countering a rising China.
As he sought to build a bridge over the troubled waters of Asia-Pacific geopolitics, Biden made a series of highly symbolic gestures for key ally Kishida.

Paul Simon

Legendary folk-rocker Paul Simon performed for the Kishidas after the state dinner, the latest in a series of iconic musicians to play for foreign leaders at the White House.
Wearing a black suit and tie but with his top button undone, the 82-year-old icon strummed his way through a series of hits, starting with his 1986 classic "Graceland."
The audience applauded Simon at the end of the song -- while movie star Robert De Niro could be seen trying to find a seat just before the gig in the State Dining Room.
The White House said First Lady Jill Biden chose Simon as a tribute because the Japanese premier shared her appreciation for the artist, who's also known for songs such as "Sound of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as part of a duo with Art Garfunkel.

 Lavish dinner

The Bidens treated Kishida, his wife Yuko and 200 other guests to a lavish state dinner in the gilt-trimmed East Room of the White House, featuring modern American cuisine with Japanese flavors.
For starters, there was house-cured salmon, avocados, red grapefruit, watermelon radish, cucumber and shiso leaf fritters -- all done in the style of a California roll sushi.
The main course was dry-aged rib eye steak with blistered shishito pepper butter and for dessert there's salted caramel pistachio cake with matcha ganache, cherry ice cream, raspberry drizzle -- with a garnish of cherry blossom petals.

  Fly me to the Moon

The two leaders were keen to show US-Japan relations soaring to new heights -- and nowhere was that clearer than Biden's announcement that a Japanese person will be the first non-American to walk on the Moon.
Under NASA's Artemis program, the United States has set a goal of returning humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972.
US-Japan "ties stretch up to the Moon where two Japanese astronauts will join future American missions, and one will become the first non-American ever to land on the Moon," Biden said during a press conference with Kishida.
Only 12 people have walked on the Moon, all of them Americans and all white men.

Star Trek

Kishida stuck to the theme in his toast for the state dinner, quoting the cult 1960s US television show Star Trek. 
"Let me conclude with a line from Star Trek, which you all know -- to boldly go where no one has gone before," he said, quoting the main title sequence to the show.
"I would like to propose a toast to our voyage to the frontier of the US-Japan relationship with these words -- boldly go!"
He also noted the Japanese heritage of star George Takei, who played crew member Hikaru Sulu.

Cherry blossom

Both Biden and Kishida went heavy on the symbolism of cherry blossoms, the evanescent springtime flowers beloved both by the Japanese and Washingtonians.
Japan sent over 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States just over a century ago and they still line the US capital's scenic Tidal Basin.
Tokyo will now send another 250 to replace some that are being chopped down in Washington as part of an embankment rehabilitation project.
"I am confident that the cherry blossom-like bond of the Japan-US alliance will continue to grow even bigger and stronger," Kishida said.
The tables for the state dinner also featured cherry blossom branches, among other flowers.
dk/caw

culture

Egypt's women rappers fight for place in rising scene

BY SOFIANE ALSAAR

  • But now party boats on the Nile River in Cairo blast Wegz through the Egyptian capital, and rappers are getting multinational advertising deals.
  • Egyptian rapper Dareen is a whirlwind of sharp verses and curly hair on stage, bringing the Cairo crowd to its feet and a fresh perspective to Egypt's male-dominated rap scene.
  • But now party boats on the Nile River in Cairo blast Wegz through the Egyptian capital, and rappers are getting multinational advertising deals.
Egyptian rapper Dareen is a whirlwind of sharp verses and curly hair on stage, bringing the Cairo crowd to its feet and a fresh perspective to Egypt's male-dominated rap scene.
Her raps flow over eclectic beats inspired by her childhood in Alexandria, the coastal city home to many of Egypt's biggest rap stars, including the massively popular Wegz, a male rapper on a rapid rise after a 2022 World Cup performance in Qatar.
In Alexandria "we make art, but in Cairo, it's a whole industry", Dareen, 21, told AFP, her bright pink nails protruding from fingerless leather gloves.
And the industry is booming. In 2022, Wegz was the most streamed Arab artist in the Middle East and North Africa on the music platform Spotify.
"The impact of rap can be seen in our charts, our wrapped data and in all key cultural events," said Mark Abou Jaoude, Spotify's Head of Music for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.
Last year, 60 percent of Spotify's most-streamed Arab artists were in the hip-hop genre, which includes rap.
"We're also witnessing an increasing number of rap artists touring Europe and the United States, which serves as evidence of how fans worldwide, including diaspora communities, are connecting with the genre," Abou Jaoude said.
For a long time, Egyptian rap had "an underground status", according to music researcher Amr Abdelrahim.
But now party boats on the Nile River in Cairo blast Wegz through the Egyptian capital, and rappers are getting multinational advertising deals.
"The professionalisation of their craft has impacted how they make music and the verses they write, but also their dreams," said Abdelrahim.
"This is the first generation that's seeing their elders make big money from rapping."
And the genre's women performers -- out of the spotlight for years -- are vying for a piece of that success.
Dareen's own song Leila -- which talks about her disappointment with fellow artists -- has close to 180,000 views on YouTube.
Although Cairo's line-ups increasingly feature women rappers donning stylish streetwear for larger-than-life performances, there is still a class divide for them to cross.

Manhood, power, money

Far from the working-class African American communities where rap was born half a century ago, the Egyptian version and its audience are still "on the margins, because they're middle and upper class, while 'Mahraganat' is much more popular", said Abdelrahim.
Mahraganat, which is widely popular in Egypt where it is known as 'electro-shaabi', has become musical shorthand for Egyptian youth expression.
"You need only walk around Cairo" to hear it, Abdelrahim said.
In "all the tuktuks, all the stores, what you hear" is Mahraganat, with its mix of synthesised beats, traditional instruments and blunt lyrics celebrating manhood, power and money.
An easy creative choice for rap's rising women is to try to imitate that same machismo, but their lyrics seem to cast a wider net.
In her latest album "Kawabes", or nightmares in Arabic, Dareen raps about "the depression and mood swings" that "follow break-ups".
Stepping off stage to raucous applause, she says she wants to talk about "everything", uncensored, even her most vulnerable moments.
But rapping as a woman is an uphill battle on multiple fronts.

'Not taken seriously'

"Claiming our freedom as rappers is hard, whether from our families or from society," Dareen said, adding that the industry is "far from peaceful" and harsh on women.
"We're not taken seriously, they think we don't have problems when it's the exact opposite, especially here in Egypt where we're forced to deal with harassment and constant obstacles."
Egypt's conservative, deeply patriarchal society causes most women to shy away from professions in the public eye.
And in the macho world of rap, "to evolve, you have to frequent the same places, to integrate into the networks of artists and producers, an exclusively male world," Abdelrahim said.
While more women are stepping into the genre's spotlight, they have come mostly from more well-to-do echelons of Egyptian society.
According to Abdelrahim, almost all women rappers come from the upper class, where girls and women generally enjoy more freedom with less fear of social stigma.
"You can see more social diversity in the male rap scene," Abdelrahim said, where artists fire insults at those from privileged upbringings versus their own working-class backgrounds.
Their women counterparts, meanwhile, walk a tightrope between rap's boastfulness and the modesty demanded by society, side-stepping American hip-hop's brand of sexuality entirely.
"Assuming an overtly sexual femininity" -- like women rap stars Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion -- "is not possible" if the performers want to be seen as worthy of respect, said Abdelrahim.
"Because ultimately they're judged by both society and their families."
sar/sbh/bha/srk/hkb

film

'Joker' pairs up with Gaga as sequel hype hits CinemaCon

BY ANDREW MARSZAL

  • As a studio, Warner enjoyed significant success with "Barbie," the top grossing film of last year, which earned $1.45 billion.
  • Warner Bros. offered a glimpse of its eagerly anticipated "Joker" sequel at CinemaCon on Tuesday, as the Hollywood studio set out plans to build on the success of last year's blockbuster "Barbie."
  • As a studio, Warner enjoyed significant success with "Barbie," the top grossing film of last year, which earned $1.45 billion.
Warner Bros. offered a glimpse of its eagerly anticipated "Joker" sequel at CinemaCon on Tuesday, as the Hollywood studio set out plans to build on the success of last year's blockbuster "Barbie."
Warner's presentation at the Las Vegas movie summit also featured footage from a long-awaited follow-up to 1980s classic "Beetlejuice," plus Robert Pattinson promoting a new sci-fi from "Parasite" director Bong Joon-ho.
But the focus was on "Joker: Folie A Deux," Todd Phillips' sequel to a controversial original that won an Oscar for its star Joaquin Phoenix, and reinvented what is possible for superhero adaptations.
The 2019 "Joker" offered a dark, R-rated origin story for Batman's future nemesis Arthur Fleck, and polarized audiences by presenting its murderous villain as a hero, even prompting fears it could inspire mass shootings.
Rumors have swirled around the sequel -- out in October -- which adds Lady Gaga, one of the world's biggest pop music stars, to its cast, and has been described as a musical.
Introducing a new trailer for the film, Phillips called his latest work "a movie where music is an essential element," adding that it "doesn't really veer too far from the first film" in that sense.
"Arthur is weird and aloof and distant, all these things, but he has music in him, he has a grace to him," explained Phillips.
"That informed a lot of the dancing in the first film... so it didn't seem like that big of a step, what we did here.
"It's different but I think it'll make sense once you see it."
The trailer showed Phoenix's Joker meeting Lady Gaga's Harley Quinn in an asylum, before the two seemingly plot their escape.
Other dreamlike sequences featured the pair dancing romantically on a moonlit Gotham rooftop, and putting on an elaborate stage show.
"I'll tell you what's changed. I'm not alone any more," says the Joker, in one scene.
Phillips also thanked movie theater owners for standing by his first "Joker" film through controversy in 2019. It went on to gross more than $1 billion.

'No-brainer'

The annual CinemaCon movie industry summit is an opportunity for Hollywood studios to present their upcoming films to theater owners from around the world.
This year, it is being held as industry forecasts predict the annual global box office haul will shrink, in part due to the impact of recent industrywide strikes.
Actors and writers shut down hundreds of Hollywood movie and TV productions last year, leaving gaping holes in current release calendars.
The blow is just the latest in a difficult five-year period for the industry, which has yet to fully recover from the pandemic, and the rise of streaming.
As a studio, Warner enjoyed significant success with "Barbie," the top grossing film of last year, which earned $1.45 billion.
But parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, created by a 2022 merger, has seen its stock price plummet, even as mass layoffs ensued.
So the stakes were high for the studio's upcoming slate, which also included George Miller's "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga," M. Night Shyamalan horror "Trap," and Kevin Costner's new multi-movie Western saga "Horizon."
Costner promised his project, which involves back-to-back films hitting theaters in June and August, will take an unflinching look at the "tough" and "mean" 19th-century settlers who fought tooth and nail to grab their share of the US West.
"That promise meant that we stepped on a whole group of people who had been here for thousands of years," said Costner.
"But that's what happened... I don't pass judgment because I don't want to look down on people's resourcefulness to create what they created here in America." 
Returning cast members Michael Keaton and Catherine O'Hara previewed "Beetlejuice Beetlejuice," a sequel that director Tim Burton called "a weird family reunion."
And Korean director Bong made his CinemaCon debut to promote comedic sci-fi "Mickey 17" -- his first film since "Parasite" became the only non-English-language movie to win best picture at the Oscars.
"With Bong doing it, it was a no-brainer," said Pattinson, who plays multiple characters in the movie, out in January.
amz/dhw

media

India's influencers rally millions to vote for Modi

BY ASMA HAFIZ

  • - 'Incentives' - Thakur, 23, already a popular reality TV star for her classical singing, shot to even wider attention when Modi shared her devotional song on social platform X during the inauguration of a contentious Hindu temple in Ayodhya in January.
  • Indian folk singer Maithili Thakur thought she was successful, with millions following her Hindu devotional tunes on social media -- but then Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent her popularity into the stratosphere.
  • - 'Incentives' - Thakur, 23, already a popular reality TV star for her classical singing, shot to even wider attention when Modi shared her devotional song on social platform X during the inauguration of a contentious Hindu temple in Ayodhya in January.
Indian folk singer Maithili Thakur thought she was successful, with millions following her Hindu devotional tunes on social media -- but then Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent her popularity into the stratosphere.
With India's marathon general elections set to start on April 19, critics say Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has co-opted the vast youth fan bases of hugely influential social media stars -- in fields ranging from music to culture, and fashion to fitness -- to push their political message.
Thakur was among 24 influencers handed prizes last month at the first government-organised National Creators Awards to promote "storytellers of a confident, assertive New India".
Many of the social media stars have a striking similarity in their promotion of India's Hindu-majority culture, and several back the BJP's right-wing ideology.
"There are many influencers who are collaborating with the current ruling government and making videos," said Thakur, who has 14 million followers on Facebook, and more than 4.5 million each on Instagram and YouTube.
But critics say the chance to maximise their followers and income from social posts by collaborating with the BJP may encourage influencers to uncritically back the ruling party, which is widely expected to win.

'Incentives'

Thakur, 23, already a popular reality TV star for her classical singing, shot to even wider attention when Modi shared her devotional song on social platform X during the inauguration of a contentious Hindu temple in Ayodhya in January.
"So much buzz was created," said Thakur, who was named Cultural Ambassador of the Year at the Creators Awards -- where she shared videos of meeting Modi.
The temple to the deity Ram was built at the site of a centuries-old mosque that was razed by a mob of Hindu zealots in 1992.
The close ties between the government and major social media stars worry Prateek Waghre, from digital rights organisation Internet Freedom Foundation.
"There is enough to be concerned about just by the nature of these collaborations," said Waghre, noting influencers wanted to both earn money from their posts and win new followers.
"Purely on the question of incentives, you can see how this will skew them to engage in discourse that's overwhelmingly positive, or at least non-critical."
While political parties across the board use social media, critics see the government's links with influencers as part of a sophisticated soft-power campaign policy by the Hindu-nationalist BJP.
Waghre said he also fears the offers of cash or attention could woo influencers to back a party "irrespective of their own political beliefs".
With over half of India's 1.4 billion people aged under 30, according to government health figures, using social media is a "tactic" to reach out to young voters, Thakur added.
The government's online platform, MyGov, also carried interviews with the prize-winning influencers praising Modi.
India's 462 million YouTube users are the platform's largest audience by country, according to market tracker Statista.

'Influence'

"By approaching the youth, you are trying to influence the major population of India," said Thakur, speaking to AFP from a room in her New Delhi home, which she uses as a recording studio, its walls adorned with colourful traditional paintings. 
But Thakur has also been appointed as an election commission ambassador, which means she can only encourage people to take part in polls, not promote a party.
Others are more direct.
Ex-wrestler Ankit Baiyanpuria, winner of the national fitness creator award, urged his eight million Instagram fans to vote for Modi's BJP.
BJP stalwarts, including Trade Minister Piyush Goyal and Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, have also featured on social media star Ranveer Allahbadia's channels -- with the videos tagged "Collaboration with @MyGov".
Janhvi Singh, 20, who makes posts on culture and religion -- from explaining Hindu scriptures to showcasing traditional dress -- was given the Heritage Fashion Icon Award.
She called her collaboration with the government an "opportunity", and said she valued the BJP's focus on Hinduism because she feared India was "forgetting our roots and culture".
She noted that she did not directly tell her followers who to vote for.
"I don't share any such political views on social media openly," she said. "But I think it is important to spread this message that you should vote."
But she was clear her loyalties lay with Modi. 
"I think there is no other leader who is doing good for the country," she said.
ah/pjm/sco/smw

conflict

EBU slams 'unacceptable' harassment of Eurovision artists

  • The statement did not name the performers in questions, but it came amid reports that Israeli singer Eden Golan, 20, has received death threats through her Instagram account.
  • The Eurovision Song Contest organisers on Tuesday hit out at "targeted social media campaigns" against competitors amid reports of threats against the singer for Israel.
  • The statement did not name the performers in questions, but it came amid reports that Israeli singer Eden Golan, 20, has received death threats through her Instagram account.
The Eurovision Song Contest organisers on Tuesday hit out at "targeted social media campaigns" against competitors amid reports of threats against the singer for Israel.
This year's competition, to take place in May in Sweden, has been rocked by controversy over Israel's participation at a time when its war with Hamas has left Gaza in tatters.
The European Broadcasting Union acknowledged in a statement "the depth of feeling and the strong opinions that this year's Eurovision Song Contest - set against the backdrop of a terrible war in the Middle East - has provoked". 
While expressing understanding that "people will want to engage in debate and express their deeply held views on this matter", it raised concerns about "targeted social media campaigns against some of our participating artists".
The statement did not name the performers in questions, but it came amid reports that Israeli singer Eden Golan, 20, has received death threats through her Instagram account.
"While we strongly support freedom of speech and the right to express opinions in a democratic society, we firmly oppose any form of online abuse, hate speech, or harassment directed at our artists or any individuals associated with the contest," the EBU statement said.
Targeting Eurovision artists was "unacceptable and totally unfair", it said.
It highlighted that "the decision to include any broadcaster, including the Israeli’ broadcaster Kan, in the Eurovision Song Contest is the sole responsibility of the EBU’s governing bodies and not that of the individual artists".
"These artists come to Eurovision to share their music, culture, and the universal message of unity through the language of music."
Israel's public broadcaster is an EBU member and can therefore take part in the Eurovision contest.
The EBU did however force Israel to change the lyrics of Golan's song "October Rain", deeming it too political, which is against Eurovision rules.
The initial entry was widely considered to reference the victims of Hamas's October 7 attack inside Israel, which sparked the war raging in Gaza. 
But last month Eurovision agreed she could take part with a second entry "Hurricane", which features the same music but different lyrics.
EBU said it was "dedicated to providing a safe and supportive environment for all participants, staff, and fans of the Eurovision Song Contest".
"We urge everyone to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue and support the artists who are working tirelessly - on what is a music and entertainment show - to share their music with the world."
nl/tw

film

George Lucas to get special Cannes festival award

  • "The Festival de Cannes has always held a special place in my heart," said Lucas, whose first movie, THX 1138, was shown at the French festival in 1971.
  • The Cannes film festival will give Star Wars creator George Lucas a special award at its closing ceremony this year, organisers said Tuesday.
  • "The Festival de Cannes has always held a special place in my heart," said Lucas, whose first movie, THX 1138, was shown at the French festival in 1971.
The Cannes film festival will give Star Wars creator George Lucas a special award at its closing ceremony this year, organisers said Tuesday.
"Star Wars is nothing short of mythology," organisers said in a statement paying tribute to the legendary 79-year-old producer and director who will receive the Honorary Palme d'Or on May 25.
"The Festival de Cannes has always held a special place in my heart," said Lucas, whose first movie, THX 1138, was shown at the French festival in 1971.
"Since then, I have returned to the festival on many occasions in a variety of capacities as a writer, director and producer. I am truly honoured by this special recognition which means a great deal to me," he was quoted as saying in the statement.
Organisers compared Lucas' achievement with the nine "Stars Wars" movies to J.R.R. Tokien, writer of the "Lords of the Rings" series.
"He imagined a universe, with its geography, populations, languages, moral values and even its vehicles," said the statement, which highlighted the "unprecedented success".
"The film captivated American crowds and became a worldwide socio-cultural phenomenon, which continues to this day."
As a producer, Lucas also created the Indiana Jones series of movies and was associated with projects such as Akira Kurosawa’s "Kagemusha".
The Cannes festival will be held from May 14 to May 25. Organisers will announce the official selection of movies on Thursday.
pgr/tw/gv

London

Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama adds splash of colour to London complex

  • The light and bright purple and pink fabric, stitched with the history-laden fragile robes, deliberately contrast with the hard-edged surroundings and typically grey London sky overhead.
  • An installation by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama wrapping part of a brutalist central London cultural complex in pink-purple woven cloth and urine-stained robes was unveiled Tuesday.
  • The light and bright purple and pink fabric, stitched with the history-laden fragile robes, deliberately contrast with the hard-edged surroundings and typically grey London sky overhead.
An installation by Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama wrapping part of a brutalist central London cultural complex in pink-purple woven cloth and urine-stained robes was unveiled Tuesday.
The public commission at the Barbican Centre's Lakeside Terrace, named "Purple Hibiscus" after Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's eponymous 2003 novel, has been hand-sewn in collaboration with hundreds of craftspeople in Ghana.
The 2,000 square metres (2,1528 square feet) of brightly coloured fabric panels feature scores of traditional robes, known as "batakaris", previously worn and cherished by everyone from Ghanaian royals to everyday people.
Passed down from generation to generation, Mahama began collecting them more than a decade ago for eventual use in his artworks.
Known internationally for creating massive installations that clad buildings, "Purple Hibiscus" is his first large-scale UK public commission.
For it, he worked with networks of female weavers in his native Ghana to embroider the robes onto the striking fabric now draped over a sliver of the famously grey concrete Barbican complex.  
"I've always been interested in labour, the conditions of labour, the history of labour, and also how labour is inflicted on bodies," Mahama told AFP about conceptualising the artwork.
Some of the robes have been urinated on or had "other things" doused on them by their previous owners, because "the idea is to break the soul away from the material," he explained.
"They somehow believe that their soul, of the family, is somehow contained within the cloth," the artist added, noting it had often been difficult to convince people to hand over the valued items.
Sometimes adorned with amulets, they were once mythically thought of as armour to protect against the bullets of colonial soldiers. 
On display in the Barbican until mid-August, the exhibit resonates with the district's history of mass destruction during World War II and as a one-time home to the cloth trade. 
The light and bright purple and pink fabric, stitched with the history-laden fragile robes, deliberately contrast with the hard-edged surroundings and typically grey London sky overhead.
"It's supposed to somehow allow us... to reflect on the human condition, and beyond the human condition, also into the question of life," said Mahama.
The artist appears unconcerned by the potential impact of London's notoriously wet weather on his painstakingly assembled installation.
"It will last as long as it can last," he said.
"Once you produce any art piece that is supposed to be in the public, the artist has to be ready to accept the fact that anything can happen to it."
spe/jj/pdh/cw