Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Red Carpet Shots @ The Oscars

Last night, while hanging out at The Standard Hotel with some of my colleagues over some drinks in the grilling Downtown Los Angeles, the Oscar moments popped up and the entire gist happened to be who was wearing what and how the show came out. For sure, I don't like the Whoopi attire. I have no favorite but I like Alicia Keyes and Taraji P. Henson.

We even talked about how the Jews conquered Hollywood with the kind of movies they make which is inspiring. Movies like "Defiance," "The Unborn," "The Reader," "Valkyrie," "Blessed Is The Match," and many others -- all about the Holocaust. Now my folks see where I'm coming from.

Associated Press photographer Chris Pizzello captures Taraji P. Henson as she arrives for the 81st Academy Awards

Actress and singer Alicia Keyes arrives at the 81st Academy Awards. Those Armani Prive with a Zufi Alexander clutch and that Fred Leighton jewels speaks volumes. I like that style. Simply georgeous. Photo by Matt Sayles, AP

Halle Berry arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party which grooved all night. She is captured here by AP's Evan Agostini.

Actress/humanitarian/philanthropist Angelina Jolie is all glamour as she arrives at the 81st Academy Awards and the flashing lights never stopped snapping. Photo by Matt Sayles, AP

I'm not sure what Whoopi Goldberg was doing here in that dress. She was all smiles though. AP's Chris Carlson captured her here as she arrives at the 81st Academy Awards.

Actress Marion Cotillard pops up on the red carpet while AP's Chris Pizzello takes the shot.

Here you go Dubmaster. Kate Winslet here wears Yves Saint Laurent Atelier along with Yvette Saint Laurent shoes and Chopard jewelry as she arrives the Academy Awards.

I'm not sure if I like this outfit. Anyway, Queen Latifah here wears Georges Chakra gown with William Goldberg diamonds and Gucci shoes. She is captured here by AP's Matt Sayles.

Anne Hathaway is so excited for having a job and you bet she is going to get all that Hollywood wants. Here she wears white Armani Prive gown with Casadel shoes and Roger Vivier bag topping it off with Cartier jewels

The prediction was that white was going to be the flashing point this year on the red carpet and Henson did just that. She captured my eyes.

CARTOON: Wuruwuru Country


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Oscars & Taraji P. Henson

Before the shooting of "No More Bloodshed" commences on the streets of Los Angeles in which Taraji Henson plays a significant role in a movie to be produced by Pascal Atuma Productions and also starring Atuma, Henson, tonight will be walking on Red Carpet along with her mom and Grandma to the Oscars in Hollywood for her Supporting-actress Oscar nomination in the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." She is so excited and listen to her comments :"I'm still kind of numb. I'm waiting for someone to say, 'Wake up!' I'm just really excited about it, and trying to enjoy each and every moment," she says. "But at the end of the day, I'm still TJ. That's what my family used to call me, and they still do."

So excited that when she called her Grandma it was another drama... "Hey Grandma, we got an extra ticket for the Oscars, you wanna come?"

"I sure do baby!" her Grandma would say.

According to the nurturing Queenie in this movie and with the Oscar nod, Henson says "a different caliber of people wants to sit down and talk to me" meaning the opening is out there in all spheres and the sky now the limit. She's got much in her fold and hanging out around her is fun.

I'm just too busy to be writing about the Oscars now as the overwhelming Hollywood traffic has caught up with me and it's not going to be over untill about 2 in the morning when all the Oscar parties will be over. That of the Governor's Ball is where hell will get loose and knowing Hollywood for its "flickjams" one needs to go well-prepared.

But anyways, the Oscar is on right now and the wild Hollywood is roasting. I want Henson to win because her next step is a Los Angeles street thriller to be produced by my homie, Atuma in "No More Bloodshed."

CARTOON: "Rule of Lawlessness"


The Oscars & Slumdog Millionaire

Of course Danny Boyle's energetic and creative direction in a movie now up the ladder from a cinderella story has kept Hollywood critics talking. Writing the script also added a whole lot to the films flavor. And that's where the script writer Simon Beaufoy comes in, in this movie. The script was superbly written to a point all talk last night was Beaufoy not being given enough attention.

But nevertheless, this evening on Hollywood and Highland the stars will be shining and the Oscar for Best Picture goes to Slum Dog Millionaire from my viewpoint. A story of a slum boy orphan growing up in the slums of Mumbai, India, with his brother and ending up competing in a game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" The uniqueness of the story is putting two difficult genres together in a love story relationship over ten years. If you haven't seen the movie, Jamal's storyline well scripted by Beaufoy is what should in my own opinion earn this amazing movie a couple of Oscars.

That's my pick (Best Picture) and I'm taking it to the bank.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oluwole Rotimi: Gloating over the Igbo genocide, 1966-1970

By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

The following notes, each dedicated to the memory of the number of Igbo children, women and men murdered by the Nigerian state and its allies in each of the four years of the Igbo genocide, are in response to the recent outrageous gloating over these horrendous murders by Oluwole Rotimi, himself a genocidist commandant during the slaughter:

1.The grim total of 3.1 million Igbo children, women and men were murdered during the genocide. This represents one-quarter of the 12 million Igbo population at the time. The Igbo genocide is the foundational genocide of (European) post-conquest Africa and remains the worst genocide in Africa to date.

2. Contrary to the Harold Wilson’s British government-inflected, Nigerian declaration of “no victor, no vanquished” on 12 January 1970, the Igbo were indeed the victors in this encounter. They survived. The Nigerian genocide state failed to accomplish its monstrous mission to destroy the Igbo. Igbo survival is a phenomenal triumph of human will and tenacity. The Igbo, relying solely on the materiality of the extraordinarily resourceful citizens’ defence forces they assembled from scratch (commanded by the handful of the pre-July 1966 Igbo officer-corps who survived the first phase of the genocide, professors, students, civil servants, businesspeople, farmers, artisans, etc., etc), overcame an aggregation of desperately brutish forces some of whom were otherwise antagonists or rivals in regional or the broader contours of international politics in the post-World War II era: Hausa-Fulani, Britain Yoruba/Oduduwa, Bini, Soviet Union, Tiv, Egypt, Berom, Yergam, Nupe, Ishan, the Sudan, Angas, Urhobo, Itsekiri, Igala, Bachama, Poland, Sura, Algeria, Jarawa (central Nigeria), Jukun, Saudi Arabia, Gwari, Guinea (Conakry), Kanuri, Syria, Idoma, German Democratic Republic, Iraq, Chad/gwodogwodo.

3. Between 1937 and 1959, the Igbo spearheaded the freeing of Nigeria from formal British occupation of the country which eventually ended in 1960. For all intents and purposes, Nigeria collapsed as a state with any serious prospects in the wake of the Igbo genocide that it launched on 29 May 1966. The singular lesson for Africa and the rest of the world from the incalculable tragedy that is called Nigeria is glaringly clear for whoever wishes to observe: one does not murder the potter and expect the pottery making-in-progress to attain a classic investiture. Despite earning the stunning sum of US$650 billion in oil sales in the subsequent 40 years, a significant proportion of this from occupied Igboland in the Delta, Rivers, Imo and Abia administrative regions, Nigeria has cascaded into a degenerative abyss politically, economically, intellectually, socially, morally and spiritually.

4. Forty years ago, Igbo people singularly and cruelly bore the brunt of the savage politics of mass murder, organised and executed meticulously and ruthlessly by the central coordinating operatives of this movement under the racist and chauvinist imprimatur of religious fundamentalism and exclusivity. Twice, during the course of two decades earlier, these operatives had staged murderous campaigns against the same Igbo in the north Nigerian towns of Jos and Kano – in dress rehearsals for the 1966-1970 “final solution”... As the virulence of this politics has since spread globally and indeed defines the dominant concern of international relations in the current epoch, the world no doubt needs to learn quite a lot from the Igbo experience. How have the Igbo “coped” with the visceral politics of hate and death in the past one-half century of a cataclysmic history? Despite the present Nigerian occupation of their homeland, the Igbo possess the critical indices for the far-reaching socioeconomic transformation of this region of Africa. They have an impressive industrial and manufacturing base that requires a radical upgrade and diversification, a disciplined workforce and an indefatigable intellectual, entrepreneurial and managerial class. The Igbo youth, 16-40, makes up part of Africa’s most educated and talented grouping. Despite the occupation, Igbo male and female students out-perform the rest of Nigeria across the entire spectrum of the education system. (On this, see particularly Okechukwu Agbor’s excellent study, “Look who is going to school in Nigeria,”) in [accessed 13 February 2009] a change of the title of Agbor’s essay to, for instance, “Igbo education during the era of occupation”, underscores, even further, the historic relevance of his study.) Strategically emplaced in Igboland is a resourceful engine of creativity that has immense possibilities for the future wellbeing of Africa and the rest of the world. It is therefore incumbent on the world to support the Igbo’s arduous efforts presently to free themselves from the Nigeria occupation. Furthermore, the world must ensure that genocidist operatives such as Oluwole Rotimi and his fellow travellers are stopped from strutting across international frontiers masquerading as “diplomats”, “businesspeople”, “presidents”, “heads of state”, even “peace envoys”.

On the eve of The Hague international court ordering the arrest of Sudanese President al-Bahier for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Darfur, it is surely unpardonable that the Rotimis of this planet are basking in the democratic sunny havens of Florida instead of being incarcerated in the Netherlands. We mustn’t forget that al-Bashier studiously learnt his vicious trade from that infamous dossier that documented the mass murders that charted the parameters of a devastating age for Africa – of which al-Bashier has contributed his own vile quota. The dossier was jointly signed by Obafemi Awolowo and Yakubu Gowon and was dated 29 May 1966-12 January 1970.

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature (forthcoming, 2009)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

PAFF Final Beat

It had taken exactly eleven days from the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall on the Crenshaw thoroughfare of the “Black Township” to the nine hundred block of Washington Boulevard in Culver City which stretches to the Washington Corridor in Los Angeles in an event that has gone through mixed reviews on the side of the vendors who seems to be the ones complaining and talking about the 17th Annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF), which ended in Los Angeles, last night, and how the show came out bad vendors are now threatening lawsuits for being ripped off by the organizers of the festival.

I’m not sure if the recession should be blamed for the buy-sell apathy in which an estimated 10,000 people are losing their jobs daily; a record breaking account since the Great Depression. Nobody, however, is sure of the outcome since experts are predicting until the end of 2010 before things could probably be shaping up economically in what should be expected to be another cycle of economic prosperity, that is, if Wall Street is put in place.

But despite all that, a whole lot is still happening in the City of Angels, and people are still hanging out even though what use to be a livelier event on a sad note of bad economy, the 17th Annual PAFF was very obvious of economic collapse. “This is terrible,” one of the vendors who displayed his African accessories, a variety of beads, necklaces, earrings, shea butter cream and some artifacts complained of a slow, hopeless market. “How am I going to survive this environment with a $40 a day sale and all the bills that are climbing at an alarming rate.”

If recession is one thing to blame, one should be asking about all the line up of events tailored to run through May in Los Angeles alone. While PAFF and a series of its activities were going on in a two location event, some cultural stuff was also taking place all over town. The Vintage Hollywood Private Club on the Washington Corridor has taken its activities to another level. Throughout the month of February, classic black films – “Stormy Weather,” “Carmen Jones,” and “Cabin in the Sky” will be screened and admission is free. So there’s a lot of vibes going on in ones Hollywood. A full bar and lots of Los Angeles goodies at this newly rejuvenated joint is a hangout you don’t want to miss.

I think it’s quite fun when one walks around the marketplace, the 17th Annual PAFF, in a different mood this year because both patrons and merchants in what use to be a merry-crowd in the eleven days festival vanished this time around and it’s not funny. A security guard at the front entrance of the mall: “Ain’t nothing wrong with the fuckin’ economy. It’s all a set up; you know what I’m saying? And you blame George Bush. I don’t have anything with what’s going on with the fuckin’ economy and if they feel like cutting my hours I sho’ fuckin’ will quit and take unemployment…And I sho fuckin’ will sue their ass, that’s right”

The guard is not happy for being sentry, standing post on a little-bit above minimum wage and mad as hell because his relief is behind schedule and he wants to “get the fuck outta here,” cuz, it’s “ass-kicking time.”

On the other side of the mall behind Wall Mart, there is a makeshift massage parlor run by some Asians and as it happened their business boomed and patrons were trooping to relieve a nerve-wracking recession-proof tension.

It wasn’t only the cultural thing that got attention during the festival. People, not related to the festival came from all over. I ran into Carolyn J. Garner who happens to be doing some worthy stuff and we did hang out talking about a bunch of things that could lift the spirit of the African “if all hands are on deck.” She did the math – uncountable trips to Ethiopia providing medical services to the underprivileged and proud of it on many grounds – being blessed and having the opportunity to lend a helping hand in an area of the world where the government has turned the other way. Carolyn had held me for more than an hour talking about the unfortunate events of slavery and the mess it created for centuries to come.

Interestingly, though after all the tough talks about sharecroppers, slavery and all that, we shifted to the screenings at the film festival and began discussing the ones that made the headlines. Before we began, I had mentioned Sophie Okonedo and her role in “Skin:”

And her parents were white South Africans. And born of white parents in apartheid South Africa, she looked black. And she was tormented and unaccepted in a white society. And she was black. And she falls in love with a black man. And she alienates her parents. And she relocates elsewhere to a township. All of this happened because she was born black because of her genetic abnormality. And her name is Sandra Haing. And she paid a surprise visit at the screening of “Skin” on February 11 at the Culver Plaza Theaters. And there was a photo session. And PAFF founder Ayuko Babu was all smiles in that photo-op.

Another film of interest was, as part of the routine Brazilian Carnival and the PAFF, the presentation of the 50th anniversary of “Black Orpheus” which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1960.”Black Orpheus” had been widely advertised and sponsored by the Ngolo Arts Preservation Society and Amoeba Music.

A lot of fascinating films were shown during the course of the festival. There was “Scared Justice,” a film about the Orangeburg massacre where black students protested the Orangeburg bowling alley’s refusal to admit African Americans when South Carolina State Troopers and other law enforcement agents fired on them. Three were killed and twenty-seven injured.

And there’s Charles Burnett’s “Relative Strangers” starring Eriq LaSalle, Cicely Tyson, and Michael Beach about a “successful man who, fearing failure, separates himself from his family until he receives word of his father’s death.”

And there’s “Making the Rhino,” about environment, tourism and conservatism from the Maasai people of Kenya and Namibia’s Himba people point of view.

And, finally, not to forget the South African drama "Jerusalema" directed by Ralph Zinman, typical of Nollywood films about Lucky Kunene (Rapulana Seiphemo) who transformed himself to being a real estate crime boss after years of street carjacking to make a living. The film opened the festival on a red carpet at the Director's Guild of America on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PAFF Beats @ the Mall

(Culver Plaza) Courtesy of Aharvey
The 17th Annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) which kicked off on February 5, seems to be having some hiccups due to the organizers' decision to move the film venue to Culver Plaza Theater from its original schedule at the Magic Johnson Theaters in Baldwin Hill-Crenshaw Plaza Mall on the Crenshaw thoroughfare of "Black Township" in Los Angeles. Of course, we learned Magic Johnson Theaters was sold but patrons and vendors are complaining for a variety of reasons.

I did take a tour of the cultural faire, the marketplace, yesterday afternoon which had its normal schedule at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall. I had gone there before the showing of "Skin" starring Sophie Okonedo, premiering at the Culver Plaza Theater with much expectations of the mysterious South African girl who was born black by white parents. There's a whole lot to talk about the set, Sophie, the cast and the movie itself.

Anyways, while at the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza Mall, and walking through the booths of the vendors who had expected to kick off the year on a good start, the conclusion of most vendors did not augur well with the scheme of things notably going back to the festivals rosy years. "The move to Culver City where the films are being shown killed the festival," a vendor who sold African attires and accesories told me on the condition of anonymity. However, it was very obvious this year's marketplace at the Mall was very slow and moving the film venue added to the festival's slow turnout. Maybe, if both marketplace and the films had been at the same location, the turnout would have been different, perhaps, better according to one of the vendors I spoke with, even though Magic sold his theater to AMC Cinemas which 'jacked up" the rent.

Nonetheless, we'll see how it plays out before the closing ceremony on the 16th, and hopefully this year's event would probably be the deciding factor on how to organize future events.

CARICATURE: The Unemployed George W. Bush

Though the caricature here of former president George Walker Bush at the White House fence looks exactly like what would have been the ex-president's situation right now had he not dabbled himself into the oil business of which the next ten generations of the House of Bush will still have enough to live by.

I like the posture of the clowning ex-president. He should do well in Hollywood, in my own opinion.

CARTOON: Naija Showtime



Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Why The 17th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival will face some Problems with Vendors and Festival Goers

About a month or so ago, while checking out who was jamming at the World Stage Performance Art Gallery at Leimert Park, my partner in crime, a criminologist turned art collector and trader – call him Obi, because that’s his real name -- told me that the Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) may be encountering some problems at this year’s annual event for many reasons. (We hang out sometimes and talk local politics and some cultural stuff, but this time around, everything has gone down the drain with an economy gone bad no one knows what’s ‘gonna’ happen tomorrow). According to Obi, as one who is allergic to West Los Angeles, especially Culver City, known for its camera on every nook in this “little bit well to do community and curious-minded cops,” the decision to move the film part of the 17th Annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival to Culver Plaza Theater on the nine hundred block of Washington Blvd. in Culver City is “just a bad rap.”

The organizers’ of this year’s festival’s decision to move ahead with a change of venue – from the Magic Johnson Theaters on the hub of the “Black Township” within the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to a not familiar suburb of Culver City -- may have made a bad decision, thus dissuading festival goers due to its new location which is not too familiar with the vendors, tourists and black filmmakers who have been used to the Magic Johnson Theaters on the Crenshaw thoroughfare for many years now.

Many vendors and festival goers I spoke to said the new venue has killed their desire to rent booths and watch the films at a distance for the fact movie goers who normally watch feature films and documentaries at the festival, and then stop by the booths to buy items and artifacts related to the films they watched by walking through the mall where the arts are on display may find it difficult shuttling about six miles from the Culver Plaza Theaters in Culver City to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza where African cultural products are on display.

Meanwhile, the new schedule at this year’s festival has begun to blow some unpleasant air in many years of the festival’s seventeen year history. “The idea that we walk back and forth in the same complex is what connects us to the festival,” said electrician John Hall who lives not too far from the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. “And it is, believe it or not, what makes this festival very unique. I’m not going to bother driving to Culver City. It is way out of the hood.”

And with a bad economy we are now aware of, coupled with the austerity measure that comes along with it, especially in a “New Dawn” we had expected better things ahead on a historic presidency of Barack Obama, never minding the economic meltdown as never seen before since the Great Depression, (so the experts say even though scholars in economics knew in detail the articulated theory of British economist John Maynard Keynes who advocated government intervention in a free market economy is required at a time of economic crisis to better control the economy, and especially unemployment), the new site may attract a wide range of varied ethnicities perhaps to test a new market and see how it plays out. Would that be impulse buying in this case? Who knows?

With the state of California being hit hard, on a budget crisis that has dragged on for three months, out of cash and desperate for a way out of the mess created by a Republican governor and a Democratic majority in the state Assembly, following a tight time, this year’s festival and the move to Culver City is expected to witness the lowest turnout, even though some black “big rollers” will be showing up and playing important roles during the two weeks cultural event. As already planned by the organizers, this year’s festival will be honoring Cicely Tyson, actor Omar Benson Miller will be receiving the Canada Lee Award, California State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass will be honored with the Community Service Award and Marla Gibbs will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

However, a close look at some of this year’s line up of feature films and documentary is quite interesting and reveals that the South African drama “Jerusalema” and the presentation of “Skin” starring London-born Nigerian-Jewish Sophie Okonedo could persuade festival film goers to change their minds and give it a shot for that six miles difference as a result of venue change. "Jerusalema" directed by Ralph Zinman opens tomorrow, February 5, at the Directors Guild of America complex on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The opening ceremony will be hosted by Blair Underwood.

On "Skin" Okonedo plays Sandra, born in South Africa by white parents but Sandra mysteriously looked black, alienating her parents and falls in love with a black dude. Opens at the Culver Plaza Theaters on February 11, at 7 p.m. The festival runs from Feb. 5 through Feb. 16. Over 175 films from all around the world will be presented at the festival, and all films are culturally related to descendants of Africa.

Go Africa Go!

CARTOON: Reality Check