Monthly Archives: October 2015

“AMORES SANTOS”— Gay Priests and Online Sex

amores santos

“Amores Santos”

Gay Priests and Online Sex

Amos Lassen

Many have believed that within the ranks of Catholic priests there are gay men who entered the church because of difficulties dealing with their sexuality and who were attracted to a job where they are supposed to be celibate and heading towards everlasting salvation from their desires which they considered to be evil.

We also know that not all of those in the clergy are able to live up to these very ideals. These man stand in the pulpit each Sunday as a spokesman for an anti-gay branch of Christianity but in the evening look for exactly what their church preaches against either online or in real life (or both).

Amores Santos is director Dener Giovanini’s documentary, which sees a handsome young actor chatting to gay priests from around the world online who want to engage in cyber-sex. This actor attracted 150 priests from 30 different countries, including Anglicans, Evangelicals and many Catholics.

The doc is pulled together from over 500 hours of explicit chats and as the trailer shows, it promises to tell the truth of the situation for gay priests from the inside – both the hypocrisy and the moral confusion.

We see them on Skype without any pants on as we actually witness the double lives of leading church figures who publicly condemn homosexuality, while privately satisfying their own homosexual urges through online sexual encounters with guys.

“CARLOTTA”— Becoming a Showgirl

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“Carlotta”

Becoming a Showgirl

Amos Lassen

Jessica Marais is Carlotta, the iconic Australian headliner of Les Girls. Her story looks at identity, family, tolerance and acceptance. Born as Richard Byron, she was a confused male teen who became involved the hedonistic lifestyle of the 1960s and 70s. She faced the threat of criminal prosecution as well as social rejection, yet emerged as the all powerful drag queen and performer and a household name, a legend of Kings Cross, a daytime TV star, and a symbol of generational change. This film spans forty years of her life and shares how she found her place in the world with dealing with odds that were stacked against her.

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As Richard, his mother sent him off to live with a woman referred to as an aunt for some ten years. After remarrying, she brings him home to a working class suburb of Sydney and pretends that she has been a wonderful mother. John, his stepfather, did not like that Richard is a sensitive and somewhat effeminate teenager and he often takes his anger out on him physically.  When he does this once too many times, Richard runs away from home and gets a job as a window dresser in one of the city’s fanciest department stores.

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Richard loves his job and the opportunity to dress mannequins. Two of the guys who work with him convince him to try some of the women’s clothes on himself too. These two were the first gay men he ever knew but he was naïve and innocent and had never thought about the idea that men can be homosexual but that changed quickly. From the first time they persuaded him to dress up in drag and go to one of the seedy gay clubs they hang out, Richard knew that he had finally found the place where he really belonged. The biggest change of all was that he was no longer Richard—he called himself Carol.

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Soon afterwards Carol began performing at the club and learns that a local mobster is opening a brand new nightclub called Les Girls. She badgered him until he gave her a job. Now she was able to  leave her job, get her own apartment to become a full-time performer. On stage, Carol becomes Carlotta on stage and quickly moves up from the chorus to having her own solo spots singing and doing a comedy routine. Carol’s fame spreads as the club becomes more popular. Interestingly, although Carol/Carlotta is a drag queen and dates men who she appears to have sex with, she does not identify as gay.  Her goal from the very beginning was to be a real woman.  

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In the early 70s, Carlotta underwent full sex-change surgery. Even though it was not the first such surgery in Australia, it got a lot of attention because of Carlotta’s fame. At this point she wanted to return to Carol and find the man she wants to spend her life with. She found the guy who accepted her after her transformation from male to female and they marry. However, her husband’s family kept pressuring him to start a family and when she realizes how important this, she leaves him and moves on so that he can re-marry someone who can give him children. 

I understand that Carlotta was the inspiration for the hit movie “The Adventures of Priscilla The Queen of The Desert” (reviewed elsewhere on this site).  Jeanne Marais who plays Carlotta gives a great performance but does not have the ability to come across as transgender. Otherwise, everything works.

“BOOM”— One of the Best Worst Movies of All Time

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“Boom!”

One of the Best Worst Movies of All Time

Amos Lassen

To really understand and appreciate “Boom!”, we should get a little background of how the film came to be. Tennessee Williams wrote it based on his “famous” bomb, “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”. It was first produced on Broadway in 1963 with Hermione Baddeley as Flora Goforth in a very Kabuki-style production that ran for 69 performances. Less than a year, it was revived later with Tallulah Bankhead as Flora and Tab Hunter as Christopher Flanders and it closed after 5 performances. Even though it is considered to be a failure, it was one of Williams’ favorite pieces and he continued to work on it until his death. The problem with the play was that Flora who is dying has been portrayed on the stage by a much older women while the male lead, Chris Flanders, the poet, has been played by a much younger man. The film “Boom!” gets it just right with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the lead roles.

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Basically it is about Flora Goforth (Taylor), a wealthy woman who has been married many times, each time to notable person. Now, no longer married, she’s dictating her memoirs to her secretary on a secluded island in Italy (The title of the film refers to the sound of crashing of waves against the rocks below Flora’s house). Along comes Christopher Flanders (Burton), a poet known around the area as the “Angel of Death”, who has the uncanny knack of calling on women just before they die.

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As the film ages it becomes pure camp and a cult film that only few have seen. The role of The Witch Of Capri (played by a woman on stage) was given to a dry, catty Noel Coward. The jewels worn by Taylor throughout the film are all her own, including the famous Krupp Diamond. The bizarre (but fun) “Kabuki” costume she wears when meeting The Witch for dinner was also her own. For those who love Tennessee Williams (whose poetic lines are heard throughout the film) and Taylor and Burton, this is just right for them.

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If you’re a fan of Williams or The Burton’s, you will not be disappointed. The poetry and tone of Williams’ writing will not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Watching the film again last night, I realized that it takes us into the world of the aging gay desire that is disguised as a heterosexual struggle against getting older and the fact that youth flees much too soon. Taylor’s role is really that of an aging rich gay man who is trying to hang on to youth and those attracted by great beauty. After all, Flora’s nickname is Sissy. Burton’s role is that of the hustler who is all that is left for the old queen to attract. Taylor was too young for the part and Burton was too old but even with that the story of a struggle of great wealth against the inevitable moves from strangeness to a compelling and moving ending. There is in a lot of subversive humor in Taylor’s performance that she comes across as quite funny at times. Her vocal range dances from the shrill to the silly to the grand dame and in the last 30 minutes of the film she does some of her finest acting. Burton is rather cool and distant at first but builds his Angel of Death into a truly fine character study.

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The cinematography is gorgeous, and the stunning sun washed bone toned opulent glamour of the sets. The spare and haunting score by John Barry is perfect. I always come back to the film because it is profound. The Goforth Sardinian estate is architecturally fabulous and viewers are mesmerized by it. Taylor dresses the part and she acts the part. She’s pretentiously, deliberately over dramatic, arrogant, bitchy, lonely, vulnerable and terrified. It really does not matter what the film is about and there is some perverse pleasure in watching it.

“The Commentators’ Bible, The Rubin JPS Miqra’ot Gedolot: Exodus” by Michael Carasik— Volume II of the Rabbinic Bible

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Carasik, Michael. “The Commentators’ Bible, The Rubin JPS Miqra’ot Gedolot: Exodus”, Jewish Publication Society, 2015.

Volume II of the Rabbinic Bible

Amos Lassen

First published 500 years ago as the “Rabbinic Bible,” the biblical commentaries known as the “Miqra’ot Gedolot” have inspired and educated generations of Hebrew readers. With this edition, the voices of Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Nachmanides, Rashbam, and other medieval commentators come alive once more, speaking in a contemporary English translation annotated and explicated for lay readers.

Each page of “The Commentators’ Bible” contains several Hebrew verses from the book of Exodus, surrounded by both the 1917 and 1985 JPS translations and new English translations of the major commentators. This large-format volume is beautifully designed for ease of navigation among the many elements on each page, including explanatory notes and selected additional comments from the works of Bekhor Shor, Hizkuni, Abarbanel, Sforno, Gersonides, and others.

I love having this in my library because it gives me the classic commentators in translations that are fluid and accessible. I fell that using this is akin to having invitation to join the centuries-long conversation of Torah commentary and interpretation.   This commentary offers the torah in two versions of English and in Hebrew and the various commentaries offer insights that helped me understand that each person reading Torah will have their own personal interpretation. Dr. Carasik

manages to hit the key points in the commentaries that are included. Insights and discussions, although years apart seem to be with me as I study (and I do so every day) and I never feel alone when I share company with the great commentators.

“JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG”— Responsibility and Guilt

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“Judgment at Nuremberg”

Responsibility and Guilt

Amos Lassen

In basic moral terms, the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg seemed to be simple but involved and perplexing when we look at the realities and the question of how much responsibility and guilt the individual must bear for crimes committed or condoned by him on the order and in the interest of the state. (I never thought that I would write a statement like this knowing what terrible genocide had been conducted by the Nazis but thinking about it now, I realize that emotion often clouds judgment).

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Looking at the Nazis as we do in “Judgment at Nuremberg”, we become aware that potent reasoning and sympathy is given to the side of the Germans who claimed innocence of the Nazi crimes out of ignorance and national expediency. This emerges as a double-edged issue when the interest of those who seek justice is raised, they are urged to compromise their own moral principles and shirk responsibility.

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However, with the logic and fervor of advocates for humanity—and with the clarity and firmness of the judges who sat in the Nuremberg trials—director Stanley Kramer and his incisive scriptwriter, Abby Mann, have kept the issue exalted. They have cut through the specious arguments, the sentiments for mercy, and the reasoning for compromise, and have accomplished a fine dramatic statement of moral probity. They use their motion picture to clarify and communicate a stirring, sobering message to the world.

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The bulk of the action in this film at the focal point of the philosophical conflict is in the courtroom at Nuremberg. This is not a drama of a familiar, fundamental clash or of a hammering prosecutor and an obdurate lawyer for the defense. We have an American judge who is the symbol of legalistic fair play and the arbiter of the rights of man. It is the Judge who is being judged in this trial.

As the case progresses, the film relies r less on evidence than argument to ignite the explosive ideas. There is one poignant German witness, played touchingly by Montgomery Clift to testify to his sterilization on the order of one of the judges on trial. There is a fat young housewife that Judy Garland makes amazingly real to tell a horrifying tale of trumped-up charges of “racial contamination” against an elderly Jew.

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Things really get going when Richard Widmark as the American colonel prosecuting the case strikes boldly and with flashing indignation at the character of the men on trial and their defense is flung back with firmness by their counsel, performed masterfully by Maximilian Schell. It is in these fiery exchanges that the drama comes alive and the judge, played superbly by Spencer Tracy, is challenged most tryingly.

The three-hour movie is a bit overlong but because of its length it is able to address such complex and controversial issues such as global culpability for Hitler’s rise to power. As I said, this is a fictionalized account of one such Nuremberg Trial set long after high profile Nazis such as Hermann Goring, Albert Speer, and Rudolf Hess have been sentenced or committed suicide. Instead, Republican Chief Judge Dan Heywood (Spencer Tracy) arrives at Nuremberg to sit in judgment of Nazi judges, including Dr. Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster), a revered legal and constitutional scholar many Germans believe shouldn’t be on trial at all.

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As the Cold War emerges in the background and as the Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia and tensions flair in Berlin, Heywood and prosecuting attorneys like Colonel Lawson (Richard Widmark) are pressured to go easy on a people whose proximity to the rising Iron Curtain becomes essential to the free world’s defense strategy. In other words, they are asked to politicize their verdicts just as the German judges on trial had been pressured 15 years earlier.

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The case has many ramifications, as demonstrated by brilliant defense attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell). “Who is the braver man”, he asks, “one who flees Germany with the rise of the Third Reich, or the man who stays to try and serve his country’s best interests?” While judges like Janning admittedly ordered the sterilization of political undesirables, he is also shown to have personally saved the lives of others at his own peril.

And if Germany is guilty, what about the American industrialists who profited in rebuilding Germany’s military might, or Winston Churchill, who praised Hitler’s leadership as late as 1938? These are the questions that give the film its purpose and its teeth.

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Nothing is cut-and-dried, and screenwriter Abby Mann gives even minor characters such as Haywood’s aide (William Shatner, in one of his first film roles) and servants (Virginia Christine and Ben Wright) extraordinary depth. We see that ultimately, nationalism proves Germany’s undoing as a whole, and for these the judges who knew better and who were in a position to challenge Hitler, it is their willingness to deny justice in the name of expediency and their “country’s best interests.”

The film has incredible talent, with no less than four Oscar-nominated performances. Spencer Tracy is superb here and he is effortlessly expressive. Montgomery Clift, in one of his last roles, appears in just one long scene, but it’s quite extraordinary. As Rudolph Petersen, a victim of sterilization, Clift is unnervingly, harrowingly authentic. If he had not been a stat in Hollywood, we might think that he had been picked off the streets. Judy Garland is fantastic quite as Irene Hoffman, a German woman falsely convicted of illegal sexual relations with an old man, a Jew, who had been a friend of the family for years.

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All three were rightly nominated for Oscars, but the only actor to win the award for “Judgment at Nuremberg” was Maximilian Schell, who is never less than riveting as the mercurial, yet somehow humanist defense attorney.

Some have accused Richard Widmark of being one-note as prosecuting attorney Lawson, but his single-minded swaggering, as it turns out, is dramatically justified. Of the leading cast, only Burt Lancaster, in inadequate makeup, is a disappointment. He’s good but miscast, in a role better served by an actor less familiar to audiences. Marlene Dietrich is also excellent in an uncomfortable role she knew all too well: the German trying to come to terms with a simultaneous love and shame for her country.

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Kramer’s direction gives his top-drawer cast plenty of room, occasionally punching their scenes with interesting camera work that frequently circles actors during long stretches of dialogue with 360-degree tracking shots. Kramer uses the background to emphasize particular lines of dialogue, or to link characters to one another. He also seems to be one of the first to use the zoom as an aesthetic device. The film uses a marvelous device to get around the language barrier. In early scenes the Germans speak German and the Americans speak English. Everyone listens to translations on headphones from simultaneous interpreters shown behind a glass wall. Kramer’s camera slowly rises up above the level of the glass, and in a flash-zoom on Maximilian Schell, in mid-sentence his speech suddenly switches from German to English. In other words, German characters continue to speak in German, only we the audience hear all the dialogue in English. The effect is so seamless, one suspects, that many watching the film will not even notice what has happened.

The film makes good use of Nuremberg locations, and Ernest Gold’s score, mostly adaptations of military marches and folk songs (“Lili Marlene” is shrewdly worked into one scene with Dietrich) is very effective.

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The poster for the film has five different people listed above Maximilian Schell, including Judy Garland, who really only has three scenes in the film.  Yet, it was Schell, in the end, who won the Oscar as Best Actor. In Hollywood, stars are billed as stars and no one had heard of Schell before this film. Spencer Tracy, on the other hand, was a bone fide star, who seemed to be in the Best Actor race every year, whether he deserved to or not.  Most of the time it was not.  This is a perfect example.  He does a perfectly serviceable job as the lead judge in a later stage of the Nuremberg trials, judging Nazi judges and determining their culpability in the crimes of the Third Reich.  But his performance, just kind of the old man, wandering along through Nuremberg, surveying the damage done to the city and the country by the war and by the trials, also serves to illustrate the basic problems of the film. 

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As I stated, the length of the film is a problem and I understand the reason for it being so long was the director’s idea to see everything through Spencer Tracy’s eyes. I think it would have been so much better to concentrate on the trial and the courtroom where the best performances take place. To remind you we have Schell’s magnificent performance, the righteous indignation of Richard Widmark, the haunting, stylistic performance of Montgomery Clift, the tragic performance of Judy Garland.  While the screenplay somehow managed to win the Oscar (which isn’t as bad as the fact that this film which is it is the main problem.  It wants to do too many things and go too many places.

We don’t have films of this caliber any more and we don’t have films with rosters of stars as this one. It is not a film that is easy to forget. I still watch it at least once a year and I remain mesmerized by the performances.

“THE NEW RIJKSM– USEUM”— Rebuilding the Famous Museum

the new rijksmuseum

“THE NEW RIJKSM– USEUM” (“Het Nieuwe Rijksmuseum – De Film”)

Rebuilding the Famous Museum

Amos Lassen

Oeke Hoogendijk’s documentary about the fascinating and complicated process of the rebuilding of Holland’s most famous museum, The Rijksmuseum shows the people behind the scenes during the years of demolition, restoration, and political and financial debate. As we watch, we witness their efforts, joys and struggles with their one common goal—the love of art.

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It was 2003 when renovation began on one of the world’s greatest art museums began. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is home to masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer and others. It was supposed to reopen its doors in 2008 after five years of construction however from the start the project was in trouble. The museum had to deal with politicians, designers, curators and even the Dutch Cyclists Union while the workers struggled to complete the job. It finally opened five years later than expected and scheduled with costs exceeding half a billion dollars.

With a building so old we can imagine that renovation was bound to be hard, but it proved to be an intense battle between a bureaucracy, the shifty sands of public opinion and the Dutch Cyclists Union resulted in a change of plans, a change of directors and a cost that exceeded $500 million. The project began under the museum director Ronald de Leeuw (1996-2008) but ended under the current director Wim Pijbes (2008-present).

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We see the transformation of de Leeuw from an enthusiastic leader to a disenchanted man longing to extricate himself from the unending criticism. Even the architects wonder why they had to change the plans since they won the contract based on the design.’

“The New Rijksmuseum” shows what ego, red tape and 375 million Euros caused to happen”. The film began as a documentary for television and was shown in this country as a two-part, 228-minute opus. A year and a half later, director Oeke Hoogendijk has whittled it down to a more manageable 131-minute cut.

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The museum’s world-class collection of works are a mere backdrop to the makeover. Self-serving administrators working in the insular world of fine art, high culture, money and privilege were forced to reckon with forces of bureaucratic red tape and citizen advocacy. There were those with inflated egos who were determined to throw their weight around and made public service and the greater good low priorities. What happened is seemingly emblematic of polite society and indecisive administrators who met over and over with architects and interior designers to passive-aggressively hammer out tiny details. With the budget doubling and the delay stretching, general director Wim Pijbes pulled rank and ordered freshly painted walls to be made another color.

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Much of this documentary actually focuses on the problems and difficulties of renovating this grand Dutch museum that was founded in The Hague in 1800, moved to Amsterdam in 1808 and only relocated to its current location in 1885.  At the same time though, what definitely comes across is the large amount of thought and care that went into ensuring that things would really be done right.

 

Because most of the museum was closed to the public for pretty much 99%  during filming, what we see is what goes on behind the scenes including the curators and the restorers, the exhibit designers and the press officer and the people who actually pain the walls along with those who decide what color paints should be put on them.

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We also see the processes of adding to the collection and how this is gone about. Above all, we see the foolishness and morass of ego, entitlement and maddening administrative behavior.

“1971”— 1971 and the FBI

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“1971”

1971 and the FBI

Amos Lassen

Johanna Hamilton’s documentary about March 8, 1971 is the story of eight ordinary citizens who broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, a town just outside Philadelphia and took hundreds of secret files and shared them with the public. In doing so, they uncovered the FBI’s vast and illegal regime of spying and intimidation of Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.

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Even though there has been one of the most thorough investigations in this country’s history, the FBI never solved the mystery of the break-in, and the citizens’ identities have remained a secret…until now. For the first time, they have decided to come forward and speak out about their actions and this film is their story.

The film is composed of interviews with five of the eight people involved in a 1971 break-in that was conducted by an anonymous group calling itself the “Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI” that stole classified documents from the bureau’s office in Pennsylvania. The worst internal dossiers were then leaked to the press and publicly exposing the FBI’s COINTELPRO tactics, taken against victims ranging all the way from local pothead circles to influential academics to Martin Luther King Jr.

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The interviewees clarify the clashes within rank of what the FBI referred to as the “New Left” and the personal pressures that brought each of them to the point of rebellion) or, as the de facto team leader John Raines says, transitioning from “nonviolent protest to nonviolent disruption.”

We also see reenactment scenes that really are distracting but were probably necessary for the film to have run-time. Everything that appears on screen is dictated by what Hamilton’s interviewees are willing to volunteer. The film is less interested in the night of the break-in than the people who made it happen, and the resultant shockwaves in public policy are still filtered through their reminiscences.

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The film looks at what happened from a practical, middle-class American perspective. Participant Bob Williamson remarks about much more conservative he’s become in the intervening 43 years, but fails to give specifics. Following the nullification-by-trial of charges against an overlapping group of draft-board raiders known as the Camden 28, which included Williamson and Forsyth, we are not sure how we feel about the restitutive power of the judiciary. The questions that the film deals with are about the government’s capacity for surveillance and harassment, and the impact one person can, in fact, have in protest—remain wide open.

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The break in robbed the FBI of all its files and this was done in order to confirm for the first time that there was indeed government surveillance, infiltration, and disruption of anti-war, feminist, and civil rights groups and the lives of individuals because of their political opinions by the investigative agency. Five of the eight suburban activists in the self-styled Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI tell first-time director Johanna Hamilton how they methodically pulled off the theft, leaked the documents, and nervously eluded a massive FBI dragnet, well after the statute of limitations ran out. Recruited by a physics professor, the conspirators, including teachers and a social worker, give first person, step-by-step accounts of how they formed a tight-knit band to systematically survey a surprisingly soft target. Additionally, they learned the necessary burglary and stake out skills. Key to their success was their clever idea to hit the office on March 8, 1971, when most everybody, including guards at the courthouse across the street, would be distracted by the heavyweight championship bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

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Still unsolved is the unidentified ninth member who backed out yet was pressured by agents to divulge the plot, leaving the rest in constant fear that a pointed finger would lead to jail.

Variety says that the film is “A well-constructed, vividly detailed account of the FBI break-in that exposed the agency’s shocking illegal practices to the public.”

“THE STORM MAKERS”— Cambodia’s Human Trafficking

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“THE STORM MAKERS”

Cambodia’s Human Trafficking

Amos Lassen

Guillaume Suon’s “The Storm Makers” is the story of Aya, a Cambodian peasant girl former slave who at the age of 16, the young Cambodian peasant was sold to work as a maid in Malaysia. While in Malaysia, she was exploited for two years and received no salary. She was beaten and abused. When she could return to her village, she was just as poor as she was before she left and she brought with her a child conceived during rape.

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The film looks at modern-day slavery in Cambodia by giving viewers the fate of this young woman and the daily lives of two human traffickers, a local recruiter and the head of an agency. Cambodian people call these traffickers “Mey Kechol” (the Storm Makers).

More than half a million Cambodians work abroad and a third of these have been sold as slaves. Most are young women who are held as prisoners and who are forced to work in terrible conditions, sometimes as prostitutes, in Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan.

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The “storm makers” use deception to funnel a move poor and illiterate people across the country’s borders. French-Cambodian filmmaker Guillaume Soon presents here an eye-opening look at the cycle of poverty, despair and greed that fuels this brutal modern slave trade. The film provides brutally candid testimony as it exposes this horrible practice and it is an eye-opening look at the complex cycle of poverty, despair and greed of this brutal modern slave trade.

The story is told from the perspectives of three people, a former slave whose return home is greeted with bitterness and scorn by her mother; a successful trafficker who works with local recruiters to move the slaves across borders, and a mother who supplies the recruiter with not only local girls, but also with her own daughter.

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Aya was eventually able to run away but after she was recaptured, she was brutally rape, only to be captured and raped. When she returned home with an infant son, her mother greeted her not with anger that her daughter had come back and brought with her another mouth to feed instead of money.

Cambodians call places like the village that Aya came from “ghost towns.” Director Suon and his assistant director, Phally Ngoeum, researched and filmed for three years, spending long periods in Cambodia’s villages and cities, and were able to gain the trust of both the victims and perpetrators of trafficking.

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Pou Houy, 52, is a successful trafficker who runs a recruitment agency in Phnom Penh and claims to have sold more than 500 girls. He is surprisingly outspoken and shameless and expresses no remorse, rather he sees himself as a smart businessman, a good provider and even a good Christian. Although his company has been accused of trafficking by the local media, he has never been investigated by the police and continues to recruit young and poor Cambodians to work abroad. His business depends on local recruiters, who bring him candidates from their rural communities. One of these, Ming Dy, sold her own daughter and continues to bring Houy h new recruits from her village. She justifies her actions by claiming she has no other way to pay her bills.

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One of the most emotional scenes shows Ming Dy’s husband who cannot bring himself to speak to his daughter when she calls from a new job abroad, where she earns a dollar a day. He says that he told his wife not to sell young people from the village—. “Buddha condemns those who sell people like animals. I could have sold the bike and the oxen to pay back our debts. . . . this money will bring us bad luck.” In another, a woman shows a picture of her 20-year-old daughter, who committed suicide in Cambodia after being trafficked. says Ming Dy. The mother tearfully warns a new candidate for migration to not go.

Pou Houy, the trafficker, supports not only his immediate family, but a dozen or so other relatives as well. His modern home, fancy car and concrete driveway are in sharp contrast with his relatives’ house right next door and its dirt road. But food is plentiful, and they are all better off than most people. He had been starving before he began his business and he promised himself never to be poor again. He tells us that in Cambodia one has only two choices: to be a slave or a trafficker.the storm5

We can only wonder how a country can become a state where trafficking family members and neighbors become acceptable. We are told that about five or six years ago, during the financial crisis, a lot of factories shut down in Cambodia and thousands lost their jobs and had to find a way to earn money. Trafficking networks took power because they were able to send thousands and thousands of people abroad — for them it was a golden opportunity, because people were starving.

The film not only explores the political and economic roots of human trafficking but also the moral choices being made by those on both sides of the equation. Cambodian migrants have been reduced to the status of slaves. They are transparent, or worse, completely invisible.

Both men and women are affected by the trafficking and despite recent economic growth, 26% of the adult population cannot read and write and nearly 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The ongoing political tensions in the country combined with the significant unemployment triggered by the 2008 financial crisis led to hundreds of thousands of people desperately looking for work.

The director lived in Cambodia for seven years, including in the country’s villages, where most of Cambodia’s trafficking victims come from. Nearly everyone knows someone who has taken the journey, and villagers were quick to point out the “storm makers” within the community. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, Suon and his small team had to spend time gaining the trust of locals. This is film is the result of those years.

“GRINDER”— The Hustler and the Runaway

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“Grinder”

The Hustler and the Runaway

Amos Lassen

“Grinder” is a film about a teenage runaway, Luke, who is seduced to move into New York City by a model agent from his troubled suburban home. An older photographer, Tim, becomes obsessed with Luke and tries to pull him out of the dark world he is sinking into.

‘The film stars Jon Fleming, Brandon Ruckdashel, and newcomer Tyler Austin. Brandon also wrote Grinder and it is his directorial debut.’

Grinder is currently being submitted to film festivals and is expected to make a 2016 premier. A trailer has been released.

“LONDON SPY”—- A Romance Drama About a Gay Spy

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“LONDON SPY”

A Romance Drama About a Gay Spy

Amos Lassen

Being in early November on the BBC Two, Out gay actor Ben Whishaw returns to television as a romantic young gay man who is drawn into the nefarious world of espionage in “London Spy”, a five-part miniseries. The series is the story of aromance that happens by chance between two people from very different worlds, one from the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, the other from a world of clubbing and youthful excess.

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Danny (Whishaw) is a hedonistic, romantic young man who seems to have no direction in life and who falls Alex (Edward Holcroft) who is anti-social, brilliant and enigmatic. Just as the two of them realize that they’re perfect for each other, Alex is found dead. Danny has to decide if he is ready to fight for the truth in the complex and codified world of British espionage.

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The mini series was written by gay writer Tom Rob Smith and directed by by Jakob Verbruggen. It is filed with dark intrigue. Charlotte Rampling and Jim Broadbent also star.