Category: MONDO

National Geographic & Nat Geo Wild Reveals Full Schedule For 2021-22 TV Season

National Geographic has revealed its full upfront slate for the upcoming 2021-22 season, with “The Hot Zone: Anthrax,” starring Daniel Dae Kim and Tony Goldwyn, among the programs for the Disney-owned brand.

Nat Geo’s Content president Courteney Monroe touted the offerings during the network’s upfront presentation on Tuesday, which included previews from far-flung locales. Popular series such as  “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” “Secrets of the Zoo” and “Life Below Zero” will be returning, while Shark Week celebrates its 10th anniversary. Garth Brooks will narrate “National Parks,” a new series that will showcase the grandeur of America’s various wildlife locations, and “Free Solo” star Alex Honnold will a climbing team up 1,000 feet of sheer rock on a remote island in the Amazon jungle for “Explorer.”

See National Geographic’s full 2021-22 Upfront Slate:

Blockbuster Natural History Series and Events National Parks — New Series

Narrated by Garth Brooks, the new series will turn its state-of-the-art cameras on the country’s homegrown beauty and showcase the grandeur of America’s national parks. Each park offers something unique, from mountain lions on the precipice of the Grand Canyon to the active volcanoes in Hawaii. “National Parks” will give viewers an up-close and personal feel of the most spectacular vistas and wildlife over 10 spectacular locations across the country. From east to west and north to south, this series will awaken the sense of wonder and exploration in everyone. It’s the land that defined and inspired the American story, revealing to the world the diversity and wonder of the most beautiful continent on Earth. Brooks also serves as an executive producer for Wildstar Films alongside Dan Rees. Myles Connolly and Ben Wallis are supervising producers.

SharkFest — Renewed for Summer 2022

National Geographic’s 10th annual “SharkFest” will take a close look at one of nature’s most feared — and often misunderstood — predators. From the latest developments in shark research and preservation to new ways to predict shark attacks, the frenzy of “SharkFest” programming is sure to captivate viewers with truth that is stranger than fiction.

New Scripted Series The Hot Zone: Anthrax — Limited Series

The six-hour scientific thriller “The Hot Zone: Anthrax,” the follow-up to National Geographic’s hit limited series “The Hot Zone,” will premiere on Nov. 28 and air as a three-night event. With the world still reeling after the attacks on 9/11, America faces a second wave — the anthrax letters. Targeting journalists and politicians, mail with anthrax powder kills five people and causes panic across the United States. While tracking down the killer, FBI Special Agent Matthew Ryker (Daniel Dae Kim) will find himself ensnared in an unstable web of psychological warfare. Bruce Ivins (Tony Goldwyn) is the brilliant microbiologist who becomes embroiled in the hunt. Ridley Scott, David Zucker, Jordan Sheehan, Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson serve as executive producers.

New Unscripted Series Brain Games on the Road (Magical Elves)

In this half-hour fun-filled series, National Geographic takes fan-favorite “Brain Games” out of the studio and on the road, giving average Americans the chance to test their brainpower as they take on friends and family in an epic battle of the brains. In each episode, host Chuck Nice pits two teams of four players against each other in a friendly competition for all ages filled with mind-bending games designed for at-home play—guaranteed to make you smarter. The winning team takes home the coveted “Brain Games” trophy and, of course, bragging rights. “Brain Games” is executive produced by Casey Kriley, Jo Sharon, James Rowley, and co-executive produced by Lisa Pegnato for Magical Elves.

Called To The Wild (ITV Entertainment)

Would you trust your best friend with your life? In a brand-new adventure series, top human-dog teams depend on each other to survive and thrive in the wild. Each week three new teams of man or woman and their dogs embark on a 10-day wilderness challenge testing the limits of their survival skills and the strength of their indelible bond. The team that demonstrates the most teamwork, grit and ingenuity at the end of 10 days is declared the winner, proving they have what it takes when they are “Called To The Wild.” Produced by ITV America’s ITV Entertainment, “Called To The Wild” is based on an original format created by Marshal Bishop Productions. Executive producers are Jordana Hochman, Eric Hoberman and Steve Rankin for ITV Entertainment, as well as Mark Wescott and Duncan Gaudin for Marshal Bishop.

Into the Unknown (W.T.)

This series takes audiences inside the minds of elite adventure athletes through transformative stories of confronting fear, devastating personal loss and Mother Nature at her harshest. Through intimate interviews and self-shot archival footage from surfers, climbers, snowboarders, polar explorers and kayakers, we witness the mental, physical and emotional toll of their high-stakes endeavors. Pioneering elite adventure athletes featured in the series include professional snowboarder Travis Rice and arctic explorer Sarah Landry. “Into the Unknown” is a front-row seat to adventure—and what it takes to adapt when something goes catastrophically wrong. Executive producers are E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Anna Barnes and Pagan Harleman

The ’80s: Top Ten (Nutopia)

Pop culture icon Rob Lowe takes viewers down memory lane with six entertaining and thought-provoking top 10 countdowns of 1980s pop culture, as voted by a panel of experts. Revisit the most memorable moments, gadgets, toys, fast foods, commercials and streetwear of this iconic decade, and see which items our panel put at the top of each list. With stories you’ve never heard before from stars who were at the heart of the action, from the launch of MTV and the Apple Macintosh to the tale of Teddy Ruxpin and Wendy’s Super Bar, this series will remind you why the aftershocks of the ‘80s are still felt today. “The ’80s: Top Ten” is executive produced by Lowe, Jane Root, Matt Edmonds, and Nicola Moody for Nutopia.

Specials Explorer (ABC News and Lincoln Square Productions)

National Geographic’s “Explorer,” a hallmark of Nat Geo storytelling since it first launched in 1985, is set to return this upfront season as a series of specials produced in partnership with ABC News, who will bring familiar faces to the series. GMA co-anchors Michael Strahan and Robin Roberts follow the progress of the expeditions, especially at critical turning points. Earlier this year, “Explorer” embarked on two groundbreaking scientific expeditions—one above the Earth and one below. An elite climbing team guided by Alex Honnold, the professional climber of critically acclaimed feature doc “Free Solo,” will be the first to ascent up 1,000 feet of sheer rock to the top of Tepui, a remote “island in the sky” deep in the Amazon jungle. Their mission is to deliver 80-year-old National Geographic Explorer and biologist Bruce Means in search of undiscovered species. Then in the other expedition, Dr. Bill Stone, one of the most experienced caver in the world, has a lifelong quest to hold the record for going deeper beneath the Earth than any human. Stone will lead an expedition to the bottom of the Cheve Cave, 8,000+ feet underneath Mexico’s Sierra Juarez mountains. “Explorer” will cover timely topics, a featured magazine story and more, further deepening viewers’ understanding of the world through provocative storytelling. For Lincoln Square Productions, Drew Pulley is executive producer, and Jeanmarie Condon is senior executive producer.

Returning Adventure Series Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted — Renewed for Season Four (Studio Ramsay)

Gordon Ramsay laces his boots, grabs his knives and buckles up as he hits the road to embark on more exhilarating adventures, exploring world cultures through food in National Geographic’s “Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted.” The multiple Michelin-starred chef and Ironman athlete feasts his way around the globe—risking life and limb in daring missions—in pursuit of culinary inspiration and edible excellence. In the most ambitious and far-reaching season yet, Ramsay partakes in culinary customs, learns about delicious delicacies and tastes fresh flavors unique to each region under the guidance of the local experts and food legends he meets along the way. “Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted” is executive produced by Gordon Ramsay, Lisa Edwards, Jon Kroll and Tom Willis for Studio Ramsay.

Life Below Zero — Renewed for Season 15 (BBC Studios)

LBZ: Next Generation — Renewed for Season Two

LBZ: Port Protection — Renewed for Season Four

The common theme in “Life Below Zero” and Port Protection, Alaska is people who have left traditional society behind. They have chosen a different life, with varying degrees of danger and challenges, in their remote regions of Alaska. In “Life Below Zero: Next Generation,” an all-new cast has abandoned contemporary life in favor of freedom in the brutal Alaskan wilderness. They speak to the growing dissatisfaction the current generation has with technology and convenience, which is ubiquitous in modern life. Cameras capture the cast members as they rush to prepare for and survive the frozen months of winter to the spring thaw. Executive Producers are Travis Shakespeare and Joseph Litzinger for BBC Studios.

Running Wild With Bear Grylls — Renewed for Season Three (Electus, a Propagate Company and The Natural Studios)

Last season, the hit outdoor adventure series “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” found its new home on National Geographic with bigger action and wilder destinations than ever before. World-renowned survivalist Bear Grylls returns for another season, leading a brand-new slate of celebrities into the wildest corners of the planet for epic, life-changing adventures that will challenge their perceived limitations. Each week, a new celebrity guest leaves the luxury of their homes to join Bear for a no-holds-barred journey through some of the most extreme environments in the world. Together, they must rely on bushcraft techniques to survive each dangerous location while pushing through both mental and physical limits to face ambitious obstacles that will make even the bravest shudder. “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” is produced by Electus, a Propagate Company, and The Natural Studios. For Electus and The Natural Studios, Bear Grylls serves as executive producer along with Chris Grant, Drew Buckley, Ben Silverman, Howard Owens, Liz Schulze, Rob Buchta and Delbert Shoopman.

Trafficked With Mariana Van Zeller — Renewed for Season Two (Muck Media)

Award-winning journalist Mariana van Zeller continues her harrowing exploration into the underworld’s most dangerous black markets. Armed with National Geographic’s trademark inside access, each episode follows Mariana as she works her way inside a different black market or global trafficking network—from meth, marijuana and stolen cars to outlaw bikers clubs and Amazon mafias—where she meets the players and learns the business, all in an effort to understand the inner workings of the world’s multitrillion-dollar shadow economy. For Muck Media, executive Producers are Mariana van Zeller, Darren Foster and Jeff Plunkett.

Wicked Tuna — Renewed for Season 11 (Pilgrim Media Group)

Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks — Renewed for Seasons Eight and Nine

National Geographic’s hit series “Wicked Tuna” is back on the high seas. Follow a group of salty commercial fishermen from the nation’s oldest seaport in Gloucester, Massachusetts, as they earn their living through rod-and-reel fishing in pursuit of the prized bluefin tuna. Later this year, the popular spinoff “Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks” returns. The series follows a southern fleet of top captains battling to catch bluefin in the dangerous waters off the coast of North Carolina. This season, they face the most treacherous weather in the series’ history, and captains must work together to catch the elusive bluefin. “Wicked Tuna” is executive produced by Craig Piligian and Mike Nichols, and co-executive produced by Lorene Machado for Pilgrim Studios.

Events/Specials Best of NGC Week — Premieres December 2021

National Geographic ends 2021 with a week of special encore presentations of its wildly popular programming, including “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted,” “Running Wild With Bear Grylls,” “Life Below Zero” and more!

Earth Day — April 22, 2022

National Geographic celebrates Earth Day by showcasing series and specials, such as the brand’s landmark natural history programming, to engender a deeper love of the Earth that enables fans to see the world like they never have before.

National Parks Week

America, get ready for your close-up. National Geographic’s new series will turn its state-of-the-art cameras on the country’s homegrown beauty and showcase the grandeur of America’s national parks. “National Parks Week” will give viewers an up-close and personal feel of the most spectacular vistas and wildlife in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Hawaii Volcanoes… just to mention a few.

See National Geographic Wild’s full 2021-22 Upfront Slate:

RETURNING SERIES The Incredible Dr. Pol — Season 19 Returns Summer 2021 (National Geographic Studios)

In this season of “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” the doctor and his team tackle a caseload like no other. The action is non-stop as they treat the large and the small, from hustling to save a flailing Arabian horse to caring for a tiny Chihuahua left immobile after a major car accident. A variety of critters, including chinchillas, guinea pigs and geckos, keep the vets busy. The crew’s dedication is far-reaching, from customized house calls to around-the-clock critical care. There’s never a dull week, especially one that includes back-to-back emergency treatment for two dogs from the same home—a lab with a mangled leg on one day followed by life-threatening labor complications just days later for the other dog.

Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet — Season 10 Returns Fall 2021 (Lucky Dog Films)

Making house calls in the far reaches of the Great North is a daunting task in the least, considering hundreds of miles may separate the houses. That challenge doesn’t stop Dr. Michelle Oakley from performing her many duties as a veterinarian in one of the most rugged environments on Earth. In addition to running an animal clinic in Haines, Alaska, she makes house calls, sometimes driving for long stretches through desolate wilderness to check on a patient. This series documents how Dr. Oakley juggles being a full-time vet, wife and mom with a sense of humor and devotion.

Secrets of the Zoo: Columbus — Season Five Returns Winter 2022 (Remedy Television)

“Secrets of the Zoo” is back with a fifth season of unprecedented access to one of the nation’s largest and most popular zoos: The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium! Featuring the dramatic, hilarious and heartwarming stories of what it takes to care for the zoo’s 10,000 animals across almost 12,000 acres of facilities, this series takes viewers behind the scenes to witness America’s favorite zoo at work. This fan-favorite shines a light on veterinary care, feeding, live birth and expanding habitats, along with all the wildlife and wild people who work together to make it all happen!

Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa — Season Three Returns Winter 2022 (Remedy Television)

“Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa” embraces the wild side of the Sunshine State with a stellar zoo team devoted to an exotic cast of animals, from black bear cubs to otters, panthers to manatees, and more!

Heartland Docs, DVM — Season Four Returns Spring 2022 (Glass Entertainment)

In Hartington, Nebraska, Drs. Ben and Erin Schroeder put thousands upon thousands of miles on their truck as they crisscross America’s Heartland, employing their expertise to treat all creatures great and small. From furry pets at the clinic to herds of cattle by the hundreds, few vets have the skill and heart to take on the unique challenges that come their way every day. Whether they are up against intense summer heat, bitter cold, white-out blizzards or impassable roads, the Schroeders will do whatever is necessary to treat animals in distress, including opening their clinic on the weekends with the help of their sons Chase and Charlie or making farm calls in the middle of the frigid night. The Schroeders’ dedication to their hometown, and the animals that are a part of it, is what makes them invaluable members of their local community.

Critter Fixers: Country Vets — Season Three Returns Spring 2022 (Hit + Run)

Lifelong friends Drs. Vernard Hodges and Terrence Ferguson are back for another wildly extraordinary new season of their hit series “Critter Fixers: Country Vets.” The docs, who own and operate Critter Fixer Veterinary Hospitals, located 100 miles south of Atlanta, work around the clock with their loving staff to bring heart, soul and a lot of humor to their treatment and care of more than 20,000 patients a year. Between emergency visits to the office and farm calls throughout rural Georgia, this special team constantly encounters unique cases. For the Critter Fixer team, there is no such thing as “normal.”

New Specials and Stunts Vet Appreciation Week — Week-Long Event In June 

Nat Geo Wild is dedicating an entire week to the hardworking professionals who spend their lives improving the health and welfare of animals of all kinds. This programming event celebrates the professionals behind its top veterinary series, including “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” Drs. Erin and Ben Schroeder of “Heartland Docs,” “DVM,” Dr. Hodges and Dr. Ferguson of “Critter Fixers: Country Vets” and “Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet.” Vet Appreciation Week uncovers the grueling work, specialized skills and heartfelt dedication it takes to become a veterinary hero.

Vetsgiving — Weekend-long Event from Nov. 25-28, 2021

This weekend-long event features the heartwarming network vets, including “Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet,” the vet duos of “Heartland Docs,” “DVM” and “Critter Fixers: Country Vets;” the network’s top series, “The Incredible Dr. Pol” and the fan-favorite “Secrets of the Zoo.” Highlighting these seasoned professionals and their empathy, love and devotion, Vetsgiving is the ultimate viewing feast to enjoy with the ones you love.

Big Cat Week — Winter 2022

Partnering with the National Geographic Society’s initiatives to safeguard big cats and their critical habitats, Nat Geo Wild kicks off its 11th Big Cat Week in Winter 2022. Recognizing how big cats are continuing to face big challenges, Nat Geo Wild’s Big Cat Week sheds light on the issues that could trigger many species’ extinction. Headlining the event is the premiere of “The Way of the Cheetah (WT)” from world-renowned big-cat filmmakers and National Geographic Explorers Beverly and Dereck Joubert. Other titles featuring the Jouberts include “Relentless Enemies,” “Ultimate Enemies,” “Eye of the Leopard,” “Big Cat Odyssey,” “Living With Big Cats” and “Eternal Enemies.”

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Drew Barrymore Regrets Working With Woody Allen, Was ‘Gaslit’ Into Dismissing Allegations

While speaking with Dylan Farrow on “The Drew Barrymore Show,” the actor and talk show host said that she was “gaslit” about the narrative surrounding Woody Allen when she accepted the role in the 1996 film “Everyone Says I Love You.”

“There was no higher career calling card than to work with Woody Allen,” Barrymore said. “Then I had children, and it changed me because I realized that I was one of the people who was basically gaslit into not looking at a narrative beyond what I was being told. And I see what’s happening in the industry now and that is because of you making that brave choice. So thank you for that.”

Allen was recently the subject of the new HBO docuseries “Allen v. Farrow,” which examines the events that led up to 7-year-old Farrow, the daughter of Allen and Mia Farrow, accusing her father of sexually abusing her in 1992. The molestation allegations made national headlines and prompted an investigation by the Connecticut State Police. After the New York Department of Social Services found “no credible evidence” to support the allegation in 1993, Allen continued to receive critical praise in Hollywood and pump out one feature film a year.

A few years after the controversy died down, Barrymore starred alongside Allen, Julia Roberts, Alan Alda and Edward Norton in “Everyone Says I Love You.” She now joins a number of other actors who worked with Allen and have since spoken out against him including Kate Winslet, Selena Gomez, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, Rebecca Hall and Rachel Brosnahan. Farrow told Barrymore that she was brave for apologizing and having her on the show to tell her story.

“I’m trying not to cry right now,” Farrow told Barrymore. “It’s so meaningful because it’s so easy for me to say, ‘Of course you shouldn’t work with him. He’s a jerk. He’s a monster.’ I just find it incredibly brave and incredibly generous that you would say to me that my story and what I went through was important enough to reconsider that.”

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Leslie Odom Jr. Joins ‘Knives Out 2’ Cast

Oscar nominee and Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr. is the latest A-lister to join star Daniel Craig in “Knives Out 2,” the star-studded sequel to Rian Johnson’s 2019 hit whodunnit.

In what has quickly become a who’s who of Hollywood A-list talent, Odon joins a lineup that includes Kathryn Hahn, Janelle Monáe, Dave Bautista and Edward Norton.

Craig reprises his role as detective Benoit Blanc for the franchise’s next installment. Details surrounding the film, written and directed by Johnson, are being kept under wraps, but production is set to begin this summer in Greece.

Johnson will also produced the film, alongside Ram Bergman, under their T-Street banner.

In March, Netflix bought the rights to “Knives Out 2” and “Knives Out 3” for more than $450 million, after the original “Knives Out” — starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Ana de Armas and the late Christopher Plummer — earned more than $300 million at the box office and an Oscar nomination for Johnson’s original screenplay.

Odom most recently starred as Sam Cooke in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami,” where the star earned two Oscar nominations for best supporting actor and best original song. The actor also performed the track, “Speak Now,” during the ceremony. The multi-hyphenate entertainer nabbed the 2016 Tony Award for lead actor in a musical for his performance as Aaron Burr in the Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton.”

In addition to “Knives Out,” Odom is also set to appear in the upcoming Sopranos prequel “The Many Saints of Newark” and John Ridley’s sci-fi film “Needle in a Timestack.”

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of Odom’s casting.

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‘Schitt’s Creek’ Executive Producer Andrew Barnsley Appointed President Of Toronto Film School

Andrew Barnsley, executive producer of “Schitt’s Creek,” is joining the Toronto Film School as president.

Barnsley has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for outstanding comedy series for “Schitt’s Creek.” He is also an eight-time Canadian Screen Award nominee and winner for his work on “Schitt’s Creek,” “Jann” and “Spun Out.”

“I’m honored to now lead Toronto Film School, mentor students, support a broad range of creative voices and shape curriculum alongside the school’s world-class staff and faculty,” Barnsley said. “I’m a big believer in post-secondary education, that cultural change begins in the classroom, and that meaningful and relevant instruction builds confidence in students to make their mark on the world.”

Barnsley had previously served as Toronto Film School’s executive producer in residence for the past four years, collaborating closely with faculty, students and alumni.

“Toronto Film School graduates will not only be ‘set-ready,’ but ‘industry-ready,’” Barnsley added. “Confident that they have mastered their craft and gained important insights into an industry that is fast-paced, exciting and demanding.”

Barnsley will continue to serve as CEO of Project 10 Productions, and views the dual role as a benefit to both organizations, enabling him “to bring industry to the school and the school to industry.”

“My dream is to see Toronto Film School students on the sets of every major production in Canada,” Barnsley said. “It’s not always an easy industry, so I want to foster purpose, resiliency and confidence in our students.”

“For our faculty, students and community, this news signals an exciting transformation,” said Dr. Rick Davey, the outgoing president of Yorkville University and Toronto Film School. “Andrew will strengthen important connections to industry, government and other educational institutions.”

“As ‘Schitt’s Creek’ demonstrated with its unprecedented Emmy sweep earlier this year, there is no doubt that Canada’s film and television production sector is among the world’s best,” said Reynolds Mastin, president of the Canadian Media Producers Association. “As Andrew steps into this new role, he brings a clear vision of what it takes to succeed in today’s globally competitive industry, which will be of tremendous value to the emerging production talent in this country.”

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1844 Ent. Nabs U.S. Distribution, International To Argentina’s ‘A School In Cerro Hueso’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Los Angeles-based company 1844 Entertainment has acquired U.S. distribution and international sales rights to Argentine Betania Cappato’s feature debut “Una escuela en Cerro Hueso” (“A School in Cerro Hueso”).

The autism-themed film, inspired in Cappato’s direct family events, earned a special mention at March’s Berlinale Generation Kplus sidebar.

1844 Entertainment plans to release the movie in U.S. theaters in fourth quarter 2021, supported by a virtual cinema in the case of theaters not yet running by then at a full capacity.

“A School in Cerro Hueso” narrates the inner journey of Ema, a six-year-old girl diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

When Ema reaches school age, her parents move with her from Argentina’s Santa Fe to a humble coastal town at the shore of the Paraná River, where the only school that accepted her application is located.

There, the family will begin a new life as Ema slowly starts to open up to the world around her.

“We are glad to distribute the film in the U.S., representing also the international rights, because, in addition to having appreciated the work of the director with child actors, we were pleasantly fascinated by the story and the delicacy with which it have been narrated by Cappato,” said Tommaso Cerqueglini at 1844 Entertainment.

The film also “led us to reflect on the current period that the world is experiencing, on how suddenly our lives have changed and the momentum of people wanting to rediscover lost hopes,” he added.

Clementina Folmer toplines the cast as the baby girl, alongside actors Mara Bestelli (“El Invierno”) and Pablo Seijo (“La Flor”) as her parents.

The film is produced by Cappato and Iván Fund in co-production with Argentina’s Laura Mara Tablón, Rita Cine and Insomnia Films. Tres Sonido outfit is attached as an associate producer.

1844 often brings international festival hits and critically-acclaimed titles to audiences across the U.S.. Recent examples are two 2018 movies: Marcelo Martinessi’s “The Heiresses,” a Berlin Silver Bear winner and which took the best Latin American film prize at San Sebastian, and Benjamín Naishtat’s “Rojo,” which won best director at San Sebastian.

“Social themes are always a cornerstone in independent cinema titles, as was the case with ‘The Heiresses’, Gustavo Sánchez’s ‘I Hate New York’ and recently Shahrbanoo Sadat’s ‘The Orphanage,’” Cerqueglini argued.

“The expectations with ‘Cerro Hueso’ are high enough in relation to the market that this kind of film has in the U.S.. After the success it had in Berlin and the high demand for it at many other festivals, it will be an excellent opportunity to appreciate it in the world,” he added.

As its U.S. distributor, 1844 Entertainment plans to launch on June 25  – at both theaters and via a virtual cinema scheme  – Macedonian Teona Strugar Mitevska’s drama “God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya,”  winner of the Ecumenical Jury Prize at the 69th Berlin Film Festival.

Upcoming 1844 releases also encompass Italo-Argentine Maura Delpero’s “Maternal,” an Ecumenical Jury Prize winner at Locarno, and Carlo Sironi’s “Sole,” which garnered the European Discovery Prize at the 2020 European Film Awards.

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‘F9’ Review: A Less Furious Sequel Coasts Along On A Family Plot, As Vin Diesel And John Cena Play Battling Toretto Brothers

It leaked out a while back that the new “Fast and Furious” film, “F9,” would feature a sequence set in space — a setting that sounded, on paper, like it might be the logical culmination of all those spectacular gravity-defying leaps that the cars in this series are perpetually making. Yet I’m not sure if anyone will be prepared for what happens at the climax of “F9.”

Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), who’ve been quibbling all through the movie, are behind the wheel of a red Pontiac Fiero that’s been outfitted with a rocket launcher. The car is hitched to the back of a space shuttle, which is preparing to send them into orbit; as they fumble around with makeshift yellow space helmets that look like they belong on a pair of 1960s aquanauts (all that’s missing is the rear-projection fakery), the sequence turns into pure cheeseball comedy. Roman, with his you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me skepticism, and Tej, with his numbers-based quizzicality, are a funny duo, and that’s fine, but as the two head into space, with weightless candy wrappers flying around the car, all to accomplish a mission that doesn’t strike us as either plausible or necessary, the scene inspires the wrong kind of funny — the sound of an audience checking out of the movie, because the movie suddenly seems ridiculous.

We’re thinking: Is this when the “Fast and Furious” series jumps the shark?

Not so fast. At that moment, there’s no doubt that the movie walks right up to the shark, takes a good hard look at it, maybe even climbs aboard it, but doesn’t totally, fatally jump it. For one thing, there’s way too much going on apart from that borderline ludicrous space-camp interlude. But I’m not sure if that’s the kind of close call “F9” wanted to be remembered for.

The space sequence doesn’t last too long, and doesn’t pretend to be important. A more serious issue with the movie is that while it’s got a standard is-this-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it? MacGuffin of a plot — can the villain put together the two halves of a small geodesic dome called Project Aries, which will allow him to control all the world’s computers and advanced weapons systems? (just writing that sentence, the suspense is eating me alive) — too much of what happens in “F9” feels stuck in the past.

That villain, for instance, is the brother of Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto. In a series of flashbacks, we see how both of them, when they were teenagers in 1989, saw their sports-car-driver father get blown to smithereens in a high-flying accident during a California speedway race. From that moment on, the brothers became estranged (the reason the accident happened is why), with Dom, played as a kid by Vinnie Bennett, growing up to become the loyal chrome-domed growler of fuel-injected velocity we’ve come to know and love, and his brother, played as a kid by Finn Cole, growing up to become the jealous, glowering, pumped-up but petulant Jakob (John Cena), who wants to rule the world in order to top his older brother.

Beyond that, the movie keeps looking back over its shoulder — at all the spy-team-as-family relationships the series has established, and at one key character we thought was deceased (the actor’s name is right there in the credits, but I’ll refrain from mentioning him). You could say that when a blockbuster film series is 10 movies — and two decades — old (“The Fast and the Furious” will celebrate its 20th anniversary in just a month), it has more than earned the right to look back. But the way franchises generally work is that good sequels look forward, or at least fixate on the present. In the ’80s, when Hollywood was going sequel-crazy but hadn’t quite figured out how to do it yet, a lot of bad sequels (like “Poltergeist II: The Other Side” and “Rambo III” and “Back to the Future Part II”) spent too much of their time meditating on what had already been. That was the films’ way of saying to the audience, “Remember when you all made this a hit?” Rarely is that an effective strategy.

The last “Fast and Furious” film, 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious” (I’m not counting the mano-a-mano spinoff “Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”), had a present-tense thrum and the hook of a good espionage thriller, with Toretto set up to look like he’d betrayed his comrades. The director, F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”), did a sleekly sensational job. “F9” is directed, once again, by Justin Lin, who put his extravagant stamp on “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and made the next three entries in the series, but considering that “F9” is Lin’s fifth “F and F” film and his first one in eight years, it goes through the motions with more energy than intoxication.

Okay, but what about the so-thrilling-it’s-palpitating action? Early on, our heroes, in several different vehicles, are in the midst of a rather ho-hum chase through the island greenery of Montequinto (watching it, I flashed back to “Return of the Jedi” and thought: Forests, for some reason, are not great backdrops for high-speed chases). They finally reach one of those endless stretching bridges made of rope and wooden slats. When the first car goes over it, leaving the bridge falling to pieces in its wake, it’s probably the suspenseful high point of the movie. Then Toretto approaches what is now a mile-wide canyon, and crosses over it — by somehow driving his car so that it hooks onto the bridge’s dangling-rope remnant, which acts like a slingshot. The scene is so over-the-top ludicrous that it’s if the filmmakers were saying, “Let’s put what would have been the grand climax of ‘Fast and Furious 4’ in the opening half hour.” Good enough. But what do you do for an encore?

“F9” features several sequences in which a truck that contains a super-powerful magnet goes rushing through the streets of London, attracting all sorts of metal, including a car, which is somehow less boss than it sounds. The movie also has a lot of hand-to-hand combat — too much of it, I would say — that happens aboard speeding vehicles. Why is this supposed to be exciting? I get it when the fighters are on the roof of a bus (then it’s all about: How did they do that? I can see it’s the real John Cena!), but when they’re just bashing each other inside the empty canister of a military truck, we might as well be watching a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie on wheels. Cena’s Jakob is teamed with several other baddies: the return of Charlize Theron’s tigress-sleek Cipher, plus the millennial Eurotrash slime Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), who’s bankrolling the whole thing. But even with all three, the threat they pose feels generic.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, a successful franchise will essentially morph into a different series. Over time, the “Mission: Impossible” films became Bond films. The “Fast and Furious” films have become “Mission: Impossible” films. But “F9” isn’t constructed around an exciting mission. It’s built around Vin Diesel and John Cena playing out the angst from the Toretto brothers’ past. The family plot “works” (even as you’re aware of how thinly written Cena’s character is), but it’s not enough of an anchor; it’s more like an excuse. This series didn’t need more “heart.” It needed everyone onscreen to get up to speed.

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Amazon Said To Make $9 Billion Offer For MGM

Amazon is weeks into negotiations on a deal to acquire MGM for about $9 billion, industry sources tell Variety.

Chatter that Amazon (and other tech giants) have been sniffing around MGM has circulated for some time. But sources indicated that Amazon’s interest in acquiring the studio has taken on a new tenor beyond the usual rumor mill. The deal is said to be being orchestrated by Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Amazon Studios and Prime Video, directly with MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich, whose Anchorage Capital is a major MGM shareholder.

Reps for Amazon and MGM declined to comment.

MGM had already effectively nailed up a “for sale” sign: Variety confirmed in December that the company was looking for a buyer.

News of Amazon’s talks with MGM began to swirl this weekend. The Information reported Monday that Amazon was in talks about a potential deal for MGM, which could run between $7 billion and $10 billion. Industry sources said MGM reps have been whispering to prospective buyers for month about a price tag of $9 billion while others see it as worth about $5 billion.

In a sign Amazon has upped its focus on entertainment, last week the company announced that it had tapped Jeff Blackburn, a former high-ranking executive who recently exited the ecommerce giant, to return to Amazon in a new role overseeing a consolidated global media and entertainment group.

Amazon currently has more than 200 million Prime members worldwide, and Jeff Bezos recently told investors that 175 million of those streamed Prime Video content in the past year. The company clearly wants to turn Prime Video into an even bigger habit for its customers worldwide — and a quick way to do that would be to stir MGM’s extensive library of titles into the mix.

MGM claims to own one of the world’s “deepest libraries” of premium film and TV content.

Its 4,000 film titles include the James Bond, Hobbit, Rocky/Creed, RoboCop and Pink Panther franchises, as well as movies like “The Silence of the Lambs,” “The Magnificent Seven” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” The MGM TV library includes approximately 17,000 episodes of programming, including “Stargate SG-1,” “Stargate Atlantis,” “Stargate Universe,” “Vikings,” “Fargo,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Get Shorty,” “Condor,” “Fame,” “American Gladiators,” “Teen Wolf” and “In the Heat of the Night.” Unscripted shows in its portfolio include “The Voice,” “Survivor,” “Shark Tank,” “”The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “The Hills.”

For Amazon, media is a relatively small piece of its gargantuan empire but represents a fast-growing business segment. In 2020, the company spent $11 billion on TV shows, movies and music for Prime services — up 40% from the year prior.

For the first three months of 2021, MGM Holdings reported revenue of $403.3 million (up 27% year over year) and net income of $29.3 million (versus a net loss of $12.1 million the year prior).

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After ‘Period. End Of Sentence.’ Won An Oscar, Period Poverty Is Still A Problem In The U.S. (Guest Column)

In 2019, when I took the stage with director Rayka Zehtabchi to accept the Academy Award for documentary short subject for “Period. End of Sentence,” I held the Oscar high and declared “a period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.” Nearly 26.9 million viewers in 225 countries heard the rallying cry for menstrual justice. As dizzying as that number is, it represents only a small fraction of the 800 million people on earth who are menstruating at any given time.

Until we have policies that recognize that menstrual health is a biological process fundamental to our physical, emotional, and economic well-being, gender equity can never be achieved.

Set in India, “Period. End of Sentence.” chronicles how attitudes toward menstruation change when women run a pad-manufacturing enterprise in their village. As the executive director of the Pad Project (the non-profit behind the Netflix doc), I am proud the film sparked a worldwide conversation about the taboo topic of menstruation. I am also fearful that too many people believe that period poverty is something that only happens “out there” in low-income countries. In fact, the U.S. lags behind many low-income countries when it comes to addressing period poverty.

Period poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products, to clean and safe toilets, to hand-washing facilities and waste disposal, and to education about reproductive biology. The non-profit Period Equity reports that “many in the U.S. are forced to make a terrible choice between buying food or menstrual products.” A 2019 study in St. Louis found that two-thirds of respondents had not been able to afford products at least once in the last year, and 21% faced this issue monthly. The organization I Support The Girls reports a 35% increase in requests for products since the start of the pandemic. The morning after the Oscars, I woke to an email from a Californian teen telling me she stuffed her underwear with “old socks” because she couldn’t afford pads.

Studies show one in four teenagers in the U.S. miss class due to the lack of access to menstrual products at school, and one in five has struggled to afford products. Currently, only seven states require high schools to provide free products to students: California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, and Virginia. A Good Morning America report states that 1 in 10 U.S. college students experience period poverty, with “Black and Latina women [experiencing] the highest levels of period poverty in the last year along with immigrant and first-generation students.”

The taxation of menstrual products compounds the challenge of access and affordability. Menstruators in the U.S. spend approximately $6,360 over the course of their reproductive lives on period products. A substantial amount of this expense is in taxes. In addition to sales tax, menstrual products may be subject to a luxury tax levied on items deemed “unnecessary.” Missouri taxes tampons but not bingo supplies. Wisconsin taxes tampons but not gun club memberships. And so on. Thirty of 50 states make tampons subject to sales tax. The taxation of the estimated 61 million Americans who use period products enforces gender discrimination. States reap an estimated annual profit of $130 million from periods.

When it comes to policies that allow for — rather than punish — people who have periods, other countries outpace the U.S. In 2018, India exempted pads of the Goods and Services Tax. Similarly, Kenya, Mauritania, South Africa, Tanzania, and most recently, Namibia, did away with the Value Added Tax on sanitary products. Last year, Scotland was the first nation to make period products free for “anyone who needs them.” This year, Ireland’s supermarket chain Lidl will offer free period products in its stores across the country, and New Zealand passed an initiative that requires all schools to offer free products to students. The Kenyan government has distributed free pads in schools since 2011.

If you are among the 20% of American women who suffer from debilitating periods, you cannot expect period leave in the workplace. Japan, however, has had period leave for more than 70 years. In 2019, the Swedish government granted funds to the non-profit Mensen to create period-friendly workplaces, and in 2020, the Indian food service Zomato allowed employees up to ten days of period leave per year. Countries that mandate some amount of menstrual leave include China, Indonesia, Taiwan and Zambia. Just last month, South Korea, a country that has offered paid period leave since 1953, opened a store dedicated to fighting the “long-held stigma around periods.” The Period Shop, which opened near Daebang Station in Seoul, boasts a window display of Diva Cups that are as colorful as confections.

I cannot imagine passing such a storefront on the streets of Los Angeles. For all our bravado, Americans are still squeamish about blood. Period blood, that is. A quick scan of Oscar winners for Best Picture turns up such battle-bloodied victors as “Platoon,” “Braveheart” and “Gladiator,” to name only a few. But when “Period. End of Sentence.” won the Oscar, it marked the first time the coveted gold was bestowed upon a film about blood let in the name of life, rather than death. Yet, save for a fleeting image of a stained rag discarded in a field, there is not a drop of blood shown throughout the 26-minute documentary. That would have been, as one venerated member of the Director’s Branch of The Academy put it in the Hollywood Reporter: “Too icky.”

Melissa Berton is executive director of the Pad Project. She wrote the forward for the new book “Period. End of Sentence,” written by Anita Diamant, looking at issues surrounding menstruation around the globe.

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Women In Animation Launches Global Toon Talent Database

Women in Animation has launched WIA Talent Database, currently featuring more than 5,000 women, trans and non-binary candidates in the animation industry looking for work in the booming global toon biz. It’s another big step for the WIA in its 50/50 by 2025 goal. 

The WIA Talent Database is designed to be an ever-growing resource for studios seeking to balance the diversity of their productions. 

 “While studios around the world have heard our call for balance and pledged to champion diversity, the reality is that most animation hires are influenced by word of mouth and proximity to the hiring parties. Increasing the visibility and accessibility of women will make it harder to deny our existence. In other words, the statement, ‘I’d love to hire women, but I don’t know where to find them’ will no longer be acceptable,” notes WIA president Marge Dean. 

Under the leadership of Dean and combined focus of database creator Liz Luu, website developer Mickey Kyle and database manager Kate Menz, the WIA Talent Database was conceived and built to pool talent that covers the full range of roles on animated productions in an easily searchable collection of candidates to be considered for hiring by the international animation industry.

The WIA Database allows potential employers to filter searches based on a number of animation-specific factors including series vs. feature experience, years of work in a particular role, CG pipeline knowledge and more. The system also boasts a unique gallery view, which can be used to compare candidate art styles side by side, “recreating the simultaneous portfolio review experience that best matches candidates with a production’s visual development goals,” says Luu. 

To access the database, visit the WIA website at womeninanimation.org or reach out to the WIA Talent Database team directly by emailing database@womeninanimation.org. 

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Scores For ‘Soul,’ ‘Lovecraft Country,’ ‘Last Of Us II,’ ‘A Life On Our Planet’ Win ASCAP Composers’ Choice Awards

The ASCAP Screen Music Awards kicked off a four-day virtual celebration Monday morning with the naming of winners in the peer-voted ASCAP Composers’ Choice Awards, with the score for Pixar’s “Soul” managing to notch yet another triumph as its sweep continues virtually unabated.

The number of categories for the performing rights organization’s still fairly new division of awards voted by fellow songwriters and composers was expanded in this round, with documentary score and television theme of the year being added for 2021.

In the film score of the year category, the “Soul” music proved that it has some life — or afterlife — left in it yet after recently triumphing at the Oscars. The award went to Trent Reznor and Jon Batiste, two of the composing trio behind the music. (The third partner, Atticus Ross, did not win because he’s not an ASCAP signatory, although his mantle probably isn’t hurting for sitting this one out.)

A television score of the year award replaces the former TV composer of the year category, with the award more clearly going for a single piece of work. It went to R&B legend Raphael Saadiq for his work on the socially resonant horror drama “Lovecraft Country.”

American dystopian horror moved into the near-future instead of near-past for “The Last of Us Part II,” which landed Gustavo Santaolalla an award for videogame score of the year.

Television theme of the year went to legendary neo-classsical composer Philip Glass and Paul Leonard-Morgan for their music for the Emmy-nominated sci-fi series “Tales from the Loop.”

For documentary score of the year, the winner was Steven Price, for his work on “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet.”

With traditional in-person proceedings still being on hold this year due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, the rollout of winners came on ASCAP’s social media. The PRO’s Instagram accounts (@ASCAP and @ASCAPScreen) feature acceptance speeches from Batiste, Price, Glass, Leonard-Morgan and Santaolalla. Three of the winners, Batiste, Leonard-Morgan and Santaolalla, also contributed special performances.

Awards are also being given out in the more traditional, non-voted categories that have long been a mainstay of the ASCAP Screen Music Awards, reflecting data for the most-performed music of the year.

David Vanacore won Most Performed Themes and Underscore for multiple shows, including “Survivor” and “Biggest Loser.”

The top winner for scoring for a cable television series was Bear McCreary for “The Walking Dead.”

The main theme for “NCIS” won Matthew Hawkins, Maurice “m.O” Jackson and Neil Martin the award for Top Network Television Series.

Among feature films, Rupert Gregson-Williams received the Top Box Office Film honor for “The Eight Hundred.”

A full list of 2021 ASCAP Screen Music Awards winners, along with speeches, performances and other presentations, is available at http://www.ascap.com/screenawards21.

Other content can be found under the hashtag #ASCAPAwards on the org’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as on Instagram at @ASCAP and @ASCAPScreen.

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