On February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay, only 22 years old at the time, surprisingly became the heavyweight boxing champion of the world when he defeated Sonny Liston in Miami. Liston, the title holder, was a hard-hitting, iron-fisted fighter. Clay had class, style and a big sassy mouth. But he was also a man conscious of his influence and destiny. His friend Malcolm X attended the pugilistic soirée and invited the brand-new champion to his motel room that night: Clay was about to announce his conversion to Islam, his name change (to that of Muhammad Ali, the one beloved by God), and his joining the Nation of Islam, the religious organization that Malcolm X, incidentally, was planning to leave. That night, in that tiny room, they were not alone, they were joined in the celebration by two other friends who were also stars in their own right: the singer Sam Cooke, the soul music icon, and Jim Brown, the legendary running back, who, at the top of his game but fed up with racism in sports, was thinking about retiring and taking a go at an acting career.
There is no photographic evidence of the night in question: actually, there is not even a single snapshot of the four of them together. Neither does anyone know what they talked about. What we do know is that after that night and the early hours of the next day, the four of them changed their lives and their careers. Sam Cooke was murdered 10 months later, in a shady accident that time has shrouded in a conspiratorial halo. Weeks later, in February 1965, Malcolm X was also murdered. The sixties were a cauldron seething with violence, civil rights and art.
During the confinement, Regina King (50 years old, born in Los Angeles) was astounded by the parallel echoes between what we were experiencing at the time (“The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor talk to us about the racism extant in my country”), and One night in Miami, the movie she made about the foursome in question (“They are some kind of Black Avengers, aren’t they?”) just before the onset of the pandemic. The movie is said to be an Oscar contender. It is Monday in Los Angeles, and King appears on the Zoom screen. The first thing that strikes me are her hazel eyes, even more noticeable in the aseptic room in which the interview takes place. King’s resumé is impressive. After a 35-year acting career, she is one of the TV queens of her country, having won four Emmys: a pair of them for the American Crime series and two for Seven Seconds and Watchmen. Besides, she has won a Golden Globe and Oscar for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk. She had directed several TV series’ episodes in preparation for her next step: “I am well aware of the change this means for my career. I am now a movie director, and even though I used to be one for television, I must admit that, five days away from the release of my movie, I’m getting more and more nervous.” The release, through the Amazon Prime Video platform, is due this Friday, King’s 50th birthday. She will celebrate it by “having a private screening with some friends, taking every precaution and following all the anti-COVID protocols.”
The actress’s rise to stardom seemed to be obvious from her birth. Her parents named her Regina [which means queen in Latin], and her sister’s name is Reina (“queen” in Spanish), which combined with the family’s surname does sound very monarchic. While she started working in the TV industry in 1985, she did not go into movies until six years later, mentored by the late John Singleton (she made three films with him) in Boyz n the Hood. “I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in those projects and with John’s friendship for two decades, which was out of the ordinary. He allowed me to learn from the preparation previous to shooting a film, an in depth process, and from how he wished to express and how. At the time, I was not conscious of the fact that I would also be directing someday, but the universe always has a plan (laughs).”
King would not be satisfied with any ordinary script, which explains the time she took tracking the right material. “Because I knew just how important this step was, I worked alongside my agent for a long time looking for a script that would fulfill several expectations. I found it all in One night in Miami: it was powerful and at the same time it would allow me to express myself as an artist. And each day, during the creative process, I became more and more excited about it. I’m not saying that what I had previously directed for TV wasn’t important, but the main subject of the movie is (she thinks it over for a few seconds) valuable. And urgent.”
One night in Miami is based on a play by Kemp Powers (the co-director of the Pixar movie Soul). Kemp himself adapted it for the screen. The plot is twofold: inside the celebration night there is also a night of reflection. “Just as it is happening now, isn’t it? Biden won, but nevertheless we still have many structural problems. Our social system has to be rebuilt itself, and that does not happen automatically. Furthermore, we have seen how the last four years have destroyed the efforts of decades. I try to remain optimistic [she laughs] but my expectations are very low.” Even so, King acknowledges that every dramatic event that has taken place in the USA after the shooting of her film heightens the relevance of her movie. “It is necessary to remind each and every American citizen that there are more things that unite us than things that divide us, that we have a long past history in common, and that we effectively harbor many negative traits. If we accept that, we can improve. This is not going to make America great again (King is making fun of Trump’s slogan), what we must understand is that it was never really great, and that it will not be so if human beings and fellow Americans are still being oppressed, marginalized and murdered.”
There is a scene in the film in which Sam Cooke is outraged by Malcolm X, who tells him to his face that the songs of Bob Dylan seem to better reflect the suffering of Black Americans than his own. Cooke, who had just recorded the awesome and moving song A Change is Gonna Come, answers: “I will not be anybody’s weapon.” And what about Regina King? Has she always spoken for herself in her multiple statements committing to, for example, having women make up 50% of the cast/team in her projects, or underlining the endemic racism in the USA? “Sometimes you feel that, as a famous person, you have to live up to certain expectations. Handling these situations is complicated. Overcoming those issues and knowing that your feelings as a human being go beyond ‘what a star is supposed to say’ is not easy at all. Anyway, remember that the universe always has a plan.”
The road traveled by ‘One night in Miami’ has been a long one. The shooting process was completed with a few extra days once the coronavirus had already reached the USA. The film’s premiere at the Venice International Film Festival turned Regina King into the first Black filmmaker to be nominated for the Golden Lion prize. That journey ends today with the film’s release on Amazon. “I made the movie thinking, evidently, about releasing it in movie theaters. But these are the times we live in. And after what we have suffered during the last months in the USA, it seems utterly important to me for the movie to reach the largest possible audience. Would I like to watch it in a theater surrounded by a crowd? Yes, and I would love the audience and myself to be moved by it at the same time. Will I now be able to reach many more Americans? Of course, and the main theme of my movie deserves it.”
Have you heard our Spanish news podcast ¿Qué? Each week we try to explain the curious, the under-reported and sometimes simply bizarre news stories that are often in the headlines in Spain.
‘Conversations Outside The Cathedral’: The fight for abortion rights in Colombia | Culture
February 21 marked two years since the Colombian feminist movement achieved a historic victory: the decriminalization of abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy, the longest period in Latin America.
A new book has just been published in Spanish, to tell the story of this triumph: Conversations Outside The Cathedral (Penguin Random House), playing on the title of Mario Vargas Llosa’s innovative novel, Conversation in The Cathedral (1969).
“One thing that happens to many of us feminists is that we work and fight… but we’re not putting together a log for history,” admits Ana Cristina González Vélez — a doctor and pioneer of the Just Cause movement — in her interview for the book. “I think men have been more aware of the value of narrating [such historical events] and that’s a shame,” she adds.
It’s time to put together the log, fight for a place in history and tell the feat better. As Argentine novelist Claudia Piñeiro describes it, this is a book about “the memory of the Colombian green tide.”
Conversations Outside The Cathedral is a book of interviews that journalist Laila Abu Shihab has put together, alongside González and her closest colleague, Cristina Villarreal. For years, Villarreal ran one of the few safe centers for women seeking abortions in Bogotá: Oriéntame (“guide me”).
“Cristina and I partnered together a lot… [she] from the perspective of [reproductive] services, [while I was] closely linked the feminist movement and advocacy. We were like two faces on one body,” González jokes, describing herself and Villareal.
The book includes conversations with activists, lawyers, legislators, reggaeton singers and famous actresses who were all fundamental to the victory. There are some men here and there, but the bulk of the interviewees are women. The diverse chorus describes the long road to victory: defeats, strategies, unexpected turns, debates, divisions, betrayals. But along the way, there was also an exceptional degree of solidarity… a feminist way of working that was “collective and went against egos and vanities,” the journalist writes.
The first thing that Conversations Outside The Cathedral tries to do is give credit to those who rarely get any. For example, the book interviews university professor and sociologist Lucero Zamudio, who led the first ambitious study on abortion in Colombia in 1994, which revealed that induced abortion was the second-biggest cause of maternal mortality. “That study was never repeated — [there was never any document] of that magnitude and with that depth,” González affirms.
Another person included in the book is Iván Marulanda Gómez, a former senator who tried to get the right to abortion included in the Colombian Constitution of 1991. “Friends, it’s the right of Colombian women to give birth to children as a result of love and commitment… and it’s the right of Colombia’s children to be born surrounded by love and protection,” Marulanda told his colleagues in the Constituent Assembly. His motion was ultimately defeated: 25 votes in favor, 40 against, three abstentions. Congress has since voted on several initiatives to either decriminalize or legalize abortion. None have succeeded.
There are no protagonists in the fight for the right to abortion, but there are certainly key characters. There’s Mónica Roa, a lawyer who, in 2006, managed to get abortion decriminalized in three cases. Or Sandra Mazo, who’s committed to ending the guilt of abortion by leading the organization Catholics for the Right to Choose. For Cristina Villarreal, however, the key person was her father: Jorge Villarreal Mejía, a gynecologist who started a medical movement in favor of family planning. He founded Oriéntame in 1977. “I learned everything with my father,” his daughter explains. She’s of the leaders of the Just Cause movement, as well as the movement that preceded it: the Board for the Life and Health of Women.
The book also deals with uncomfortable conversations. For instance, there were tensions that emerged among feminists after Roa’s victory in 2006, either because of what they perceived as her excessive media attention, or because of her strategy: rather than trying to get abortion decriminalized across the board, she sought exemptions from the law in three cases. “They criticized us and said that what we asked for was very little… only crumbs of justice,” Roa recalls.
The women on the Board for the Life and Health of Women aren’t afraid of engaging in increasingly complicated debates. They struggle, for example, with how to regulate the right to abortion when there’s a malformation of the fetus, because “any effort in this regard reinforces stereotypes and aggravates discrimination against people with disabilities,” González notes.
“There was a time when we decided that, every month, or every two months — I don’t remember very well — we would choose a topic for discussion, to ask each other uncomfortable questions,” Villareal says. “One of those issues was the [high level of abortions] in the case of female fetuses in India. At first, that generates a very strong reaction.”
Conversations Outside the Cathedral aims to document the epic battle, but also to warn the unsuspecting. For instance, two years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the ruling that had guaranteed women the right to abortion for decades. In Argentina, the new government of President Javier Milei is also promising to remove abortion rights. And, in Colombia, the so-called “pro-life” groups (González Vélez and Villarreal ask that they be identified more accurately as “anti-rights” groups) continue to seek their victory against the right to abortion by getting court rulings overturned. Within the feminist movement, victory cannot be completely achieved, because the fight is always shifting.
“I don’t know if one day — in a few decades, I hope — this conversation will seem very strange to [the next generations]. It will seem incomprehensible to them that abortion was a crime,” ponders one of the interviewees in the book. “I’m convinced that there’s no moment when the fight ends,” another woman notes. For now, the conversations continue.
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‘Mrs. Doubtfire’: The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness
The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness
The Voice Of EU | One of the most versatile comedian and actor Robin Williams left an indelible mark on an entire generation throughout the 1990s, evoking both laughter and tears. His portrayal of a strict yet endearing housekeeper in the hit film “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) resonated deeply with audiences worldwide, propelling it to resounding success across global boundaries.
Williams played the role, despite the adversities and addictions that plagued his life at the time, by putting aside the devised script and becoming a master of improvisation during the filming of the movie, which brought in more than €400 million.
In the year of its release it was only outdone by Jurassic Park (€1 billion). This is what its director, also an avowed admirer of the American actor, explained on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Mrs. Doubtfire’s debut on the big screen: “It took me three months to rewrite the script. I sent it to Robin and he said he loved it.” After Williams’ suicide in 2014, in an interview for Business Insider magazine, Chris Columbus unveils details that were buried 30 years ago.
“Four and a half hours, maybe five,” is the time in which, according to the director, Robin Williams was able to play Mrs. Doubtfire, a characterization for which the film earned the Oscar for Best Makeup. The actor was not comfortable in portraying his role: a father who disguises himself as a housekeeper in order to spend more time with his children after a bitter divorce. For him, it presented a challenge. “We never could shoot two consecutive days of Robin as Mrs. Doubtfire. It was a punishing day for him, so always the next day, we would shoot him as Daniel (the father),” the director of the film reveals three decades after its release.
“Comedy is acting out optimism.” — Robin Williams
In between the laughs and moments that are etched in the minds of many, Columbus describes the challenge of keeping actors such as Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field, who played leading roles in the film, from breaking away from the script of their characters while Williams was at his most unrestrainedly creative.
Indeed, according to the director, his boundless energy even created situations where the script supervisor could not keep up, resulting in unrepeatable and spontaneous takes. “None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions.” Most of the sequences in the film, and specifically all of those featuring Williams, were the result of an incredible amount of improvisation from the American comedian. “If it were today, we would never end. But back then, we were shooting film so once we were out of film in the camera, we would say to Robin, ‘We’re out of film.’ That happened on several occasions,” recalls Columbus.
“Hey boss, the way I like to work, if you’re up for it, is I’ll give you three or four scripted takes, and then let’s play.” This was the actor’s first warning to the director of Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams was a significant figure in Chris Columbus’ life, and he still is to this day. Not only because he was responsible for his move to San Francisco, the actor didn’t want to shoot anywhere else, but due to his ability to make people laugh and cry at the same time. “Williams wanted the film to be shot there because he was living in San Francisco with his wife, Marsha, and their children. Thanks to him I fell in love with the city that has become my home,” he explains.
“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” — Robin Williams
The director also reminisced about some memorable scenes that contributed to the film’s status as a cinematic masterpiece, as perceived by many. However, what stood out the most was his innate ability to improvise: “The entire restaurant sequence was remarkable. When Robin, portraying Mrs. Doubtfire, accidentally loses his teeth in his drink, you can see the joy on Robin’s face; he’s almost smirking to himself for coming up with that.” Following the success of the Mrs. Doubtfire premiere, the production team is currently exploring ways to honor Williams and his portrayal in the film, although no definitive plans have been made yet. “There are approximately 972 boxes of footage stored in a warehouse somewhere in California. There’s something truly special and enchanting about his performances, and I believe it would be exciting to delve deeper into it.”
Despite initial reservations about creating a sequel, the notion of a new spin-off gained traction shortly before the actor’s tragic passing on August 11, 2014, at his residence in Paradise Bay, California. “Robin’s only concern was: ‘Boss, do I have to spend as much time in the suit this time around?’ The physical toll of portraying Doubtfire was immense for Robin; it felt like running a marathon every day,” the director recounts. Following a brief meeting at the actor’s home, and a simple handshake, Chris Columbus began outlining the script mere days before the unfortunate event. “During the rewrite, we contemplated reducing the role of Doubtfire. However, Robin’s untimely demise extinguished any hopes of a sequel,” he laments. Although not spearheaded by its creator, Mrs. Doubtfire has found new life as a stage musical. “What set him apart as a performer is that there was no one like Robin Williams before him, and there will never be anyone like him again. He was truly one-of-a-kind,” reflects the actor’s superior.
In addition to the director, another Mrs. Doubtfire star who later spoke of Robin Williams’ brilliance was Matthew Lawrence, who played Daniel’s son. Lawrence was just a teenager in the film, which also gave a debut to his co-star Mara Wilson, the unforgettable Matilda. One day Lawrence went to Robin’s dressing room and did not expect what he was told: “‘Stay away from drugs, particularly cocaine.’ He was being serious and told me: ‘You know when you come to my trailer and you see me like that?’ He’s like, ‘That’s the reason why. And now I’m fighting for the rest of my life because I spent 10 years doing something very stupid every day. Do not do it.’ I stayed away from it because of him”, Lawrence recalled in an interview with People magazine in March 2022.
The lesser-known chapter of Williams’ life, while unrelated to his demise, shed light on the inner struggles of a comedian committed to bringing joy to others yet grappling with profound personal sorrow. “As charismatic as he appeared on screen, I’d often visit him in his trailer for chats, he was tormented. It was truly agonizing for him. He didn’t conceal it. He confided in me about his battles with addiction,” the actor concluded.
‘The Bill Gates Problem’ – The Case Against World’s Richest Man
The Case Against World’s Richest Man
When Clinton assumed the presidency of the United States, there was eager anticipation from the Chinese, not for Clinton himself, but for Bill Gates. This was during the late 1990s, a period when the internet was still in its nascent stages, and the digital boom of the early 2000s had not yet reached its peak. The enigmatic persona that captivated the attention of the burgeoning Asian powerhouse is now portrayed in “The Bill Gates Problem” as a “domineering, brusque figure” whose demeanor is likened to “a cauldron of passions that freely erupts.” According to a former employee cited in the book, Gates was perceived as “a complete and utter jerk to people 70% of the time,” while the remaining 30% saw him as a “harmless, enjoyable, exceptionally intelligent nerd.”
The 1990s were also the decade of the conflict between Microsoft and the now defunct Netscape browser, which challenged what was already being openly described as the former’s monopolistic practices. Gates was investigated and accused in Congress for such practices; he ultimately won the battle, but the case harmed his reputation, and in 2000 he resigned as CEO of his company. From there he undertook an expansion of the foundation that he had established with his wife and to which he has dedicated his main efforts in the last two decades. In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.
With a personal fortune of $100 billion and tens of billions more in his private foundation, Gates has been one of the richest men in the world for decades, and the foundation has been the most generous organization of its kind, specializing above all in health aid, education and child nutrition, with a large presence in Africa and India among other regions of what was formerly known as the Third World. Tim Schwab, a contributor to the weekly left-wing newspaper The Nation, undertook a detailed investigation to denounce something that in truth was already known: that American foundations are largely a way for billionaires to avoid taxes.
To prove this, he thoroughly looked into the accounts and procedures of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the failures and occasional successes of its philanthropic policies, and came to the conclusion that behind this facade of help to the needy hides an operation of power. He is ruthless in his criticism, although accurate in his analysis of the growing inequality in the world. Absorbed by the revolutionary rhetoric, he laments that the Gates Foundation has remained “deadly silent” regarding movements such as Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, which demand social change in the face of the “excess wealth and ‘white savior’ mentality that drives Bill Gates’ philanthropic work.” He does attribute some good intentions, but his criticism is merciless, sometimes even coarse, while the absence of solutions for the problems he denounces — other than the calls for do-goodism — is frustrating.
His abilities as an investigative journalist are thus overshadowed by a somewhat naive militancy against the creative capitalism that Gates promotes and an evident intention to discredit not only his work but, above all, him. The demands he makes for transparency and the accusations of obscurity are dulled by the author himself in the pages he dedicates to Gates’ relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the famous corruptor of minors at the service of the international jet set. Gates has explained his meetings and interviews with him on countless occasions, and in no case has any type of relationship, other than their commercial relations or some confusing efforts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, been proved. Still, Schwab raises, with no evidence whatsoever, the possibility that their relationship “could have had something to do with Epstein’s principal activities in life: sexual gratification and the exercise of power.” The book is full of this kind of opinions and speculations, to the detriment of a more serious analysis of Gates’ mistakes in the management of his foundation, the problems of shielding the intellectual property of vaccines in the hands of the pharmaceutical industries and, ultimately, the objective power that big technology companies have in global society.
He signed a collaboration agreement with the RAE to improve Microsoft’s grammar checker and was interested in the substantial unity of the Spanish language in all the countries where almost 600 million people speak it. That man was very far from the sexist, arrogant, miserable predator that Schwab portrays. Nor did we deduce — and this can be applied to the personal adventure of Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos — that his life’s goal was world domination, as suggested by this book. If they have achieved it, or may achieve it, it is due to the dynamics of digital civilization and the objective difficulties in governing it. The deregulation of financial capitalism, which has increased inequality among humankind, is due to the incompetence of obsolete political institutions and to leaders who care more about their own fates than those of their people. The criticism against “lame and wasteful government bureaucracies” might be part of the propaganda promoted by the world’s wealthy, but lately we have also heard it from small-scale farmers across Europe.
In conclusion, we found the book to be more entertaining than interesting. It provides a lot of information — we’re not sure if it’s entirely verified — and plenty of cheap ideology. Above all, one can see the personal crusade of the author, determined to prove that Bill Gates is a problem for democracy and that millionaire philanthropists are a bunch of swindlers. The world needs their money; maybe managed by party bureaucracies, that much is not clear. Bill Gates’ money, that is, but not Bill Gates himself.
Footage shows aftermath of devastating house fire that ripped through family’s £1.3million country mansion – as police launch probe into blaze
‘Conversations Outside The Cathedral’: The fight for abortion rights in Colombia | Culture
‘Mrs. Doubtfire’: The highlights Of Robin Williams’ Role That defined His Artistic Greatness
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