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2019 Oscar nominations: ‘A Star Is Born’ and ‘Roma’ to vie for best film

The Oscar nominations were announced today in Hollywood, with blockbusters like "A Star of Born" and "Black Panther" up for a swag of major awards. But "Roma" and "The Favourite" topped the nominations with 10 each. Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for films in 24 categories, nominations for the 91st Oscars saw Ryan Coogler's superhero epic "Black Panther:; Alfonso Cuaron's Mexican drama "Roma", English period comedy drama "The Favourite", Deep South drama "Green Book" and musical "Bohemian Rhapsody" all joining "A Star is Born" as multiple award contenders. "Roma" and "The Favourite" were nominated for 10 awards each. Netflix received its first best picture nomination with "Roma," which was released exclusively through the streaming service. All in all there were eight nominees for best picture, the others including "A Star Is Born," "Green Book," "The Favourite," "Black Panther," "BlacKkKlansman," "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Vice," which won eight nominations. German film "Never Look Away," inspired by the life of artist Gerhard Richter, was nominated for best foreign language film and best cinematography. Star power While award season kicked off with controversy when the host chosen initially for the 2019 ceremonies, Kevin Hart, was forced to withdraw due to previous homophobic tweets — a replacement is yet to be announced — the Academy is celebrating a host of fan and critic favorites. Hot Oscar tip "A Star Is Born," which has already taken in $400 million (€352 million) worldwide at the box office, garnered nine nominations despite faring poorly at the Golden Globes, where it only won best song. Stars Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are both up for best acting awards on February 24 and the pop star drama will also be a frontrunner for best picture. The film is likewise in contention for best song and best screenplay adaptation. Meanwhile, blockbuster Freddie Mercury biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody," a film that has been panned by critics, is also up for best film after it reigned at the Golden Globes — where it won best film and best actor for Rami Malek. Spike Lee was nominated for best director for the first time since 1989 for "BlacKkKlansman" — which is also contending for best film. Other best director nominees include Alfonso Cuaron for "Roma" (also in the running for best original screenplay), Poland's Pawel Pawlikowski for "Cold War," Adam McKay for political drama "Vice" and Yorgos Lanthimos for "The Favourite." No women were on the list in 2019 after Greta Gerwig last year became only the fifth female nominated for best director. Marvelous breakthrough Other films in the running for film's most prestigious prize include Ryan Coogler's superhero epic "Black Panther." While comic book adaptations are generally shunned by the Academy, the Marvel comics work was both a massive box office hit and was also praised by critics. "Black Panther's" seven nominations also included best production and best song. Another comic book adaptation, "Avengers: Infinity War", which was the highest grossing film of 2018, was also nominated for best visual effects. Meanwhile, Wes Anderson favorite "Isle of Dogs" was nominated for best animated feature. The Oscars award ceremony will be held on February 24, 2019 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

The Oscar nominations were announced today in Hollywood, with blockbusters like “A Star of Born” and “Black Panther” up for a swag of major awards. But “Roma” and “The Favourite” topped the nominations with 10 each. Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for films in 24 categories, nominations for the 91st Oscars saw Ryan Coogler’s superhero ... Read More »

Ai Weiwei’s film “Human Flow” makes Oscar shortlist

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first worked with his smartphone camera until he was joined by a German producer on his powerful refugee documentary. "Human Flow" is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Filmed over a year armed with drones, his iPhone and about 200 crew members, Ai Wei Wei visited more than 40 refugee camps in 23 countries to make his first feature length film, "Human Flow," which he hoped would spur people to help refugees. Now the film has been selected from among 170 documentaries for the 15-strong shortlist for the Oscars. Five films will end up receiving a nomination on January 23, 2018, before the Oscars will be awarded on March 4. Among the other contenders are "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," a 2017 follow-up to the climate documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006) that was honored with an Academy Award in 2007. Another favorite is the documentary "Jane" about gorilla researcher Jane Goodall. Read more: Ai Weiwei's 'Human Flow' and 11 other memorable films on refugees German producer Heine Deckert participated in the production of Weiwei's documentary which travelled to refugee camps in Greece, France, Kenya, Lebanon and Gaza, with some scenes set at the borders between the US and Mexico, as well as Serbia and Hungary. Ai Wei Wei, who was once jailed in China and has lived in Berlin since 2015, said he wanted the film to make people see refugees in a different light as they were victims of man-made problems. In this light, the artist is critical of Britain's decision to leave the European Union, saying at the December release of "Human Flow" in the UK that Brexit is a backward step that will make the country more isolated. Read more: Progress in Brexit talks, but Britain still divided "I think it is backward in terms of opening up globalisation and will not do Britain any good but rather to become more conservative and more exclusive," Ai told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the film's launch on December 5 in London. The documentary has run in German movie theaters since November 16.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first worked with his smartphone camera until he was joined by a German producer on his powerful refugee documentary. “Human Flow” is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Filmed over a year armed with drones, his iPhone and about 200 crew members, Ai Wei Wei visited more than 40 refugee camps in ... Read More »

‘Calamity Jane’ star Doris Day turns 95 – two years earlier than planned

Until this weekend, US film star Doris Day thought she would be about to turn 93 - until she discovered she's actually celebrating her 95th anniversary. Here's a look back at her career. US actress Doris Day was born on April 3, 1922, which means she is turning 95 this year, instead of 93, as she thought until recently; a copy of her birth certificate was obtained by the press agency AP. Even her foundation's website, the Doris Day Animal Foundation, reminds fans to send her wishes for her 93rd birthday, posting the Top 93 social media posts with the hashtag #DorisBirthdayWish. To this day, the former film and TV star remains committed to animal rights causes. Throughout her career, Day recorded more than 650 songs and made 39 films between 1948 and 1968, among which "Pillow Talk," "Calamity Jane," and "Move Over Darling." With her most famous hits including "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)" and "Secret Love," she kept on releasing albums at different stages of her life. The most recent one, "My Heart," came out in 2011, as she was aged 89. She has received several Lifetime Achievement Awards, such as from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Cecil B. DeMille Awards, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. Click through the gallery above to revisit Doris Day's career.

Until this weekend, US film star Doris Day thought she would be about to turn 93 – until she discovered she’s actually celebrating her 95th anniversary. Here’s a look back at her career. US actress Doris Day was born on April 3, 1922, which means she is turning 95 this year, instead of 93, as she thought until recently; a ... Read More »

Film director Michael Haneke turns 75

Golden Palms, an Oscar, Golden Globes, European and German film awards - few directors have been honored for their work as widely as Michael Haneke. The Austrian filmmaker, now 75, is a living legend. At the start, nothing pointed to an exceptional career. No one could have predicted that the man who once directed a few TV films for a German broadcaster would be among the very few film directors to win two Golden Palms in Cannes. Followed by an Oscar. And Golden Globes. And almost a dozen European film prizes. Over the past years, Michael Haneke has been overwhelmed by awards. It wasn't until he began to work as a director for the big screen in 1989 that he really found his own style. He has directed 11 movies since then. Unforgotten: his debut "The Seventh Continent," a movie packed with relentless intensity that borders on the unendurable about a family that deliberately commits suicide. It is utterly disturbing. His next films are also characterized by glacial intensity and razor-sharp analysis. He appears to have little pity for the protagonists. Michael Haneke tells stories on the screen like a pathologist dissects bodies. "This is what it's like, take a look," he seems to be telling the viewer. "Life happens to be just the way I'm showing it to you." Distraction and escapism are not his thing, nor is glossy superficiality. Perception of reality In 2007, Haneke went to Hollywood to film the remake of his 1997 film "Funny Games" - but not before he had made sure he would also be granted the final cut. No one meddles with the likes of Haneke - that was a precondition for the Austrian director for his US stint. The remake of the psychological thriller is not among the director's best films. That was perhaps not such a disappointment because in 2013 the German-born Austrian director won an Oscar for "Amour," the captivating romantic drama about an elderly couple. A few years before he wining an Oscar, his film about a family in northern Germany before World War I, "The White Ribbon," made waves at festivals, award ceremonies and at the box offices. Haneke is one of the very few directors who won Golden Palms at the Cannes Film Festival not just once, but twice. He is bound to be proud of the many honors, but it's unlikely the director has an eye out for sparkling awards. The intellectual with the keen analytical mind is likely to find more gratification in the enthusiasm of a sophisticated movie audience than in a stroll over the red carpet. New movie in the works Hanecke's new film, "Happy End" - starring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Mathieu Kassovitz - is scheduled to be released on October 12 in Germany and October 18 in France. The film tells the story of a couple that faces the European refugee crisis in the northern French town Calais.

Golden Palms, an Oscar, Golden Globes, European and German film awards – few directors have been honored for their work as widely as Michael Haneke. The Austrian filmmaker, now 75, is a living legend. At the start, nothing pointed to an exceptional career. No one could have predicted that the man who once directed a few TV films for a ... Read More »

KINO favorites: Top 10 science fiction films from Germany

Dystopian visions, futuristic fairytales and hands down the coolest sci-fi dance scene in movie history made our list of best sci-fi films to come out of Germany. "Metropolis," of course, was the mother of them all. The future, for most German filmmakers, has rarely seemed as interesting as the past. There are German movies, it seems, about every minute aspect of the rise of National Socialism and the horrors of World War II, but good German sci-fi films are hard to find. So for our KINO favorites edition on the best in German sci-fi, we had to go digging through the archives for forgotten gems and scan more recent attempts to imagine the world of tomorrow. What we discovered was cult gold, a midnight-movie goers' delight. Some of KINO's previous favorite lists have tended toward the high-brow, but our sci-fi selection is unabashedly pulp. We've got a silent thriller featuring a pianist possessed by the transplanted hands of a murderer, a paranoid horror tale set on a shuttle in deep space, and a post-apocalyptic drama that plays out on (literally) scorched earth. (Spoiler alert: It also involves cannibals!) Our list includes features from as far back as 1924 and as recent as 2015. If there's a common theme in German sci-fi, past and present, it seems to be fear. The future that awaits us in these films is a catalogue of horrors: environmental disaster and dictatorial mind-control, wars over natural resources and atomic annihilation. Thankfully, with the exception of a few state-of-the-art features (and one amazing low-budget debut from "Independence Day" director Roland Emmerich), our selection also includes some of the cheesiest special effects known to man, and, in one case, a vision of the future of dance that has to be seen to be believed. Check out our picks and let us know what you think. And yes, we have seen Fritz Lang's groundbreaking 1927 sci-fi masterpiece, "Metropolis." It was one of our KINO German drama favorites. But we think "Metropolis," as the mother of all sci-fi movies, is in a class of its own. Without "Metropolis," this list of favorites, and, arguably every other great sci-fi film out there, would never have been the same.

Dystopian visions, futuristic fairytales and hands down the coolest sci-fi dance scene in movie history made our list of best sci-fi films to come out of Germany. “Metropolis,” of course, was the mother of them all. The future, for most German filmmakers, has rarely seemed as interesting as the past. There are German movies, it seems, about every minute aspect ... Read More »

Venice’s Golden Lion goes to Philippine film; Emma Stone wins best actress

The 73rd Venice Film Festival celebrated variety with its awards ceremony. The Golden Lion went to a challenging work from the Philippines, "The Woman Who Left," while other prizes went to quirky and provocative movies. The 10-day festival, held on the glamorous Lido di Venezia, announced the winners of its official competition on Saturday. Twenty films were vying for the Golden Lion. Instead of selecting one of the many Hollywood titles in the lineup, the jury headed by British filmmaker Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") gave the Golden Lion to "Ang Babaeng Humayo" ("The Woman Who Left") by Lav Diaz from the Philippines. The nearly four-hour long black-and-white film tells the story of the revenge wrought by a wrongly convicted schoolteacher. US fashion designer Tom Ford was the runner-up, winning the Silver Lion - Grand Jury Prize as the director of "Nocturnal Animals," another tale of bitter revenge, starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. The Silver Lion for best director was awarded to two contrasting filmmakers: Russia's Andrei Konchalovsky was in the competition with "Rai" ("Paradise"), a Holocaust drama, whereas Mexico's Amat Escalante was honored for a provocative movie called "La Region Salvaje" ("The Untamed"), a tale involving sex with an extraterrestrial, tentacled creature hidden in a cabin. Another shocking film obtained the special jury prize: the US horror movie "The Bad Batch," by Ana Lily Amirpour. Her shocking cannibal love story stars Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves. Best actors: Oscar Martinez and Emma Stone The prize for best actor went to the Argentinian Oscar Martinez for his role in the comedy "El Ciudadano Ilustre" ("The Distinguished Citizen"), where he depicts a cynical Nobel-prize winning author who returns to his hometown for the first time after 40 years. Emma Stone won the prize for best actress for her performance in the musical "La La Land," a colorful tribute to the golden age of US musicals set in present-day Los Angeles. Germany's Paula Beer won the Marcello Mastroianni Award as the best emerging actress for her role in the World War I drama "Frantz," by French filmmaker Francois Ozon. The Golden Lion for lifetime achievement was given to French cinema legend Jean-Paul Belmondo, during a ceremony held on Thursday. In recent years, the world's oldest film festival has strengthened its reputation as a launch pad for Hollywood's awards season. The last two films to win the Academy Award for best picture, "Spotlight" (2015) and "Birdman" (2014), both premiered in Venice.

The 73rd Venice Film Festival celebrated variety with its awards ceremony. The Golden Lion went to a challenging work from the Philippines, “The Woman Who Left,” while other prizes went to quirky and provocative movies. The 10-day festival, held on the glamorous Lido di Venezia, announced the winners of its official competition on Saturday. Twenty films were vying for the ... Read More »

‘Mechanic: Resurrection’: German filmmakers take on Hollywood

Plenty of German filmmakers have tried their luck in Hollywood. Some have made blockbusters; others went back home. Now, Dennis Gansel is throwing his hat in the ring with "Mechanic: Ressurection." It's got popular US stars, exciting backdrops, a fast-paced storyline, and a hero with a dark side that seems clean and does everything he can to save his girlfriend from the bad guys. "Mechanic: Resurrection," which opens Friday in US cinemas, has everything you'd expect from a typical Hollywood action film. With its restless jumps from one exotic location to the next, it even seems a bit like a James Bond film - an association that wasn't coincidental. Hollywood hasn't lost its pull The $40-million film received some funding from France and was directed by German filmmaker Dennis Gansel. Born in 1973 in Hanover, Gansel is the latest young German director to try his luck in Hollywood: The movie capital hasn't lost its magnetic power. Gansel is in good company. The number of German-speaking filmmakers that have gone to Hollywood over the decades is impressive. However, not all of them came voluntarily; some were forced to flee the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. Not all of them found happiness and were fortunate in Los Angeles. Many were artistic, sensitive characters that later decided to turn their back on Hollywood. Others, like Roland Emmerich, managed to establish themselves and rise to fame. It's not surprising that Dennis Gansel was also drawn to Hollywood. After completing his studies at the University of Television and Film Munich, he made six films in Germany, trying his hand at a variety of genres. Dennis Gansel has talent in many genres His debut film, "Das Phantom" (The Phantom), was a fast-paced police-terror thriller made for television. He followed it up in 2001 with a money-making teen comedy called "Mädchen, Mädchen" (Girls, Girls). Three years later came a Nazi drama, "Before the Fall." In 2008, Gansel made the sociopolitical thriller "The Wave," which also enjoyed success in cinemas. Although his 2010 vampire film "We Are the Night" was a box-office flop, he showed that he was capable of understanding the popular horror genre. In 2012, "The Fourth State" was a media and political thriller set in Moscow. Despite its poignantly current theme - terrorism and the East-West conflict - Gansel had difficulty financing the film. Entertainment and action don't go over well with Germany's film sponsorship authorities. It looks like a James Bond film, but it's not So it's not surprising that Dennis Gansel, who's more than proven his technical directing skills, looked around for other options. In 2014, he began extensive filming for "Mechanic: Resurrection" - in Thailand, Brazil, Australia and Bulgaria. In addition to Jason Statham and Jessica Alba in the leads, Gansel was able to get stars like Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Yeoh on board as well. Even though his Hollywood debut has gotten off to a good start, Dennis Gansel - who recently married his girlfriend Ann-Kristin - doesn't want to settle down in the US permanently. His next project, a polit-thriller based in Brussels, is already in planning. He is also working on the project "Berlin, I Love You," with directors and conductors like Oren Moverman, Marjane Satrapi, Giuseppe Tornatore and Ai Weiwei. Gansel also has yet another film in the works - a family fantasy tale based on the famous children's book series, "Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver." Shirly MacLaine has been cast in the lead. Filming for the puppet classic will start in October, in Berlin and Munich. After that, Hollywood will certainly come knocking on Gansel's door again.

Plenty of German filmmakers have tried their luck in Hollywood. Some have made blockbusters; others went back home. Now, Dennis Gansel is throwing his hat in the ring with “Mechanic: Ressurection.” It’s got popular US stars, exciting backdrops, a fast-paced storyline, and a hero with a dark side that seems clean and does everything he can to save his girlfriend ... Read More »

Ken Loach turns 80: A filmmaker for social justice

He just received his second Palme d'Or in Cannes and on June 17, Ken Loach turns 80. DW looks back at the successful and controversial career of the socially critical British filmmaker. Filmmaker Ken Loach is known as an outspoken defender of the disadvantaged and those who feel excluded from society. Many of his films deal with social ills and, now at age 80, he hasn't grown tired of raising awareness for injustice. Last month, he took home his second Palme d'Or in Cannes for his film, "I, Daniel Blake," about a blue-collar worker who struggles with the British social system after suffering a heart attack, and a single mother who is evicted from her apartment. Actually, Ken Loach wanted to retire a long time ago. But he saw too many problems in Great Britain under its conservative government. The country cannot keep telling poor people that it's their own fault that they don't have a job, or that they are incompetent or useless, Loach told the BBC. His aim, he says, is to present reality - not only because it's sad, but because it makes him angry. From law to theater to film Ken Loach was born on June 17, 1936 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, as the son of an electrician. He later fulfilled his military duty in the Royal Air Force and then studied law at Oxford. It was during his studies that Loach first got involved in theater and discovered his passion for acting. With a law degree in his pocket, Loach nevertheless chose to become an artist, first participating in smaller theater companies before moving to television in the early 1960s. After working briefly for private broadcaster ABC Television, he moved to the BBC in 1963 where he directed the popular police series "Z Cars." As part of the BBC series "The Wednesday Play," Loach also worked on numerous prize-winning films, including "Cathy Come Home" (1966). Even at that time, Loach demonstrated his interest in social issues. "Cathy Come Home" was a gritty drama that portrayed a working family. It was critically acclaimed for its true-to-life portrayal of a father who loses his job and experiences a time of great hardship. Thatcher era difficult for film In 1967, Ken Loach made it to the silver screen with "Poor Cow," a film about a battered woman who joins a group of criminals after her husband lands in jail. The movie was applauded by critics, as was "Kes" in 1970, which portrays a young outsider who finds and raises a hawk. During the 1980s, it became challenging for Loach to realize his ideas. Under conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he was faced with funding cuts and censorship. Scenes from his film "A Question of Leadership" (1980) about a steel workers' strike had to be removed before it could be broadcast. And a four-part series about the failure of the trade unions during the strike simply disappeared in the archives in 1983 rather than being broadcast. In Louise Ramond's recent documentary about his life, "Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach," he explained how decisive politics can be when making movies about the lives of people. First Golden Palm for Irish historical drama In 1990, Loach returned en force with strong social messages. His polit-thriller "Hidden Agenda" was awarded the Jury Prize in Cannes that year. But it was the following year that Loach managed his international breakthrough with the biting comedy "Riff Raff." The critically acclaimed film tells of the downfall of the working class from the perspective of London's construction workers. Then in 1993, Loach released "Raining Stones," the story of a father who works as a bouncer and pipe cleaner to save up to buy a white dress for his daughter's First Communion. Not all of Loach's films touch on Britain's working class, however. He's also made movies about historical events, like the civil wars in Nicaragua ("Carla's Song") and Spain ("Land and Freedom"). And "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," which won him his first Palme d'Or in 2006, is a blatant account of the Irish struggle for liberty against the British government in the 1920s. Critics accuse Loach of left-wing bias Despite frequent praise from critics, Loach has also had to deal with negative reactions from the press. In response to "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," for example, "Daily Mail" asked why Loach hates his own country so much. Even before that, the left-leaning filmmaker was frequently accused of being too biased or creating propaganda. But he proves he's not just a naysayer by revealing his dry sense of humor in other films. "Looking for Eric" (2009), with soccer icon Éric Cantona, turned out to be a true feel-good comedy. His headstrong and consequential approach lends Loach's films a sense of authenticity. He often works with amateur actors that only know parts of the screenplay and often have to improvise. Loach also tends to film in chronological order, which gives his films the feeling of being documentaries. In the documentary about his life, Loach said, "You think, how can I film it so that is seems plausible, so that I really think it's true."

He just received his second Palme d’Or in Cannes and on June 17, Ken Loach turns 80. DW looks back at the successful and controversial career of the socially critical British filmmaker. Filmmaker Ken Loach is known as an outspoken defender of the disadvantaged and those who feel excluded from society. Many of his films deal with social ills and, ... Read More »

Immersive experience: Testing out Germany’s first virtual cinema

One of the world's first virtual reality cinemas has opened its doors in Berlin. DW's Elizabeth Grenier tried it out, survived - and was surprised to find a quirky atmosphere and a short film on the refugee debate. I was a bit nervous on my way to the Virtual Reality Cinema. I wondered: To avoid the famous virtual reality sickness, was it safer to go on an empty stomach or should I quickly gulp down a sandwich? I decided to avoid eating - I didn't really have time anyway. The Virtual Reality Cinema in Berlin was established by &samhoud media, a Dutch production company led by the 26-year-old entrepreneur Jip Samhoud. The other one he previously opened in Amsterdam, in March 2016, is said to be the first virtual reality cinema in the world. The Berlin cinema is not too far away from Alexanderplatz, behind the Rotes Rathaus, Berlin's town hall. One has to go through a couple of huge courtyards before reaching the actual building of the cinema. A wooden corridor decorated with hipster-style party banners and urban art leads to the entrance. This wasn't what I was expecting. It felt more like one of Berlin's cool clubs along the Spree River than a high-tech VR cinema. The girls greeting us at the entrance confirmed my impressions: "This whole building complex houses a club and workshops for artists - the Spreewerkstätten," they told me. I then went up the stairs of an old factory building, landing in a couple of old restrooms before actually reaching the lobby of the cinema that looked like a speakeasy-style bar. Going with the flow of the atmosphere, I decided to forget my empty-stomach rule and grabbed a glass of wine and the complimentary popcorn. Retro meets the future The location manager, Michael Yosef, told me more about the location he was asked to find: "They basically wanted 'something cool'." He then pointed to another room with (no longer functioning) showers, explaining this used to be a washroom for factory workers. The techno club, Praegewerk, still runs downstairs. Retro objects and quirky paintings decorate the space, as well as quotes from the early ages of cinema, such as from the 1916 manifest of Futurist Cinema by F.T. Marinetti: "We shall set in motion the words-in-freedom that smash the boundaries of literature as they march towards painting, music, noise-art, and throw a marvelous bridge between the word and the real object." "The goal was to create a mix between the future - with virtual reality cinema - and a retro atmosphere bringing us back to the beginnings of cinema," said Pascal Steeghs, spokesperson for the VR cinema. Amidst Dali's world It was time to face virtual reality. We all entered a second room, where swiveling chairs, special VR glasses and headphones were awaiting us. I was confirmed I could use the VR gear without my glasses, so I took them off - and automatically fell into my clumsy mode. "Don't forget to turn your head and move around during the film," said the founder of the cinema, Jip Samhoud, during his short introduction. That's when I realized that my bags and glass of wine were in the way. Getting my stuff together was another overwhelming challenge in my awkward blind state. Reassuringly, several employees were running around to help us get started. And off I went, right into Salvador Dali's universe, as long legged elephants walked all around and over me amidst a surreal desert. Swiveling in a VR bubble Although we were all sitting together, there's no official beginning to the films. Everybody drifts off in their own VR bubble - though you might rub knees with your neighbor while rotating on your chair. Along with the Dali dream sequence, a series of different short films made up the 30-minute program: an animated short, a music video clip with musicians doing funky stuff all around the viewer, another trippy sequence and finally a short film directed by the founder of the cinema himself. A refugee on virtual reality TV Jip Samhoud's film, called "In Your Face," stars two top Dutch actors - a couple in the film - who get a sudden visit from a reality TV crew. They put the stars on the spot by asking them if they could host a refugee in their trendy apartment. After all, the two celebrities have often publically claimed their support for refugees, so they should naturally be ready to welcome one into their lives. As the couple tries to keep their professional smile while uncomfortably debating on what to do, they finally turn to us, the viewer, breaking the fourth wall - or whatever you might call it in virtual reality - to confirm that if they're just virtual, we can take action in real life. "I wanted to inspire people to see a new reality," director Jip Samhoud told me afterwards. He knew he wanted to address a social issue in his first VR film, and the refugee crisis is a hot discussion topic in the Netherlands, just like in Germany. Just an appetizer The mix of genres in the film program makes it difficult to recommend the experience to a specific public. Samhoud is aware of that: "We wanted to show a broad overview to start out with, but we'll be adding new programs every month, and eventually we'll offer special horror or romantic compilations, for example," he said. For now, they are still working on collecting material, a challenge in itself in these early days of VR cinema: "We're currently in touch with every VR producer in the world," explained the young businessman. Still in the early phases Virtual reality cinema is still in its first steps. It's a challenge as a director, for example, to get the viewer to focus on something specific. "In horror movies, they might use eight zombies to make sure you experience it fully," Samhoud explains. Luckily for me, there weren't any hardcore roller-coasters or eight-headed monsters in the program that night. Because of my poor eyesight, I wasn't quite sure about the focus, which reminded me of the stress I feel at an eye doctor's test, when asked to decide which of two OK pictures is best. I felt a slight headache coming on but didn't get nauseous despite the wine. Jip Samhoud confirmed that even though my short-sightedness probably didn't help, the images aren't perfect yet. "We're still on the ground level of virtual reality. It's not like real life yet - but it will get there," he said with a charming smile. Whether this perspective is attractive or not can be debated. However, as one of the pioneers of VR cinema, the young entrepreneur and film director Jip Samhoud will definitely be in a good position whenever that happens.

One of the world’s first virtual reality cinemas has opened its doors in Berlin. DW’s Elizabeth Grenier tried it out, survived – and was surprised to find a quirky atmosphere and a short film on the refugee debate. I was a bit nervous on my way to the Virtual Reality Cinema. I wondered: To avoid the famous virtual reality sickness, ... Read More »

#OscarsSoWhite: Is Hollywood part of a much bigger problem?

After an onslaught of criticism from Hollywood stars and film fans over lack of diversity at the Oscars, the Academy promised to reform itself. But critics say the changes don't go far enough in addressing racism. "Enough is enough," said Frederic Kendrick, communications professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. "We've had it up to here." That once again black actors are missing from the nomination rosters at the 88th annual Academy Awards is, for Kendrick, just the tip of the iceberg. "The US has a lot of problems when it comes to race and culture." That's a sentiment many have shared over the last six weeks, ever since the nominations were announced. The Oscars, scheduled to be awarded on February 28, unleashed fury towards Hollywood's Academy - a group of 6,261 prominent members of the film industry - and comprised, for the most part, of older white men. #OscarsSoWhite The hashtag #Oscarssowhite started by editor and public speaker April Reign first began appearing just hours after the nominations were announced in mid-January. A glance at social media platforms shows that the outrage hasn't cooled since then. "If a white man were to play Michael Jackson, he'd be guaranteed an Oscar," according to numerous sarcastic tweets in response to Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in "Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon." The short British comedy sees the King of Pop joining Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando on a road trip together in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York. The protest, which counts director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith as two of the most vocal early adopters, has also been taken up by the "New York Times," which claims that Hollywood has a "race problem." In a statement, President Barack Obama went one step further, asking whether the discrimination against black actors is part of a larger problem. "Are we doing everything to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance?" he asked rhetorically. The good old (white) boys club For many blacks and other minorities in the US, the answer to that question is no. Despite the election of a black president, not much has changed for the better. For some, Hollywood plays a role in this discriminatory system. Author Earl Ofari Hutchinson told DW that he sees Hollywood as a "skewed and deeply-rooted, party of white boys," whose only role in life is to defend privilege. "Hollywood has repeatedly seen to it that white talent not be excluded," says Hutchinson, whose widely-acclaimed books include, "A Colored Man's Journey Through 20th-Century Segregated America." Just how great a disparity between roles for white and black actors exists is something that media students at Howard University wanted to know. That's the impetus behind "Truth Be Told," a fact-checking project aimed at uncovering whether those criticisms against Hollywood and the Academy are fair. At first glance, the numbers don't look good: In the 87-year history of the Oscars, just 32 of the winners were black. A discriminatory dynamic With two Oscars, Denzel Washington is the exception to the rule. "Blacks weren't envisaged when Hollywood was founded," said Kendrick, the professor who started the project. He refers specifically to the silent film "Birth of a Nation," which was produced in 1915 by one of Hollywood's founding fathers. In it, blacks are portrayed in a negative light and practices of the white-supremacy group Ku Klux Klan are glorified. Many Americans believe their country has already arrived in a "post-race era," but they are getting ahead of themselves, says Kendrick. The "Hollywood dynamic" is evidence of the opposite. In the eyes of the critics, last year should have been a banner year for blacks with several very good films produced featuring black actors in the lead. As examples, they cite the roles played by Will Smith in "Focus" and Michael B. Jordan in "Creed." Despite being considered as top-notch quality and successes at the box office, neither of the films gained nominations. Reforms in the wings In the meantime, the uproar has led the Academy to promise that the number of minority members in its midst be incrementally increased in order to promote diversity. It's too little, too late, however, says Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "That's not a dramatic shift," added the author, whose role as president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtables has him lobbying for filmmakers. In his statements, one hears a bit of a warning: If the Academy stays so stubborn, the changing tide will roll over their heads. Their glitzy exterior and influence could soon be history. Robert Redford, who was awarded an Oscar for his life's work, has not paid the critics much mind. He's interested, he says, "only in the work" and the on-screen results. "The elite good old boys, who want to secure their position of power," criticizes Hutchinson. An online protest for diversity And so the discussion about Hollywood's race problem carries on. Is it, as Frederic Kendrick of Howard University has said, just one element in a larger debate? Either way, protestors have already declared a massive anti-Oscar campaign on social media for Sunday night. It may just be that these online activists steal the spotlight from the stars on the red carpet.

After an onslaught of criticism from Hollywood stars and film fans over lack of diversity at the Oscars, the Academy promised to reform itself. But critics say the changes don’t go far enough in addressing racism. “Enough is enough,” said Frederic Kendrick, communications professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. “We’ve had it up to here.” That once again black ... Read More »

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