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Tokyo festival produces heartwarming trilogy of Asian films

Cannes-winning Brillante Mendoza is among the three directors tapped by the Tokyo International Film Festival to create "Reflections," a trilogy that depicts the intertwining of stories among Asian nations.

Be it a Filipino worker in Japan or a Japanese bureaucrat in love with a Cambodian woman, the main characters are old and lonely, caught in an Asian nation other than their own, in films that reflect the real-life erasing of barriers in this region.

Premiering Wednesday, "Reflections" marks the first production effort by a festival still struggling to gain stature. And so the work is a heartwarming experiment, despite its relatively modest budget of 10 million yen ($100,000) for each of the three sequences.

Mendoza's poetic piece "Dead Horse" centers on an elderly Filipino, who is deported after having worked for decades as a laborer in Japan, betting on horses as well as taking care of them.

His state is actually common: Filipinos are the most numerous foreigners in Japan, after Koreans and Chinese. Mendoza did research, talking to Filipinos working in Japan. And shooting in the snow meant a fun challenge for Mendoza.

The horses form a metaphor for the hero's downtrodden plight, as well as his integrity. The close-ups of actor Lou Veloso's forlorn face, speckled with the snowflakes of northern Japan, which he would never see in his tropical home, are tragically majestic.

"After 30 years, he doesn't have a family any more. You lose the connection not only with his family but with everyone around him. It's a sad situation, but, in fact, it is really happening," Mendoza said in a recent interview.

At a time when Japan is widely criticized for not being repentant enough about World War II atrocities, a piece of Japan that's surprisingly lovable is presented by Cambodian director Sotho Kulikar in her "Beyond the Bridge."

The man, played by Masaya Kato, returns after two decades to Cambodia, where he had a relationship with a local woman. He stands deep in thought on the bridge, built by the Japanese, destroyed during Cambodia's civil war and then rebuilt, a moment symbolic of an ideal love that can overcome cultural differences, separation or even death.

The theme of unshaken love was based on Kulikar's parents. Her father died when she was 2, killed in the war. Kulikar wanted to send a message to Cambodian people not to forget or bury the painful past, but to embrace it, she said.

"That is a big mistake for us because we cannot emotionally move on, if we have not accepted it," said Kulikar, whose next film, a documentary, is about the culture of rice, which she believes also connects Cambodians with Japanese.

"I think the world has so many problems already I don't think we should look into the bad parts only. We should look into the beautiful part of each country, each nation. Because we need to live together. Otherwise, there will be war again," she added. "Why not see the beautiful side, and try to live together?"

Crossing borders was also a welcome theme for Japanese director Isao Yukisada, who worked with Malaysian actors and crew to shoot "Pigeon." It explores Japan's guilt about the colonization of Asia that led to World War II, juxtaposed with an elderly Japanese man living his retirement years in Malaysia.

Yukisada noted that funding from outside Japan, such as China, and filming with non-Japanese staff and actors, are increasingly becoming part of his life, an experience that's feeding into his directing.

"Crossing boundaries is a great way to rethink your own work. I've been making films for 16 years, and so my style and filmmaking environment are getting more established. But if you think that means things are on a roll, that's not the case. If anything, the production side makes demands that take you farther away from the original work you had in mind," he said.

Kenji Ishizaka, professor at Japan Institute of the Moving Image, who oversaw the trilogy, insists independent Asian filmmaking has strengths and appeal, and the festival plans to produce another in 2018, with new directors.

"These films don't destroy everything in their path like Hollywood blockbusters," said Ishizaka, who had a bit role as a police officer in Mendoza's section.

"These movies are about family, community, friends, what you might call human-to-human contact, what ties people together, and they address the effort of various ethnic groups and cultures co-existing."


Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at

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Box Office Top 20: 'Madea' tops charts, 'Moonlight' shines

"Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween" outmuscled the Tom Cruise vehicle "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" at the box office this weekend. Perry's film netted $28.5 million — slightly higher than initial projections, while the "Jack Reacher" sequel came in slightly lower with $22.9 million, according to studio actuals Monday.

The horror pic "Ouija: Origin of Evil" opened in third with $14.1 million. Rounding out the top five were the adult thrillers "The Accountant" with $13.6 million and "The Girl on the Train" with $7.2 million.

In limited release, the highly praised indie "Moonlight," expected to be a significant awards contender this year, got off to a sparkling start earning $402,075 from just four theaters.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by comScore:

1. "Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween," Lionsgate, $28,501,448, 2,260 locations, $12,611 average, $28,501,448, 1 week.

2. "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," Paramount, $22,872,490, 3,780 locations, $6,051 average, $22,872,490, 1 week.

3. "Ouija: Origin Of Evil," Universal, $14,065,500, 3,167 locations, $4,441 average, $14,065,500, 1 week.

4. "The Accountant," Warner Bros., $13,643,132, 3,332 locations, $4,095 average, $47,538,513, 2 weeks.

5. "The Girl On The Train," Universal, $7,166,015, 3,091 locations, $2,318 average, $58,798,345, 3 weeks.

6. "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children," 20th Century Fox, $5,894,943, 3,133 locations, $1,882 average, $74,326,778, 4 weeks.

7. "Keeping Up With The Joneses," 20th Century Fox, $5,461,475, 3,022 locations, $1,807 average, $5,461,475, 1 week.

8. "Kevin Hart: What Now?," Universal, $4,118,255, 2,567 locations, $1,604 average, $18,949,900, 2 weeks.

9. "Storks," Warner Bros., $4,003,270, 2,145 locations, $1,866 average, $64,632,798, 5 weeks.

10. "Deepwater Horizon," Lionsgate, $3,399,466, 2,828 locations, $1,202 average, $55,045,137, 4 weeks.

11. "The Magnificent Seven," Sony, $2,285,095, 1,979 locations, $1,155 average, $89,028,462, 5 weeks.

12. "Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life," Lionsgate, $2,178,487, 1,772 locations, $1,229 average, $16,888,414, 3 weeks.

13. "Sully," Warner Bros., $1,490,479, 1,172 locations, $1,272 average, $120,854,369, 7 weeks.

14. "Denial," Bleecker Street, $954,159, 648 locations, $1,472 average, $1,971,470, 4 weeks.

15. "I'm Not Ashamed," Pure Flix, $927,161, 505 locations, $1,836 average, $927,161, 1 week.

16. "The Birth Of A Nation," Fox Searchlight, $907,974, 633 locations, $1,434 average, $14,173,155, 3 weeks.

17. "Max Steel," Open Road, $680,104, 2,034 locations, $334 average, $3,431,161, 2 weeks.

18. "Desierto," STX Entertainment, $499,743, 168 locations, $2,975 average, $1,145,083, 2 weeks.

19. "Moonlight," A24, $402,075, 4 locations, $100,519 average, $402,075, 1 week.

20. "Suicide Squad," Warner Bros., $385,211, 383 locations, $1,006 average, $324,271,174, 12 weeks.


Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

Fans petition for Bob Uecker to call the World Series

Cleveland fans have already been denied "Wild Thing" making an appearance, so they've now turned to another fictional "Major League" character to improve their World Series mojo.

More than 12,000 fans have signed a petition to replace Fox's Joe Buck with Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker.

>> Read more trending stories 

Fans must be expecting Uecker's alter-ego, Harry Doyle - the lovable Indians broadcaster from the 1989 movie in which a laughable Cleveland team beats the odds to make the playoffs.

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Fans must've missed the sequel in which it is revealed the Indians didn't make the World Series, losing to the White Sox in the ALCS.

But that was Hollywood and this is reality.

Charlie Sheen, who portrayed pticher Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the film, was denied his request to throw a ceremonial first pitch by Major League Baseball. 

Uecker was a catcher with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves in the 1960s. He has served as the Milwaukee Brewers' announcer for more than four decades. His signature home run call is "Get up! Get up! Get outta here! Gone!" 

The Indians have been to the World Series twice since 1995, losing both times. The Chicago Cubs have reached their first World Series in 71 years. They have not won one since 1908.

If I only had $85K: Fundraiser for 'Oz' Scarecrow costume

Now that the Smithsonian has reached its crowd-funding goal to preserve the ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz," the museum is asking for more money to conserve another relic from the beloved movie.

The National Museum of American History announced Monday that it has extended the Kickstarter campaign that brought in $300,000 in one week to maintain the ruby slippers. The museum will seek another $85,000 to care for and display a Scarecrow costume worn by actor Ray Bolger and donated to the museum by his widow, Gwendolyn Bolger, in 1987.

If the campaign is successful, the museum will place the Scarecrow's hat alongside the slippers in a new pop-culture exhibit that's scheduled to open in 2018. The entire costume would be shown temporarily but is too delicate to go on permanent display.

The slippers, one of four pairs made for the 1939 movie that are known to exist, are among the most popular items in the museum's collection. They were sold at auction in 1970, donated to the museum in 1979 and have been on near-permanent display ever since. Not built to last, the sequin-covered shoes have deteriorated from exposure to light and moisture, and most of the $300,000 will go toward scientific research on how best to construct a new display case that will better protect them.

The efforts involving the Scarecrow costume will be similar: Museum staff will assess what needs to be done to preserve and treat the costume and prepare it for display.

News of the efforts to preserve the slippers and costume was bittersweet to at least one super-fan of the movie: Michael Shaw, a Los Angeles-based drama coach who owned another pair of slippers. His pair was stolen in 2005 while on loan to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and has never been found.

"Every time I hear anything about the ruby slippers, I get nauseous because I keep thinking about mine," Shaw, 80, told The Associated Press by phone on Monday.

Shaw used to take his slippers around the country and display them, and he also used them to raise money for charity. When not on display, they were kept in a safety-deposit box, and he believes they were in better shape than the Smithsonian's pair. Shaw's trove of movie memorabilia also includes a hat and trench coat worn by Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca."

"I'm very happy that the Smithsonian is going to be doing this preservation, because that was my goal for years — to save, preserve and to put a lot of these things on display," Shaw said.


Follow Ben Nuckols on Twitter at

Ship that helped saved 7 in 'The Perfect Storm' to be sunk

A ship that towed warships to safety during World War II and battled 40-foot waves to help rescue seven people in what was portrayed in the book and film "The Perfect Storm" is poised to be sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts.

Officials told The Record newspaper ( ) the 205-foot Coast Guard vessel Tamaroa will help grow a reef near Cape May Point by drawing large game fish and boosting recreational fishing.

"It's always sad when you sink a ship, but some good will come of it," said retired Coast Guard Capt. Larry Brudnicki, who commanded the ship during the fateful 1991 storm. "It's being repurposed. It's being used. If it's cut up, who's going to know that their razor blade came from the Tamaroa?"

The sinking is planned around Oct. 30, the 25th anniversary of the storm in which the Tamaroa helped rescue the crew of a sailboat and a downed Air National Guard helicopter in waters off Massachusetts.

Long before its role in "The Perfect Storm," the Tamaroa was known as the USS Zuni, which was first deployed by the Navy in World War II. Following the war, the Zuni was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed the Tamaroa. The vessel spent nearly five decades rescuing ships in distress, intercepting smugglers at sea and enforcing fishery laws.

Efforts to convert the ship into a museum and memorial ended in 2012 after its hull was found to be leaking.

"I'd rather see her be a permanent undersea memorial than be scrapped," said Bill Doherty, a New York man who served on the Tamaroa in the late 1960s. "She has too much history for that."

To those who oppose the sinking of the ship for sentimental reasons, Harry Jaeger, co-founder of Zuni/Tamaroa Maritime Foundation, said you can put on your scuba gear and it'll be right there.


Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.),

Japan animation auteur Hosoda sees beasts in child's growth

Time warps, half-bestial children and parallel worlds are, for Mamoru Hosoda, a natural way to pursue the universal coming-of-age story that has driven all his movies.

"A child growing up is fascinating and stunning, a true wonder of the world," the burly but friendly Japanese animation director said recently in an interview at his suburban Tokyo Chizu Studio.

"There is struggle in growth and change, between that wolf, that blood, that drive within you and order or reason needed to live as a human being. I want to keep looking at this child, standing alone in the middle of all that."

A retrospective of Hosoda's works, starting from his early shorts, is highlighted at this year's Tokyo International Film Festival, which opens Tuesday.

People think his films are about family, which they are, but it's the child in the middle of that framework that fascinates him the most, Hosoda says.

His latest, the 2015 "The Boy and the Beast," focuses on a boy's evolving relationship with a disheveled but well-meaning bear-father, complete with video-game-like martial-arts fight scenes.

All the films feature the trademark hand-drawn style of the art-school-trained Hosoda, especially stunning in the depiction of rural landscapes below cloud-filled skies that evokes luscious paintings.

A decade into his feature-animation career, Hosoda continues to defy the time and cost-saving technological advantages of computer graphics, now the standard at studios like Pixar and Disney.

"We are really barely hanging on," he said, stressing that given the time and costs required for drawing, rather than switching completely to computer graphics, his work has been a real struggle.

Sometimes, he is frustrated, even insulted, when he gets asked why he simply doesn't change with the times and use computer graphics.

Hosoda's first feature, "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time," portrayed a schoolgirl who finds herself suddenly able to go back and forth in time, a take on that common wish of having done or said something differently. The scenes in which she gets thrust through time are dazzling.

Hosoda, honored internationally, including at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, as well as at home, winning the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year, is also recognized for his collaboration on animation with acclaimed visual artist Takashi Murakami, who designed manga-like motifs for Louis Vuitton luxury bags.

But Hosoda isn't at all happy about the title he has earned of "the next Miyazaki," referring to the legacy of Oscar-winning Hayao Miyazaki, of Ghibli Studios' "Spirited Away" and "Ponyo."

"There are as many angles are there are directors, and we must enjoy that diversity," said Hosoda, irritation clear in his voice.

Hosoda, who sees Disney's 1991 "The Beauty and the Beast" as the film that influenced him the most, stressed it's important for artists like him to be aware of their position in international filmmaking, while staying true to the storytelling of Japanese settings, situations and characters that are close to his every day.

Like the characters in his film, Hosoda as creator is also being asked that same question of identity, he added.

"It may feel like a tiny corner of the world, but it is about the eternal," he said, stressing that the answer is not about the gimmick of localization. "To face up to this with sincerity is what allows a work to reach people on the other side of the planet."

He also believes animation has great potential to do what would be hard to do on film, for instance, following a character over decades, or putting children through hardships.

And he thinks animation is underrated, pigeon-holed as children's entertainment, when it's a fabulous tool for filmmaking with a lot of unexplored territory.

Hosoda stressed his next film, set to be released in 2018, is top secret, but was so excited he couldn't hold himself back from talking about it.

It's the logical theme to follow, he said, after fatherhood in "The Boy and the Beast," and motherhood in "Wolf Children," a touching saga of a woman who falls in love with a wolf and raises two children on her own, a tale inspired by his own mother and his wife.

When this reporter guessed, "Siblings?" he acknowledged with a big laugh: That was the right answer.


Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at

Her work can be found at

Tyler Perry's 'Madea' tops Cruise's 'Jack Reacher' sequel

Tyler Perry bested Tom Cruise at the box office this weekend.

Perry's "Boo! A Madea Halloween" opened in the top spot with an estimated $27.6 million, edging Cruise's "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" into second place, according to studio estimates Sunday.

It's the third best opening for a "Madea" movie, behind "Madea Goes to Jail" and "Madea's Family Reunion" and a sign of the character's longstanding appeal to audiences.

To market the film, which reportedly cost $20 million to produce, Lionsgate leveraged the social media audiences of Perry and his cast as well as promotional videos like one featuring Jimmy Fallon as Trump alongside Madea that ended up going viral.

"Tyler Perry is a movie star. Tyler Perry is a mogul. The Madea character has provided box office dividends for years. It's a perfect combination, Madea and Halloween right before Halloween," said comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

That timing, along with the promising A CinemaScore, should bode well for the film's second weekend over Halloween.

"A Madea Halloween" proved to be the strongest of the slew of sequels this weekend, topping even the star power of Tom Cruise, whose "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" took in $23 million for Paramount Pictures.

It's a far cry from Cruise's successes with the "Mission: Impossible" movies for Paramount, but it did do significantly better than the first "Jack Reacher," which opened right before Christmas in 2012 to $15.2 million. That film went on to gross $80.1 million domestically and $218.3 globally. The sequel, directed by Edward Zwick and costing $60 million, will also likely be making the bulk of its money from international audiences.

Coming in third this weekend was the horror prequel "Ouija: Origin of Evil" with $14.1 million — just the latest in a string of highly fruitful and modestly budgeted horror pics this year, including "The Conjuring 2," ''Don't Breathe" and "Light's Out."

Holdovers "The Account" and "The Girl on the Train" rounded out the top five with $14 million and $7.3 million.

Less successful was 20th Century Fox's comedy "Keeping Up with the Joneses," which launched with a tepid $5.6 million. The film, starring Isla Fisher and Zack Galifianakis as a pair of boring suburbanites intrigued by the arrival of a glamourous new couple played by Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot was savaged by critics.

In limited release, the critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama "Moonlight" got off to a robust start in four theaters with $414,740 and many sell-out showings. It's a massive result for a film with no big stars and a fairly unknown director in Barry Jenkins.

"That's an Oscar movie to look out for. It's going to be on everyone's Oscar radar now," said Dergarabedian. "Moonlight" will be expanding in the coming weeks.

Michael Moore's surprise documentary "Michael Moore In TrumpLand" also raked in $50,200 from two theaters this weekend.

Overall, it's the first "up" weekend at the box office in over a month. Dergarabedian noted that it's an interesting market for films right now, which have a lot of competition in theaters in addition to the distraction of the election.

"There's a lot going on, but this is a good weekend," he said.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween," $27.6 million.

2."Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," $23 million ($31 million international).

3."Ouija: Origin of Evil," $14.1 million ($7.9 million international).

4."The Accountant," $14 million ($5.6 million international).

5."The Girl on the Train," $7.3 million ($5.9 million international).

6."Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," $6 million ($13.5 million international).

7."Keeping Up with the Joneses," ''$5.6 million ($2.5 million international).

8."Kevin Hart: What Now?" $4.1 million.

9."Storks," ''$4.1 million ($6.8 million international).

10."Deepwater Horizon," $3.6 million ($1.8 million international).


Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back," $31 million.

2. "Inferno," $28.9 million.

3. "Mechanic: Resurrection," $24.1 million.

4. "Trolls," $18 million.

5. "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," $13.5 million.

6. "Luck-Key," $11.9 million.

7. "Bridget Jones's Baby," $10.8 million.

8. "Heartfall Arises," $8.8 million.

9. "Operation Mekong," $8.1 million.

10. "Ouija: Origin of Evil," $7.9 million.


Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at:

Palestinians aim to promote local cinema with new award

A Palestinian film organization has launched a new cinema award in an attempt to stimulate the local filmmaking industry and promote cinema culture in the Palestinian territories.

Filmlab, a local nonprofit backed by European partners, hopes the "Sunbird Prize" will grow to become the Palestinian version of the Oscars. A jury of four Palestinians and two European cinema experts chose Thursday night's winners.

The jury awarded prizes, named after a local bird, to one short and one feature length film out of 80 total entries. A large number of local VIPs, including the Palestinian culture minister, attended the event.

Reflecting the immediate concerns of Palestinians, both of Thursday's winners dealt with the conflict with Israel.

The short, entitled "Izriqaq (Blued)," tells the story of a man who kills his father, then leaves the body next to an Israeli checkpoint. Local villagers, believing the father was killed by Israeli troops, venerate him as a "martyr," and his son gets away with the crime.

"We have been living in a circle of violence. The Israeli occupation created this cycle of violence, and a new generation was born violent because of that," said May Odeh, the film's producer. "The real story is about a man who is violent as a result of the circle of violence around himself and the society," she said.

A second prize was given to "Ambulance," a documentary about an ambulance driver in the Gaza Strip during the 2012 conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.

The prize capped the week-long Days of Cinema festival, which screened dozens of Palestinian and foreign movies in five cities across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"Most of the cinema houses in the Palestinian territories have been closed for either political or economic reasons," said Hanna Atallah, Filmlab's artistic director. "We are trying to bring the movies to people in cultural centers for free to enable them to see them and slowly get back to cinema culture."

Days of Cinema screened 80 films, 20 of them by Palestinians.

Khulood Badawi, a spokeswoman for the project, said thousands of people attended the festival.

Movie theaters were popular in the Palestinian territories from the 1960s to 1980s, but shut down after the first uprising against Israeli rule erupted in 1987. Only a few reopened after the uprising ended, and most of those went out of business.

One of the few surviving movie houses in the West Bank, located in the northern city of Jenin, is slated to close later this month. The cinema's spokeswoman, Maisa al-Aseer, said the owners are demolishing the building and selling the land.

"Closing a cinema is similar to closing a school. I have urged the government to buy it because it's the only cinema and theater for the city of almost 250,000 people," she said.

But with the property valued at about $1.7 million, she said prospects for conserving it were dim. "We only have 10 days to rescue this cultural place and unfortunately no one has moved to save it," she said.

Like the local cinema scene, the Palestinian filmmaking industry has largely struggled. Two films, "Paradise Now" (2005) and "Omar" (2013), both by director Hany Abu-Assad, received Oscar nominations for best foreign language film. Several others, including documentaries and shorts, have also received attention at prestigious international festivals.

But these movies often rely on foreign funding and are usually made by Palestinian filmmakers living abroad, sometimes even working with Israeli partners. Most locally-produced movies typically suffer from low budgets, poor acting and weak plotlines.

Atallah said Palestinian cinema production, however, has been slowly improving, moving beyond the exhausted "hero-victim" trope to stories with subtle and controversial plots.

"Palestinian cinema started with documenting the misery of the Palestinians resulting from the Israeli occupation, and the picture of the Palestinian in those movies was either as a hero fighting the occupation or a victim of this occupation," he said.

He noted that a number of the festival's films tackled sensitive social and political issues, such as the rift between the rival Fatah and Hamas governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively, Palestinians fleeing the conflict and seeking better opportunities abroad, and crime in the Palestinian territories.

One of the more popular movies screened this week, "Love, Stealing and Other Things," traces a young Palestinian man who dreams of moving abroad, but turns to stealing cars in Israel and selling them in the West Bank to make a living.

The festival opened with a foreign film, "Our Last Tango," a love story about a famous Argentinian dance couple.

"We opened the event with this movie because it celebrates life and love. We want to promote life and love and culture in our society," Atallah said.

Donald Glover cast as Lando Calrissian in Han Solo film

Donald Glover is joining the "Star Wars" universe.

Disney announced Friday that the writer, actor and rapper will play Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo "Star Wars" film.

Alden Ehrenreich was previously cast as the title character.

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller say the new film will explore Lando in his formative years, before the events depicted in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."

The untitled film is set for release in 2018.

Tom Hanks sees US election warning in thriller 'Inferno'

Embedded within the manic action of "Inferno," the latest big-screen adaptation of a Dan Brown thriller, is a warning about the dangers of seeking simple solutions to complex problems. Star Tom Hanks says it's a theme with echoes in the current U.S. presidential race.

"Inferno" sets Hank's polymathic professor Robert Langdon on the trail of a deadly plague concocted by billionaire scientist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) out of a sort of warped humanitarianism: He plans to end war, poverty and famine by wiping out half the world's population.

Hanks says the belief that there's a "one-step answer to all problems" is alarmingly relevant.

"Down through history there's been an awful lot of people who say: Here's what the problem is, here's what it was caused by, and all you have to do is my suggestion, there's an easy way in order to make it go away," Hanks said.

"It's very simplistic, it's very reactionary. It's almost like a fundamental embracing of a brand of ignorance," he added. "But I think it's part of the political discourse."

Hanks clearly has the contest between Trump and Clinton in mind.

America, he says, needs "vision and leadership and scope, as opposed to one-stop shopping fixes all."

"I'm not a political activist, nor am I a political animal, but I will say: Look, I'm going to vote for her, because I think this is a marathon in order to solve not just the most obvious problems, but the ones that are coming down the pipe."

Political discussion over, Hanks happily reverts to talking about Dan Brown's mega-successful mix of medieval conspiracies and modern-day skullduggery.

In his third screen outing as Langdon, Hanks is sent on a high-stakes treasure hunt centered around the life and works of Dante Alighieri, whose "Divine Comedy" created a teeming vision of hell that has influenced artists and writers for 700 years.

He's joined by Felicity Jones' brainy medic Dr. Sienna Brooks as ally and intellectual sparring partner.

Hanks, who played Langdon in "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons" — both directed by Ron Howard, as is "Inferno" — says he still finds pleasure in making the border-hopping thrillers. "Inferno" scurries from Florence to Venice to Istanbul, wreaking havoc in some of the world's most beautiful historic buildings.

"Making movies is by and large a pretty fun enterprise, except when you have to be cold or up late or wear a fake beard or something," said Hanks, after more than three decades in the business still the most affable of Hollywood stars.

"But these are rather special. The team has been together since the first one. We get to go to amazing places: London, Paris, Rome, Venice. Which is a lot better than, say, going to Sony Studios in Culver City, California."

For the viewer, the movie offers the pleasures of a good old-fashioned caper — Hanks likens it to a scavenger hunt — in which the characters must decipher a string of clues in a race against time.

"Time and distance are actually characters in all of these films," Hanks said over the phone from a rainy Florence, Italy, where the movie had its world premiere.

"We only have so much time and how do you get from Florence to Venice? Turns out the fastest way is the train, so we jump on a train and we actually shoot some of the movie while we're going from here to there," he said. "Ends up being one of the advantages of it not being a computer-generated story — these are movies that we shoot in real places."

For the actor, there's also the pleasure of absorbing large quantities of information so his character can dispense gobbets of exposition and expertise about everything from Dante's death mask to the nine circles of hell.

"It makes you a really great dinner companion," Hanks said.

"For a guy who really only had a couple of years of junior college — and none of it was spent in art history class — I end up learning an awful lot about art history."

Howard has assembled an international cast that includes Sidse Babett Knudsen (star of Danish political drama "Borgen") as an ambiguous World Health Organization boss, France's Omar Sy ("The Intouchables") as one of her agents, Romania's Ana Ularu as a mysterious assassin and Indian star Irfan Khan as an amoral international fixer.

Hanks said the diverse cast comes from Howard's simple desire to fill the movie with interesting actors.

"So more cultures are represented, and both genders, and that just ends up being perfect and organic for our story," he said.

"Inferno" opens in the U.S. on Oct 28.


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