Thursday 20 December 2018


The French release of “The Forgiven” takes place early January 2019, but a select number of moviegoers got to see the film Dec. 15 when American actor Forest Whitaker hosted a pre-screening in Paris alongside director Roland Joffé.
Forest Whitaker at the pre-screening of "The Forgiven". 
(Photo courtesy of UNESCO)
Based on the play "The Archbishop and the Antichrist" by Michael Ashton, “The Forgiven” tells a story that involves Archbishop Desmond Tutu's search for answers during South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The drama pits Tutu against the fictional character Piet Blomfeld - a convicted murderer, who is a composite of various racist personalities - played by the Australian actor Eric Bana.
While many critics have hailed the subject matter, noting that Tutu’s historical role is a worthy topic, most panned the heavy-handed treatment by English-French director Joffé when the film was released in the United States and the UK last March. Variety magazine reviewer Guy Lodge, for instance, wrote that the movie was “drab” and “vigourless”, and a far cry from Joffé’s award-winning work on “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission”.
“The Forgiven” (or just "Forgiven" for the French market) might, however, strike a stronger chord with French viewers, where the questions of égalité and liberté spark philosophical discourse, even amidst hypocrisy in national dealings with oppressive regimes. 
The French-language poster for the film.
Whitaker plays Tutu, who is running the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of apartheid and who visits Cape Town's Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison to meet Blomfeld, a former officer of the South African Defence Force and member of a neo-Nazi organization, to assess his candidacy for amnesty.
Blomfeld is a potential witness to murders committed under apartheid, including the disappearance of the teenage daughter of Mrs. Morobe (played with poignant depth by Thandi Makhubele), who implores the archbishop to find answers regarding her missing child.
The movie comprises other sub-plots, but the main action consists of the tense confrontations and psychological games between Tutu and Blomfeld, which, if nothing else, may spur viewers to do research on the apartheid era (and its legacy). If that happens, the film will have served a purpose, whatever one thinks of the overall production.
The Paris pre-screening took place at the headquarters of the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Paris on Dec. 10, 1948.
“It is always inspiring to see people coming together to watch a movie about justice,” said Whitaker, who is UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation.

Distribution (France): SAJE Distribution.

Wednesday 12 December 2018


Valérie Oka wants to break down the barriers between art and digital technology. 
The Ivorian-French artist mixes conventional techniques and digitalization to depict individuals who have shattered social codes and barriers, and she questions the boundaries between the “real and the virtual”, as she puts it.
Valérie Oka stands beside her portrait of Angela Davis.
Oka believes that digital know-how is “related to creative freedom”, because through technology artists can reach a broader audience and spread their vision.
She currently has an exhibition at UNESCO headquarters in Paris that portray 16 women activists and political figures such as Angela Davis and Christiane Taubira as well as artists including outspoken American writer Maya Angelou. The mixed-media works are a small portion of the 150 portraits she has produced over the years, of both men and women.
Her exhibition, titled “La Carte n’est pas le territoire” (The map is not the territory), fills a hall of the massive UNESCO building and is part of a four-day conference on creativity and artificial intelligence (AI).
The meeting has brought together artists, scholars, entrepreneurs and others to discuss the impact of innovation on the cultural and creative sectors, and how technology can help to promote sustainable development and gender equality.
Oka says that the issue of equality is central to her work, along with the idea of the “story told and the historical truth”. 
A part of Valérie Oka's exhibition at UNESCO.
“Sometimes we don’t see ourselves in history and part of my goal is show Africa’s heroes and enable the rest of the world to discover them too,” she told SWAN.
“I want to show these people who aren’t given enough recognition in the mainstream," she said. 
"These are people who defied stereotypes, broke codes and marked history. I especially wanted to honour women heroes.”
Oka begins her artistic process with a series of drawings, after which she digitalises the artwork, adding depth and shadows on the computer. When the portraits are printed, she enhances them further by hand.
“I think technology plays an important part in the economic development of a country, and I want to convey that through my work,” she said, referring to the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. This convention puts creativity “at the heart” of sustainable development, and the conference comprises a meeting of its intergovernmental committee.
“Sometimes we have the impression that Africa is behind with new technologies, but innovative methods can give the continent the opportunity to speak of its history, to break barriers, and to move forward,” she added.
Visitors to her exhibition can also tour a “virtual gallery”, through the use of special 3-D glasses - another example of the use of technology in art.
Born in France, to a French mother and Ivorian father, Oka studied and worked in Paris before opting in 1996 to live in Ivory Coast, where she’s still based. She said she has had to fight to be able to follow her passion, as traditional parents “don’t encourage girls to be artists”. Her father would have preferred her to study law or medicine, she told SWAN.
Experts discuss gender equality at UNESCO meeting.
“As a woman you have to believe in yourself, you have to insist on the right to have the profession you want,” she said.
Other participants in the UNESCO conference, Dec. 11-14, spoke of the relative absence of women in technology sectors, even when these industries intersect with culture - another focus of the conference.
“Why don’t women have access to these sectors? Why aren’t they studying in these areas and getting training?” asked Dieynaba Sidibé, a Senegalese representative, who took part in a panel titled “Empowering Creative Women”. 
Sidibé directs a training programme called DigitELLES, which aims to strengthen women’s technical and artistic skills, and which is among several projects that have received support from an initiative called “You Are Next: Empowering Creative Women”, launched by UNESCO and 27-year-old Chinese entrepreneur Sabrina Ho.
According to the initiative, “a multifaceted gender gap persists in almost all cultural fields, in most parts of the world. In the digital creative industries, women entrepreneurs remain invisible even though they represent half of those employed in these sectors worldwide”.
You Are Next aims to increase opportunities for women under 40 in the digital creative industries, according to UNESCO, and it also supports “national policy initiatives and strategies that address gender equality in this field”.
For some people, however, the spread of digital technology in the creative sector throws up a frightening scenario of autonomous machines producing books, paintings, music. Automation and digitalization globally have also been responsible for job losses, as many studies have suggested. But others see the technology as a means to enhance creativity and promote development.
“Digital technology gives me greater liberty to express myself,” Oka said.
Her exhibition will travel to several countries in 2019, including Mali in February.
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