Pedro Almodovar Among Notable Figures Penning Letter of Support to Poland’s LGBT+ Community

Pedro Almodóvar is offering his support to the LGBT+ community in Poland.

A wide group of global entertainment figures, including the 70-year-old Oscar-winning Spanish filmmaker, have signed a letter supporting the Polish LGBT+ community in the face of growing controversy in the country.

Pedro Almodovar

On Tuesday, the government stepped in to support the Polish town of Tuchow, which recently lost financial support from the European Union after it set up a ‘LGBT-free’ zone. The authorities said they were “supporting a municipality that has a pro-family agenda”; the decision has provoked angry responses around the world. On August 8, authorities detained 48 people at a reportedly peaceful pro-LGBT+ protest.

The responses now include an open letter signed by a cross-section of notable figures from film, literature and further afield, including the Almodóvar and Luca Guadagnino, the Nobel Prize-winning author Olga TokarczukThe Handmaid’s Tale writer Margaret Atwood, and Polish filmmakers Agnieszka Holland and Jan Komasa.

The letter, published on the website wyborcza.pl, states that homophobia in Poland is growing because of the incumbent socially conservative government, which it claims is using LGBT+ groups as a “scapegoat”. The letter is addressed to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and calls on the organization to step in and “defend core European values” of “equality, non-discrimination, respect for minorities” which it says are being “blatantly violated in Poland”.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Dr. von der Leyen:

We, the undersigned, express our outrage at repressions directed against the LGBT+ community in Poland. We speak out in solidarity with activists and their allies, who are being detained, brutalized, and intimidated. We voice our grave concern about the future of democracy in Poland, a country with an admirable history of resistance to totalitarianism and struggle for freedom.

On Friday, 7 August 2020, 48 persons were arrested in Warsaw – in some cases quite brutally – and detained on the grounds that they had participated in a violent illegal gathering. In fact, they were engaged in a peaceful protest in solidarity with an LGBT+ activist named Margot, who had been arrested for damaging a homophobic campaigner’s van. Her group had also placed rainbow flags over statues, including a statue of Christ. These actions were neither “hooliganism” nor “provocations,” as Poland’s government-run media insist, but rather desperate acts of resistance against degrading homophobic hate speech. The van is one of many similar vehicles parading outrageous claims around the cities of Poland: equating homosexuality with pedophilia, and asserting that gays are the source of diseases and a threat to children. Efforts to stop this well-funded hate campaign by legal means had led to nothing.

The broader context is the persistent use of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric by Polish politicians and media, attacks against “LGBT ideology” in the recent presidential campaign, preceded by the emergence in many municipalities and districts of “zones free of LGBT ideology,” allegedly defending the safety of families and children, and last year’s violent attacks against Equality March in Białystok. Homophobic aggression in Poland is growing because it is condoned by the ruling party, which has chosen sexual minorities as a scapegoat with no regard for the safety and well-being of citizens. Margot is, in fact, a political prisoner, held captive for her refusal to accept indignity.

We call on the Polish government to stop targeting sexual minorities, to stop supporting organizations that spread homophobia and to hold accountable those who are responsible for unlawful and violent arrests of August 7, 2020.

We call on the European Commission to take immediate steps to defend core European values – equality, non-discrimination, respect for minorities – which are being blatantly violated in Poland. LGBT+ rights are human rights and must be defended as such.

Naja Marie Aidt, writer, Danish language
Pedro Almodóvar, film director, Spain
Jakuta Alikavazovic, writer, France
Margaret Atwood, writer, Canada
Paul Auster, writer, USA
John Banville, writer, Ireland
Sebastian Barry, writer, Ireland
Judith Butler, philosopher, USA
Sophie Calle, writer and artist, France
John Maxwell Coetzee, writer, South Africa
Isabel Coixet, director, Spain
Stephen Daldry, director, UK
Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, writer, France
Lucas Dhont, director, Belgium
Marion Döring, director of European Film Academy
Cynthia Enloe, political scientist, USA
Anne Enright, writer, Ireland
Ildiko Enyedi, director, Hungary
Richard Flanagan, writer, Australia
Barbara Frey, theatre and opera director, Switzerland/Austria
Timothy Garton Ash, historian, UK
Agnieszka Graff, americanist, Poland
Luca Guadagnino, director, Italy
Miron Hackenbeck, dramaturg, Germany
Ed Harris, actor, director USA
Aleksander Hemon, writer, Bosnia/USA
Agnieszka Holland, director, Poland
Siri Hustvedt, writer, USA
Isabelle Huppert, actress, France
Aki Kaurismäki, director, Finland
Padraic Kenney, historian, USA
Jan Komasa, director, Poland
Ivan Krastev, political scientist, Bulgaria
Jan Kubik, political scientist, UK
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, choreographer, Belgium
Yorgos Lanthimos, director, Greece
Andrzej Leder, philosopher, Poland
Jacek Leociak, historian, Poland
Jonathan Littell, writer, France
Mike Leigh, director, UK
Deborah Levi, writer, UK
Edouard Louis, writer, France
Sergei Loznitsa, director, Germany/Ukraine
Valeria Luiselli, writer, USA
Dorota Masłowska, writer, Poland
Hisham Matar, writer, USA
Ulrich Matthes, actor, Germany
Ian McEwan, writer, UK
Lina Meruane, writer, Chile
Teona Mitevska, director, North Macedonia
Chantal Mouffe, philosopher, Belgium
James Norton, actor, UK
Claus Offe, sociologist, Germany
Paweł Pawlikowski, director, Poland
Richard Powers, writer, USA
Axel Ranisch, filmmaker and opera director, Germany
Keith Ridgway, writer, Ireland
Philippe Sands, lawyer and writer, UK
Volker Schlöndorff, director, Germany
Marci Shore, historian, USA
Stellan Skarsgaard, actor, Sweden
Leila Slimani, writer, France
Timothy Snyder, historian, USA
Johanna ter Steege, actress, the Netherlands
Dariusz Stola, historian, Poland
Małgorzata Szczęśniak, stage designer, Poland
Małgorzata Szumowska, director, Poland
Colm Toibin, writer, Ireland
Olga Tokarczuk, writer, Poland
Alia Trabucco Zerán, writer, Chile
Fien Troch, director, Belgium
Jan Vandenhouwe, artistic director and opera dramaturg, Belgium
Krzysztof Warlikowski, theater director, Poland/France
Beau Willimon, playwright, screenwriter, USA
Adam Zagajewski, poet, Poland
Slavoj Žižek, philosopher, Slovenia

Larrain Attached to Direct Annapurna Pictures’ “The True American”

Things could be ringing True for Pablo Larraín

The 40-year-old Chilean filmmaker, the Oscar-nominated director behind such titles as Jackie and Neruda, is attached to direct Tom Hardy in Annapurna Pictures’ The True American.

Pablo Larraín

The project is based on Anand Giridharadas’ nonfiction book of the same name, which is set in Texas in the days following 9/11. It follows the story of Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim immigrant and Bangladesh Air Force veteran who narrowly survived a killing spree that took the lives of two other immigrants. Employed at a Dallas-area convenience store as he established himself in America, Bhuiyan worked to have his attacker, self-styled “Arab-slayer” Mark Stroman, spared from execution.

This is a project that has been kicking around for a few years now, with Kathryn Bigelow attached to direct at one point, but now it’s moving forward with Bigelow taking a producer role on the film.

Larraín is fast becoming one of the most sought after international directors after his recent effort Jackie, starring Natalie Portman as the former First Lady in the days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, was nominated for three Oscars.

His Spanish-language film Neruda, a twist on the biopic genre about the eponymous Nobel Prize-winning poet, was made in Chile and debuted at the Cannes Film Festival while his 2012 political satire No was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas was published in 2014 by W.W. Norton & Company.

Guerra to Direct Film Adaptation of J.M. Coetzee’s Award-Winning Book “Waiting For The Barbarians”

Ciro Guerra isn’t Waiting for his Hollywood crossover…

The 35-year-old Colombian film director and screenwriter is partnering with actor Mark Rylance and producer Michael Fitzgerald to adapt J.M. Coetzee’s award-winning book Waiting For The Barbarians for the big screen.

Ciro Guerra

Coetzee, a Nobel Prize winner for literature, adapted the novel, which the Nobel Prize committee called “a political thriller in the tradition of Joseph Conrad, in which the idealist’s naiveté opens the gates to horror.”

Waiting For The Barbarians, which first was published in 1980 and quickly amassed honors, follows a magistrate (to be played by the Oscar-winning Rylance) of a far-flung border outpost as the reckless behavior of the “Empire” he serves threatens to trigger a Barbarian invasion. He begins to question imperialism when he saves a young ‘barbarian’ (one of the indigenous people in the country) and realizes that all is not what it appears to be. After mounting a harrowing escape, he is arrested by his own people and thrown in jail only to escape and eventually become an inspiration and leader to others.

The book, which is considered Coetzee’s master work, won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for fiction. It has been brought to the stage before (Phillip Glass composed a two-act opera for it) but never to the big screen. Coetzee, who is South African but lives in Australia, is one of the most respected authors of this century.

Fitzgerald is the one who pulled the prestigious project together with Rylance and Guerra.

Guerra is currently in pre-production on Birds of Passage which is in pre-production to shoot in the deserts of Colombia in January. The film is the follow-up to his award-winning film Embrace of the Serpent.

Almodovar Receives France’s Prix Lumiere for His Lifetime Filmmaking Achievements

Pedro Almodóvar is beloved in France… And he has the prize to prove it!

The 65-year-old Spanish filmmaker has received the country’s Prix Lumiere for his lifetime filmmaking career.

Pedro Almodovar

Almodóvar was overcome by emotion during the tribute ceremony over the weekend, which was attended by members of the French film industry, as well as some of the actresses closest to him like Marisa Paredes, Rossy de Palma and Elena Anaya.

The ceremony ended with the 3,000 attendees packed into the Lyon Congress Center showing their devotion to the director, and at one point singing and dancing to “Resistire” by the Duo Dinamico.

Almodóvar closed the night’s moving festivities, which went on for more than two and a half hours, with a speech that, he said, he had prepared as if it were for a Nobel Prize and which he dedicated entirely to his mother.

Almodóvar, known for such films as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother and Talk to Her, said that his use of “explosive and saturated” colors is his act of revenge for the more than 30 years his mother spent in the “imposed” black of mourning.

Among the film icons who came to honor him were Isabella Rossellini, Paolo Sorrentino, Berenice Bejo and Keanu Reeves.

French actress Juliette Binoche presented him with the prize while shouting “Merci!” which recalled Penelope Cruz’s famous cry of “Peeeedro!” when she announced that the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film went to All About My Mother in 2000.

The prize offered by the Lumiere Institute has paid tribute every year since 2009 to an international film personality. Previous recipients include Clint Eastwood, Milos Forman, Gerard Depardieu, Ken Loach and Quentin Tarantino.

The next day, on Saturday, Almodovar announced that he has begun pre-production for his next film and that on Monday he will begin finding locations for the shoot, but specified it will take place “in various points around Spain’s geography, as well as in Madrid.”

“About the rest, the actors and other details, we’ll have time to talk about that in the coming months,” Almodovar said, after confessing that his visit to the Lumiere Festival has been a “delightful pause” in his new moviemaking project.

Statue of García Márquez to be Erected in Colombia

Gabriel García Márquez is being immortalized with a bronze statue in his native homeland…

Bogota City Hall will pay tribute to the country’s 1982 Nobel Literature laureate with a statue representing him as a young journalist erected in the gardens of Lievano Palace.

Gabriel García Márquez

The Bogota Culture, Recreation and Sports Secretariat announced on its Web page the inauguration of the life-size statue of the 86-year-old Colombian novelist, screenwriter and journalist, fashioned in bronze according to the lost wax method by artist Julia Merizalde.

Merizalde won a district program to stimulate artistic production, a recognition that allowed her to design, fund and install the work of art in the gardens of the Lievano Palace, the seat of the Bogota City Hall, in a location it will share with the sculpture Cascade by Edgar Negret and El Quinde de la Paz by Ecuador’s Nixon Cordova.

Gabriel García Márquez Statue

Wearing a shirt, his unmistakable bushy mustache and glasses, Garcia Marquez’s image shows him as just another passerby in the garden of the city hall.

García Márquez, born in the Caribbean town of Aracataca, left his home region at a young age and came to Bogota to study law at the Universidad Nacional, although he soon dropped out to become part of the city’s intellectual life and work for the daily El Espectador.

The Culture, Recreation and Sports Secretariat is coordinating two-hour tours of the Lievano Palace in both the morning and afternoon so the public can see the statue, among other sites.

Known affectionately as Gabo throughout Latin America, García Márquez is the mastermind behind Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Autumn of the Patriarch, among others.

Molina Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Mario Molina has earned a major presidential honor…

The 70-year-old Mexican chemist and environmental scientist has been named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Mario Molina

Molina, the first Mexican-born citizen to ever receive a Nobel Prize in chemistry, joins a list of 16 individuals that includes jazz musician Arturo Sandoval, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, veteran Washington Post journalist Ben Bradlee, former President Bill Clinton and country singer Loretta Lynn.

The award established 50 years ago by President John F. Kennedy is the country’s highest civilian honor given to Americans who’ve made contributions “to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Molina, one of the most prominent precursors to the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, has received several awards and honors throughout his career, sharing the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Paul J. Crutzen for their discovery of the role of chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs) in ozone depletion.

Molina had been assigned by President Barack Obama to form part of the transition team on environmental issues.

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science.

This year’s other honorees include: baseball player Ernie Banks, Senator Daniel Inouye (posthumous), Nobel Prize-winning scholar Daniel Kahneman, Senator Richard Lugar, astronaut Sally Ride (posthumous), civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (posthumous), ex-UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, Gloria Steinem, civil rights leader Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, and Judge Patricia Wald.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours,” said President Obama. “This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”

García Márquez to Receive Mexico’s Fine Arts Medal

He may be Colombian, but Gabriel García Márquez is receiving plenty of amor from Mexico…

The 85-year-old Nobel Prize-winning writer and journalist, who has been living in Mexico since the 1970s, has been awarded a Fine Arts Medal from the Mexican government.

Gabriel García Márquez

In 1982, García Márquez, who will be the subject of a new film starring Roselyn Sanchez, received the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.” He was the first Colombian and fourth Latin American to win a Nobel Prize for Literature.

“On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Gabriel García Márquez, the Fine Arts Medal will be presented to the journalist and writer,” the National Council for Culture and the Arts announced in a statement.

The Fine Arts Medal is the highest honor conferred by Mexico’s National Institute of Fine Arts on outstanding figures in the world of theater, dance, the plastic arts, music or literature.

The award is presented to luminaries who’ve had brilliant careers and significantly influenced the country’s artistic and cultural life.

The last person to be so honored was Argentine poet Juan Gelman, who received the award last weekend for the “talent and tenacity” he has expressed over his long career.

Other recipients of the medal include Mexican architect Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon and cellist Carlos Prieto.

No word yet on when García Márquez‘s medal presentation will take place.

Garcia to Star in “Hemingway & Fuentes”

It looks like Andy Garcia will be having a Hemingway of a time…

The 56-year-old Cuban American actor—who recently announced plans to star opposite Vera Farmiga in the indie romantic comedy Admissions—will star opposite Anthony Hopkins and Annette Bening in Hemingway & Fuentes.

Andy Garcia

The film details Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway’s time in Cuba in the early 1950s and his inspiration for The Old Man And The Sea. The 1952 book was the last new work published by the writer before his death in 1961. It was a best seller, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and was mentioned by the Nobel Committee in 1954 as one reason Hemingway was given the prize. Gregorio Fuentes, who died in 2002 at 104 years old, was one of the novelist’s closest friends during the last decades of his life and the longtime first mate on Hemingway’s boat.

Hopkins will play Hemingway, while Bening will portray Hemingway’s third wife Mary Walsh Hemingway.

Garcia, who is set to direct the film, will play Gregorio Fuentes.

The novelist’s niece Hilary Hemingway and Garcia wrote the screenplay.

Shooting is scheduled to begin in January 2013.