Entertainment

Mexican Filmmaker Has Won Leoncino d’Oro Award At Venice Film Festival For This Must See Movie

Even though most of us are still under some sort of quarantine or at least practicing social distancing, much of the world (outside of the U.S. at least) has started to return to some sort of ‘new normal.’

Perhaps one of the best signs of this new normal is that Hollywood and much of the film industry has largely started back up and they’re hosting major film festivals all across the world – albeit with fewer people and a much more laid back atmosphere. We’re not seeing the red carpet events we typically used to see.

However, that hasn’t damped the overall spirit of the events – particularly at this week’s Venice Film Festival where a Mexican filmmaker took home a coveted award and is in the running for the festival’s top honor.

Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco has taken home one of the Venice Film Festival’s top awards.

Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco has won the Leoncino d’Oro Award at the Venice Film Festival for Nuevo Orden, a film depicting a dystopian version of Mexico in the not-so-distant future. 

The honor is one of several collateral awards at the festival and was presented by the Youth Jury, composed of 28 film-lovers between 18 and 25 from each of the countries in the European Union. The film was also in contention for the prestigious Golden Lion grand prize, but lost to Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland.

Since it’s debut last week, Nuevo Orden has received universally positive reviews from critics.

“Audiences might conceivably be divided on the vicious gut-punch of Franco’s approach, but as a call for more equitable distribution of wealth and power, it’s terrifyingly riveting,” the Hollywood Reporter writes. 

“At its heart, it argues that social inequality is presently so great that violence is inevitable. It’s set in Mexico, but it could be anywhere,” says Cineuropa. 

The film was screened Thursday night and drew a standing ovation from the audience and critics And has many fans around the world eagerly awaiting the chance to watch the film.

His film, Nuevo Orden, is a dystopian look at Mexico’s inequalities and paints a very stark picture of the country’s future.

Nuevo Orden, which stars Diego Boneta (of Netflix’s Luis Miguel fame), Naian González Norvind, Mónica del Carmen and Dario Yazbek Bernal, tells a tale of inequalities and political and social conflicts as the upper class in Mexico is replaced by a militaristic regime. It delves into racism, classism, poverty and wealth in ways that are uncomfortably reflective of the current unrest in several parts of the world, critics say.

To be frank, the film is extremely graphic and at times sounds difficult to watch. Unflinching cinematography depicts shocking and brutal scenes of assaults, rapes, executions, torture, blackmail and corruption.

The film opens with an opulent party for the wedding of an upper-class couple from Mexico City, which is interrupted when a legion of desperate people massacre the guests, marking the beginning of an insurrection in the streets that ends in a violent military coup that plunges the country into fascism.

“It’s a dystopian movie to say, ‘Let’s not get there,’” Franco, 41, explained.

Franco is no stranger to the awards circuit and has several award-winning films under his belt.

Credit: Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

Michel Franco is no stranger to the awards stage. New Order, as the film is called in English, is his sixth feature film as director. Previous efforts have also won him prizes on the international film festival circuit, including a best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for the 2015 film Chronic starring Tim Roth, and a Cannes Jury Prize for April’s Daughter in 2017

Meanwhile, Cholé Zhao’s Nomadland took home the festival’s top prize over the weekend.

It seems oddly fitting in a year of social distancing and remote working that a drama about a lone woman wandering the American West has won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and that the director appeared only by video link-up to receive it. Chloé Zhao’s superbly nuanced Nomadland was picked by a Cate Blanchett-led jury from an 18-strong competition at a slimmed-down edition of the event, which has widely been regarded a success (Covid-19 test results pending). 

It is the fourth year in a row that a US-made film has taken the top prize, following Joker last year, Roma (a US-Mexico production) in 2018 and The Shape of Water in 2017. Zhao, who was born in China but works in the US, is the first female director of a Golden Lion-winning film since Sofia Coppola took the prize in 2010 with Somewhere.

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This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

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This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

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Just After Congress Approves $600 Stimulus Checks, Trump Threatens To Veto The Bill

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Just After Congress Approves $600 Stimulus Checks, Trump Threatens To Veto The Bill

Pixabay

Updated: December 23, 2020

Just days after the U.S. Congress approved legislation that would send millions of Americans much-needed stimulus checks – even though they were only $600 – Donald Trump has thrown the entire plan into chaos.

Donald Trump threatens to veto historic spending bill.

Trump is holding a veto threat over recently passed, bipartisan legislation that was aimed at stimulating a suffering economy. Trump says that he wants lawmakers to boost the $600 direct payments to checks for $2,000 but his own party is basically united against increasing the size of checks.

Many point out that Trump is simply holding up the legislation, not for the stimulus checks, but because he objects to other parts of the law. Within the spending package, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle approved spending for arts and cultural programs as well as aide to developing countries across the world.

Original Story Published: December 18, 2020

So it looks like millions of Americans may end up getting that long overdue second stimulus check after all. So long as Congress doesn’t screw things up again.

As part of the latest round of negotiation between Democrats and Republicans, it looks a like a proposal for $600 direct payments is back on the table. However, $600 is literally half of the amount that was sent out to millions of Americans back in April and May.

A new stimulus package could include direct payments to millions of Americans.

Congressional leaders are considering a new deal to help stimulate the economy which has been battered by the Coronavirus pandemic. And although it appeared, as recently as last week, that a second stimulus check was off the table, that seems to have changed.

The new deal under consideration included new stimulus checks and enhanced federal unemployment benefits, according to reports by Politico. Even President Trump said in a TV interview over the weekend that he wants stimulus checks in the deal, saying he wants to “see checks—for more money than they’re talking about—going to people.”

Millions of workers aren’t getting any help from the largest emergency aid deal in US history.

The bill, known as the CARES Act, delivers direct payments to most taxpayers, vastly expands unemployment benefits, and makes testing for the virus free, among other provisions.

But although unauthorized immigrants are no more immune from the effects of the current crisis, the stimulus bill conspicuously leaves them out in the cold — potentially putting them at greater economic and health risk, and impeding public health efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

There are an estimated 10.7 million undocumented immigrants in the USA who are ineligible for emergency federal benefits or state unemployment insurance because they don’t have valid work authorization. 

That’s left an extra layer of anxiety for immigrants without legal status who have lost their jobs or seen work hours reduced amid the statewide shutdown of “nonessential” businesses. Many turned to local organizations for help to put food on the table and pay other expenses. 

Undocumented residents are already at greater risk of being affected by Covid-19 because of inadequate resources and access to health care.

The unauthorized worker population is particularly vulnerable to the virus due to inadequate access to health care. Noncitizens are significantly more likely to be uninsured compared to US citizens, which may dissuade them from seeking medical care if they contract the virus.

Compounding matters are the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies — including wide-scale immigration raids and a rule that can penalize green card applicants for using Medicaid — which have made noncitizens afraid to access care. These factors pose a problem for America’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 12,000 in the US as of April 7.

Where the government is failing, advocates and organizations are stepping up to help.

Some immigrant advocates lobby for the undocumented to be included by allowing payments to those who file taxes using individual tax identification numbers, which are often used by workers without legal immigration status. 

“They should include at least the individual taxpayers,” said Diana Mejia, founder of the Wind of the Spirit, an organization that helps immigrants in New Jersey’s Morris County.  “They are paying taxes,” she added in an interview with CNN.

Filers who use ITINs contribute about $11.74 billion in state and local taxes each year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington think tank.

Aside from millions of undocumented migrants, millions of others are also being left out of the stimulus:

Credit: Department of Treasury

College Students and 17-Year-Olds: If someone else claims you as a dependent on their taxes, you won’t get your own check. Parents will get an extra $500 payment per child, but that’s only for kids under 17.

Most 17-year-olds, some young adults and many of the country’s roughly 20 million college students are claimed by their parents as dependents. They won’t get checks, and their parents won’t get an extra $500.

Disabled People: People who get disability benefits from the Social Security Administration or Veterans Affairs are eligible for the payments — but not disabled adults who are claimed as dependents by their parents or other relatives on their taxes

Seniors Who Live With Family: Senior citizens who are on Social Security or make less than the income cap are eligible. But the “dependent” rule applies to them, too. Some seniors who live with their adult children or other relatives are claimed by them as dependents on their taxes. Those seniors won’t get checks.

Immigrants are eligible for some free testing.

Credit: Pixabay

Here’s one thing the bill does offer to unauthorized immigrants: free coronavirus testing at government-funded community health centers through a $1 billion federal program. But some community health centers have already reported shortages of tests.

There is also a larger, state-level testing program funded through Medicaid, but that’s only available to Medicaid-eligible immigrants — green card holders who have lived in the US for at least five years, immigrants who come to the US on humanitarian grounds such as asylum, members of the military and their families, and, in certain states, children and pregnant women with lawful immigration status. Those groups, however, make up only a small proportion of immigrants living in the US. 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that it won’t consider use of free testing services when evaluating whether immigrants will likely end up relying on public benefits under the “public charge” rule, which went into effect in February

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