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Movie of the Week

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

The sequel to Disney’s global box office hit Maleficent, Maleficient: Mistress of Evil, starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, hits cinemas on 18 October.

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In Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies and dark new forces at play. The years have been kind to Maleficent and Aurora. Their relationship, born of heartbreak, revenge and ultimately love, has flourished. Yet the hatred between man and the fairies still exists. 

Aurora’s impending marriage to Prince Phillip is cause for celebration in the kingdom of Ulstead and the neighbouring Moors, as the wedding serves to unite the two worlds. When an unexpected encounter introduces a powerful new alliance, Maleficent and Aurora are pulled apart to opposing sides in a Great War, testing their loyalties and causing them to question whether they can truly be family. 

The film stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Harris Dickinson, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville and Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith, and is directed by Joachim Rønning. With a story by Linda Woolverton and a screenplay by Linda Woolverton and Noah Harpster & Micah Fitzerman-Blue, the film is produced by Joe Roth, Angelina Jolie and Duncan Henderson, with Matt Smith, Jeff Kirschenbaum and Mike Vieira serving as executive producers.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opens in cinemas from 18 October.

Movie of the Week

SA movie on fake news heads for Sundance fest

Filmmakers and journalists Richard Poplak and Diana Neille will be the first South African directors to compete in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the film showcase in Park City, Utah, this month.

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Influence, a feature-length documentary film charting the rise and fall of the infamous London-based PR firm Bell Pottinger, will make its international debut at the 2020 edition of the Sundance Film Festival, on 27 January.

The film serves as a terrifying reminder of the dangers that lurk within the post-truth era, in which masters of misinformation use new digital tools to wage ancient propaganda wars — undermining the fabric of democratic societies. The film is co-directed by Diana Neille and Daily Maverick’s journalist-provocateur Richard Poplak.

According to the Sundance Institute, submissions reached a record high of 15,100, of which 3,853 were feature films. Among those, only 29% were created by female filmmakers.

Influence takes its cue from the #GuptaLeaks, a trove of emails investigated by a team from Daily Maverick, amaBhungane and News24. In mid-2017, they exposed Bell Pottinger’s role in engineering a racially divisive PR campaign designed to benefit the notorious Gupta family, and by extension former president Jacob Zuma. Several months later, due to unrelenting pressure from the media, civil society, opposition politicians and South African citizens, the once-unbeatable multinational was forced to close its doors. It was a David and Goliath tale of ordinary people facing off against a powerful corporation with near-infinite resources — an imbalance that has become all too familiar globally.

Neille says: “After following the story deep into the roots of modern geopolitical spin-doctoring, we discovered the fingerprints of Bell Pottinger’s founder, Lord Timothy Bell, on many of the world’s most formative political campaigns. We felt that if our viewers comprehensively travelled Bell’s journey since the 1970s, we would end up telling the story of influence and how it helped establish what we now call the post-truth era. It’s the context in which so many democracies around the world are now floundering.”

Influence is produced by Neil Brandt of Storyscope (SA) and Bob Moore of EyeSteelFilm (Canada). It is a South African/Canadian co-production, with backing from the Blue Ice Docs, Hot Docs Partners Fund, the Rogers Cable Network Fund, the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles, the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa, and Canada Media Fund. Broadcast rights are currently held by Arte (France/Germany), documentary Channel (Canada) and eTV (SA). Cinetic Media is handling world sales.

Brandt says: “As storytellers from the Global South who have always tried to speak truth to power, Storyscope was immediately drawn to the fact that Influence puts a uniquely African narrative at the centre of a global debate around the nature of truth in a world in which fact and fiction appear interchangeable. As Leonard Cohen put it, ‘there are cracks in everything — that’s how the light gets in’.”

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Movie of the Week

Frozen 2 breaks SA box office

The highly-anticipated sequel, Frozen 2, has broken Box Office records for the biggest opening for an animated release in South African Box Office history.

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In its first weekend, 6-8 December 2019, cinema-going audiences across South Africa felt the warmth and lit up the local Box Office, flocking to see the much-anticipated next adventure of Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven in Frozen 2. In so doing, they delivered the film to the top of the box office – and into the record books.

With over 150 000 attendances, the film debuted with more than R13-million over the weekend, making Frozen 2 the biggest ever opening for an animated release in South African Box Office history.

Frozen 2 poses the questions: Why was Elsa born with magical powers? What truths about the past await Elsa as she ventures into the unknown to the enchanted forests and dark seas beyond Arendelle? 

The answers are calling her but also threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she’ll face a dangerous but remarkable journey. In Frozen, Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In Frozen 2, she must hope they are enough. 

From the Academy Award-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez—and featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, Frozen 2 is now in cinemas across the continent.

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