Monday, 25 February 2013

Oscars 2013: “Amour” grabs best foreign film trophy.

By Gael Masengi

Written and directed by the Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, “Amour” or “Love” has once again triumphed by winning the best foreign film Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards this Sunday in Los Angeles, beating Canada’s War Witch”, a Congo-made film and three other contenders.

A moving French-language drama, Amourtells the story of an elderly Parisian couple Anne (Riva) and Georges (Jean-LousTrintignant), facing up to a sudden turn in their lives. When Anne has stroke that leaves her partially paralyzed, their world is upended.

Emmanuelle Riva, the French actress who wowed film critics by flawlessly portraying the dying Anne became the oldest woman to ever get an Oscar nomination. At 86 Riva not only received an Academy Award nomination but also won a handful of other mainstream accolades, notably the Bafta Award for best actress in a leading role, European Film Award and recently the Cesar Award in the same category. While this year’s Academy Awards saw the oldest actress nominee, it also did crown the youngest one, a 9 years-old American Quvenzhane Wallis for her stunning performance as Hushpuppy in Beasts of Southern Wild.

Ang Lee surprised many, film critics as well as fan, who bet on Steven Spielberg for the best director award. The Taiwanese born Lee is however not stranger to the Oscars, he has won it twice before for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Best foreign Film) and as a director in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain. As anticipated by almost everyone, the British actor Daniel Day Lewis walks away with the statuette for his perfect portrayal of the former American president Abram Lincoln in Lincoln, Day-Lewis becomes the sole 3× Oscar winner for best actor category.

"Thank you. You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that's really embarrassing but thank you." said Jennifer Lawrence who tumbled while climbing the stairs to accept her Oscar for best actress. Best documentary went to Searching for Sugar Man, a feature highlighting the efforts of two fans from Cape Town, South Africa, Stephen Segerman and Craig Bartholomew on journey to find out if the rumoured death of an American musician Sixto Rodriguez was true.

All the winners from the Oscars 2013:

Best Picture:                      Argo
Best Director:                    Aang Lee (Life of Pi)
Best Actor:                         Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln)
Best Actress:                     Jennifer Lawrence (The Silver Linings Playbook)
Best Supporting Actor:      Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
Best Supporting Actress:    Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio (Argo)
Best Original Screenplay:   Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
Best Cinematography:        Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)
Best Visual Effects:             Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and                                                                                                       Donald R. Elliott (Life of Pi)
Best Costume Design:          Jacqueline Durran
Best Production Design:       Rick Carter (Production Design); Jim Erickson (Set Decoration)         (Lincoln)
Best Sound Editing:              Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers (Skyfall)  
Best Sound Mixing:              Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes (Les Miserables)
Best Film Editing:                  William Goldenberg (Argo)
Best Short Film (Live Action):   Curfew (Shawn Christensen)
Best Make Up and Hairstyling:  Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell (Les Miserables)
Best Original Score:                  Skyfall (from 007 Skyfall –Music and Lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth)
Best Documentary:                    Searching for Sugar man
Best Animated Feature:             Brave (Walt Disney)
Best Short Film (Animated):       Paperman (John Kahrs)
Best Foreign Language Film:       Amour (Austria)

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Jailed for the truth

By Gael Masengi

Joachim Diana Gikupa
In the DR. Congo being an investigative journalist or simply reporting facts might without doubt lend you some time in jail. That’s what happened to the editor-in-chief of a locally based private newspaper; Joachim Diana Gikupa working for La Colombe was sentenced to six months in prison in December on charge of “defamation”.
In an article titled “Chinese undesirable for various crimes” written and published last year on February 9th, the journalist is accused of divulging what the prosecutor called “false information”, in it, Mr Diana Gikupa is hailed by health experts for exposing numerous shocking realities which take place in daily basis inside a Chinese-run hospital in Kinshasa. Tiang Sheng, an apparent dubious Chinese businessman and owner of Gen Taï pharmaceutics is apparently involved in manufacturing and selling pharmaceutical products which according to the findings are not appropriate for use as they are expired and considered dangerous for public health. The article also went on to criticize the tactics used by the health establishment to hire unqualified employees and detailed how abusive C-section is performed on pregnant women among others, Gen Taï denied the allegations then filed a complaint against Gikupa. The journalist –who at the time of his conviction –was not able to afford a legal team was arrested on Tuesday and held at a local court before being transferred to Makala central prison. Gikupa is also ordered to pay USD20, 000 in damages.

Last week the New York based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) issued a statement. In it, the media watchdog called the authorities of the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC) to release pending appeal, Mr Diana Gikupa whose health is said to be in poor condition since his arrest more than a week ago.

“We condemn the Democratic Republic of Congo’s continued use of criminal defamation charges to jail journalists for their critical reporting on issues of public interest,” said Mohamed Keita CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator. “Joachim Diana Gikupa should be released on bail pending his appeal, and we urge the DRC to refer matters of defamation to civilian tribunals. Critical journalists are not criminals” he concludes

Meanwhile the DRC which currently seats in ‘Difficult Situation for reporters’ position, is ranked 145 out of 179 on Reporters Sans Frontiere’s (RSF) 2011-2012 world press freedom index.An absolute outsider in free speech yet the country is not showing any sign of change especially under the Kabila regime which many press-freedom advocates regard as journalists “predator”. Under this regime countless of free-speech activists and critical-to-government journalists have been jailed, tortured and even murdered at some extent by the security forces.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Heroic support for “rebels”

By Gael Masengi

Congolese protesters outside the magistrate court
Under a blazing 20+ degree centigrade Pretoria sun, came hundreds of men and women in support of their fellow community members wrongly accused of would-be "putschists" in their second court appearance. However things didn’t start smoothly at first when security guards tried to block dozens of angry and noisy supporters who filed the corridor, from entering the court room. A brief scuffle with the guards forced the South African Police’s Tactical Response Team (TRT) to intervene and forcefully drove out of the court “rebels’” strong crowd of sympathisers.

Let me inside!,” shouted a pregnant woman to the guards “my husband is among the arrested, I want to see him”, she then was taken inside after she was indeed confirmed to be a spouse of one of the men arrested as family members only were allowed.
Out on the main passage drama continued when a colossal man was forcefully removed from chamber 16 –where proceeding was taking place, “Why am I being pushed?!,” exclaimed a man wearing a Tshisekedi branded fabric shirt. 

In a political sense, this trial is a conspiracy, cabal and assassination against the people of DRC.” said another protester to the media “We are united in the goal of overthrowing Hypolite Kanambe alias Joseph Kabila the usurper. Our final goal is to establish Dr. Etienne Tshisekedi Wa Mulumba the elected President of the DRC gain power through revolution.   

Later, a court official spoke to Gael-On-Media on condition of anonymity, he said, the man was being pulled away for an “obvious reason”, and the state which accuses the men of being involved in rebellion activities might contradict itself if the alleged suspects are to be associated with the image of a Congolese populist political leader, such as Etienne Tshisekedi. The 300,000+ Congolese exile community in South Africa are undeniably strong supporters of the charismatic eternal opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who rejected the results of an internationally criticised 2011 presidential election and subsequently ‘sworn-in’ as the country’s new president. They do believe that South African government which they again accuse of inheriting imperialist ‘foreign policy on the Congo’ act in command of mineral resource- hungry westerns willing to keep Joseph Kabila in power at any cost for their interests. Sentiments echoed by many Great Lake region analysts, who in their turn also consider the Zuma’s administration as not just a strong ally of the controversial Congolese government but a rather 'unconventional' mutual benefits.

Outside the court, a massive crowd of demonstrators chanted anti-Kabila songs and displayed placards which contained antagonistic message to the South African government and President Jacob Zuma himself. Under a cheerful crowd the suspects were being driven back to Pretoria Central prison where they have been detained –without trial –for 10 days now.

Protesters outside the Congolese embassy
Unexpectedly the prosecuting authority –which failed again to provide evidence against the suspects –is either confused or incompetent, asked for two more weeks instead of one week as expected. Shaun Abrahams, the state prosecutor asked the regional magistrate Maryke de la Rey for final postponement until 27 February for the state to “prepare” its case in the bail application.
A strong presence of police officers were caught off-guard when the group of approximately hundred of anti-Kabila demonstrators marched in the middle of busy Francis Baard Street toward the Congolese embassy before  being forced off the side-walk. A fight broke in front of embassy between protesters and a man who seemed not to politically agree with the crowd, eventually the police dispersed the demonstrators as it was considered an illegal rally, one man was arrested and taken to Sunny side police station. 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Coup d’état attempt, true or false?

By Gael Masengi

The South African police have arrested 19 alleged suspected Congolese whom they call “rebels” on suspicion of running an illegal military operation, the raid conducted by a special division of SAPS in the early hours of Tuesday came as result of “months long investigation” by the crime intelligent unit, police said.
A supporter holds DR. Congo flag outside the court in Pretoria
The National Prosecuting Authority of SA (NPA) accuses the group of plotting to topple the current Congolese government, alleging that the band has offered mineral rights in exchange of weapons and assistance from [South African] mercenaries in overthrowing Joseph Kabila. Among the 19 suspects, the NPA said a man simply identified as James Kazongo is believed to have US citizenship, a claim confirmed by the United States Embassy spokesperson.  Belonging to an unheard organization called the “Union of Nationalists of Renewal”, the men allegedly sent a wish list asking for machine guns, radio, grenades and even surface-to-air missiles and arranged for a training camp, prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told magistrate judge at a court hearing in Pretoria. Abrahams alleged that the plot apparently led by a man who claims to be the eldest son of Congo’s assassinated President Laurent Kabila posed a “serious danger” to the stability of a nation long engulf by conflict. The men wanted to “wage a full-scale war” in mineral-rich eastern Congo, Abrahams said, that the accused was planning to tack back the DRC by coup and conventional warfare.  

While the African Union Commission chairwoman, South Africa’s Dr. Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma welcomed the arrest of alleged would-be putschists, saying that “According to the AU principles, we do not tolerate unconstitutional change of government. We do not tolerate coups. People must get to government through a democratic process of election.” However on social networks the majority of South African public seem to think it is comprehensible for a frustrated people to do whatever it takes to unseat an oppressive regime, arguing that if true this movement can be related to MK (umkhonto we Sizwe) an armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) which fought against the Apartheid government.

Several members of Congolese community in Johannesburg Gael-On-Media approached for comments downplayed the entire claims as false calling it “baseless” and “vague”; unanimously they say it is undoubtedly a witch hunt the ANC-led government have been conducting against Congolese of opposition factions exiled in South Africa since the controversial 2011 presidential elections. A feeling also echoed by a military expert, who asked not to be named, he thinks it is a propaganda which Zuma’s government has orchestrated in bid to silence anti-Kabila activists operating in his soil. He went on to compare the scenario to the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d’état (a.k.a. the Wonga Coup) attempt which was planned in South Africa with the help of big oil firms and numerous European governments in order to replace president Teodoro Obiang Nguema with exiled opposition politician Severo Moto, the military intel said details are sketchy. “Unlike the Wonga coup which you had all the incriminating proof that really was intended to do the job,” he said “here the authority is changing versions and lacking concrete proof, after linking them to M23, then retract the claim, this is a cheap bulls*#t propaganda which is going to back fire at them”. The alleged suspects have all denied any ties whatsoever with the Rwanda-backed M23 rebellion as the NPA earlier alleged. 

Those people are not rebels as the [SA] government is painting them”, said an angry Congolese outside court in Pretoria “Among them, they are next door young men whom I know personally; they wouldn’t even kill a cat!

Congolese protester outside a Johannesburg court

This isn’t the first time we are being targeted by Zuma’s people who are determined to shut us up,” said another Congolese on Thursday’s hearing “precisely a year ago 200 of our people were beaten then illegally arrested by Zuma’s private army [SAPS] on a trumped-up charges for denouncing South Africa’s involvement on vote rigging in the DRC.” 
Much details of the raid remain unclear; though the police said the 19 men were arrested in northern province of Limpompo while they were en route to what they believed would be a paramilitary training camp to prepare for their armed attack in the Congo, said the NPA. Their cover, Abrahams said, was to pretend to be training as game rangers to fight the unchecked poaching of rhinos in South Africa.
The men will be tried under South Africa’s Foreign Military Assistance act, which bars people from plotting coups or mercenary activities in foreign nations. The 19 suspects are scheduled to appear in court on February 14th on bail hearing.  
                              Gael-On-Media is following closely this story and will bring you more as it happens.