Tuesday, December 7, 2021

New political thriller miniseries provides a peek into life in Senegal

Posted by Elena del Valle on October 27, 2021


Wara poster

Photos: Mhz Choice

Wara, a 2020 eight part miniseries set in a future Senegal, recently became available on MhzChoice.com, an online streaming service. Starring Issaka Sawadogo as Moutari Wara, France Nancy Goulian as Aicha Diallo, Maimouna N’Diaye as Yasmin Diallo, Souleymane Seye Ndiaye as Ganka Barry the program, based on a story by Magagi Issoufou Sani, is in French with English subtitles.

Set in the “City of Tanasanga” the story explores university student and community activism to combat the pervasive corruption of elected officials. It shines a light on the lengths the politicians and their supporters go to in furtherance of their goals. Much revolves around Wara, a law professor, Miriam Shugger, another professor, their students and others in their circle, some forces for community good and others for personal gain. Despite a seemingly incomplete ending Wara is suspenseful and engaging. Goulian and Maimouna N’Diaye’s performances stood out.

From Wara

From Wara

The series was produced by M.J.P., Astharte & Compagnie, Raes Production, and TV5Monde (a French, Belgian and Swiss collaboration) with support from Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Agence Francaise de Developpment, and Centre National de la Cinematographie et de l’Image Animee among others listed in the series credits. A number of organizations in Senegal were listed in the end credits, including City of Saint Louis, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Culture, Village Mbaye and University Gaston Berger.

Sawadogo, according to Imdb.com, is a Burkina Faso-born actor, dancer and musician fluent in French, English and Norwegian. Maimouna N’Diaye’s other film credits, according to Imdb.com include Eye of the Storm and Les Trois Lascars; and per the same source Goulian’s other film credit includes Cacao. Charli Beléteau is listed as the series creator on Imdb.com.

With video – Documentary showcases extreme athlete crossing desert on foot

Posted by Elena del Valle on September 15, 2021

The Lost Desert

Max Calderan in The Lost Desert

Photos: Empty Quarter Studio

The Lost Desert, Empty Quarter Studio’s first feature length documentary, was acquired by STX and released last month on ad supported TubiTV.com. Most of the story takes place in Saudi Arabia’s Rub’ al Khali desert, where Max Calderan, an Italian extreme athlete, sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream: to walk 700 miles from west to east in an inhospitable uninhabited terrain.

An all male on the ground support team follows him in a caravan of vehicles, monitoring his well-being and filming. From idea to release the 83-minute film required four years of work. The company founders funded the project’s $1.2 million costs, hoping the film will appeal “to anyone who has big dreams and goes to any length to accomplish them. It will appeal to the elite sports athletes and fans, as well as people interested in natural history, science, culture and travel.”

“I met Max Calderan in 2016 and was immediately taken by his charisma, passion, and mission to accomplish his lifelong dream,” said Billy Sprague, president, Empty Quarter Studios, in a press release for the documentary. “I wanted to tell Max’s story and document his last, greatest challenge – to cross the largest sand desert in the world. I’m very proud of our film crew, who captured this inspiring story in one of the world’s harshest, deadliest, and most remote deserts. This is an inspiring story about a man pursuing his lifelong dream. It’s a story about perseverance and passion. And it’s a story about one of the least traveled to, most inhospitable places on earth.”

Described as having spent years crossing deserts on foot Calderan, a driven self-effacing athlete in his fifties, braved punishing heat (averaging 117 degrees Fahrenheit, according to promotional materials), shifting sand dunes of up to 1,000 feet as well as “poisonous snakes, spiders, scorpions, and any number of life-threatening challenges” in the making of the documentary. According to promotional materials, among Calderan’s eleven world records in desert exploration, he has run 90 hours straight without stopping in Oman. He also once ran 225 miles in 75 hours across a Saudi Arabian desert in summer.

Billy Sprague, president, Empty Quarter Studios

Billy Sprague, president, Empty Quarter Studios

When asked about the greatest challenge the film presented Sprague said, “Transporting our crew and thousands of pounds of equipment and life-sustaining supplies in one of the most remote, dangerous, completely off-grid locations.” The greatest reward? “Successfully capturing the story and wrapping production in one of the most remote, dangerous, completely off-grid locations.”

The documentary was directed by Christopher Cassel. Michael Haertlein (Jane Goodall: The Hope) was director of photography, Marcelino Belizario (Bad Suns) handled Aerial Cinematography, Adriano Bravo (Human Weapon) was sound recordist, Benjamin Frank was assistant camera operator, and Rosie Walunas (But It Doesn’t Have Me) was editor.

Empty Quarter Studios, a New York and London based film and television production company, creates original non-fiction content “using moving images to tell epic, immersive and transformational stories borne out of exploration, travel, history, science and everyday life in the world’s most exotic and unreachable places” for global distribution.

Tubi, a division of Fox Entertainment, is an “ad-supported video-on-demand service with over 30,000 movies and TV shows, 65+ local and live news channels, and 250+ entertainment partners.” Stxfilms is a five year old division of Eros Stx Global Corporation, which “produces, acquires, distributes, and markets motion pictures at scale.”

French mystery series focuses on art

Posted by Elena del Valle on August 25, 2021

Art of Crime
Art of Crime stars Eléonore Bernheim and Nicolas Gob

Photo: Mhz Choice

In Art of Crime (L’art du crime in French) Eléonore Bernheim as Florence Chassange and Nicolas Gob as Antoine Verlay play unlikely partners who solve murder mysteries in the French art world. The four season series of episodes of about 50 minutes in length is airing on Mhzchoice.com. According to IMDB.com the first episode of the program, in French with English subtitles, dates to 2017. The program has been popular in France with millions of viewers on French television, according to Toutelatele.com.

With the backdrop of Paris, France the episodic show pairs a ditzy yet likeable and capable art expert who works at the Louvre Museum and consults part time for the police’s specialized art crimes unit (l’Office central de lutte contre le trafic des biens culturels or OCBC by its French acronym per Wikipedia in French), with a grumpy criminal career cop who dislikes everything to do with art.

Despite her partner’s deeply unpleasant personality Florence Chassange appears be secretly in love with him. He seems annoyed by her presence although in time he grows to appreciate her assitance. Louvre exterior and interior shots feature prominently as do aerial photos of Paris and parts of Amboise. One of the episodes was shot in the famous Moulin Rouge, according to Tele Loisirs.

Season 4 of Art of Crime in French with English subtitles airing on Mhz Choice

According to Wikipedia in French the series was created by Angèle Herry-Leclerc and Pierre-Yves Mora and the producers were Arnaud de Crémiers and Isabelle Degeorges. The art historian often imagines seeing and speaking with famous artists long dead. Her conversations with the likes of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Auguste Van Gogh help her solve the art puzzles behind the crimes. Philippe Duclos plays the art historian’s intrusive and clingy father, also an art expert and wannabe investigator. A new season may be on the horizon.

Dog main character on Austrian murder mystery on streaming service

Posted by Elena del Valle on July 21, 2021

Inspector Rex
Inspector Rex

Photo: Mhz Choice

The first season of Inspector Rex (Kommissar Rex) in German with English subtitles is available on Mhz Choice, a subscription streaming service with mostly European programming. After Rex, a police dog, loses his partner in the line of duty he becomes despondent, refusing to eat or drink anything. Seeing the dog’s situation a recently divorced cop adopts him.

An all male cast, staring Tobias Moretti as Richard Moser and Karl Markovics as Ernst Stockinger as well as Gerhard Zemann and Wolf Bachofner, solve crimes in and around Vienna in the 1994 series. Each episode is 45 minutes long. According to IMDB.com the series ended in 2004. The website lists Reginald von Ravenhorst, born in 1991 in Bavaria, Germany and died in 2003 in Germany, as Rex.

Podcast with filmmaker Karla Legaspy about her short film The Daily War

Posted by Elena del Valle on July 12, 2021

Filmmaker Karla Legaspy

Filmmaker Karla Legaspy

Photo: Betsy Martinez

A podcast interview with filmmaker Karla Legaspy is available in the Podcast Section of Hispanic Marketing and Public Relations, HispanicMPR.com. She discusses her short film The Daily War with Elena del Valle, host of the HispanicMPR.com podcast.

Karla is a Los Angeles based director and producer. She is a Two-Spirit MeXicana content creator, actor and film programmer. She is the writer, director and producer of the short film Gold Star, winner of the Latino Public Broadcasting New Media Grant and the 2016 People’s Choice Award for the PBS Short Film Festival. Karla co-produced AdeRisa Productions feature film Bruising for Besos about domestic violence in a lesbian community.

To listen to the interview, scroll down and click on the play button below. You can listen by looking for “Podcast” then select “HMPR Karla Legaspy” and download the MP3 file to your audio player. You can also find it on the RSS feed. To download it, click on the arrow of the recording you wish to copy and save it to disk. The podcast will remain listed in the July 2021 section of the podcast archive.

With video – SoCal PBS station to air Latino short film series in July

Posted by Elena del Valle on June 30, 2021

The Latino Experience
The Latino Experience (from left to right) shorts: Body and Spirit in Times of the Pandemic, Pasos de Valor and The Blue Cape.

Video, photo: PBS SoCal

Southern California PBS station PBS SoCal and KCET is scheduled to air The Latino Experience, a three-part series of short films in English and Spanish, by Latino filmmakers beginning Tuesday July 6 and Wednesday July 7 at 9 p.m. P.T. Five of the 13 films were made by Southern California-based filmmakers. Two of the short films, Body and Spirit in Times of Pandemic; and The Daily War, are set in and around Los Angeles. Scroll down to watch a video trailer of The Daily War.

What criteria was used in selecting the films? “PBS announced a call for submissions for scripted and unscripted projects of all subjects, but were particularly interested in projects that focused on contemporary Latino/a/x culture produced and created by Latino/a/x persons,” a PBS spokesperson responded by email. Filmmakers were eligible for support grants between $5,000 and $25,000. She explained that “Successful submissions needed to include: a clear story arc; confirmed access to the story and participants; a unique perspective on contemporary Latino/a/x culture; an engaging formal and aesthetic approach.”

According to a press release the films for the series were selected ”by a panel of experienced filmmakers” from entries received by PBS following a call for submissions in August 2020. The press release also indicated “The shorts received funding support as well as a national broadcast as part of the series.” The names of the judges and their affiliations were not identified. Bill Gardner and Wendy Llinas are listed as executives in charge for PBS for the series.

When asked what channels PBS used to announce its search for submissions the PBS spokesperson said,”PBS announced the project on PBS.org, through social media, and through their network of member stations. In addition, PBS producing partners such as Latino Public Broadcasting and NALIP also shared the announcement.”

PBS received more than 240 entries. PBS decision makers expanded the series to three hours from the two-hour special they had planned to accommodate “the overwhelming response to the call for submissions.”

When asked to identify the source(s) of funding (public, private, which grants) the spokesperson replied, “The Latino Experience was funded by PBS. Additional funders contributed to the production of some of the individual films.”

Some of the films of the series are: The Blue Cape written, directed and produced by Alejandra López and produced by María José Delgado; Body and Spirit in Times of Pandemic directed and produced by Andrés Caballero; Pasos de Valor written, directed and produced by Natalia C. Bell; The Daily War, a co-production with Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB), directed and produced by Karla Legaspy and co-produced and written by Adelina Anthony; Noche Buena written, directed and produced by Andres Rovira. It was also produced by (and starring) Ray Tezanos.

Chilean mini-series about Caravan of Death available

Posted by Elena del Valle on June 16, 2021

A scene of Caravan of Death
A scene of Caravan of Death

Photo: Mhz Choice

Beginning this month Caravan of Death (entitled Ecos del Desierto in the original Spanish release) a suspenseful, violent and dark four episode fiction mini-series based on the life of human rights lawyer Carmen Hertz in Spanish with English subtitles, should be available on Mhz Choice, an international streaming service. According to the program credits it was based on the court files of the Caravan of Death case well known in Chile. It recreates a brief period at the end of Hertz and her husband’s life together as well as incidents from 1973 and the military coup that deposed Chile’s president.

The series showcases the work of the lawyer and the tense political situation before and during the Augusto Pinochet era; as well as the human rights violations, rape and murders she accuses the military and the government of committing illegally. Each episode of the mini-series, which according to online source website ChileNovelas Wiki first aired in Chile in 2013, is approximately 50 minutes long. The English subtitles were provided by Mhz Choice. According to promotional materials this is the first Chilean series available on the streaming service.

The series was directed by Andres Wood and produced by Wood Producciones and Chilevision with a mix of actors and archival video from sources such as the Institute National de l’Audiovisual and Chile Films. Actresses, Aline Kuppenheim and Maria Gracia Omagna, portrayed Hertz at two stages of her life. The executive producers were Alejandra Garcia and Carolina Zuñiga and the producer was Alejandro Fernandez.

With video – Documentary spotlights issues faced by some adult caregivers of aging parents

Posted by Elena del Valle on May 26, 2021

It's Not A Burden poster

It’s Not A Burden poster

Photo, video: Greenie Films

It’s Not A Burden The Humor and Heartache of Raising Elderly Parents, a new 90-minute documentary from Michelle Boyaner and Greenie Films spotlights the issues faced by the adult children of several elderly people. Some of them are living in assisted living facilities, some with dementia and or debilitating health conditions; some had passed away by the time the film was made. Boyaner and her mother feature prominently, often in video taken in the car. The emotionally charged 2020 film features candid conversations with the adult caregivers and their parents in several locations in California as well as Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Scroll down to watch a short video introduction.

“Sometimes I pretend like she’s somebody else’s mother and that way I can be nicer to her,” Boyaner, who had been estranged from her mother until she made a promise to look after her to her sister, says in the documentary.

A bit later in the documentary one of the adult women who is her mother’s full-time caregiver asks, “Who’s going to take care of me?” when she gets old like her mother since she has no children. The producers found participants among their circle of friends and their friends. When asked about the goal of the documentary a spokesperson explained by phone that they hoped to remind viewers that when they look at their aged parents they remember who they were and that they are still those same people inside.

Made with the fiscal support of The Film Collaborative and Kickstarter funding. The film was written, directed and produced by Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Boyaner (Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson). Barbara Green (A Finished Life: The Goodbye and No Regrets Tour) served as cinematographer, editor and producer. Katie Ford (Miss Congeniality) and Wendy Zipes Hunter (Voices of Parkland) were producers. The original score composed by Joanna Katcher (Nice Manners) featuring songs by Danielle Ate The Sandwich. Maxine Lapiduss, Aaron Lustig and Barb Held were executive producers.

Gravitas Ventures (North American), a Red Arrow Studios Company, will distribute the documentary due to be released on video on demand (VOD) in the United States June 1, 2021 on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, and Vimeo.

Podcast with Tony Hereau, VP, Cross-Platform Insights, Nielsen, about podcast insights

Posted by Elena del Valle on May 3, 2021

Tony Hereau, vice president of Cross-Platform Insights, Nielsen

Tony Hereau, vice president of Cross-Platform Insights, Nielsen

Photo: Nielsen

A podcast interview with Tony Hereau, vice president of Cross-Platform Insights, Nielsen, is available in the Podcast Section of Hispanic Marketing and Public Relations, HispanicMPR.com. He discusses podcast insights with Elena del Valle, host of the HispanicMPR.com podcast.

In his job Tony strives to demonstrate the impact that audio has on media investment, marketing execution, and sales outcomes. He has over 20 years of experience in the buying and selling of media, championed the radio reach story via the Total Audience Report, and most recently developed a measurement service for the podcasting industry.

To listen to the interview, scroll down and click on the play button below. You can listen by looking for “Podcast” then select “HMPR Tony Hereau” and download the MP3 file to your audio player. You can also find it on the RSS feed. To download it, click on the arrow of the recording you wish to copy and save it to disk. The podcast will remain listed in the May 2021 section of the podcast archive.

Swedish police mini series available online

Posted by Elena del Valle on April 14, 2021

A scene in Missing
A scene in Missing

Photo: Mhz Choice

Missing, a dark and suspenseful four-part series in Swedish with English subtitles, is available on international streaming website Mhz Choice. The inspector and lead character is played by Helena Bergström. Her character is a police detective originally from the area who now works in the city. Visiting a friend and her daughter she was asked to take over a case after an unexpected event in the police department leaves a void in their ranks.

Each 44-minute episode explores personal relationships as well as an unsolved death and later in the series a disappearance. No copyright free for editorial publication video clip was available. A short description of the series was available: “Police inspector Maja Silver returns to her hometown in the Swedish Bible Belt as a terrible discovery paralyzes the small community.”