Chile’s “A Fantastic Woman” wins foreign language film Oscar

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Rita Moreno poses with director Sebastian Lelio from Chile after he won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for "A Fantastic Woman". (REUTERS)
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Director Sebastian Lelio from Chile holds the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for "A Fantastic Woman". (REUTERS)
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Chilean director Sebastian Lelio (C) accepts the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for "A Fantastic Woman" during the 90th Annual Academy Awards show on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (AFP)
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Transgender lead actor Daniela Vega joins director Sebastian Lelio as he is honored for their film "A Fantastic Woman" at the Foreign Language Film nominees cocktail reception in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., in this March 2, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 March 2018
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Chile’s “A Fantastic Woman” wins foreign language film Oscar

LOS ANGELES: Landmark Chilean drama “A Fantastic Woman,” a stirring story of love and loss that centers on a transgender woman, won the best foreign language Oscar on Sunday.
A favorite to win, the film has been hailed as a milestone in representing transgender characters and for taking on the timely subject of transgender identity with compassion and sensitivity.
Clutching his gold statuette, director Sebastian Lelio called his transgender leading lady, Daniela Vega, his inspiration for the film.
A smiling Vega, in a magenta gown, stood behind Lelio on the stage, alongside the film’s producers.
The film follows Marina, a transgender waitress and nightclub singer, whose long-term and loving older boyfriend suddenly dies. They had shared a protective bubble of bliss and tenderness that is suddenly shattered and Marina’s world falls apart.
Marina spends most of the film numbed by grief and battling for the right to mourn as her lover’s family shuns and humiliates her and tries to block her from his funeral.
Vega plays the part with unshakable dignity and poise in the face of scorn, discrimination and hostility from her boyfriend’s family and police investigating his death.
Some had hoped Vega would become the first transgender actor nominated for an Oscar. Hollywood has come under increasing criticism for celebrating trans stories played by non-trans actors, while failing to cast transgender actors — Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry“), Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club“), Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl“) and Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica“) have all garnered Oscar nominations for trans roles, with Swank and Leto winning.
The Chilean film beat out Lebanon’s “The Insult,” Russia’s “Loveless,” Hungary’s “On Body and Soul,” and Sweden’s “The Square.”
The category was presented by Puerto Rican actress-singer Rita Moreno, who donned the same gown she wore 56 years ago when she won best supporting actress for “West Side Story” in 1962
Moreno received a standing ovation when she took the stage.
The 86-year-old Moreno quoted Frank Capra as saying there were three universal languages: “Music, mathematics and the one we honor tonight, the universal language of film,” Moreno said.
“Regardless of its country of origin or the dialect of its words, a great film conveys a story that speaks to the one condition we all share,” Moreno said. “The human condition.”


Ancient Afghan citadel collapses, cultural heritage sites at risk

Updated 15 June 2019
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Ancient Afghan citadel collapses, cultural heritage sites at risk

  • The old citadel known as Ghaznain Fort originally had 36 towers, but 14 of the towers had collapsed in recent years
  • The fort is one of dozens of unique historic sites in Afghanistan in urgent need of protection

GHAZNI, Afghanistan: An ancient tower dating back 2,000 years in the historic Afghan city of Ghazni collapsed this week, local officials said, raising concerns about the vulnerability of the country’s cultural heritage and the government’s ability to protect them.
The old citadel known as Ghaznain Fort originally had 36 towers, but 14 of the towers had collapsed in recent years due to decades of war, heavy rain and neglect.
The fort is one of dozens of unique historic sites in Afghanistan — ranging from the pre-Islamic Buddhist center in the Bamyan valley to the 12th century minaret of Jam in a remote area of Ghor province — in urgent need of protection.
Officials in Ghazni, which nearly fell to the Taliban last year in some of the heaviest fighting seen in the war, said the tower collapsed on Tuesday following heavy rain. A short video posted on social media shows it crumbling but local residents say negligence also contributed to its collapse.
“The government paid no attention to the sites and didn’t build canals to divert flood water,” said Ghulam Sakhi, who lives near the citadel.
“We have warned the government about the dire condition of the citadel but no one visited,” Sakhi said.
Mahbubullah Rahmani, acting director of culture and information in Ghazni, said heavy rain and recent fighting had contributed to the tower’s collapse but said the government was working on a plan to protect the site from complete destruction.
He said a German archaeologist had worked at the site as recently as 2013.
Ghazni, a strategically vital center on the main highway between Kabul and southern Afghanistan and two hour drive from the capital, is home to a range of cultural and archaeological artefacts, some of which date back to pre-Islamic period.
The province and its cultural heritage was officially declared as Asian Capital of Islamic Culture in 2013 by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a Morocco-based body created in 1981, supported by UNESCO.
The collapse of the tower in Ghazni follows concern over the condition of the 900-year-old Minaret of Jam, in Ghor, which has been on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Properties in Danger since 2002.
The Taliban during their austere regime from 1996-2001, before they were toppled by the US and coalition force in late 2001, blew up two giant Buddha statues in central Bamiyan province, calling them idols.