Seven Maoist rebels killed in central India gunfight

Seven Maoist rebels killed in central India gunfight
The far-left rebels in the central state of Chhattisgarh are part of a long-standing conflict that has left tens of thousands dead since the 1960s. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 August 2019

Seven Maoist rebels killed in central India gunfight

Seven Maoist rebels killed in central India gunfight
  • Chhattisgarh is mineral rich but among India's poorest states, and guerrillas are demanding greater rights over land and resources
  • Maoist-inspired insurgents in the so-called Naxalite movement are present in at least 20 Indian states but are most active in Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh

NEW DELHI: Indian special forces killed seven suspected Maoist rebels in a raid on a jungle camp Saturday that triggered a gunfight lasting several hours, police said.

The far-left rebels in the central state of Chhattisgarh are part of a long-standing conflict that has left tens of thousands dead since the 1960s. They were in a camp in dense forest in Rajnandgaon district, some 70 kilometres (43 miles) from the state capital Raipur.

"So far seven bodies have been recovered from the encounter spot," a senior police officer in the district told AFP on condition of anonymity. He said arms and ammunition were recovered from the camp.

Chhattisgarh is mineral rich but among India's poorest states, and guerrillas are demanding greater rights over land and resources. A landmine blast on Wednesday was blamed on the rebels, and killed one paramilitary.

Maoist-inspired insurgents in the so-called Naxalite movement are present in at least 20 Indian states but are most active in Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh. The government has deployed tens of thousands of police and special commandos in a bid to eradicate the groups.
 


Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture
Updated 17 min 41 sec ago

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture
  • Minimo VFX will open a headquarters in Riyadh in early 2022
  • Minimo helped produce The Dark Knight, Avatar and Harry Potter

RIYADH: Spanish film studio Minimo VFX plans to invest $250 million in the Saudi market through a joint venture with a local company, said CEO Felix Balbas.

“Our partnership with the Saudi Next Level Co. consists of opening a regional headquarters in Riyadh and localizing the film content industry, as well as training Saudis and empowering them globally,” Felix told Asharq on Thursday.

Minimo was involved in the production of films including The Dark Knight, Avatar, The Mission, Doom, and Harry Potter.

It will begin operations in Riyadh in early 2022 with a team of about 45 employees, offering production, logistical and advisory services for visual effects, long and short films, television shows and advertisements, he said.

Filmmaking and the screening of films is a recent phenomenon in the Kingdom after Saudi Arabia allowed the opening of cinemas in 2018.


Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene
Updated 27 min 47 sec ago

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene

Aissa Djouamaa on revitalizing the North African movie scene
  • Meet the director and producer leading the charge for a new wave of Algerian cinema

PARIS: Algerian director and producer Aissa Djouamaa (whose debut feature, “Cilima,” was helmed under his ‘artist name’ Aissa ben Said) may have chosen to keep his distances from the media, but he remains, nonetheless, a deeply committed artist, both behind the camera and on the ground. He is recognized as someone who has initiated a major and profound change in the movie industry of his native country, Algeria.

Perseverance is one of Djouamaa’s major qualities. When he was rejected by the School of Dramatic Arts in Algiers due to his unsatisfactory baccalaureate grades, he decided to study biology for four years, but his passion for cinema did not fade. So, in 2007 he took the decision to join the Tunis School of Arts and Cinema.

"I enrolled there with the intention of becoming an actor. But when I discovered the universe of the film industry, I started focusing on the picture, the frame and the writing,” he says.

“Cilima” is typical of the ideals behind Nouvelle Vague Algerienne, aimed as it is at reviving Algerian cinema. (Supplied)

Djouamaa ranked top of his class for two consecutive years before encountering a major problem. “I realized that I was attracted to disturbing social issues, to topics that were not supposed to be addressed,” he says. “I decided that for my final project I would make a movie about the aggressive police attacks that took place during the local derby between the Tunisian football teams Esperance Sportive de Tunis and Club Africain.” However, he was unable to get the necessary authorization, so his film was never completed.

In summer 2010, Djouamaa traveled to Algeria to produce his first short film “Un Cri Sans Echo” (A scream without echo), which focused on marginalized musicians living in Souk Ahras, the artist's hometown. The film was screened during the Doc à Tunis festival in April 2011, just months after then-President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted at the start of the Arab Spring, and it earned Djouamaa his diploma.

When he returned to Algeria, he encountered numerous problems, mainly financial. “I worked as a sales consultant for a multinational company. Every vacation I had, I would make a short film,” he says. “I also taught at the Office des Établissements de Jeunes, which produced my first film.”

Djouamaa’s second movie — “Colors, the Country and Me,” was about a hero of Souk Ahras: Taoufik Makhloufi, the only Algerian to win a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Perseverance is one of Djouamaa’s major qualities. (Supplied)

“It’s about the new generation that perceives Algeria from a different angle,” he says. “It was time to write a new page of Algeria’s history as seen through the eyes of this generation.”

In order to emphasize a different vision to that of traditional non-fiction filmmakers, Djouamaa next decided to take part in his own documentary. “Talking about Algeria’s 50th Independence Day does not necessarily mean talking about the Algerian revolution as such, but rather talking about what Algeria has experienced, from independence until today,” he says.

Djouamaa was beginning to make a name for himself in his homeland. In 2014, he participated in the first Algiers French Institute laboratory and his film “Makash Kifach No Way” was broadcast on French television. The following year, he quit his job and headed to Canada to participate in KINOMADA — a non-profit film production platform — and to shoot his first fictional film, the short “We Return to Paradise,” which featured a rabbi, a priest and an imam. “I have never thought of presenting it in Algeria, as the topic (exploring the merits of art vs. religion) remains taboo.”

In 2016, he took part in a summer program at Paris’ renowned La Fémis film and television school. There, he filmed the Place de la Republique square during the “Nuit Debout” (Up all night) protests against new labor laws. “It has always been the French producing documentaries about Algeria,” he says. “It was about time that an Algerian made a documentary about France.”

His experiences in Canada and France inspired Djouamaa — despite Algeria’s “suffocating bureaucracy” — to establish his own production company, Nouvelle Vague Algerienne (Algerian New Wave). And it was his second fictional short, “Un Homme, Deux Théatres” (One man, two theaters), that saw his reputation grow outside of Algeria.

Djouamaa hopes to see Algerian cinema rise again. (Supplied)

“This film was the door to international recognition,” he says. “It got screened all over the globe. I even received an award for it in Madagascar.”

At the 2017 Carthage Film Festival, Djouamaa encountered members of the Algerian Ministry of Culture, which only served to reinforce his belief that he was operating outside of his country’s mainstream media business. “They were wondering, ‘Who is this stranger, so unfamiliar to Algerian society, who doesn’t seem interested in who we are?’” he says.

But he got on better with the director of the Algerian commission which allocates funds to filmmakers, obtaining funding for five projects. He went on to shoot his first feature film “Cilima,” which he has described as a “one-of-a-kind film” that combined stories created by four young filmmakers from across Algeria.

“Cilima” is typical of the ideals behind Nouvelle Vague Algerienne, aimed as it is at reviving Algerian cinema.

“I am an artist who recognizes the enormous potential of the young generation. The Algerian New Wave is not just about producing projects talking about present Algeria. It’s a whole educational project. We are trying to make a change”, he explains. “I am a staunchly committed artist, a member of the Hirak. I have always refused to be part of the ingrained system.”

He went on to shoot his first feature film “Cilima,” which he has described as a “one-of-a-kind film” that combined stories created by four young filmmakers from across Algeria. (Supplied)

That system in Algeria, he explains, “was based on revolutionary films, subsidized with huge amounts of public money. Algerian cinema reached its peak with the Palme d'Or awarded in 1975 to Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina. Then came the black decade that saw the number of movie theaters fall from 500 to just 40.”

Djouamaa hopes to see Algerian cinema rise again. Along with two other producers, he has set up the Basma Collective. “In this country we have a lack in film schools,” he explains. “It is extremely important not to cut corners. We are in the process of setting up Timi Lab — a writing development venture — in Timimoun, in the Algerian Sahara, with the help of funds from the international film industry. We are also preparing an African and Arab festival called Timi Film Days.”

As for his own filmmaking, Djouamaa is currently in the process of developing a documentary that he says will “destabilize the current system, especially its relations with France.” It is based around the story of the village of Reggane, the location of French nuclear tests between 1960 and 1968.

“I decided not to make a historical movie, but instead to bring in my creative touch,” he says. “The story is about an association that contacts an international law firm (in relation to the Reggane tests). The latter files a complaint before the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

Clearly, Djouamaa’s Algerian New Wave is set on making waves.


THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’
Updated 59 min 45 sec ago

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’

THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’
  • The Lebanese artist discusses her 2021 mixed-media artwork, inspired by Beirut and showcased at the inaugural edition of Menart Fair in Paris last month

DUBAI: I started the “Wandering City” series in 2018. It began with a piece of my diary that I wrote in 1975. I was writing every day in this diary, describing a lot of paths that I used to walk in Beirut when I was 13. I was really struck by that. We were extremely free at that moment; we could do whatever we wanted, but we were well aware of the political situation. I would write everything that was happening in Lebanon during the beginning of the Civil War.

I took my diary and started to play with maps of Beirut, mixing what I remember with what’s happening now. I left Lebanon a long time ago, but I still keep going back and forth. I trained as an architect in France and I never forgot this idea of maps and psychogeography. I was very much inspired by how you reconstruct your own geography. It’s not about nostalgia, it’s about how you keep searching for others, sensations, vegetation and light.

She started the “Wandering City” series in 2018. (Supplied)

In “Wandering City #17,” the writing is based on my diary entry for June 28, 1975. I went to my parents’ office with my mother to pick up my passport because I was traveling. We had to meet my father at the temple, which was next to my parent’s office. There were a lot of bombs on the way. June 28 was a real trauma for everyone. 

I picked pink because I wanted something happy. Even if the war was happening, we were extremely happy. Pink and orange were the colors of my teenage years in the Seventies, or at least what I remember when I visualize that time: the colors of the clothes, movie posters, record covers, store fronts.

The process is, I transfer my map onto the cotton canvas and I pin everything and then I draw on top of it with acrylic pencil, layer by layer. Only the writing is stitched. When I do my maps, it takes forever, but it’s a kind of meditation and I don’t want it to finish. It’s a way to stay in my childhood. I’m trying to say goodbye to Beirut, but it’s not working.


UN: Millions driven from homes in 2020 despite COVID-19 crisis

UN: Millions driven from homes in 2020 despite COVID-19 crisis
Updated 59 min 48 sec ago

UN: Millions driven from homes in 2020 despite COVID-19 crisis

UN: Millions driven from homes in 2020 despite COVID-19 crisis
  • Cumulative total of displaced people has risen to 82.4 million – roughly the population of Germany
  • UNHCR said now 1 percent of all humanity is displaced, and there are twice as many forcibly displaced people than a decade ago

GENEVA: The UN refugee agency says war, violence, persecution and human rights violations caused nearly 3 million people to flee their homes last year, even though the COVID-19 crisis restricted movement worldwide as countries shut borders and ordered lockdowns.
In its latest Global Trends report released on Friday, UNHCR says the cumulative total of displaced people has risen to 82.4 million – roughly the population of Germany. It marks the ninth straight annual increase in the number of people forcibly displaced.
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said conflict and the impact of climate change in places such as Mozambique, Ethiopia’s Tigray region and Africa’s broad Sahel area were among the leading sources of new movements of refugees and internally displaced people in 2020.
They added hundreds of thousands more people to the overall count, which has for years been dominated by the millions who have fled countries such as Syria and Afghanistan due to protracted wars or fighting.
“This is telling, in a year in which we were all locked down, confined, blocked in our homes, in our communities, in our cities,” said Grandi in an interview before the report’s release. “Almost 3 million people have had to actually leave all that behind because they had no other choice.”
UNHCR, which has its headquarters in Geneva, said that 99 of the more than 160 countries that closed their borders because of COVID-19 didn’t make exceptions for people seeking protection as refugees or asylum-seekers.
Grandi acknowledged the possibility that many internally displaced people who couldn’t leave their own countries will eventually want to flee abroad once borders start reopening, if the pandemic eases.
“A good example is the United States where already we have seen a surge in people arriving in recent months,” Grandi said, and referred to the US provision called Title 42 that let US authorities temporarily block people seeking asylum from entry for health reasons. “Title 42 will be lifted eventually – and I think this is the right thing to do – but this will have to be managed.”
Asked about US Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent trip to Central America, where she told would-be migrants to the US “do not come,” Grandi expressed hope that the remark was not reflective of overall US policy.
“I think that messaging indeed, as it was reported, is stark, and maybe shows only one part of the picture now,” Grandi said, adding that he had heard a “more complex response” from other officials in Washington when he was there recently.
Among recent hotspots, Grandi said hundreds of thousands of people were newly displaced in Mozambique and the Sahel last year, and up to 1 million in the Tigray conflict that started in October.
“I’m worried that if the international community is not able to stop these conflicts, we will continue to see the rise in the numbers,” he said.
The report said that at the end of last year there were 5.7 million Palestinians, 3.9 million Venezuelans and an additional 20.7 million refugees from various other countries displaced abroad. Another 48 million people were internally displaced in their own countries. Some 4.1 million more sought asylum.
Turkey, a neighbor of Syria, has taken in the most refugees in absolute numbers – 3.7 million – a figure more than twice that of the No. 2 host country, Colombia, which borders Venezuela. Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan was third.
UNHCR said now 1 percent of all humanity is displaced, and there are twice as many forcibly displaced people than a decade ago. Some 42 percent of them were aged under 18, and nearly 1 million babies were born as refugees between 2018 and 2020.
“Many of them may remain refugees for years to come,” it said.


Policeman killed, more than 80 students abducted in attack on Nigerian school

Policeman killed, more than 80 students abducted in attack on Nigerian school
Updated 58 min 7 sec ago

Policeman killed, more than 80 students abducted in attack on Nigerian school

Policeman killed, more than 80 students abducted in attack on Nigerian school
  • ‘They killed one of the (police officers), broke through the gate and went straight to the students’ classes’
  • A spokesman for the Kebbi state governor said they were conducting a tally of the missing

BAUCHI/KADUNA: Gunmen killed a police officer and kidnapped at least 80 students and five teachers from a school in the Nigerian state of Kebbi, police, residents and a teacher said.
The attack is the third mass kidnapping in three weeks in northwest Nigeria, which have authorities have attributed to armed bandits seeking ransom payments.
Usman Aliyu, a teacher at the school, said the gunmen took more than 80 students, most of them girls.
“They killed one of the (police officers), broke through the gate and went straight to the students’ classes,” he said.
Kebbi State police spokesman Nafiu Abubakar, said the gunmen killed one officer during an exchange and also shot a student, who was receiving medical treatment.
Police late on Thursday had not released the number of students missing, and a spokesman for the Kebbi state governor said they were conducting a tally of the missing.
The attack took place at a federal government college in the remote town of Birnin Yauri. Abubakar said security forces were searching a nearby forest for the abducted students and teachers.
Atiku Aboki, a resident who went to the school shortly after the gunfire stopped, said he saw a scene of panic and confusion as people searched for their children.
“When we got there we saw students crying, teachers crying, everyone is sympathizing with people,” he said by telephone.
“Everyone was confused. Then my brother called me (to say) that his two children have not been seen and (we) don’t know if they are among the kidnapped.”
Bandits seeking ransom have kidnapped more than 800 Nigerian students from their schools since December in a series of raids. Some have been freed while others remain missing.
The raids in the northwestern region are separate from Islamist insurgencies centered on the northeast, where the Boko Haram militant group made global headlines in 2014 when it abducted more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok.