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‘Fatsani: A Tale of Survival’ Review: A Malawian Girl Fights for Educational and Economic Justice

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Fatsani A Tale of Survival Oscar

The second film submitted for Oscar international feature contention by Southeast African nation Malawi, following Shemu Joyah’s “The Road to Sunrise” in 2018, “Falsani: A Tale of Survival” offers an earnest depiction of struggle against poverty and corruption. Director Gift Sukez Sukali and writer Gilbert Moyo’s debut is technically competent if more haphazard in storytelling terms, articulating its social issues in terms alternately blunt and sketchy. Still, it represents a promising effort for a local industry still at a formative stage, one that will be of inevitable interest to programmers for African cinema and human rights-themed forums.

Introducing herself in sporadic voiceover narration, heroine Fatsani Lema (Hannah Sukali) is an 11-year-old orphan being raised by her sickly grandmother (Leliya Samson), though the caregiving tends to go more in the reverse direction. Despite considerable domestic duties, Fatsani manages to go to school, where her academic aptitude is duly noted by teacher Mrs. Phiri (Joyce Chavula). But the principal (Edwin K. Chonde) is a malevolent fatcat who not only bans the girl from associating with her sole classmate friend (Charity Kavuta), but is actively plotting with a government minister to sabotage the school’s operations so the property can be sold.

At about the midpoint — which also brings an awkward flashback explaining what happened to her parents — Fatsani must begin selling bananas in the market to make ends meet. She loses Mrs. Phiri (who’s been transferred to a new school anyway) as mentor, but gains a new maternal figure in fellow merchant Nambewe (Uthandiwe T. Chidambo).

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Even this scraping-by toil is imperiled, because vendors who pay fees to officials don’t want competition from unlicensed street trade. They collude with the easily-bribed police to orchestrate brutal crackdowns. In the midst of one such, at which protestors finally rally against their oppressors, the hitherto close-mouthed Fatsani improbably grabs a bullhorn to deliver a long speech decrying various societal injustices. Even more improbably, this makes waves not just locally or nationally, but around the world.

That triumph over systemic graft and theft would carry more force if not for a somewhat wooden child lead performance, the script’s carelessness about details (we’ve no idea how Fatsani kept herself and granny alive before leaving school to work, for instance), and a directorial paucity of narrative tension. Individual scenes are often poorly shaped, with transitions between them usually no more than a blackout.

Variable performances, clumsy action sequences and an overwhelming excess of various-artist music soundtracked further conspire against the film developing any consistent pacing rhythm or tone. On the plus side, the widescreen photography is nicely handled, several drone shots providing a welcome bigger picture.

Repeating obvious points while omitting needed additional intel, “Fatsani: A Tale of Survival” can feel both overlong and underdeveloped. But however limited its insights or dramatic impact, it still provides welcome illustration of some challenges facing one of the region’s most embattled nations.

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Daryl Hall Plots New Solo Collection, Tour With Todd Rundgren

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M3HR

Daryl Hall will put the spotlight on his 40-plus-year solo career outside of Hall and Oates with the release of a new compilation and a solo tour with special guest Todd Rundgren this spring. The 30-track “BeforeAfter” will arrive via Legacy Recordings on April 1, the same day Hall returns to the live stage at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre.

“I picked the songs I thought were right and significant and meaningful throughout this whole body of work,” Hall tells Variety of “BeforeAfter,” which spans his 1980 Robert Fripp-produced solo debut “Sacred Songs” up through 2011’s “Laughing Down Crying,” which was co-produced by Hall and Oates’ longtime associate, the late T-Bone Wolk.

Of Fripp, whose adventurous work with King Crimson may have seemed an odd bedfellow alongside Hall’s soulful style, Hall says, “We were friends before we did ’Sacred Songs” and have a lot of common ground — more than people realize. He would just play things and I’d sing lyrics out of the blue and come up with things spontaneously. We had the ability to do that together and do something that I think was pretty unique.” 

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“BeforeAfter” also includes a host of previously unreleased songs recorded for Hall’s long-running performance series “Live From Daryl’s House,” including lead track “Can We Still Be Friends” with Rundgren, Eurythmics’ “Here Comes the Rain” with that group’s Dave Stewart and a version of “North Star” with singer/guitarist Monte Montgomery. “It just blew me away,” Hall says of the latter. “I see ‘Live From Daryl’s House’ as much a part of my body of work as any of my recorded albums I’ve done.”

On the April tour, which will visit such storied venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall and Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, both Rundgren and Hall will be backed by the ‘Live From Daryl’s House’ core band, featuring guitarist Shane Theriot, bassist Klyde Jones, saxophonist Charlie DeChant, keyboardist Elliott Lewis, drummer Brian Dunne and percussionist/vocalist Porter Carroll. Hall expects he and Rundgren will duet on “Can We Still Be Friends” at the shows and says he will sprinkle some Hall and Oates tunes in alongside solo selections from “BeforeAfter.” 

“I’ve known Todd since we were kids,” Hall says of fellow Philadelphia native Rundgren. “We have what I consider ultimate respect for each other. I think he’s a phenomenal artist who has carved his own path. Whenever we get together, sparks fly. Something good happens. We sing really well together.”

Although there are no plans at the moment for Hall and Oates to tour in 2022, Hall has already written nine songs with Stewart for a new solo project, which he plans to work on throughout the year. Fripp may also make an appearance at some point, according to Hall. “He wants to do something with me in the studio, so I think this album will be some combination of me getting together with a lot of friends,” he reports.

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Daryl Hall and John Oates remain popular fodder for film, TV and commercial syncs, but Hall says he enjoys when lesser-known songs are utilized, such as the recent appearance of the 1976 track “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” in an episode of HBO’s “Euphoria.”

“I’m all about deeper cuts,” he says. “I play ‘Do What You Want’ a lot on stage with Hall and Oates and there’s a good chance I’ll play that on the solo tour too. On ‘Live From Daryl’s House,’ I’d always say to the guest, what do you want to do? And they’ll say, let’s play ‘You Make My Dreams,’ and I’d say, ‘No. no. Go deep. Find a song you just discovered and we’ll play that.’”

As for “Live From Daryl’s House,” which began life as a web show in 2007 and more recently begin airing on AXS-TV, Hall says he is “very much into the idea of bringing it back” after a 2020 pandemic-related hiatus. The show has featured collaborations with everyone from Cheap Trick and Smokey Robinson to Chromeo and Aloe Blacc. “We have some plans and they have not been finalized, but I’m trying to get it back out into the world again.”

Here are Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren’s tour dates:

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April 1: Chicago (Auditorium Theatre)
April 3: Nashville (Ryman Auditorium)
April 5: Atlanta (Symphony Hall)
April 7: Northfield, Ohio (MGM Northfield Park)
April 9: Philadelphia (The Met)
April 11: Boston (Orpheum Theatre)
April 14: New York (Carnegie Hall)
April 16: National Harbor, Md. (The Theatre at MGM National Harbor)

The track list for “BeforeAfter”:

Disc One:
“Dreamtime”
“Babs and Babs”
“Foolish Pride”
“Can’t Stop Dreaming”
“Here Comes the Rain Again” (Live From Daryl’s House) with Dave Stewart
“Someone Like You”
“Talking to You (Is Like Talking to Myself)”
“Sacred Songs”
“Right as Rain”
“Survive”
“North Star” (Live From Daryl’s House) with Monte Montgomery
“In My Own Dream” (Live From Daryl’s House)
“NYCNY”
“What’s Gonna Happen to Us”

Disc Two:
“Love Revelation”
“Fools Rush In”
“I’m in a Philly Mood”
“Send Me”
“Justify”
“Borderline”
“Stop Loving Me, Stop Loving You”
“Eyes for You (Ain’t No Doubt About It)”
“The Farther Away I Am”
“Why Was It So Easy”
“Can We Still Be Friends” (Live From Daryl’s House) with Todd Rundgren
“Cab Driver”
“Our Day Will Come” (Live From Daryl’s House)
“Laughing Down Crying” (Live From Daryl’s House)
“Problem with You” (Live From Daryl’s House)
“Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (Live From Daryl’s House)

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Sky Group Implements Hybrid Work From Home Policy, Re-Designs London Headquarters

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Dana Strong 2

Comcast-owned Sky Group has implemented hybrid working across its European arm.

The U.K. government’s work from home directive ended Monday.

But Sky, led by group chief executive Dana Strong, has implemented a new model that will see its employees continue to split their time between Sky’s offices and home.

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And in order to ensure every staff member has a primary office location to work from, the company is also opening a new building, set to house 600 staff in Covid-secure conditions, on its London campus. When opened, the building will be Sky’s first fully net zero carbon property. It will also include over 5,000 sq feet of solar panels.

Sky’s London campus, which as well as offices includes food outlets, gyms, sports shop, hair and beauty services, mailroom and dry cleaning, currently caters to 8,000 employees.

Employees won’t be able to work from just anywhere, however. They will need to ensure their location has connectivity and privacy and they must work in the same country in which they’re employed. The model will also be adapted around local legislation and conditions in each territory.

“Our people appreciate the flexibility that comes with working from home, but they also value the greater energy and creativity when we come together in person,” said Strong in a statement.

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“Hybrid working will increase the collaboration and inclusivity that underpins our business, while giving our people more balance. It will give Sky staff the best of both worlds. So we’re excited to expand our London campus this year as we welcome people back.”

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