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‘Nothing but the Sun’ Review: Paraguay’s Ayoreo People Tell Their Own Story in Touching Doc

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Nothing but the Sun Oscar

The story of colonialism is the story of what’s been lost, of what’s been taken, of what’s been forgotten. Land. Languages. Entire cosmologies. The process of reclaiming these losses, of doing the work of not undoing but outright naming this kind of violence is hard, not least because the story colonialism tells of itself is about what’s been gained, of what’s been learned, of what’s been earned. God’s love, for one. Western ideals, obviously. And material wealth, or its prospect at least.

For Mateo Sobode Chiqueno, who carries with him a tape recorder at the ready, capturing the stories of his fellow Ayoreo peoples in the Paraguayan Chaco region is his own way of trying to tell a different kind of story than the one often told about his indigenous brethren. The testimonials that make up the bulk of Arami Ullón’s documentary “Nothing but the Sun” don’t — can’t really — tell a linear nor unified history of the Ayoreo people.

To some, their move in the 20th century from a nomad people living in “the forest” to the sedentary world in “white people’s land” was a welcome change of pace, embraced with wide-eyed wonder. (The problems came later when, as one man puts it, he realized his wish to own white people’s things meant he had to work to earn money to be able to afford them.) For others, it was a tragic life event, marked by illness and death (Mateo himself was orphaned when he lost both his parents to diseases like measles the Ayoreo had never been exposed to until they came in contact with Salesian and then Mennonite missionaries). Some crave and find solace still in the shamanic knowledge passed down for generations. Others explicitly rebuke it in the name of Jesus Christ, whom they believe will grant them eternal life.

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To Mateo (and, in turn, to Ullón) these conflicting narratives are precisely the point. For Mateo, his need to capture songs and stories and testimonials, is a chance to piece together what’s been happening to his community over the last few decades. What we witness throughout “Nothing but the Sun” is the very process of archiving, not as a dispassionate endeavor but as an empathetic, if knotted, enterprise that demands as much of Mateo as it does of those he interviews. With the help of Gabriel Lobos’ cinematography, the film captures plenty of moments when Mateo has to stop recording. He’s not just listening; he’s constantly digesting and processing and even grieving what he’s being told. Songs move him to tears. Stories force him into silence. Memories plunge him back into himself. This is not a portrait of the archivist as storyteller but as a rapt listener.

“Nothing but the Sun” doesn’t concern itself with written history. Thrusting audiences into Mateo’s world, it only offers a few contextual bits of information that help frame what would, in lesser hands, be an invasive ethnographic endeavor. Ullón lets Mateo serve as both host and interlocutor throughout, allowing his words — “White missionaries took us out of our paradise, What was our sin?” he asks at the start of the film — to set the tone for what unfolds in front of us.

That’s not to say Ullón’s aesthetic takes a back seat. In fact, the choice to showcase establishing shots of the arid, inhospitable landscapes that make up the Chaco region where the Ayoreo have been displaced makes that reference to “paradise” all the more suggestive. Later, when Ullón gives us images of the lush greenery that’s since been privatized (“Prohibida la entrada a personas extrañas,” reads a sign by a gate: “Forbidden entry to strangers”), it makes the dust-filled shots we’ve been watching nonstop feel all the more alienating.

Similarly, Ullón’s focus on the materiality of Mateo’s records, of those tapes kept in old shoeboxes, many of which are now tangled and in need of repair, make memory feel tangible. Away from the world they once knew but wholly rooted now in the one imposed on them, many of those interviewed by Mateo exemplify what the Ayoreo people lost — and what many of them would never dream of getting back. “Would you go back to the forest?” he asks, only to be met with equally dispiriting and inspiring answers.

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As a meditation on the banality of colonialism, “Nothing but the Sun” is remarkable. Never unbearably heavy-handed nor oppressively didactic, Ullón’s graceful documentary is an opening salve, even if its final fiery images also feel like an urgent call to arms. These men and women, whose clothing bear corporate logos from a world far removed from where they live yet who cannot escape the capitalist ethos they represent, emerge as living, breathing memory of a destructive colonial enterprise that continues to this day. As Mateo puts it, “We really do resemble a cut tree.”

Gossips

Amanda Kramer’s ‘Give Me Pity!’ Bows Teaser Ahead of Rotterdam World Premiere (EXCLUSIVE)

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GMP Still Makin It copia

Amanda Kramer’s ‘Give Me Pity!’ starring Sophie von Haselberg, is bowing a teaser trailer ahead of its Rotterdam world premiere where the pic closes the event’s Filmmakers in Focus section on Jan. 29.

Variety nabbed an exclusive first look at the teaser, courtesy of Alief, which snapped up the global sales rights to the pic in early January.

Following its world premiere, the U.K.-French sales agent, distribution and production company will present the film at the Berlinale’s online European Film Market for its market debut in February.

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“Give Me Pity!” pivots on Variety TV show host Sissy St. Claire, played by Von Haselberg, whose vanity, insecurity and delusions of grandeur come to a head as a menacing masked figure continues to haunt her, leading to a very public breakdown.

The one-minute teaser opens on Sissy St. Claire holding forth on stage against a glittery fuchsia backdrop as increasingly sinister images flash and perturb the 1980s vibe.

“While singing has always made me feel especially vulnerable, our concentrated shoot schedule left mercifully little room for second-guessing my performance, and Amanda’s extraordinary trust gave me license to take Sissy as far in any direction as I wanted,” said Von Haselberg, adding: “With that kind of freedom, I know I could relive this experience a hundred times and still find a thousand more facets of this wild, wonderful, tragic woman to explore.”

“The film is a celebration of and comment on diva culture which reached a bizarre height in the ‘70s and ‘80s and continues now with a vibrant/somewhat psychotic fervor,” said Kramer. “I’m interested in female vanity, created persona, the trope of the hysterical/maniacal woman.”

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Kramer’s “Please, Baby Please,” starring Andrea Riseborough and Demi Moore, will open the festival on Jan. 20 where it world premieres. In recognition of Kramer as one of this year’s Filmmakers in Focus, Rotterdam will be screening four Kramer films – including “Paris Window” and “Ladyworld” – and four shorts: “Bark,” “Intervene,” “Request” and “Sin Ultra.”

Kramer, who ran her own underground dance label in Los Angeles before turning to filmmaking, mentions the TV specials of Cher, Donna Summer, the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, and Olivia Newton John among the myriad visual inspirations for her film.

“‘Give Me Pity!’ is a visually theatrical smorgasbord of pure talent, and uniquely entertaining” said Alief president Brett Walker upon announcing the acquisition.

“It turns the variety format on its head, with a hilarious outstanding performance by triple threat Sophie Von Haselberg. Move over ONJ, Madonna and Cher, here comes Sissy St. Claire!” added Alief head of distribution Miguel Angel Govea.

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Give Me Pity!
Courtesy of Alief

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BTS Online Comic ‘7Fates: CHAKHO’ Hits 15 Million Views – Global Bulletin

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7FATES CHAKHO

ONLINE COMICS

“7Fates: CHAKHO,” the online comic created by digital comics platform Webtoon, HYBE and K-pop sensation BTS, has surpassed 15 million views in just two days of global launch. The title is now the highest viewed title ever launched by Webtoon. “7Fates: CHAKHO,” has taken first place on Webtoon’s new and trending chart and all genre charts. South Korean boy band Enhyphen’s “Dark Moon: The Blood Altar,” released Jan. 15, took second place in the new and trending chart and placed fourth in the fantasy genre chart.

Another South Korean boy band Tomorrow X Together‘s “The Star Seekers,” placed third in the new and trending chart on Webtoon’s English, German, and Spanish services within a day of release. The comics have also earned high fan review scores around the world.

The BTS online comics collaboration with Webtoon and HYBE was revealed in Nov. 2021.

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“This project, in collaboration with HYBE, is an industry-first, simultaneously launching a webcomic and a web novel in 10 languages, with strong fan fractions for all three works,” said Ken Kim, CEO, Webtoon Entertainment. “These are pop idols that fans truly love, so we’re thrilled to see fans celebrate the dynamic storytelling and unique illustrations for these webcomics and webnovels. These stories are helping people around the world discover webcomics, and giving existing Webtoon users an exciting new way to imagine their favorite idols.”

“The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” cast
National Theatre of Scotland/Selkie Productions/Screen Scotland/Sky Arts

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CASTING

Leading Scottish actors Lorn Macdonald and Henry Pettigrew will take on the roles of Utterson and Dr Jekyll in “The Levelling” director Hope Dickson Leach‘s hybrid adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” They will be supported by Tam Dean Burn, Caroline Deyga, Lois Hagerty, David Hayman, Scott Miller, Alison Peebles, Peter Singh and Ali Watts.

The adaptation will kick off as a theatrical live experience, where audiences will enter a live filmset built within the atmospheric setting of Edinburgh’s historic Leith Theatre, over Feb. 25, 26 and 27, 2022. Following the final performance on Feb. 27, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” will be livestreamed to selected Scottish cinemas.

The show will then be screened “as live” — meaning that it will be performed as though live but broadcast after a short delay — during the week of Feb. 28 in U.K. cinemas. The footage captured during the performances will subsequently be edited into a full feature film, which will be broadcast on Sky Arts in the fall of 2023.

The project is presented by the National Theatre of Scotland and Selkie Productions in association with Screen Scotland and Sky Arts.

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Screen Australia/Google Australia

FUNDING

Screen Australia and Google Australia have revealed the recipients of this year’s Skip Ahead initiative who will share in A$480,000 ($347,000) of production funding. Luke Goodall and Marc Gallagher will receive coin for “The Followers,” a true crime parody about a wellness cult in the Aussie bush, which will air on the Goodall & Gallagher YouTube channel. In series “Quantum Experiments At Home,” physicist Mithuna Yoganathan will demystify quantum mechanics and the project will release on YouTube channel Looking Glass Universe. Saksham Sharma‘s thriller series “Unknown Filter” centers on a university student who goes viral on his YouTube live stream and will show on the Saksham Magic channel. Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva‘s “Hot Department: Dark Web” comedy series will explore the strangest parts of the internet and will release on the Grouse House channel.

APPOINTMENTS

FilmRise, the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network, has appointed Emilia Nuccio to the newly created position of VP, international sales, reporting into Melissa Wohl, senior VP, head of sales. Nuccio will oversee all international deals, be responsible for selling the FilmRise catalogue and new release and FilmRise co-productions into the international marketplace. The executive’s previous roles have included senior VP of sales at Dynamic Television and president of international sales at Echo Bridge.

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Meanwhile, London-based global streaming aggregator ScreenHits TV has named former Sky Television marketing and digital executive Arianna Saita as chief marketing officer. Saita began her career at Sky Italia and has served as director of brand and content marketing and later senior VP, at Sky Germany and Austria. The executive has also served Foxtel Group as chief brand officer.

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“Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles”
ZDF Enterprises

SALES

Germany’s ZDF Enterprises has sold “Agatha Christie’s Hjerson” to Japan’s AXN Mystery; pay-TV rights for “Top Dog” to Japan’s WOWOW; and VOD rights of “Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles” to Reeva Films India.

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SERIES

Victorian era-set family adventure series “Dodger” will air on CBBC and BBC iPlayer from Feb. 6. Written by Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery, the series follows Dodger, Fagin and his gang through the tough London streets trying to keep one step ahead of the police as they embark on their latest madcap scheme – whether it’s acting in a haunted theatre, sneaking into Madame Tussauds or posing as a long-lost boy.

The cast includes Christopher Eccleston, David Threlfall, Rhys Thomas, Saira Choudhry, Sam C. Wilson and Billy Jenkins as Dodger. Guest stars include Colin McFarlane, Alex Kingston, James Fleet, Frances Barber, Danny John Jules, John Thomson, Tanya Reynolds, Phil Cornwell, Simon Day, Alexei Sayle, Catherine Shepherd, Samantha Spiro, Nadine Marshall, Cheryl Fergison, David Fleeshman, Julian Barratt, Andy Nyman, Paul Reynolds and Tim Downie.

“Dodger” is produced by Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group. Mark Freeland is executive producer for Universal International Studios. The commissioning editor for the BBC is Amy Buscombe.

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“Dodger”
BBC/NBCUniversal International Studios

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