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When Not Tending to War Wounded, Ukraine Rock Star Jams With Bono, Sheeran

Taras Topolya is a Ukrainian rock singer. From the first day of the war in Ukraine, he has been working as a paramedic with the country’s Territorial Defense. But when he has a break, he plays with big names in the Western music industry. Lesia Bakalets has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. VOA footage by Yuriy Zakrevskiy.

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Iranian Film Workers Arrested, Homes Raided

A renowned Iranian filmmaker has said that the offices and homes of several filmmakers and other industry professionals were raided and some of them arrested in recent days.

Mohammad Rasoulof made the comments on Instagram late Saturday, posting a statement signed by dozens of movie industry professionals.

The statement also claimed that security forces confiscated film production equipment during the raids. It condemned the actions and called them “illegal.”

In a separate Instagram post, Rasoulof identified two of the detained filmmakers as Firouzeh Khosravani and Mina Keshavarz. Rasoulof himself was not targeted in the recent raids.

There were no immediate comments from the Iranian authorities on the raids, and no additional details were immediately available.

Rasoulof won the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize in 2020 for his film “There Is No Evil.” The film tells four stories loosely connected to the themes of the death penalty in the Islamic republic and personal freedoms under oppression.

Rasoulof was sentenced to a year in prison shortly after receiving the award, but his lawyer appealed the sentence. He has been banned from making films and traveling abroad.

Iran occasionally arrests activists in cultural fields over alleged security violations.

Iran’s conservative authorities have long viewed many cultural activities as part of a “soft war” by the West against Iran and an attempt to tarnish the country’s Islamic beliefs.

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Russia Artist is 76-year-old Voice of Protest on Ukraine

Yelena Osipova barely slept ahead of Russia’s pomp-filled Victory Day celebrations on May 9.

The 76-year-old artist was up late, making placards to protest about the conflict in Ukraine.

But the moment she stepped out of her home in St. Petersburg on her way to demonstrate, two unknown men snatched the work from her and ran off. 

“It was upsetting. I’d worked half the night and really liked those placards,” the white-haired painter told AFP. 

“It’s obvious that it was an organized attack.”

Indefatigable as ever, within an hour, the tiny, stooped woman, who moves with difficulty, already had a new poster and was heading out again to protest.

Osipova is well-known in her hometown.

She has been called the “conscience of St. Petersburg,” Russia’s second city, after two decades spent publicly opposing the rule of President Vladimir Putin.

Since the Kremlin’s forces rolled into Ukraine, she has also become a symbol of Russians standing up against the conflict.

Footage of her frequent detentions by riot police has been widely circulated on social media.

“The main thing is that people should say these forbidden words today: ‘No to war,'” said the former art professor.

But in Russia that is a risky prospect.

Protests have been ruthlessly stamped out and those criticizing the campaign — a “special military operation” in official parlance — risk a 15-year jail term.

‘Silence means agreement’

Osipova first started taking to the streets two years after former KGB agent Putin took power in 2000.

She has been demonstrating ever since against what she says are the crimes committed by the Russian authorities.

She protested in 2014 when Moscow seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and against the fighting sparked in the east of the country.

Now she is focused on Putin’s full-fledged offensive against Russia’s pro-Western neighbor.

“If people accept all this, then it means they are not thinking about their children,” she said as she showed AFP her work in her flat.

“I’m dedicating my placards to this idea: what world are we leaving to our children?”

She shows off one poster with the face of a young girl shouting “No to war” on a yellow and blue background, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. 

Another of a child has the slogan “What world are we leaving behind us?”

“Since 2002 I haven’t been able to stay silent, because silence means agreement with what is happening in my country,” she said.

“That’s why I go to protest.”

Her flat with its decrepit vaulted ceilings is in the heart of Russia’s former imperial capital and has been home to her family for three generations.

Its two rooms are cluttered with pictures and posters with pacifist and anti-Kremlin messages.

“I don’t want to serve as cannon fodder,” reads one poster of a soldier. “Wives and mothers, stop the war,” says another.

A third proclaims: “We are all hostages of the provocative politics of imperial power.”

On one wall hangs a large photo of a young man: her only son, Ivan, who died of tuberculosis in 2009 at 28.

Osipova has been frequently detained by the police, but they now know her so well that they sometimes just take her straight home rather than to the station.

“I’ve long ago stopped being scared for myself,” she said defiantly.

“In your own homeland you should not be afraid, but if you love it you should feel that you are the one in charge.” 

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Renovated NYC Museum Hall Showcases Indigenous Perspectives

In his first visit to the American Museum of Natural History, Morgan Guerin had a list. Not of things he wanted to check out, though — a list of things that he hated.

It started with seeing certain regalia from his Musqueam Indian Band — sacred objects not intended for public display — in the museum’s Northwest Coast Hall.

This wasn’t just any visit. Guerin was there at the museum’s invitation in 2017 for the start of a project to renovate the hall, incorporating Indigenous perspectives. For him and representatives of other Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada, the 5-year, $19-million renovation of the Northwest Coast Hall, which reopened to the public Friday, was an opportunity to tell their stories themselves.

“Our people are very, very tired of being ‘studied,’ because the misconception of who we are has always been the outside community’s downfall,” he said. “We have always been here, ready to tell people who we are.”

The hall was the museum’s first gallery, opened in 1899 under the auspices of Franz Boas, an anthropologist who was deeply interested in the Indigenous cultures of the Northwest and western coastal Canada. Boas was also a proponent of what was then a revolutionary idea that different cultures should be looked at in their own right and not on some kind of comparative scale.

It had largely remained unchanged, though, since the early 1900s. When museum officials decided it was time to renovate, they knew they couldn’t do it without input from the people whose cultures are on display.

“A lot of what we did was trying to bring this historic collection to the 21st century, and that’s by telling new stories with active voices in all of these communities and nations,” said Lauri Halderman, vice president for exhibition.

The museum brought together the representatives of the Indigenous communities to talk about what the gallery should contain and what it should look like for the showcase of 10 Pacific Northwest tribal nations.

It wasn’t a simple process, made even less so by the impact of the pandemic with its forcing of remote instead of in-person collaborations.

The hall includes some iconic pieces that anyone who has been to the museum will remember – including a massive 63-foot-long canoe that for decades was placed outside the hall but has now been brought in and suspended from the ceiling as well as several giant carvings. But its new exhibit, items are accompanied by text in both English and Indigenous languages and includes a gallery section showing how younger Indigenous artists are using motifs and designs from prior generations.

There was also, and continues to be, the fundamental question of whether museums should be holding these collections and trying to tell these stories in the first place, given the role that theft and colonialization has played in building them, and the way Indigenous communities have been treated.

Museums “seem to function as very expensive, and in the case of the American Museum of Natural History, maybe the most expensive, trophy cases in the world,” said Haa’yuups, co-curator of the hall, who is Head of the House of Taḳiishtaḳamlthat-ḥ, of the Huupa’chesat-ḥ First Nation.

He said, “They seem to have a meta language about them or a meta message, ‘Aren’t we powerful? Don’t we go forth and dominate the world?'”

He saw his involvement as a way to help spur a difference, to get people thinking about whether the items on display would be better served by being with the people they came from.

“Does it make sense to have a bunch of people who have nothing to do with objects, to have them spend their lives managing them?” he said. “Or does it make sense to send those treasures back to the communities where they come from?”

It’s an issue the museum has and is continuing to grapple with, said Peter Whiteley, curator of North American ethnology. He said the institution, which has repatriated items over the years, had decided through the renovation process that it was willing to do some additional limited repatriation and develop greater collaboration between the museum and the native tribes.

Deeper questions notwithstanding, those who took part in the process, both from the Indigenous nations and the museum staff, said it was a valuable one in terms of showing what is possible in terms of collaboration and listening to Indigenous voices.

“The best thing about this, the result of these consultants from the different native tribes,” said David Boxley, representing the Tsimshian tribe, “is that it’s our voice speaking.”

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Former Test Cricketer Andrew Symonds Dies in Auto Accident

Former Australian test cricketer Andrew Symonds has died after a single-vehicle auto accident near Townsville in northeast Australia. He was 46.

Cricket Australia reported Symonds’ death on its website on Sunday, citing a police statement with details of the accident late Saturday night.

It described Symonds as “a cult hero during the peak of his international playing career and one of the most skilled all-rounders Australian cricket has seen.”

“The Queenslander was a larger-than-life figure who drew a widespread fan base during his peak years for not only his hard-hitting ways but his larrikin persona.”

Symonds played 26 test matches for Australia and posted two centuries, but he was better known as a limited-overs specialist. He played 198 one-day international for Australia and won two World Cups.

After retiring as a player, Symonds became a popular commentator for cricket broadcasters.

Queensland Police said the accident occurred at Hervey Range, about 50 kilometers from Townsville.

“Early information indicates, shortly after 11 p.m. the car was being driven on Hervey Range Road, near Alice River Bridge when it left the roadway and rolled,” a police statement said. “Emergency services attempted to revive the 46-year-old driver and sole occupant. However, he died of his injuries.”

Symonds’ family appealed for privacy.

Former Australian captain Allan Border was among those to pay tribute to Symonds on Sunday.

Border said Symonds “hit the ball a long way and just wanted to entertain.

“He was, in a way, a little bit of an old-fashioned cricketer,” Border told the Nine Network. “He was an adventurer, loved his fishing, he loved hiking, camping. People liked his very laid-back style.”

That style brought Symonds into conflict with authority late in his career. In 2008 he missed Australia’s one-day series against Bangladesh after going fishing when he was required to attend a team meeting. He also was disciplined before the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup for breaching team rules around alcohol.

With dreadlocks and his face daubed with zinc cream, Symonds always cut a flamboyant figure in the Australian team.

His loss is another bitter blow for Australian cricket after the death in Thailand in March of legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne. Wicketkeeper Rod Marsh also died in March aged 74. 

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Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra Wins Eurovision Song Contest

Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest in the early hours of Sunday in a clear show of support for the war-ravaged nation.

The six-man band that mixes traditional folk melodies and contemporary hip hop in a purposeful defense of Ukrainian culture was the sentimental and bookmakers’ favorite among the 25 bands and performers competing in the grand finale. The public vote from home was decisive in securing their victory.

The band’s front man, Oleg Psiuk, took advantage of the enormous global audience to make impassioned plea to free fighters still trapped beneath a sprawling steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol following the six-man band’s performance.

“I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal, right now,” he said to the live crowd of about 7,500, many of whom gave a standing ovation, and global television audience of millions.

The plea to free the remaining Ukrainian fighters trapped beneath the Azovstal plant by Russians served as a somber reminder that the hugely popular and at times flamboyant Eurovision song contest was being played out against the backdrop of a war on Europe’s eastern flank.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave signs that he was watching from Kyiv and rooting for Ukrainian band.

“Indeed, this is not a war, but nevertheless, for us today, any victory is very important,” Zelenskyy said, according to a presidential statement. “So, let’s cheer for ours. Glory be to Ukraine!”

25 bands

Kalush Orchestra was among 25 bands performing in the Eurovision Song Contest final in front of a live audience in the industrial northern city of Turin, while millions more watched on television or via streaming around the world.

Fans from Spain, Britain and elsewhere entering the Italian venue from throughout Europe were rooting for their own country to win. Still, Ukrainian music fan Iryna Lasiy said she felt global support for her country in the war and “not only for the music.”

Russia was excluded this year after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, a move that organizers said was meant to keep politics out of the contest that promotes diversity and friendship among nations.

The band’s song Stefania was written as a tribute to Psiuk’s mother but has transformed since the war into an anthem to the beleaguered nation, as lyrics take on new meaning. “I’ll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed,” Psiuk wrote.The six-member, all-male band received special permission to leave the country to represent Ukraine and Ukrainian culture at the music contest. One of the original members stayed to fight, and the others plan to return as soon as the contest is over.

‘World supports us’

Back in Ukraine, in the battered northeastern city of Kharkiv, Kalush Orchestra’s participation in the contest is seen as giving the nation another platform to garner international support.

“The whole country is rising, everyone in the world supports us. This is extremely nice,” said Julia Vashenko, a 29-year-old teacher.

“I believe that wherever there is Ukraine now and there is an opportunity to talk about the war, we need to talk,” said Alexandra Konovalova, a 23-year-old makeup artist in Kharkiv. “Any competitions are important now, because of them more people learn about what is happening now.”

The winner is chosen in equal parts by panels of music experts in each competing nation and votes by the viewing public — leaving room for an upset. Britain’s Sam Ryder and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs are each given a 10% shot while the Italian duo of Mahmood & Blanco have a 6% chance of winning.

The winner takes home a glass microphone trophy and a potential career boost.

The event was hosted by Italy after local rock band Maneskin won last year in Rotterdam. The victory shot the Rome-based band to international fame, opening for the Rolling Stones and appearing on Saturday Night Live and numerous magazine covers in their typically genderless costume code.

Twenty bands were chosen in two semifinals this week and were competing along with the Big Five of Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Spain, which have permanent berths because of their financial support of the contest. 

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Actor Fred Ward, of ‘Tremors,’ ‘The Right Stuff’ Fame, Dies

Fred Ward, a veteran actor who brought a gruff tenderness to tough-guy roles in such films as The Right Stuff, The Player and Tremors, has died. He was 79.

Ward died Sunday, his publicist Ron Hofmann said Friday. No cause or place of death was disclosed per the family’s wishes.

Ward earned a Golden Globe and shared the Venice Film Festival ensemble prize for his performance in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, and played the title character in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He also reached new heights playing Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in 1983′s Academy Award-nominated film The Right Stuff.

“Devastated to learn about the passing of my friend, Fred Ward,” tweeted actor Matthew Modine, who co-starred with Ward in Short Cuts and Alan Rudolph’s Equinox. “A tough façade covering emotions as deep as the Pacific Ocean. Godspeed amigo.”

A former boxer, lumberjack in Alaska and short-order cook who served in the U.S. Air Force, Ward was a San Diego native who was part Cherokee. One early big role was alongside Clint Eastwood in 1979’s Escape From Alcatraz.

“I mourn the loss of Fred Ward, who was so kind to me when we worked together on Remo Williams,” actor Kate Mulgrew tweeted. “Decent and modest and utterly professional, he disarmed with a smile that was at once warm and mischievous.”

Ward’s other roles included a rumpled cop chasing a psychotic criminal played by Alec Baldwin in George Armitage’s Miami Blues. He was a formidable and intimidating father to both Freddie Prinze Jr.’s character in Summer Catch and David Spade’s title character in Joe Dirt.

Ward played President Ronald Reagan in the 2009 Cold War espionage thriller Farewell and had a supporting role in the 2013 action flick 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.

In the horror-comedy Tremors, Ward paired with Kevin Bacon to play a pair of repairmen who end up saving a hardscrabble Nevada desert community beset by giant underground snakes.

With the sexually charged, NC-17 Henry & June, Ward showed more than just grit. Based on the book by Anais Nin and directed by Philip Kaufman, Ward played novelist Henry Miller, opposite Maria de Medeiros as Nin and Uma Thurman as Miller’s wife, June. “My rear end seemed to have something to do with (that rating),” he told The Washington Post.

He also reteamed with Altman for the part of a studio security chief in the director’s 1992 Hollywood satire The Player, and played a union activist and Meryl Streep’s workmate in Mike Nichols’ Silkwood in 1983.

Ward demonstrated his comedy chops playing a terrorist intent on blowing up the Academy Awards in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult in 1994.

On the small screen, he had recurring roles on NBC’s ER playing the father of Maura Tierney’s Abby Lockhart in 2006-07 and guest starred on such series as Grey’s Anatomy, Leverage and United States of Tara. Ward most recently appeared in the second season of HBO’s True Detective as the retired cop father of Colin Farrell’s Detective Ray Velcoro.

Ward is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and his son, Django Ward.

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