Category: Entertainment

entertainment news

Drag and Size-Inclusive Fashion on Display for Pride Month

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride month. In the Western U.S. city of Denver, a museum exhibition features fashions from the gender-inclusive DCR Studios. VOA correspondent Scott Stearns caught up with designer Darlene Ritz at the show.
Videographers: Scott Stearns, Jodi Westrum

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Ghana Hosts NFL’s First African Development Camp

The National Football League (NFL), the top league in American-style football, has hosted its first African developmental camp in Ghana’s capital, Accra. The weeklong program was aimed at finding fresh talent and building the sport’s popularity across Africa. Senanu Tord reports from Accra, Ghana.

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Thailand Hosts Transgender Pageant as Equality Drive Hits Parliament

Held for the first time since the pandemic, the world’s biggest transgender pageant pulled contestants from as far apart as Honduras and India to Thailand, a country where gender equality law is under the spotlight. For VOA, Vijitra Duangdee has this story from Pattaya, Thailand.

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WNBA Star Brittney Griner Ordered to Trial Friday in Russia

Shackled and looking wary, WNBA star Brittney Griner was ordered to stand trial Friday by a court near Moscow on cannabis possession charges, about 4 1/2 months after her arrest at an airport while returning to play for a Russian team. 

The Phoenix Mercury center and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist also was ordered to remain in custody for the duration of her criminal trial. Griner could face 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs. Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in the U.S., acquittals can be overturned. 

At Monday’s closed-door preliminary hearing at the court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, Griner’s detention was extended for another six months. Photos obtained by The Associated Press showed the 31-year-old in handcuffs and looking straight ahead, unlike a previous court appearance where she kept her head down and covered with a hood. 

Her detention and trial come at an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations. She was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already-high tensions with sweeping sanctions by the United States and Russia’s denunciation of U.S. weapon supplies to Ukraine. 

Amid the tensions, Griner’s supporters had taken a low profile in hopes of a quiet resolution, until May, when the State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs — effectively the U.S. government’s chief negotiator. 

Griner’s wife, Cherelle, urged President Joe Biden in May to secure her release, calling her “a political pawn.” 

Her supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy. 

Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization. 

Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the discrepancy between Griner’s case — she allegedly was found in possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil — and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to the U.S. 

Others have suggested that she could be traded in tandem with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and security director serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that the United States has repeatedly described as a set-up. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, asked Sunday on CNN whether a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being considered, sidestepped the question. 

“As a general proposition … I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he said. But “I can’t comment in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.” 

Any swap would apparently require Griner to first be convicted and sentenced, then apply for a presidential pardon, Maria Yarmush, a lawyer specializing in international civil affairs, told Kremlin-funded TV channel RT. 

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Hong Kong’s Last Hand-painted Porcelain Factory

 Step into Yuet Tung China Works, Hong Kong’s last remaining hand-painted porcelain factory, and you find yourself surrounded by stacks of dinnerware, each piece painstakingly decorated by hand with vibrant motifs of flowers, fruits and animals. 

Joseph Tso, the third-generation owner of the factory, and his small team are among the few people in Hong Kong who have mastered the traditional technique of painting “guangcai,” or Canton porcelain. 

It is a fading art in this modern metropolis, as fewer young people are willing to put in the time and effort required to master the craft or to work at the factory full-time. 

“The business environment in Hong Kong is not suitable for labor-intensive industries,” Tso said. “Hong Kong’s traditional handicraft industry is gradually declining. It will eventually disappear.” 

Guangcai, which comes from the nearby Chinese city of Guangzhou, is characterized by an overglaze technique in which the painter sketches a design on white porcelain and then fills it in with color using thin brushes before firing the piece in a kiln. 

Tso’s grandfather established the factory in Hong Kong’s Kowloon City in 1928. It rose to prominence over the years, becoming famous for its delicate craftmanship and custom dinnerware. 

The factory is known for its Canton rose porcelain painted with a pigment called “xihong,” which means “Western red.” Its ingredients include lead oxide, quartz and gold dust. 

“Hong Kong’s export sector was booming from the 1960s to the 1980s, and many well-known department stores came to buy products,” Tso said. “Foreign trade firms would bring us business from (American) department stores.” 

The factory sometimes paints family crests on dinnerware for foreign customers. 

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong before the city was returned to China in 1997, visited Yuet Tung China Works to buy some porcelain before returning to Britain. 

The factory is an important part of Hong Kong’s history, said Yim Wai-wai, founding president of The Hong Kong Ceramics Research Society. 

“The porcelain factory breathed at the same pace as the development of Hong Kong,” said Yim. “If it ceases to exist, it will be an immeasurable loss.”

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4 Killed When Stands Collapse During Colombian Bullfight 

Part of the wooden stands collapsed during a bullfight in central Colombia on Sunday, sending spectators plunging to the ground and killing at least four people and seriously injuring about 30, authorities said. 

The disaster took place in a stadium in the city of El Espinal in Tolima state during a traditional event called “corraleja” in which members of the public enter the ring to engage the bulls. 

Videos taken during the bullfight show a three-story section of the stands collapsing as people screamed. 

“We have activated the hospital network in Tolima,” Tolima Gov. José Ricardo Orozco told local Blu Radio. “Four people have died, as of this moment: two women, a man and a minor.” 

Authorities said about 30 people had been seriously injured. 

Orozco said he had asked for the traditional “corralejas” to be suspended in Tolima earlier Sunday but this one was held anyway. 

President-elect Gustavo Petro urged local officials to ban such events, noting that it was not the first time an incident like this had taken place. 

“I ask mayors not to allow more events involving the death of people or animals,” he said. 

Current President Iván Duque on Twitter announced an investigation of the disaster. 

“We lament the terrible tragedy registered in El Espinal, Tolima, during the festivals of San Pedro and San Juan, with the collapse of the stands during a corraleja. We will call for an investigation.”

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‘Elvis,’ ‘Top Gun’ Tie for Box-Office Crown With $30.5 Million Each

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic “Elvis” shook up theaters with an estimated $30.5 million in weekend ticket sales, but — in a box-office rarity — “Elvis” tied “Top Gun: Maverick,” which also reported $30.5 million, for No. 1 in theaters.

Final figures Monday, once Sunday’s grosses are tabulated, will sort out which film ultimately won the weekend. With a high degree of accuracy, studios can forecast Sunday sales based on Friday and Saturday business, though numbers often shift by a few hundred thousand dollars.

But for now, the unlikely pair of “Elvis” and “Maverick” are locked in a dance off (if you favor “Elvis”) or a dead heat (if you prefer “Maverick”). That it was this close at all was due to both a better-than-expected opening for “Elvis” and remarkably strong continued sales for “Top Gun: Maverick.” The “Top Gun” sequel reached $1 billion in worldwide box office in its fifth week of release.

“Elvis,” starring newcomer Austin Butler as Presley, came into the weekend with expectations closer to $25 million. Among recent music biopics, a $30.5 million debut puts the King ahead of the pace of Elton John (“Rocketman” launched with $25.7 million in 2019) though not in the same class as Freddie Mercury (“Bohemian Rhapsody” opened with $51.1 million in 2018).

“I’m less concerned with who’s number one and who’s number two, and I’m more concerned that we hit this big number given that this audience has been the slowest to return to movie theaters,” said Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros.

About 60% of the audience for “Elvis” was over the age of 35. Older audiences have been among the most hesitant to return to theaters in the pandemic but that’s changing — in part, Goldstein noted, because of “Top Gun,” which brought back fans of the 1986 original.

“Elvis,” which cost about $85 million to make, was propelled by strong reviews (78% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), good word of mouth (an A- CinemaScore) and a glitzy Cannes Film Festival premiere. It added $20 million overseas over the weekend.

“Elvis” ranks as Luhrmann’s second best opening after 2013’s “The Great Gatsby” ($50.1 million). Luhrmann was on the cusp of beginning production in Australia when, in an indelible early moment in the pandemic, star Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19.

“‘Elvis’ was a risky proposition: the music is dated, the character is not directly familiar, and the lead actor is unproven on the big screen,” David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research wrote in a newsletter. “But critics and audiences are responding. This is the Baz Luhrmann show, a music, dance and sex appeal spectacular — it’s a hit.”

Meanwhile, “Top Gun: Maverick” continues to soar. The Paramount Pictures film became the first 2022 release to reach $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, and the first starring Tom Cruise to do so.

In its fifth weekend of release, “Maverick” dipped just 32% domestically to bring its total so far to $521.7 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters. It continues to move up the record books, sitting 15th all-time domestically, not accounting for inflation. Internationally, the “Top Gun” sequel added another $44.5 million.

The “Elvis”/”Top Gun” showdown — along with the new Blumhouse horror release “The Black Phone” and big holdovers in “Jurassic World: Dominion” and Pixar’s “Lightyear” — made for one of the most competitive, and busy, weekends in movie theaters in the pandemic era.

Most studios came away celebrating, though Disney’s “Lightyear” dropped a steep 65% in its second weekend. After opening softly last week, the “Toy Story” spinoff grossed $17.7 million domestically, falling to fifth place. “Lightyear,” which has made $152 million worldwide to date, will soon face more competition for families with the Friday release of “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Counterprogramming came from Universal Pictures’ “The Black Phone,” the Scott Derrickson-directed supernatural thriller starring Ethan Hawke as an escaped killer. The Blumhouse production rode strong reviews (84% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) to a better-than-expected launch of $23.4 million.

After two weeks in first place, Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” took in $26.4 million, sliding to third. It’s now passed $300 million domestically and hauled in $746.7 million globally.

A much smaller-scaled film, “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” debuted with good sales in limited release. The warmly received stop-motion animation film, in which Jenny Slate voices a one-inch-tall mollusk with a googly eye, opened with $169,606 on six screens, for a per-screen average of $28,267.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. (Tie) “Elvis,” $30.5 million.

  2. (Tie) “Top Gun: Maverick,” $30.5 million.

  3. “Jurassic World: Dominion,” $26.4 million.

  4. “Black Phone,” $23.4 million.

  5. “Lightyear,” $17.7 million.

  6. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $1.7 million.

  7. “Jugjugg Jeeyo,” $725,000.

  8. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” $533,000.

  9. “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” $513,000.

  10. “The Bad Guys,” $440,000.

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New Museum Opens in Rome for Recovered Art

A new museum recently opened in Rome to display stolen art recovered by the Italian police squad charged with safeguarding the country’s artistic and cultural heritage.

On display at the Rescued Art Museum are around 100 valuable artifacts, returned from the United States after having been stolen by tomb raiders and making their way illegally into private collections, museums and auction houses.  

In December 2021, the art squad of the Carabinieri — Italy’s national police — announced the recovery of more than 200 priceless artifacts from between the 7th and 3rd centuries BC. 

It credited the recovery to in-depth investigations, diplomacy, and collaboration with authorities in the U.S. It took more than two decades of negotiations and legal proceedings to obtain the return of the looted art. 

Over the years, investigations overseen by the Rome Public Prosecutors’ Office enabled the Carabinieri art squad to examine photos of antiquities collections held by museums, private collectors, auction houses and antiques galleries in the U.S.  

This allowed the squad to identify hundreds of items that they knew had been illegally excavated in Italy and illicitly exported from the country. The Carabinieri were also able to thwart a black market trade in archeological artifacts and Italian art. 

Carabinieri General Roberto Riccardi runs the Carabinieri Unit for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and spoke about the artifacts being showcased. 

“We are talking about Etruscan findings or Apulian findings or goods from Campania or from the Roman civilization,” he said. “We don’t know piece by piece the specific locations, but we know the areas and they will go back to the places of origin.” 

Riccardi said that it was when they presented these finds that he suggested the idea of creating a museum of recovered art to Italy’s Minister of Culture, who was pleased to find a dedicated space to display the art for limited time periods.  

The first rotating exhibit, which will last four months, opened in the Planetarium Hall, in the Roman National Museum’s Baths of Diocletian. 

The Carabinieri art squad that the general commands was established in 1969. 

“We have recovered so far more than 3 million cultural goods and we’ve also seized more than 1.3 million fake works of art, the other field that we work on,” Riccardi said. 

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the smuggling from Italian territory of these artistic and archaeological objects represents “a significant loss for the cultural heritage of this country.”

He said the “protection and promotion of these treasures is both an institutional duty and a moral commitment, a responsibility to take on for future generations.” 

 

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US Theater Skips Plan to Fast Forward Through Disney Same-Sex Kiss

A movie theater owner in the western U.S. state of Oklahoma said the theater never carried out a plan to fast forward through a same-sex kiss in a newly released Disney/Pixar film.

The theater had posted a warning sign about the kiss and its intention to fast forward through the brief kissing scene in Lightyear, part of the Toy Story franchise.

The sign said that management found out about the kiss between two women after booking the film, adding that, “We will do all we can to fast-forward through that scene, but it might not be exact.”

Instead, the owner of the theater in Kingfisher told local television station KOCO 5 that the plan to interrupt the film was never executed in any of the showings of the film.

Some countries have banned the film because of the kiss.

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Bloodhound Named Top Dog at Westminster Dog Show

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