For the South Korean crew behind the latest hit drama "Crash Landing on You," recreating the life in North Korea was a painstakingly meticulous process with big political risks.
"At first, we were even told not to use the word 'chairman'" when referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Joo Dong-man, a props manager for the story about a South Korean billionaire heiress who accidentally paraglides into North Korea and falls in love with an army captain.
Apart from its fantastical plot line with prominent stars like Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin, the drama has been creating a buzz for its unconventional take on North Korea.
With detailed portrayals of the isolated country down to words, objects and the makeup style, the cross-border love story even drew praises from several North Korean defectors in South Korea. Behind the effort are people like Joo, who had soaked in almost everything about the secretive regime — collecting details from books, experts and North Korean escapees.
Joo said recreating life in North Korea was a difficult process, simply because there's no guidebook on multiple hurdles he had to hop over - skillfully and delicately – to accurately depict the country while dodging criticism. He said rules, self-imposed by the production team themselves, were arbitrary and frequently subject to change.
"Later, we got permission (to show propaganda slogans)," Joo told The Associated Press. He said three names from North Korea's ruling family dynasty – Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un – were banned till the very end.
The surreal plot – cross-border love between beautiful heiress and a handsome North Korean soldier from the top military family – doesn't fail to show occasional glimpses into the most repressive authoritarian regime in the world. The team had to tread carefully in order to avoid glorifying or misrepresenting the state.
They blurred the portraits of the Kim dynasty, which are mandatory in public places and private homes in North Korea. Objects displaying the faces of the Kims are practically illegal in South Korea, where wearing or possessing them could be considered praising the regime, which is punishable by law. The two rivals are still technically in a state of war.
Since all North Korean adults are required to wear a pin with the leaders' images to show their loyalty, Yang Hee-hwa, a costume manager, said the cast had to wear them too. But she devised her own safe way of doing so. "Our badges were almost half or one third smaller (than actual badges)," Yang told AP.
The team created scenes that had "the least resemblance to South Korea," according to Joo. He said the most difficult props was smartphones made in North Korea, which came from a series of meetings with defectors, including one based in Yanji, the Chinese city near North Korea. Joo declined to comment further on the process due to sensitivity of the matter.
Joo brought with him three North Korean phones, each as much as three times the price of an iPhone.
Joo said some scenes were exaggerated for theatrical reason. One scene where a woman puts together a makeshift plastic shower stall to keep the water warm for longer drew a complaint from one of defectors for being "too condescending." The defector who advised the team had told him that such method was used in the 1960s.
However, Kang Na-ra, a Youtuber who defected in 2014, said people living in rural parts of North Korea still use it. Kang was one of the escapees who provided real-life depictions of North Korea – from a group kimchi-making session to a popular make-up style that emphasizes the eyebrows.
The South Korean actors speak with a North Korean accent and use expressions less familiar in the South.
The drama series aired its final episode this week. For Yang, this was an opportunity to create something new. "Everything we did was the first so there wasn't any benchmark (to follow)," said Yang. "I think we've created the benchmark."
"To be honest, we always showed poor and famished scenes when it comes to North Korea," Kang said. "But I really like this drama because it shows that North Korea is also a place with people, and they know how to share despite the scarcity."
The drama is one of a few reminders of Kang's faraway home. It's also a distant place for both Joo and Yang, because neither nation allows contact with the other's citizens.
"I thought about how nice it would've been to film in Pyongyang," Joo paused. "Well the time will come one day."
The name that keeps coming up during deliberations at Harvey Weinstein's rape trial — Annabella Sciorra — will be front and center again on Friday when jurors are expected to hear a reading of a large chunk of her testimony.
Before concluding its third day of deliberations on Thursday, the Manhattan jury sent the judge a note saying it wants to review the cross-examination of the "Sopranos" actress and any follow-up questioning by prosecutors.
The jury has already focused on emails that Weinstein sent regarding Sciorra, including ones to the private Israeli spy agency he allegedly enlisted to dig up dirt on would-be accusers as reporters were working on stories about allegations against him in 2017.
Sciorra, now 59, was the first accuser to testify and took the witness stand nearly a month ago, telling jurors how the once-powerful movie mogul showed up unexpectedly at the door of her Manhattan apartment before barging in and raping and forcibly performing oral sex on her in late 1993 or early 1994.
On cross-examination Sciorra was grilled about why she opened her door in the first place and didn't find a way to escape if she was under attack.
Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno asked: "Why didn't you try to run out of the apartment? Did you scratch him? Try to poke him in the eyes?"
"He was too big" to fight off, Sciorra responded at one point. "He was frightening."
Weinstein, 67, is charged with five counts stemming from the allegations of Sciorra and two other women — an aspiring actress who says he raped her in March 2013 and a former film and TV production assistant, Mimi Haleyi, who says he forcibly performed oral sex on her in March 2006.
Sciorra's accusations are key to the most serious charges that jurors are weighing in the closely watched #MeToo case — two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. The charge requires prosecutors to show that a defendant committed a prior rape or other sex crime, but doesn't have the statue of limitation constraints that would bar her allegations from consideration on their own.
The Associated Press has a policy of not publishing the names of people who allege sexual assault without their consent. It is withholding the name of the rape accuser because it isn't clear whether she wishes to be identified publicly.
The 2018 release of the Netflix teen rom-com "To All the Boys I've Loved Before," changed the lives of its stars, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, by putting them on Hollywood's radar.
"People are taking me more seriously," said Condor, a 22-year-old Vietnamese American. "I feel like I can take up way more space, and I really, really appreciate being part of the conversation of representation. That's something that I feel so passionate about."
And Centineo, 23, has become a leading man. He will star as He-Man in "Masters of the Universe," due out in 2021.
A sequel, "To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You," is now playing on Netflix. In it, Condor and Centineo reprise their roles as Lara Jean and Peter, who are embarking on a real romance after falling in love in the first film.
The first movie introduced Lara Jean, a Korean American teen whose younger sister mails out a stash of hidden love letters to former crushes that were never intended to be read. To mask her embarrassment, Lara Jean fakes a romance with one of those recipients, Peter, who is looking to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Things grow complicated when the pair falls in love. In the sequel, another love letter recipient (Jordan Fisher) surfaces. "To All the Boys" is adapted from a young adult book trilogy by Jenny Han.
"When we made the first movie, we didn't even know if anyone would see it,'' Condor said. "Netflix hadn't bought it yet and it was just kind of like, 'Oh, I love the movie. I love the story, but I hope people will even see this.'"
Centineo is quick to admit that he's learned it's not all smooth-sailing when you become famous.
"It's hard to not be grateful when you've done something that's given you so much access to so many amazing creators and professionals," he said.
"There are days where I think I'm a fraud and I suck and I'm (expletive) shallow and I get anxiety attacks,'' Centineo said. "But, I like to think that ... bravery is despite being afraid to do something, you still have the courage to do it anyway."
The cast has already completed filming the third chapter in the franchise.
Condor says she was "in denial" on her last day of filming, and choked up speaking about what the Lara Jean role has meant to her.
"Lara Jean has been such a huge part of my life and it's only been like two years, but I've spent so much time with her," said Condor, her voice cracking. "She's given me so many opportunities that I'm so grateful for and so kind of closing that chapter was very hard for me."
Centineo says it wasn't sad for him to walk away because his goodbye was only to the character, not his co-stars.
"I poured everything I could into this character and this film and this whole project — all three films — and we made a family out of it and I think we were successful on a personal level in creating a lot of connection. So when it was over it was OK. I didn't have any regrets. I didn't feel like I didn't do something. I didn't feel like I could've done something better."
Han says the experience of bringing her books to life has been so exciting that she's now doing screenwriting and wants to introduce more diverse characters.
"People often think of stories about non-white characters as niche or that people will not be able to relate to them for whatever reason and there's so many different ways to be an all American girl, to be a teenage girl."
"To All the Boys" is opposite of what's going on now, Condor said. The world is rigid and scary, but "this movie is soft and sweet and gentle and kind."
The redesigned "Sonic the Hedgehog" showed plenty of teeth at the box office, speeding to a $57 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday, while "Parasite" saw one of the largest post-Oscars bumps in years following its best picture win.
Paramount Pictures' "Sonic the Hedgehog" came in well above expectations, especially for a movie that just months ago was a laughing stock. After its first trailer was greeted with ridicule on social media last year, "Sonic" was postponed three months to give its title character a design overhaul — including fixing Sonic's eerily human teeth.
The makeover worked and audiences responded by making "Sonic the Hedgehog" the weekend's top film and the highest-grossing opening for a video game adaptation, not accounting for inflation. For Paramount, it's a welcome success following misfires such as "Gemini Man" and "Terminator: Dark Fate." The studio estimates "Sonic" will gross $68 million over the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
"If you don't listen to your customer, and this goes for any business, then you're going to fail," said Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount. "We retooled Sonic in a way that was obviously very satisfying for the fans and they were very forgiving. Now that they've seen the movie, they love the movie. It all worked out."
The Sega video game adaptation, directed by Jeff Fowler, drew decent reviews (63% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and an A CinemaScore from moviegoers. The $87 million production co-stars Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik with Ben Schwartz supplying Sonic's voice.
Bong Joon Ho's "Parasite" had its biggest weekend in its 19th week of release. Neon put "Parasite" into its widest release yet (2,001 theaters) following its historic win at the Oscars. ("Parasite" was the first non-English-language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.) And despite the film already being available for weeks on digital platforms and on DVD, its $5.5 million weekend is the largest Oscars bump for a best-picture winner since "Gladiator" in 2001.
Last week's opening of "Birds of Prey" followed up its limp debut by sliding to second with $17.1 million. Following its disappointing opening, some theaters retitled the movie "Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey," instead of "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)."
It was a busy weekend in theaters, with a handful of other new releases — "The Photograph," "Fantasy Island," "Downhill" — seeking to capitalize on both Valentine's Day on Friday and Presidents Day on Monday.
"Fantasy Island," the Blumhouse horror remake of the '70s TV show, fared the best, collecting $12.4 million in ticket sales despite terrible reviews. Sony Pictures handled the release of the low-budget, PG-13 film, which earned just a 9% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Universal Pictures "The Photograph," a romance starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield and produced by Will Packer ("Girls Trip," "Ride Along"), opened with $12.2 million. The film, written and directed by Stella Meghie, cost $15 million to make.
"Downhill," from Disney's Fox Searchlight Pictures, debuted with $4.7 million, a modest start for a film starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. A remake of the acclaimed Swedish film "Force Majeure" by Ruben Östlund, "Downhill" didn't do great with critics but fared even worse with audiences. They gave it a D CinemaScore.
Neon followed up its "Parasite" Oscar win with the Valentine's Day release of "Portrait of a Lady on Fire," one of 2019's most acclaimed films. Following a one-week qualifying run in December, Celine Sciamma's French period romance opened in 22 theaters with a strong per-theater average of about $20,000.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.
1. "Sonic the Hedgehog," $57 million ($44.3 million international).
2. "Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey," $17.1 million ($23 million international).
3. "Fantasy Island," $12.4 million ($7.6 million international).
4. "The Photograph," $12.3 million.
5. "Bad Boys for Life," $11.3 million ($11.1 million international).
6. "1917," $8.1 million ($6.4 million international).
7. "Jumanji: The Next Level," $5.7 million ($1.9 million international).
8. "Parasite," $5.5 million.
9. "Dolittle," $5.1 million ($8.8 million international).
10. "Downhill," $4.7 million.
The four-day grand event ‘3rd Art Festival 2020, Nilphamari’ will begin on February 26.
A press conference was held at the graphic design department of Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University to present details of the event.
Eminent artist Professor Mohammad Eunus is the convener of the festival organising committee while award winning artist Md Harun-Ar-Rashid Tutul, an assistant professor of the Department of Graphic Design, Faculty of Fine Arts, is the curator of the festival.
Tutul said the theme for this year’s festival is ‘Nature is Life, Art for Brighter Life’. Artists will paint as they like, while the organisers will provide them with art supplies, food and accommodation.
The festival will feature an international art camp by eminent artists from Bangladesh and beyond, art exhibitions, curated art projects, artist's talk, seminar, cultural programmes, a traditional folk art and craft-fair, Installation, camp fire and sightseeing tours.
The opening ceremony of the festival will be held on February 27. State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid will be present as the chief guest.
Eminent artist professor Rafqun Nabi will inaugurate the festival while cultural personality Asaduzzaman Noor will preside over the programme.
An exhibition will be held on February 29 while another exhibition of the same paintings will be arranged from April 24 to April 30.
The organisers said the main goal is to introduce a healthy culture against the backdrop of poor taste, from cities to the remote countryside of Bangladesh, travelling beyond the realms of time.
The art festival aims to inspire artists to create innovative artworks, in a quiet place beyond the chaotic city life. Renowned artists from home and abroad will share their experiences and views on art with school students during the event, they said.
Eminent foreign participant artists will also attend along with the local participant artists.