The European Commission and UNDP sign new guidelines on Electoral Assistance

Electoral integrity is fundamental for democracy. Having fair and free-of-conflict elections ensures the health of democracy and the rule of law. However, there are many countries where elections still fail to meet the ideals. Violence, misinformation and electoral fraud and malpractice are only some of the elements that keep threatening the possibility of having fair elections.

In order to give a response to this global challenge, the European Commission (EC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) joined forces in 2006 in what has become the longest collaboration between these two institutions. Over the last decade, the EC and UNDP have teamed up in over a hundred electoral assistance projects all over the world. Their expertise and support has helped national, regional and local governments proceed with fair elections. According to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, “Together, we helped deliver free and credible elections in a range of complex post-conflict and political transition environments.”

After a decade of collaboration, the EC and UNDP have decided to renew their vows by approving the new Operational Guidelines on the Implementation of Electoral Assistance Projects and Programmes. The new agreement was signed by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and EU Commissioner Neven Mimica last April 15th in Washington DC. Other events took place during the same week in New York and Brussels to support the new compromise between two of the major institutions in electoral assistance.

Vision Communication accompanied the EC and the UNDP during the events in the three cities to offer them a range of communication and event support services. At Vision, through communication for action, we will keep working towards achieving democracy and fair elections.

Watch the highlights of the event and interviews with some of the top experts involved here.

Nasty Baby: Brutal Realism to Show Invisible Violence

A video where a grown-up man impersonates a newborn baby. That’s what Freddy, a Latin artist who we have just met at his –very Brooklyn-looking– apartment, proposes to the owner of an Art gallery in the first scene of Nasty Baby, the last movie of Chilean director Sebastián Silva, screened last Monday at Barcelona International Independent Film Festival.

Our hero’s play arises from his emotions, clearly reflecting what’s going on in his life. Freddy, an artist who lives with his boyfriend, is trying to “make a baby” with his best friend, Polly, perfectly played by Kristen Wiig. But Freddy’s sperm is poor and his partner Mo (Tunde Adebimpe) will be the one in charge to help Polly become a mother. Personal evolution brings professional changes and Freddy’s creation ends up becoming a group project when a bunch of friends join him in his artistic journey.

Silva wrote, directed and starred in a movie where the characters are introduced in the most realistic way possible, each and every one of them showing an infinity of nuances.  Young professionals in a gentrified Brooklyn full of tension between the resisting old neighbors and a whole new class of occupants, with more purchase power and greater demands. Viewers know something is going to happen but never get to realize where Silva’s directing skills are going to take them.

The conflict comes in late, when we have learned to love Freddy, Mo and Polly; when we finally understand them and see ourselves in Mo’s inaction or Freddy’s anger. The conflict comes and catches us off guard, and tears our world apart; and captures us even more. Everything we had felt for these characters is now put in question and we find ourselves in an inner moral debate. Essential for the conflict are the couple’s neighbors: The Bishop and his partner, played by Reg E. Cathey and Constance Shulman, who we know from House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, among others.

The movie’s realism increases with the diversity it shows. The most real New York diversity brought to us by a number of cultures and accents. And even languages, as we hear a very Chilean Spanish every time Freddy speaks with his brother Chino (Agustín Silva), which is surprising in a North-American production filmed in English.

At the end, what started to look as one of the main elements of the movie, the play, Nasty Baby, becomes a mere anecdote to let Freddy, Mo, and Polly’s ease shine, as does their world, turned upside down by a cluster of accidental actions that will hunt the viewer for days after having left the theatre.

Article published on the Spanish site of Indiewood/Hollywoodn’t on May 3rd, 2016. Original article in Spanish: http://indienyc.com/nasty-baby-usa-el-realismo-mas-puro-para-hablarnos-de-la-violencia-invisible/

Barcelona Independent Film Festival: The Latin Top 5

Must-attend event for the moviegoers in Barcelona during the next few weeks. Between April 21st and May 1st, the sixth edition of the Barcelona Independent Film Festival will take place in the Catalan city. The boldest and most personal proposals will be screened; some, with established directors and well-known names on them; others, still to be premiered. Indiewood/Hollywoodn’t will attend the Festival to bring you the latest news and reviews about the Latin industry. For now, these are the movies with Latin presence that we will have the chance to see during the next few days in Barcelona:

Chronic (Michel Franco) – Mexico and France

For the first time, Michel Franco leaves his country to shoot a very personal movie with first-rate actors Tim Roth and Betsie Tulloch. Daniel is a nurse who takes care of terminally ill patients while trying to work things out with his own family. As a backdrop, an essential question: Who takes care of the caregiver when he is in need?

Las plantas (Roberto Doveris) – Chile 

The only fully Chilean production featured at the Festival tells us the story of Florencia, a teenager who will have to take care of his brother, who is in a vegetative state, when their mother is admitted into a hospital. As part of their new routine, she reads him a story, Las plantas (“The plants”). Did you know that the plats’ souls take human bodies on full moon nights? Florencia will learn about this while exploring her own sexuality by meeting people on the Internet. The movie has all the ingredients to become a psycothriller that will haunt the viewer until days after leaving the movie theatre.

Nasty Baby (Sebastián Silva) – U.S

The Chilean director of this North-American production, Sebastian Silva, gives life to a video artist based in the most suburban New York who is trying to have a child with his boyfriend and his female best friend. While trying to bring their child into this world, not without trouble, this unbreakable trident will have to face a neighborhood conflict that will make things even harder for them.

Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro) –Brazil, Uruguay and the Netherlands

Famous Brazilian vaquejadas are the perfect backdrop for this film. In this road movie, our cowboy travels the entire country in the good company of his itinerant family: a friend, a club dancer and his daughter. Just in case you are not convinced yet, our hero’s dream is to work in the fashion industry, dream for which he will be fighting every minute he is off the rodeo.

Te prometo la anarquía (Julio Hernández Cordón) – Mexico. 

Some have said that Guatemalan director Julio Hernández Cordón promised anarchy, and that’s what he gave us. This movie features the work of non-experienced actors who provide the film with a realism as necessary as uncommon. Miguel and Johnny are lifelong friends. And lovers. And, on top of that, they’re blood dealers. Business goes well until they get into a transaction that’s too large for them. They will then discover how expensive it is to make a mistake in the real world and the current Mexico.

Already in its sixth edition, the Barcelona Independent Film Festival has become one of the most important events for moviegoers in the city. In this edition, 70 movies will be screened, with a special role of Spanish and French cinema. You can browse the program here. Don’t miss our live coverage on Facebook and Twitter.

Article published on the Spanish site of Indiewood/Hollywoodn’t on April 21st, 2016. Original article in Spanish: http://indienyc.com/las-5-peliculas-latinas-del-festival-de-autor-de-barcelona-que-no-te-puedes-perder/

Achieving gender equality through mobile phones

Technology is a male-dominated industry. Not only are tech start-ups mostly run and managed by men, but access to technological devices such as mobile phones is much more limited for women in areas of Asia and Africa than it is for men.

Access to mobile is fundamental to achieving gender equality. At the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, an event attended by many more men than women, the conference on Connected Women was a gem. Sonia Jorge, Executive Director at the Alliance for Affordable Internet, stated that in urban poor areas, there is a larger gender gap, where one woman owns a mobile phone for every three men, and women are 50% less likely than men to use the Internet. An interesting example of these trends is India, where it is 37% less likely for a woman to have a mobile phone. India, where last February the village of Suraj banned unmarried women and girls to have mobile phones under threat of fine for those caught with one. The excuse behind it was to allow girls to focus on their studies and to help them avoid being misguided.

The importance of owning a mobile phone, especially in the mentioned poor urban areas, is essential. “A mobile phone makes you feel safe,” says May Ellen Iskenderian, President of the Women’s World Banking, who also assures that “personal and financial security is related to access to mobile”. This access would allow women to have things as essential as confidentiality on their finances. Iskenderian’s statement becomes especially relevant in a time where mobile payments keep rising in both rich and poor countries. In Kenya, for example, 53% of men say they have sent mobile money in the past, whereas only 39% of women recognize to have done so.

The concern is not only for the limitations encountered by women when trying to access mobile technology, but also for the lack of information on mobile services. In some of these countries, technology is seen as a thing for men, and women feel uncomfortable in situations where they have to ask a man about their options. This is why, as part of GSMA’s Connected Women Commitment Initiative, more women are being hired as sales agents, as a measure to also increase the presence of female customers.

Because of this situation, in order to achieve greater gender equality and to empower women and girls, the Connected Women Commitment Initiative aims to connect millions of women in low and middle-income areas by 2020. To do so, they are already working with operators in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Rwanda. Tongai Maramba, CEO of the operator Tigo Rwanda, says that “Increasing women’s access to mobile financial services will in turn allow them to improve their quality of life, that of their families and that of their communities.” That is also one of the goals of the GSMA, which estimated that achieving greater gender equality on access to mobile could mean unlocking up to a $170 billion market opportunity for the industry by 2020.

After acquiring all this information, the question is, are we holding back economic development by perpetuating gender inequality in areas like access to technology? The GSMA estimates that there are currently 200 million fewer women than men owning a mobile phone. And even those who do are far less likely to access services such as mobile Internet or mobile money, services that would clearly increase their socio-economic opportunities.

Truman: Pure Friendship To Face Impending Death

The movie by Cesc Gay, which has recently succeeded in major film festivals, tells us the relationship between two friends who have to say good bye

True friendship, without complexes or complacency. That’s what Truman is all about. Cesc Gay’s last proposal was the major winner at the Goya Awards celebrated last February, as it got five prizes out of the six it was nominated for.

Tomás, masterfully played by Javier Cámara, leaves his family in Canada to fly to Madrid. In the Spanish capital, he knocks on the door of an astounded Julián, lifelong friend and struggling actor, who has just decided to stop fighting against a terminal cancer. Together, they will spend four days trying to find a solution to Julián’s greatest concern: who will stay with his dog Truman once he finishes his journey in this life.

Truman conquers and touches the viewer from the very beginning. The topic didn’t make it easy. Tackling death never is, and Gay succeeds with a flawless sensitiveness that doesn’t need a grandiose rhetoric or flowery tokens of love to move the audience. It moves through two exquisite actors. An always charming Darín, able to say more with a look than many others with a whole script. And Javier Cámara, who brings us all into Tomás’ mind without even moving a muscle.

Julián is the bravery; Tomás, the generosity. And they both needed to spend these days together, even if they didn’t know it before. Julián, trying to leave everything well tied up and live as naturally as possible the last blow life stroke against him. Tomás, fighting to understand a decision he would love to keep ignoring. With them in this journey, Paula, embodied by Argentinian actress Dolores Fonzi, and Truman, the dog, essential guiding thread for this dramatic comedy.

And everything is brought to us by details and subtleties: the looks between the characters, conversations that could seem trivial in another context, and a hug in Amsterdam that will hunt the viewer days after leaving the movie theater.

This is a movie of sweet tears and bitter smiles. One is constantly trying to decide if it’s time to laugh or to cry. It is no surprise that the film succeeded at San Sebastian International Film Festival and at the Goya Awards, as it is totally understandable that it keeps bringing people to the movies even months after having been released.

Article published on the Spanish site of Indiewood/Hollywoodn’t on February 22nd, 2016. Original article in Spanish: http://indienyc.com/truman-la-pureza-de-la-amistad-ante-la-muerte-inminente/

The Man in the High Castle: The success of an alternative reality

How would the world be today if the Nazi and the Imperial Japan had won the Second World War? That’s the alternative reality proposed by The Man in the High Castle, TV adaptation of the novel by Philip K. Dick, now available on Amazon Prime.

The show takes us to 1962, 15 years after Germany and Japan won the war, in a country, the Unites States, that doesn’t exist as such anymore. Divided between an East Coast ruled by the Nazi, a West Coast totally influenced by the dominant Japanese culture and, in between these two, a neutral zone where those who are not accepted because of their race or ideology can find their place. It is in this neutral zone where the two main characters meet: Joe, a young guy recently recruited by the Nazis to infiltrate the Resistance; and Julianna, who replaces her sister as a member of the movement after the latter has been murdered by the Japanese government. The Resistance’s goal is to distribute some films that show a very different world, and get them to the man in the high castle, an omnipresent figure all over the ten episodes of this first season.

The similarities with the current country, rather than the differences, break with all what we have seen so far in the television landscape.

One of the greatest challenges for the production team was to introduce a historical show in a time that never existed and that, therefore, had to be created from scratch. Thus, we find Nazi symbolism in everyday items of the North-American way of life: the boards at Times Square, the North-American flag where the swastika replaces the 50 stars that currently represent the different states; and a family life that reminds us to the traditional American dream. Viewers are constantly trying to decide whether what they are seeing is the United States or not. Actually, it is the similarities with the current country, rather than the differences, what breaks with all what we have seen so far in the television landscape. There are Nazis without an accent, local Nazis, whose lives are similar to those of the viewers who may be watching the show today.

This is a production about remembering. While the main motif of the show is “What would have happened if the others had won?”, this is also the question that the main characters constantly find themselves trying to answer. The films that the Resistance is trying to distribute show a world very different from the one the characters know and drive them to the same question: “What if the Nazis had not won?”. While the older characters try to forget the world that they once knew and lost, and decide to come to terms with the reality they have ahead, the young people composing the Resistance seek refuge in the nostalgia for a life they never got to live. And, in the background, moral issues such as hope and curiosity for a better world fight against fear. As Randall, a member of the Resistance played by Hank Harris says, “Evil triumphs only when good men do nothing.”

While it has been criticized that some episodes might be slow, the actors’ magnificent performances, especially those of Rufus Sewell as Obergruppenführer John Smith, and Rupert Evans as Frank Frink, a Jew dragged into her girlfriend’s actions, make the show very recommendable. It is not by chance that The Man in the High Castle became the most viewed show on Amazon Prime, after taking the lead held to the date by Bosch. Probably, the enormous and polemic marketing campaign that placed swastikas in the Metro stations of New York contributed to this success. As a result of this accomplishment, Amazon, focused on growing as creator of original shows, has announced a second season of 10 episodes.

The show’s creator, Frank Spotnitz, assures to Variety that “you get insights into who we are now by looking at who we could have been,” and he adds, about his success and referencing the racist politics proposed by Republican candidate Donald Trump: “presidential campaigns kind of bring out all different responses to that fear and uncertainty, and I think that’s what this show does. It shows all different responses to fear and danger.”

It makes us face questions as important as institutionalized racism, a very current issue, and how would we all react to such extreme situations.

Ultimately, this is a provocative show that, even though it could have deepened more in some of the introduced issues, makes us face questions as important as institutionalized racism, a very current issue, and how would we all react to situations as extreme as those shown. The Man in the High Castle is, without a doubt, one of the great proposals of the year that we leave behind and that, let’s hope, will keep surprising us during the second season.

The Jessica Jones Effect

Female superheroes have made their way to the small screen. Especially strong was Jessica Jones’ emergence. This character, created by Marvel, leads one of Netflix’ successes of the season.

Jones has a little bit of everything: trauma, few social skills and a complicated personality. But, despite the independence that she shows to everyone surrounding her –her almost-sister Trish being the only exception– she gives off an unquestionable touch of fragility. It is safe to say that this hint is what makes her so humane, and what made us all to empathize with her. Besides, the secondary characters provide the show with all it needs: the neighbor and unwavering friend that we would all want to have by our side; and a radio host who, tired from a bland day-to-day, gets into Jessica’s world without a second thought; also, the fierce lawyer who, at home, needs to fight so that her life does not collapse.

However, beyond the treats of a different hero and her remarkable companions, the show brings to the table crucial questions that, to the day, had not been seen in productions directed to the general audience.  There is no place for fear in ‘Jessica Jones’. The screenwriting team dared to tackle, in the most natural way, topics such as abusive relationships –both between parents and children and between partners- consent, addictions and reckless sex.

This is not the typical Marvel’s show. Science fiction and superpowers, remain in the background to allow room for the complexity of real life

This is not the typical Marvel’s show. Science fiction and superpowers, remain in the background to allow room for the complexity of real life. It is also the show that brought to the small screen a feminism that had already gained momentum in Hollywood. The main characters are women, strong and courageous women, and men appear only to support them or as evil characters, such as Jessica’s antagonist, ‘Killgrave‘.

This season, ‘Jessica Jones’ is not the only show with a leading female superhero. The television sequel of DC Comics’ Supergirl has also been much talked about. However, while the show broadcasted by CBS is closer to what we have seen before, Jones has stolen our hearts, has created space for debate and could be the show to start a new tendency in the American industry.

TOPS’ Indie Rock conquers Los Angeles

The band from Montreal hit The Roxy on Tuesday in an evening where they shared stage with Michael Stasis and Puro Instinct

At historical venue The Roxy, right at Sunset Strip, where Sunset Boulevard meets Hammond Street, an amazing crowd gathered to live a concert difficult to forget. TOPS Quartet, a band from Montreal who self-produce their indie-rock content and whose members have been touring around the United States for the last few weeks, provided music and emotions in equal parts.

Shortly after 8pm, the main room at The Roxy started to get filled with people of all ages thumb_DSC_0587_1024and great fashion styles. Hats and long denim shirts were characteristic of the public on the dance floor. On the stage, Michael Stasis kicked off the evening, followed by Californian band Puro Instinct. Both gigs were a success and people didn’t stop coming into the room during the entire show.

The cherry on the cake was provided by TOPS. Jane Penny’s soft but powerful voice hone all across the room, while the crowd cheered every song up. Her voice, laden with nuances, gives the band an absolutely personal style that conquered the audience present in West Hollywood.

thumb_DSC_0545_1024Los Angeles’ crowd is what the vocalist likes the most about the city, as she told Splash Magazines just before the show: “LA breathes culture. People of all ages are interested in it”, said Penny, excited for what was to come on Tuesday evening.

And no one ended up disappointed. The bands were amazing and so was a completely diverse crowd that couldn’t stop applauding the band at all times.

Review published on Splash Magazine  on November 11th, 2015. Original article: http://www.lasplash.com/publish/Los_Angeles_Entertainment_109/tops-indie-rock-conquers-los-angeles.php

TOPS Quartet to Perform at The Roxy

The next gig of the Canadian band will be happening on the evening of this Tuesday, November 10th, at ageless The Roxy, in West Hollywood

“A very beautiful classic venue.” This is how TOPS, the Canadian quartet, described The Roxy, the venue in West Hollywood where their next concert is going to take place on Tuesday.

The voice of the band, Jane Penny, has shown in a conversation with Splash Magazines her excitement to be in Los Angeles: “The West Coast always feels like a vacation,” she said. According to this musician, the city of angels breathes culture and this is why she is so enthusiastic about her upcoming gig: “In Los Angeles, younger kids, and actually everybody, have more access to culture. Somehow, I think it’s in the air. There’s something in LA that makes everyone interested in it.”

What makes TOPS quartet and its music so special is that the members of the band self-produce their own content. They record the instruments individually and then Jane does the vocals at home or at a friend’s studio. “When you do it yourself, you can create the environment you need,” emphasized the artist, whose career has always been focused in playing in bands. And she adds, “the more control I have on it, the more I feel like it reflexes what we are doing.”

Art is something crucial for Jane and when we ask her for her background in art history and the influence it has on her music, she explains that “being an artist applies to your entire personality and everything you do.” And, running away from a commercial view of music, she does not hesitate to add “For me, doing music that’s not part of a larger aesthetic thing wouldn’t make any sense.”

When reading about Jane Penny and her previous interviews, the role of women in the industry is something that keeps showing up. Jane’s point of view about the issue is anything but conventional: “It is easy to find people who want to use you and your body in a commercial way. I do not personally have a problem with the sexualization of women.” Her explanation as per why this is will get you wondering: “I think it is very powerful; the power of our body and the anxiety it creates.”

Do not miss the date, this Tuesday the 10th of November, at 8pm, at The Roxy West Hollywood.

Article published on Splash Magazines on November 9, 2015. Original article: http://www.lasplash.com/publish/Entertainment/cat_index_la_events/tops-quartet-to-perform-at-the-roxy_printer.php

The Top-5 of Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival

Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival comes to an end and figures come to light. This year, the greatest event on genre movies in Spain increased sales by 20.8%, meaning 77,955 tickets were accounted for, versus the 64,509 sold in 2014. Income increased as well, this time by 23,1%.

This year’s figures show the loyalty of an audience devoted to fantastic and horror movies, as well as the visibility the event is gaining both at the national and international level. Partly responsible of this success is the number of high-quality movies screened every year. At Indiewood/Hollywoodn’t, we have selected five gems you will surely regret to miss.

  1. The Invitation (Karyn Kuzama)

Considered Best Feature Film by the Festival’s jury, Karyn Kuzama’s thriller shows us how a son’s death can change the lives of his parents, played in this case by Logan Marshall-Green and Tammy Blanchard. She disappears soon after her son does. Years later, when she comes back, it is obvious that this is not the same person. The movie’s intrigue and suspense conquered the jury and took home the most important award of the Festival.

  1. The Final Girls (Todd Strauss-Schulson).

Movies within movies. This is The Final Girls’s proposal. Taissa Farmiga plays Max, the child of a movie star. The viewer is left to figure out the reasons why she ends up inside a horror movie starring her mom. The film features some well-known names from the Hollywood scene, such as Thomas Middleditch, Adam DeVine and Nina Dobrev. Audience and jury were captivated by The Final Girls, what drove it to leave the festival as the winner of the Jury Special Award and the one to Best Script.

  1. Turbo Kid (Anouk Whissell, François Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell)

What makes this festival different from any other is the amount of guts one can see over a week. And Turbo Kid is no exception. This production mixes fantasy and romanticism, featuring two teenagers living in a “future” (1997) we don’t want to imagine. Turbo Kid, our superhero, and his partner Apple will have to fight for their lives in a world taken by robots, where water has become the most precious asset. Each one of the three screenings of the movie filled streets with endless lines of people and theatres with cheers. Turbo Kid, winner of the more than deserved Best Music Award, was one of the most expected movies in the festival and did not let anyone down.

  1. Into the Forest (Patricia Rozema)

The perfect ending for a festival like Sitges is a movie like Into de Forest. Patricia Rozema directs Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood in a universe where humanity is close to an end. Nell and Eva will have to survive hunger, among other physical and (to a greater extent) social issues.  A drama about survival to take a break from so much horror.

  1. Bone Tomahawk (Craig Zahler)

thumb_DSC_0371_1024Born in Florida, Craig Zahler leaves Sitges asa proud winner of the Best Director Award. His opera prima Bone Tomahawk exemplifies the cme back of a genre, Western, that also has a place in the Festival. Texas, cannibalism and an exceptional cast lead by Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox are the perfect prescription for a successful movie.

Article published in the Spanish site of Indiewood/Hollywoodn’t on October 27th, 2015. Original article in Spanish: http://indienyc.com/las-5-peliculas-del-festival-de-sitges-que-no-te-puedes-perder/