Von Trier grabs European Film Academy’s top prize

Despite the controversial jokes this man can occasionally make, despite his films not appealing to every taste, he is still an established master of filmmaking. Lars von Trier’s Melancholia has scored EFA’s top prize.

­Lars von Trier’s drama about the end of the world was named best film this Sunday. The Danish director’s wife Bente Froge attended the ceremony in Berlin to collect the award on behalf of her husband.

Another big winner, The King’s Speech, joined Melancholia. Both films won a total of three awards each.

Danish Susanne Bier received best director’s prize for her In a Better World.

Briton Tilda Swinton won best actress for her part in We Need to Talk about Kevin, while her compatriot Colin Firth was named best actor for The King’s Speech.

Pina 3D by Wim Wenders, dedicated to one of the most remarkable choreographers of the modern time, was named the best documentary.

Russian nominees failed to receive any awards whatsoever. Russian Nadezhda Markina (Elena) ran for the best actress prize, while Viktor Kosakovsky’s Viva las Antipodas was nominated for best documentary award.

Swiss photographer digs into pop king’s childhood

Good photography is like archeology, believes Henry Leutwyler – the photographer behind the unusual exhibition of Michael Jackson’s personal items and suits that have just gone on show in Moscow.

Leutwyler went to Michael Jackson’s estate – the legendary Neverland – to fulfill a magazine assignment: he had to photograph the iconic white glove. To his surprise, Leutwyler found much more than that.  

“Everything was packed up and prepared for an auction,” the photographer recalled. “We found thousands and thousands boxes. It was exciting in the beginning, but the more time went by, the sadder it became. Michael Jackson always complained he didn’t have a childhood. We all believe Neverland is based on ‘Peter Pan’. To rebuild a home to live as a child and to lose it again – it’s very sad. By the way, my favourite picture in the collection is the first edition of the book.”

Michael Jackson’s estate is not the first famous interior examined by Leutwyler’s camera. The photographer admits he has a particular interest in investigating lives of people he never knew.

“Many people I wanted to photograph were not here anymore – the likes of John Lennon and Alfred Hitchcock,” Leutwyler said. “So I thought that objects can also talk. It’s almost archeology. You become one of those guys digging in Egypt and finding something.”

King’s College London to establish dedicated Russia Institute in 2013

A new institute for the study of contemporary Russia is to be established at a London university, the latest in a network of institutes at King’s College London devoted to mapping the rise of emerging powers.

The university’s Russia Institute, due to open in 2013, joins an India Institute which opened in September and institutes focusing on Brazil and China that were set up in 2008.

Rick Trainor, the King’s College principa, said: “Although we’re providing a historical perspective to these students, we’re concentrating on the economy, society, politics and international relations aspects of these countries which in the past I think have been too little understood in the UK, in terms of the new identity, the new roles in the world that they’re playing.

“So for Russia, for example, during the cold war, there was a huge amount of attention to Russia as a superpower – rather less attention to the new Russia, which has a different competitive position in the world and is playing a very different role in it.”

The centre will examine how Russia and its neighbouring states function, as well as considering the country’s role in the world. The institute is expected to establish specific programmes looking at the northern Caucasus, Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Marat Shterin, a King’s College academic who is helping establish thecentre, said the institute would differ from tradional academic approaches because of its emphasis on contemporary Russia, rather the country’s history or literature.

The institute will also foster a close relationship with London’s expatriate Russian population.

Shterin said: “London is now home to tens of thousands of Russians and, more generally, Russian-speaking people, many of whom are highly successful professionals in business, arts, academia, and other walks of life. The institute will be a natural intellectual home for these people and will provide a forum for exchanging views and developing new ideas and projects.”

Students will be able to combine Russia-focused modules and projects with those from the university’s other global institutes as well as subject areas like medicine and law.

“The proposed inclusion of medicine and health issues is a good example of our interdisciplinary and practice-oriented approach. King’s is a world leading university in these disciplines which are also of central importance in the rising global economies and rapidly changing societies, such as Russia,” Shterin said.

The institute will seek sponsorship from Russian business “providing our potential sponsors share our moral values and academic principles,” the academic added.

He said: “I think we need to appreciate that the stereotypical view of Russian businessmen as reckless and self-indulgent people is based on a few spectacular cases and is far from accurate as far as a great number of entrepreneurially successful Russians are concerned.”

King’s India Institute last week announced it had received a £3.5m gift from the Indian business conglomerate Avantha Group. The gift will endow a chair that accompanies the directorship of the institute.

Gautam Thapar, chairman and CEO of Avantha, said in a statement: “The institute’s vision dovetails with our belief that a holistic and nuanced understanding of contemporary India is essential to explore and fruitfully engage with India. It is also vital for India to develop new tools, strategies and outlook in its dealings with the international community.”

French history erased in new wave of revisionism

Parents and teachers across France are up in arms over new textbooks which carry accounts of French history revised to avoid insulting ethnic minority pupils. They say common sense has been sacrificed to political correctness in French schoolsю

­Natives of France now fear their identity will soon disappear along with their history.

A modern French history textbook now boasts no less than 20 pages on the history of black slavery while devoting a mere six pages to the achievements of Napoleon – shown here sitting on a toilet.

France’s new history textbooks are enraging parents and teachers who call it political correctness gone mad.

Dimitri Casali, history professor and best-selling author on the newly-banished giants of France warns of dire consequences of the new educational policy.

“If we don’t teach our minorities the history of their adopted country, they won’t feel French. We’re already seeing riots on our streets,” Casali exclaims.

In the new textbook, the Crusades are now called insulting to Muslims, the Sun King Louis 14th is labeled imperialist and Napoleon is mocked as the Colonel Gaddafi of his day. The star of the new school books is  Mali’s previously little-known King Kankou Musa  who ruled over the West African country in the 13th century.

The purge even extends to literary giants like Victor Hugo, author of the world classic, Les Miserables.

France is already breaking up, believes Professor Casali, because its young people have no sense of identity. Parents are deeply concerned too.

Father-of-three Jean-Noel Villemin from Paris says, “We need to study even the worst pages of our history because you cannot understand politics today if you don’t understand history, if they want to understand and vote properly.”

Legal action is seen as the only way to stop the erasure of France’s national history.

“Schools now give 10 per cent of their schedule to the medieval African Mali Empire. I’ve studied it, and what exactly is its contribution to world development?” asks Parisian lawyer Marcel Ceccaldi.

Thousands signed a petition after lessons on the French Revolution were replaced by study of the African kingdom of Monomotapah, which many say they have never heard of. The Ministry of Education refused to be interviewed, but gave RT this statement:

“We are changing the school curriculum to reflect globalization. Monomotapah is being taught because it is important to have a view on other world cultures such as Egypt, China and India,” the statement reads. 

A new European Parliament report has backed compulsory school lessons on the benefits of the EU, from “a very young age.” Critics say pupils are learning less and less about their own countries and warn that states which stop teaching their past will simply consign themselves to history.