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David Mamet slams Hollywood's 'garbage' DEI initiatives. 'It’s fascist totalitarianism'

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David Mamet slams Hollywood's 'garbage' DEI initiatives. 'It’s fascist totalitarianism'

David Mamet is not done lambasting the liberal establishment in Hollywood.

“DEI is garbage,” said the Pulitzer Prize-winning author to a packed house at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. It’s fascist totalitarianism.”

The playwright and director did not shy away from his trademark expletives or controversy as he spoke about his tell-all memoir, “Everywhere an Oink Oink,” with Times deputy entertainment editor Matt Brennan at USC’s Newman Recital Hall.

His book, published in the fall, details his last 40 years in the moviemaking business and falling out of grace as his politics shifted him from a progressive “red diaper baby” of two communist Jewish parents raised on the South Side of Chicago to a present-day Trump-loving conservative.

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For more than a decade, Mamet’s political and social statements have made as many headlines as his film and theater work. His latest gripe is with the new diversity rules that the Academy of Motion Pictures instituted for Oscar-eligible films to help advance the representation of LGBTQ+, women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

The idea that “I can’t give you a stupid f— statue unless you have 7% of this, 8% of that … it’s intrusive,” Mamet said.

Although Mamet acknowledged that discrimination barred groups from participating in Hollywood for years, he thinks the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. In his book, Mamet describes the leaders of these diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as “diversity capos and “diversity commissars.”

“The [film industry] has little business improving everybody’s racial understanding as does the fire department,” Mamet said to a few loud laughs in the crowd. He argued that his colleagues are better off selling popcorn than trying to improve representation for women, queer talent and other marginalized groups.

Mamet did not mince his words. He used the outdated term “transsexuals” when talking about transgender people and railed against gender-neutral bathrooms. “It politicizes the human excretory function,” he said to even louder guffaws in the crowd.

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He proudly claimed his defense of free speech in an amicus brief he wrote to the Supreme Court this year in NetChoice LLC vs. Paxton. “We see great attacks on freedom of speech in this country,” Mamet said.

Film executives and writers were not safe from Mamet’s critiques either. He blamed film studios for the “hegemony” that’s smothered the voices of independent filmmakers. “There’s no room for individual initiative,” Mamet said. He added that the film industry is experiencing the “growth, maturity, decay and death” that “happens to everything that’s organic.”

Back in 2007, Mamet was a vocal opponent of the writers’ strike and complained last year when writers reached an impasse with studios as they bargained for pay raises and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.

“There’ll be less work,” Mamet conceded. “But the scripts will be better.”

Does Mamet think of his children as nepo babies who’ve benefited from his illustrious career? Not at all, he said. He feels gratified that they’ve learned from being on set with him.

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“They earned it by merit,” he said of daughter Zosia Mamet, who starred in “Girls.” They haven’t benefited from any type of privilege, he said, and he thinks that DEI initiatives are taking away hard-earned opportunities. “Nobody ever gave my kids a job because of who they were related to.”

Mamet said he’s been pushed out of Hollywood less by his politics than by his age. Young directors want to work with friends of their own generation.

“Nobody’s going to pay me a lot of money anymore,” Mamet said. “Nobody’s going to let me have a lot of fun.”

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‘The Village Next to Paradise’ Review: Somali Family Drama Doubles as a Potent Portrait of Life in the Shadow of War

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‘The Village Next to Paradise’ Review: Somali Family Drama Doubles as a Potent Portrait of Life in the Shadow of War

Mo Harawe’s debut feature The Village Next to Paradise is a haunting offering. The film, which premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section and is the first Somali film to ever screen on the Croisette, presents a compelling narrative of one family’s survival in a sleepy Somali town. But it’s the devastating backdrop against which their drama plays out that lingers long after the credits roll. 

The siren wails of drones soundtrack each scene of Harawe’s film, which opens with footage of a real-life report of a United States drone strike on Somalia. Since the U.S. began using drones in the East African country in the early 2000s, Somalis have suffered at the hands of an enveloping and ravenous counterterrorism operation. According to data from the New America foundation, there have been more than 300 documented uses of drones resulting in hundreds of known civilian deaths.

The Village Next to Paradise

The Bottom Line

Uneven but affecting.

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Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard)
Cast: Ahmed Ali Farah, Ahmed Mohamud Saleban, Anab Ahmed Ibrahim
Director-screenwriter: Mo Harawe

2 hours 13 minutes

The fatal impact of contemporary warfare organizes life in Paradise village, a locale whose name seems more melancholic with time. Marmargade (Ahmed Ali Farah), a principal character in Harawe’s languorous film, makes money doing odd jobs, but one of his most lucrative gigs involves burying the dead. Some of the people for whom he finds a place in the sandy terrain died of natural causes, but many of them are victims of foreign airstrikes. When this business slows, Marmargade reluctantly smuggles a truck full of goods — the contents of which play a pivotal role later — to a nearby city. 

Because Marmargade knows the realities of living in a place shrouded by the shadow of death, he strives for a better life for his son Cigaal (Ahmed Mohamud Saleban), a buoyant kid who thinks nothing of the constant buzzing coming from the sky. When the local school cancels classes for the year because of chronic absenteeism among the teachers, Marmargade works to send Cigaal to a school in the city, where safety is more than an illusion. But Cigaal doesn’t want to leave his family, friends or his life in the village. When Marmargade proposes this new life to him, the child rejects the idea. 

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The main narrative of The Village Next to Paradise revolves around the conflicting desires within this makeshift family. Marmargade lives with his sister Araweelo (Anab Ahmed Ibrahim), a recently divorced woman who wants to build her own tailoring shop. The two have the kind of fractious relationship resulting from years of mistrust. She thinks her brother should be honest with Cigaal instead of trying to trick the young one into going to school. Marmargade wants his sister’s financial support more than her advice. After she refuses to lend him the money for tuition, Marmargade makes a series of decisions that threatens all their livelihoods. 

Harawe’s film contains many admirable elements. With its unhurried pacing and tender focus on a single family, The Village Next to Paradise recalls Gabriel Martins’ 2022 feature Mars One. And the way Harawe structures the film around a broader geopolitical conflict resembles the role the Chadian civil war played in Mahamet Saleh Haroun’s  2010 film A Screaming Man, which also premiered at Cannes. The cinematography (by Mostafa El Kashef) offers truly striking images that conjure up the ghostly atmosphere of this village without turning its people into caricatures for a Western gaze hungry for a particular kind of poverty porn. 

But The Village Next to Paradise is also hobbled in places by its meandering narrative and occasionally wooden performances from Harawe’s cast of local nonprofessional actors. The sharpness of Harawe’s vision is dulled by a story that takes one too many detours before settling into itself. Characters with dubious relevance are introduced and then dropped, while ones who come to play crucial roles don’t get an appropriate amount of screen time.

The film becomes more dynamic in its latter half, when Marmargade’s desperation leads him to questionable decisions that clash with Araweelo’s desires. Indeed, it’s also during these parts of the film that Harawe pulls the strongest performances from his actors, who otherwise struggle to shake off an understandable stiffness. 

Despite these flaws, Harawe’s film does have a real staying power. The Village Next to Paradise orients itself around a quiet optimism and surprising humor that mirror real life. There are moments throughout that serve as a reminder that even in places where death feels close, hope for tomorrow is still alive.

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‘Masked Singer’ winner reveals whether they will resume 'Musical' — that was a clue — career

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‘Masked Singer’ winner reveals whether they will resume 'Musical' — that was a clue — career

Sixteen contestants went down to one Wednesday night when the “Masked Singer” crowned Goldfish the winner. Underneath the mask was Disney darling, Coachella queen and Broadway beauty Vanessa Hudgens, who was champion of Season 11 of the reality TV competition series.

The competition was down to Goldfish, who sang “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John, and Gumball, who chose “Latch” by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith and “Renegade” by Styx. The candy man was revealed to be “Friday Night Lights” star Scott Porter, who worked with Hudgens on 2009’s “Bandslam.”

Judges Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg and Robin Thicke both guessed incorrectly that he was Derek Hough. Ken Jeong guessed Taran Killam, and Rita Ora thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt was under the mask.

They fared much better unmasking Goldfish: While Thicke guessed Hilary Duff and Jeong said it was Nicole Scherzinger, both Ora and McCarthy-Wahlberg were correct that the star of Broadway’s “Gigi” was their winner.

“It’s honestly the most incredible thing ever. I’ve just been so excited to take my mask off and stare into Rita’s eyes and be like ‘Girl, this is why I couldn’t hang out with you,’” Hudgens, a longtime friend of Ora’s, exclaimed after the reveal.

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“I was like, ‘What’s going on with Vanessa? She always texts me back’ — but now it’s because you were here,” Ora yelled back from the judges’ seats.

The “High School Musical” star had been asked to join the show several times but decided this time to give her fans a taste of what they’ve been missing in her time away from music, Hudgens told ET.

“My fans had been asking, saying, ‘We want more music, we want singing anything, give it to us please.’ And I was like, ‘You know, this would be a really interesting way to give my fans what they want, but make sure they’re really fans,’” she said. “And they are!”

But the Queen of Coachella, so named because of her remarkable outfits at the annual Southern California music festival, admitted that she would probably stick to the screen for the immediate future.

The actor’s “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” opens in theaters on June 7. It’s the fourth film in the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence buddy cop action comedy franchise. Hudgens also co-starred in the third movie, “Bad Boys for Life.”

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“I always say life is about priorities and [music’s] just not a top priority right now,” the new mom said. “Who knows? Maybe down the line, maybe it will be, but as of now, it’s still no.”

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Short Film Review: Karita (2023) by Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda

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Short Film Review: Karita (2023) by Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda

“So I came here…”

Headed by actress-turned-director Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda, a Kyoto-born Tokyo-based director, photographer, and filmmaker, “Karita” is a film inspired by the manga series “Nana”, while trying to answer the question, what if “Lost in Translation” was cast with the “Fleabag” character. The 17-minute short will be premiering at the Dances With Films Festival on June 22nd in Los Angeles.

The film begins with a series of impressive images from nighttime Tokyo, while the ominous music suggests that something dangerous is about to happen. The next scene has two women walking in the streets during the day, as Nico, an American, is shown around Tokyo by her friend
and supervisor at a local record store, Rumi. The camera is shaky and the cuts frantic, while there is a different dialogue heard in the background. The next, dominated by neon pink lights scene, brings us to the location the dialogue is taking place, inside a bar, where the two girls are talking to two boys and one girl, with Nico asking them if they have ever done anything dangerous. One of the boys, Ren, starts talking about people stealing cars. Nico shares her own experience in the US, which makes everyone in the table rather amused.

The night continues with a lot of drinking and eventually, Rumi decides to go home, cautioning her friend not to do anything stupid, before she goes. The next scene takes place in a garage with a sports car, which belongs to the uncle of the second of the boys in the company, Kenji. Suki, the other girl, who is quite drunk, insists they take the car for a drive, despite the yakuza-like uncle having specifically cautioned his nephew otherwise. In the end, with Ren in the driver’s seat, they take a drive around Tokyo.

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Unfolding much like a road-movie/music video, “Karita” will definitely stand out due to its impressive visuals, with Koi Ueda’s cinematography, in combination with the impressive lighting and coloring, capturing night time Tokyo in the most impressive fashion. Curtis Anthony Williams’s frequently frantic editing also adds to this sense, while the rather fast pace definitely suits the overall aesthetics here.

At the same time, there is a part of the movie that is quite realistic as the group visit various locations, as a pier, a convenience store, the record store, and the aftermaths of getting drunk and doing stupid things is also highlighted. A pinch of humor, as in the whole concept of the uncle and Suki’s actions, and some notions of romance, cement the rather entertaining narrative here.

Virginia de Witt plays the foreigner that tries to appear cool in order to fit in with gusto, while Haruka Hirata as Rumi is quite convincing as the “cautious” friend, with the chemistry of the two also being on a very high level, presenting a rather kawaii relationship between them. The other actress that stands out here is Mika Ushiko, who is quite convincing as the drunk Suki.

As mentioned before though, the aspect that makes “Karita” stand out is definitely its production values, which are on a level very rarely met in short films, while being the main reason the movie definitely deserves a watch. All in all, a very appealing film, in an effort that intrigues on what the filmmakers could do with a bigger budget in their hands, that would allow them to explore the script and the characters more.

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