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Michael Latt, who was fatally shot, leaves a legacy of uplifting marginalized artists

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Michael Latt, who was fatally shot, leaves a legacy of uplifting marginalized artists

Michael Latt, a 33-year-old marketing strategist and social justice advocate who was shot and killed in his Los Angeles home Monday, leaves behind a legacy of uplifting marginalized artists — but he didn’t foresee this path for himself.

After graduating from Chapman University in 2013 with a degree in public relations and advertising, Latt kick-started his career in entertainment marketing, then, by chance, became the digital marketing director for Ryan Coogler’s acclaimed first feature, “Fruitvale Station.” The film’s release coincided with the George Zimmerman trial.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, fatally shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in his gated community in Sanford, Fla. He was acquitted the day after “Fruitvale Station” opened in limited release, and protests over the trial’s outcome magnified the film’s impact.

For Latt, promoting the film was a turning point.

“Working on Ryan Coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station’ opened my eyes up to how prevalent and insidious white supremacy is in our country and also showed me the potent power of storytelling to change hearts and minds,” Latt said in a 2019 interview with Forbes.

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A year after “Fruitvale Station” debuted, in the wake of the Ferguson unrest, Coogler asked Latt to lead marketing for the artist-activist collective Blackout for Human Rights, and there he began to more clearly envision a future in social activism.

“The moment I realized that I could use my skill set for social good, I decided to dedicate the rest of my career to helping others, empowering storytellers of color and fighting injustice wherever it stands,” he told Forbes.

“Fruitvale” producer Sev Ohanian, who founded production company Proximity Media with Ryan and Zinzi Coogler, first began working with Latt when “Fruitvale Station” was selected for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Ohanian said Latt was pivotal in marketing the film online, starting with a “humble Instagram page.”

“To this day we attribute much of that little film’s ability to find an audience to the work Michael did in single-handedly getting the word out online,” he told The Times in an email. “I’ve always felt that Mike was a trailblazer in utilizing social media with the model he established with ‘Fruitvale Station.’ It’s not at all surprising to see all these years later what an amazing legacy he established for himself as an advocate of the arts, and issues dear to him.”

This became the mission of Latt’s entertainment marketing consulting firm Lead With Love, which he founded in 2019. Through Lead With Love, Latt strove to diversify the pool of creatives in Hollywood.

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Since its inception four years ago, Lead With Love has driven digital attention toward myriad festivals, campaigns and social justice organizations focused on uplifting women and artists of color, and their work.

In 2022, Lead With Love partnered with “Manchester by the Sea” producer Kimberly Steward’s K Period Media Foundation (KPMF) on a campaign to promote Chinonye Chukwu’s “Till.” The film tells the story of Mamie Till-Mobley and her pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who was tortured and lynched in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman — whose testimony at the subsequent murder trial was disputed.

Lead With Love’s three-pronged campaign included an exhibition featuring Black photographers that was on view for about a month at two Black-owned galleries in South L.A. and Atlanta; a 150-foot mural at the Black-owned L.A. event space the Beehive that was dedicated to Emmett and Mamie Till; and a series of events focused on empowering Black women.

At one such event, “Love in Action: Honoring Mothers,” held on Oct. 11, 2022, Black women and mothers were gathered for a screening of “Till.” Afterward, they were invited to assemble their own flower bouquets to pose for portraits. KPMF’s Elizabeth Mosely still remembers being stunned by the thoughtfulness of the flower-making session, which Latt orchestrated himself.

“After going through the traumatic experience of watching that film, then you have this healing process of making these flowers together,” Mosely said. “That was important to him. He was like, ‘We need something that’s uplifting after this really heavy movie.’ I personally had never seen that before, and that was beautiful.”

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During several early brainstorming sessions, Mosely had told Latt that she wasn’t sure whether his “big ideas,” as she called them, were feasible — but he always found a way.

As to whether Lead With Love has a future beyond Latt, Mosely remains unsure.

“From my perspective, Lead With Love was Michael,” she said. “I hope somebody can continue the work in a way that he would’ve wanted, but his company was so synonymous with him, and the clients he had were because of his relationships and who he was.”

“Michael had a beautiful way of connecting culture and community,” KPMF founder Steward said in a statement to The Times. “There was always a heartbeat behind his work and genuineness in his efforts. His kindness, tenacity and generosity to this world will not be forgotten.”

In addition to promoting individual films, Lead With Love has also advised the Sundance Institute, where Latt’s mother, Michelle Satter, serves as the founding director of its feature film program. For her work at the institute, Satter will receive the the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (and an Oscar statuette) at the film academy’s Governors Awards in January.

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Building on his mother’s work, Latt had helped increase visibility over the years for Sundance.

For the 2016 fest, Latt partnered with Facebook to produce an original video series featuring several creatives Latt had worked with before, including Nate Parker and Common, and others attending the event, including Christopher Nolan and Diego Luna.

According to Lead With Love’s website, the 10-plus videos published during the festival generated more than 10 million views and 50 million impressions — a 400% increase in impressions compared with the previous year.

“He dedicated his career to serving others, employing storytelling, art and various mediums to create enduring change, and galvanizing communities with hope, love and inspiration,” the Sundance Institute said in a statement on behalf of the Latt family. “Michael will never be forgotten and his legacy and work will carry on through his family, his friends and his colleagues.”

Police say Latt’s killing was the culmination of a series of threats made by Jameelah Michl, who was an extra on A.V. Rockwell’s film “A Thousand and One” and began stalking Rockwell shortly thereafter. In June, the director filed a restraining order against Michl, whose initially innocuous fan messages had turned violent and threatening, Rockwell said in court documents reviewed by The Times.

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Five months later, Michl forced her way into Latt’s Mid-City apartment building and shot him, authorities say.

According to a news release from the district attorney’s office, Michl targeted Latt because he was “friends with a woman [Michl] had been stalking,” but Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón didn’t name Rockwell as the stalking victim.

“Our hearts ache for the loss of a passionate advocate who believed in the principles of justice and equity within our criminal legal system,” Gascón said in a statement Thursday. “It is devastating to see a life cut short, especially one dedicated to fighting for a more just society.”

Satter; Latt’s father, writer-producer David Latt; and Latt’s older brother, Franklin Latt, co-head of the motion picture talent department at Creative Artists Agency; issued their own remarks Thursday.

“He devoted his career to supporting others, championing organizations that raised up women and artists of color, along with leveraging storytelling, art and various mediums to create enduring change and instill communities with hope, love and inspiration,” his parents said in a statement. “Michael will never be forgotten and we ask you to all carry on his legacy of love, compassion and fierce dedication to positive and lasting change.”

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His brother added: “To know Michael was to understand that he lived his life with intention. The outpouring of love and support from all those he touched has been gratifying for our family beyond words. He founded his company Lead With Love to champion artists and to affect positive change for the world at large. His legacy will live on eternally through all of us as we choose to lead our own lives with that very same intention.”

On Thursday night, filmmaker Ava DuVernay dedicated the New York City premiere of her film “Origin” to Latt. Latt worked as a communications consultant for DuVernay’s independent distribution company ARRAY Now from 2019 to 2020.

“[Latt] was such a good guy, an extraordinary person — one of those people that comes into the room and just lights it up,” DuVernay said, holding back tears. “If you needed him, he would be there. He didn’t ask for money, he didn’t ask for fame, he didn’t ask for anything. He liked to work behind the scenes to get the word out about the things that mattered.”

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Kate Middleton spotted after rampant speculation about her post-op whereabouts

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Kate Middleton spotted after rampant speculation about her post-op whereabouts

Catherine has been spotted for the first time since December, months after her January hospitalization, which spawned rampant conspiracy theories, and viral suppositions about her alleged “disappearance.”

The Princess of Wales, formerly Kate Middleton, was photographed Monday by Backgrid, a photo-hosting agency, near Windsor Castle in the U.K. sitting in the passenger seat of an Audi driven by her mother, Carole Middleton, according to TMZ.

The Daily Mail reported that Monday’s princess sighting came via paparazzi pictures that were not authorized by the palace.

The casual outing — featuring the princess in sunglasses and without security — is the first time that the 42-year-old has been seen in public since she celebrated Christmas at Sandringham estate in eastern England with husband Prince William, their three children and rest of the royal family, People reported.

The senior royal was admitted to the London Clinic on Jan. 16, Kensington Palace said, for a planned abdominal surgery and successfully underwent the procedure. The palace added, however, that the princess was expected to be hospitalized for 10 to 14 days after the mystery surgery and “before returning home to continue her recovery.” She would return to her public duties after Easter — March 31 — based on current medical advice, the palace said.

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“The Princess of Wales appreciates the interest this statement will generate,” Kensington Palace said. “She hopes that the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible; and her wish that her personal medical information remains private.”

Despite her desires, the announcement — coupled with father-in-law King Charles III’s simultaneous health issues — ignited even more interest in her condition and plenty of wild speculation given her absence from the public eye, as well as that of her children and parents. Amid theories about an organ donation to Charles, a Brazilian butt lift, mommy makeover or the possibility that she was in a coma, the topic (hashtag #whereiskatemiddleton) has been a talking point ever since.

As many a Redditor and casual social media user wondered, “What is going on with Kate Middleton?” the BBC analyzed the “royal dilemma” over Kate’s health, the New York Times touched on the rumors swirling around her, Vogue tracked “The Curious Case of the ‘Disappearing’ Princess,” and this newspaper tried to figure out what the frenzy over her alleged “‘disappearance’ says about the royals — and us.”

Kate left the hospital on Jan. 29 and returned to Adelaide Cottage in Windsor, where she was reunited with her kids. Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, temporarily stepped back from his royal duties to manage childcare but continued with other royal engagements in Wrexham and London.

Last week, the 41-year-old prince — who is also expected to take on more royal duties after his father’s cancer diagnosis — provided further fodder for the rumor mill when he cited a “personal matter” for his absence from the funeral of his godfather, King Constantine of Greece.

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Nonetheless, a spokesman reiterated the palace’s stance that there would be no “running commentary” provided on Kate’s health despite Internet rumors.

That, according to the Telegraph, was testing the Firm’s policy of “never complain, never explain.”

“From our perspective, we were very clear from our statement at the start of this in January that the Princess of Wales planned to be out of public action until after Easter, and that hasn’t changed,” a spokesperson for the family told the Telegraph.

“We were always clear we wouldn’t be providing updates when there wasn’t anything new to share,” the spokesperson said. “The last thing anyone wants is a running commentary of the Princess of Wales’s recovery. Nothing has changed from that approach in January.”

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Film review: Ru brings Kim Thúy's beloved novel to achingly beautiful life — Stir

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Film review: Ru brings Kim Thúy's beloved novel to achingly beautiful life — Stir

AUTHOR KIM THÚY’S Governor General’s Award–winning novel Ru gives unique access to the refugee experience, following her family from Vietnam across the ocean to a new life in Canada. But what makes the book, and the extraordinary new movie based on it, so touching is the specific mix of that story with the French-Canadian culture that the family learns to call its own. 

In his new screen adaptation, Canadian director Charles-Olivier Michaud finds the warmth and humour in everything from a stepdance welcome in a community gym to the healing magic of maple taffy made on fresh snow. Or ham decorated with canned pineapple chunks and maraschino cherries. Or a fridge full of donated shepherd pies. 

The story is told nonchronologically, through the eyes of preteen Tinh (a remarkably unaffected Chloé Djandji) and following her family’s harrowing journey from upper-class comfort in Vietnam to the refugees once known as “boat people”, eventually starting over again in Canada. The culture shock is immediate: upon arrival in Quebec, the trip into Granby is by bus, through a blizzard, following a snowplow. In one of Michaud’s poetically surreal moments, a wide-eyed Tinh spots a new bride, crying and drinking champagne, still wearing her long white gown, on the hall floor of the motel the family calls home for many weeks. 

The script (by Thuy working with Michaud and Jacques Davidts)  uses restraint but never glosses over the trauma the parents and their children carry with them into their new lives. Via flashbacks, we see soldiers ransacking the family’s books and belongings, and witness the inhumanity of the dank boat hold. Through assured visual storytelling, Ru lets us in on the experience of forced migration—specifically, the trials, big and small, that “boat people” faced—whether it’s a parent sewing money into shirt hems or a camera slowly panning through a garment factory. In one scene, Tinh’s mother (a steely Chantal Thuy) stares from the ship hull, up a long ladder to the first daylight she’s seen in weeks. It’s a complex mix of despair about what’s behind her and fear of the unknown that awaits at the top of the hatch. Later, she refuses to speak to her daughter and two young sons in anything but French, and drives them to study harder. At the same time, the parents’ sacrifices are moving, the educated father (a quietly dignified Jean Bui) mopping cathedral floors and delivering Chinese food. What’s so poignant is that everyone’s too busy to pay too much attention to the growing pains and trauma that Tinh is quietly navigating herself—at a time when PTSD wasn’t a term yet, and everyone, even children, were expected to tough things out.

To his credit, director Michaud chooses not to tell this story through a lot of dialogue, but rather through imagery and often achingly beautiful visual details. A perfect symbol of all of the cultural upheaval comes with recurring shots of a second-hand toaster, which a kind Quebec sponsor assumes will be a necessity for the Vietnamese family’s breakfasts, but that becomes a chopstick holder abandoned in a corner. 

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Oscars rewind — 2004: Why the hair and makeup winners apologized to their cast

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Oscars rewind — 2004: Why the hair and makeup winners apologized to their cast

Many of the Academy Awards categories have long histories that stretch back nearly 100 years. That’s not true for the hair and makeup artisans, though. Their artistry was left out of the awards prior to 1981, when a groundswell of support for the recognition of the work done on 1980’s “The Elephant Man” led to the creation of a makeup-only category (and “Elephant” wasn’t the first winner). Hair wasn’t included until 1993, and is still considered part of the package deal, now known as the Academy Award for makeup and hairstyling.

Meanwhile, hair and makeup nominees are chosen slightly differently than most other categories — a shortlist of seven titles are selected by the academy’s makeup branch, then winnowed down during a “bake-off” into a final list of nominees (usually three). Such was the case for the 2004 Oscars, held on Feb. 29 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood: Three nominees, one winner.

The winners likely surprised no one in the audience. By the time the award was handed out by Scarlett Johansson to Richard Taylor and Peter King, their film “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” was already well on its way to earning all 11 awards for its 11 nominations. It was Taylor’s second chance on stage that night; earlier in the evening he’d picked up his first Oscar for the film’s costume design, an award he shared with Ngila Dickson. He also has previous Oscars for makeup (shared with Peter Owen) and visual effects (shared with Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook and Mark Stetson) from 2002 for the first film in the trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

Taylor shared the applause in his speech, crediting several other crew members who were instrumental with the manufacture and care of over 10,000 prosthetics used during the “Lord of the Rings” series of films. He also then spoke to the various former Middle Earth residents in the audience, giving credit to “the cast that had to wear it all over all those months. I apologize for the rubbery feet and funny noses but cheers to you all.”

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King was picking up his first (and so far, only) Oscar; he’d go on to be nominated again in 2013 for “The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey.” “God, it’s scary up here,” he said. After thanking the studio and fellow crew, he added, “I’d like to thank my gorgeous wife Sarah for being there every night with a glass of wine when I got home. I thank my gorgeous daughter for just being gorgeous.”

The other two nominees that went home certainly presented formidable competition, but it was hard to deny “King’s” dominance. Edouard F. Henriques and Yolanda Toussieng had been nominated for “Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World.” This was Henriques’ second of three nominations; he would be tapped in 2011 for working on another Peter Weir-helmed film, “The Way Back,” and his first nomination came from work on “The Cell” in 2001. Meanwhile, Toussieng won two Oscars in back-to-back-years: 1994 for “Mrs. Doubtfire” and 1995 for “Ed Wood”; she also would be nominated for working with Henriques and Greg Funk on “The Way Back.”

Completing the trio of long-titled nominated movies were Ve Neill and Martin Samuel, who were nominated for their work on “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Neill already was well-stocked with Oscars — she has three, from “Beetlejuice” (1989, shared with Steve LaPorte and Robert Short); “Mrs. Doubtfire” (shared with her competitor this year Toussieng and Greg Cannom); and “Ed Wood” (shared with Toussieng and Rick Baker).

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