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Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

Palestinian museum opens without artifacts.  The other side of the story.

“Oh, The Irony! Palestinian Museum Opens With No Exhibits,” exclaimed the conservative tabloid Israel Today, before making the staggering claim that an empty museum symbolises a people without culture.

While unusual, the opening of a museum without exhibits is not without precedent. The Jewish Museum in Berlin, for example, opened in 1999, but did not receive any artefacts until 2001. In this case, the opening celebrated the completion of an iconic piece of contemporary design by architect Daniel Libeskind. The building alone drew more than 350,000people, demonstrating that a museum is more than the artefacts it holds.

The article in Haaretz has been the only report that I have come across that places the Palestinian Museum in this context.
Like Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, the Palestinian Museum is a striking example of contemporary design. Architect Roisin Heneghan, whose Dublin-based firm Heneghan Peng won the project in an international competition in 2011, sought to integrate the building with the stepped hillside on which it stands. The museum is approached through a series of terraced gardens featuring cereals, fruit trees and aromatic herbs that represent a horticultural history of the region. The building rises from the summit of the hill as three elegant limestone triangles with glass panels that mirror the terraces below.

A historian’s assessment of the new “Roots"

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is the Blue and Gold Professor of Black Studies and History at the University of Delaware, and she directs the program in African American history at the terbrary Company of Philadelphia.

For the past four nights, Americans have been captivated by Roots. In every episode, viewers have been reminded of the importance of tradition—the passing down of practice and the retelling of stories from our ancestors. In January 1977 I watched the original Roots with my parents and sister, and this week my husband and I watched the new version with our son. Journalist, genealogist, and griot Alex Haley gave America a story that is more than a cultural phenomenon; it is now a tradition.

The new “Birth of a Nation” is nothing like the original. It’s the story of Nat Turner’s Rebellion.

Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

Get ready to talk about “The Birth of a Nation.” In the coming months, if it feels like the story of Nat Turner and his Southampton County, Virginia slave rebellion is a topic of conversation in places beyond the film world, that’s by design.
On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Film Festival featured a panel discussion of Nate Parker’s film, one of the first public venues for the film since it took Sundance by storm back in January. As one of the first events on the inaugural night in the festival’s new home at the Arclight Theatres in Culver City, a fresh conversation was a fitting way to kick off a new era.

New York Times Roundtable

New film celebrates resistance fighters in France during World War 2 (press release)

 THE INNOCENTS is based on the true story of heroic French doctor and Resistance fighter Madeleine Pauliac. Selected for the 2016 Sundance Film Festivaland winner of the Audience Award at COLCOA 2016, THE INNOCENTS is scheduled to open on Friday, July 1 in New York (Lincoln Plaza Cinema and Angelika Film Center) and Los Angeles with a national roll out to follow.
Warsaw, December 1945: the second World War is finally over and Mathilde is treating the last of the French survivors of the German camps. When a panicked Benedictine nun appears at the clinic one night begging Mathilde to follow her back to the convent, what she finds there is shocking: a holy sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy. A non-believer, Mathilde enters the sisters’ fiercely private world, dictated by the rituals of their order and the strict Rev. Mother (Agata Kulesza, Ida). Fearing the shame of exposure, the hostility of the new anti-Catholic Communist government, and facing an unprecedented crisis of faith, the nuns increasingly turn to Mathilde as their belief and traditions clash with harsh realities.

Black heroes (and sheroes) were athletes before they were actors

This year, Hollywood continues belatedly integrating the nation and the world’s fantasy life as only summer blockbuster movies can: Black people will bust ghosts, blow up bad guys and stand up for the American way while wearing tights and capes.

But long before Hollywood embraced the possibility that black people could be heroes or superheroes, black athletes played those roles in sports’ unscripted dramas.

During the 1930s and 1940s, most black male Hollywood actors shuffled along from one demeaning role to the next. But in 1938, Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling, a thunderous attack on Nazi Germany, three years before America entered World War II. In the ring, Louis played a role that Hollywood reserved for Gary Cooper and other white actors: the man of few words and quick, decisive action.

And in the years that followed Louis’ triumph, black male athletes starred in their version of Cooper’s film classic High Noon. In boxing rings. On Olympic tracks. On the baseball diamonds. On the football fields. And on basketball courts: The greats from Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali to Hank Aaron and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar faced down the bad guys as the anxious townspeople, the sports fans, looked on. Further, the black athletes faced down anti-black racism, too. They shocked the world.

New exhibit in DC features proposed amendments to the Constitution (some are very crazy!)

An amendment proposed in 1846 would have the President chosen by lot—pulling a ball representing a candidate out of a bowl. Another one would have the President chosen from among retiring senators.

After one member of Congress shot another in 1838, someone thought duelers ought not to be public officials, so an amendment was introduced denying duelers the right to hold public office.

These are just a few of the amendments that have been proposed for the Constitution over the years. They range from the absurd, silly, and ridiculous to those aimed at garnering publicity for its sponsor in an election campaign.

Of those proposed, only 27 made it into the Constitution. The latest one, the Twenty-seventh Amendment, dealing with the pay of members of Congress, took about 203 years—it was originally supposed to be part of the Bill of Rights.

All proposed amendments are part of a new exhibit that opened at the National Archives Museum in downtown Washington, DC, on March 11, 2016: “Amending America.” It will run through September 4, 2017, as part of our ongoing efforts to promote civic education through our various public programs.