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This is what I wrote for the Sunday Times about some of my Cannes memories…
It was the 2nd day of the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival when I found myself inside the grand Theatre Lumiere of the hallowed Palais des Festival, heels in hand, hair dishevelled, unable to breathe. It being my first time at the world’s most prestigious film festival – my first time as one of 4000 journalists jostling for Julianne Moore’s attention – meant it was also my first time learning about the tiered-credential system that put me at the (almost) bottom of the wrung with limited access into the films and film-stars I was to report on. With 5 minutes to go until the doors closed, I, along with about a hundred other people, had only just managed to literally squeeze into the opening film after an hour’s uncertain-we’d-get-in wait. Flashes of photographs I’d seen over the years of the glamorous international film festival played in my mind, as I was pushed up the stairs by other bodies rushing past me – learning also, for the first time, the difference in manners across various countries. ‘This is so glamorous,’ I thought, as I wiped the sweat from my brow and elbowed my way through to find a seat right at the very back corner of the theatre.
 
As a journalist covering the most popular of film festivals – the place where A-list stars and auteur directors go to showcase their finest work, I quickly caught on, like those colleagues who’d been coming to the fest long before me, glamorous is not quite the word to describe the event that takes place in the south of France every May. Oh sure, it’s glamorous for the designer-dressed and stylist-primped stars, and for those reading glossy magazines and tabloid websites at home. But for a reporter trying to file two stories twice a day for twelve days, it can be a harried and quite startling experience. Until you figure out a Cannes groove (and move up the credential rung), it’s overwhelming, and altogether unglamorous, trying to be everywhere all at once.
Over the years, I’ve missed out seeing U2 perform on the steps of the Palais des Festivals, I didn’t catch a souvenir hat from Spielberg as he tossed dozens of them out into the crowd at the premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and I have yet to bag my way into a Vanity Fair party. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 10 years of covering the Cannes Film Festival, it’s that the stuff you miss out on doesn’t mean that much in the face of all that you do get to experience.
Here then, are ten of my stand-out moments – both weird and full of wonder – that I’ll think back on fondly, as I sip champagne on my yacht overlooking the Cote D’Azur at this year’s fest (just kidding – I’ll probably be standing in a line somewhere, inhaling a coffee and a pain au chocolat in time to make the next screening). Just as long as it sounds glamorous, that’s all that counts.
10. The Time I Became Paparazzi because of Brad and Angie…
Hollywood’s hottest couple take the dial from “0 to 100 real quick” when they’re in town. One bright and sunny afternoon in 2008, I’d been walking back to the apartment where I was staying when I turned the corner and saw a huge crowd of people had gathered in the street where I was headed. Brad and Angie, pregnant at the time with her twins, had been inside the exclusive baby clothing store, Bonpoint, two doors down from my apartment. ‘How silly of all these people, standing outside gawking,’ I thought, in the same moment as I felt my own arm lift up, camera in tow. As a journalist, I should be recording this, I reasoned, edging closer. You know, to report how very blonde little Shiloh’s locks were, and the way the fedora sat perfectly on Papa Pitt’s head. When the family exited the store, the frenzy turned delirious, with cries of “Braaaad! Angelinaaaaa!” turning the usually-quiet street into a scene from the pages of Us Weekly. They got into a car and drove away. Just like that, they were gone, and I felt my cheeks flush from the excitement. How very silly of these people, indeed.
9. The Time I Met Robert Pattinson before he was Edward Cullen…
Before Lee Daniels directed Oprah in The Butler, and brought us Cookie Lyon in Empire, he put a make-up-less Mariah Carey on the big screen and instructed Zac Efron to pee on Nicole Kidman, in his films Precious and The Paperboy, both of which debuted at Cannes. Before Ben Whishaw was Q in the Bond franchise, he was John Keats in the fest’s 2009 opener Bright Star. And before Robert Pattinson became a vampire, he was a lesser-known Half-blood, in Cannes to preview footage of the first ever Twilight movie. As we hugged for a photo opp, during which he bent down and endearingly said, “I need to come to your height,” I heard a small group of girls who’d gathered at the entrance of the beach where we were standing, scream at the top of their lungs. A small but telling indication of the level of fame he would soon go on to garner.
8. The Time I Chased Tarantino Down the Street…
The Cannes Effect can be quite crazy when it first takes over. I remember South African comedian Dave Kibuuka joining a bunch of photographers running after Pamela Anderson down the Croisette, and then telling me afterwards, he didn’t know why. “What was I going to do once I’d caught up to her?” he laughed. I laughed too, until the next day when I found myself chasing Quentin Tarantino, after spotting him at the Carlton Hotel and saying hello. I figured if I could speak to him a little more, maybe I could try arrange an interview. This was before I knew how the whole game operated – where you have to be nominated by the film company to do an interview. With hopeful naiveté, I dashed after him as his black-and-white sneakers jumped into a car. There was no way I was going to keep up, and I thought of Dave’s chase as I stopped. What was I going to do if I caught up to him – shout through his window? I could only laugh to myself, a few days later, when I sat down in front of him for an interview organized by his film’s South African distributor back home – all with the click of a mouse.
7. The Time a Danish Director Silenced Us All…
A journalist faux pas at Cannes is nothing too special; it’s far more outrageous coming from a filmmaker or actor. President of the 2008 jury, Sean Penn chain-smoking his way through a press conference in defiance of France’s strict anti-smoking laws was nothing compared to Danish director Lars Von Trier’s audacious actions. One minute he was waxing lyrical about how great an actress his leading lady Kristen Dunst was in his film Melancholia, the next he was seemingly admitting sympathy for Adolf Hitler. It was a moment even those journalists with a lot to say were stunned. Cannes banned Von Trier after the incident, lifting his persona non grata status only upon his apology, but it’s gone down in the history of the fest’s controversies, along with Heelgate last year and the year before when a Ukrainian reporter crawled under America Ferrera’s dress on the red carpet.
6. The Time Leonardo DiCaprio made My Knees Weak…
Before going to Cannes, I considered myself fairly adept at press conferences. But put Leonardo DiCaprio and a microphone in front of me and my thoughts aren’t quite as clear. I knew I wanted to ask something about climate change, when I took the mic, as he was in Cannes with the documentary An Inconvenient Truth. I felt my mouth go dry and my knees knock the seat in front of me, as I stood up to ask my question. I heard myself try to break the ice a little with a joke about how we South Africans appreciated his accent in Blood Diamond, which seemed to work because his resultant smile gave me the chance to re-gain my composure. I’ve interviewed the Oscar-winning actor a few times since, and while I no longer get weak at the knees, I treasure the memory of what it was like in the days before I became a certified Professional Name-Dropper and use it as a reminder not to ever get too jaded.
5. The Time Mike Myers became Forever my Hero…
He may not have made a (non-animated) movie in forever, but whenever Mike Myers decides to release Austin Powers 4, I’ll be his biggest supporter. Covering the glitzy amFAr Fundraiser, hosted by Sharon Stone, is a hard task when you’re not one of the major TV shows like E! or Entertainment Tonight. One year, I was placed at the bottom of the red carpet, where I could barely catch any of the celebrities walking past because my arm was too short to reach over the barricade. Seeing me struggle, Myers, who was there for Inglourious Basterds took my microphone out of my hand, and began talking directly into it, answering questions. Ms Stone was walking behind him, and to continue the goodness, he passed the mic onto a French journalist who then placed it in front of her – making not just my story but my night, too.
4. The Time Schwarzenegger Almost Ran me Over…
Stars will do a lot in the name of promotion. Sacha Baron Cohen has walked down the Croisette, the boardwalk-like strip of Cannes in front of the beaches, in his barely-there Borat costume, and Jim Carey has brought snow to the south of France. But last year, some of the world’s biggest action movie stars – from Sylvester Stallone to Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Harrison Ford – drove in tanks down the street, for The Expendables 3. The combination of all that star power was blinding and when I stepped in to get a closer look, I almost had my toe ridden over by the tank Schwarzenegger, also part of the line-up, was driving. 
The Time Salma Hayek Blew Me Away…
I’ve yet to see a woman win the coveted Palme D’Or prize in the time I’ve been attending the fest – except for when Blue is the Warmest Color’s two lead actresses shared the prize with the film’s director. It’s been something the festival needs to work on, following New Zealand director Jane Campion’s 1993 win. Using one of the best quotes in movie history, she exclaimed: “Show them the money!” over and over, as she used facts and figures to prove the monetary value, and sense, in championing female-driven projects. 
2. The Time a Foreign Film Made me a New Foreign Friend…
Tickets to the red carpet premieres are not always easy to come by, and every day of the fest people stand at the doors of the Palais, with signs begging for tickets to the night’s big screening. I got lucky one year, and had been given an extra ticket to the closing night ceremony. There was a person at the front of the palais in need of a ticket so I motioned for her to join me. She didn’t speak English and I could only speak un petit peu of French, so we hand-signalled our way through taking pictures of each other on the red carpet and watching Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, and afterwards, shared a Nutella crepe before she hugged me goodbye, saying merci beaucoup for the fiftieth time. I’ve made many friends from all over the world since first setting foot in Cannes (indeed my best friend is one I met the night we both snuck into an Ivana Trump party), but the one I made that night, even though I don’t see her anymore (she didn’t have Facebook), was a true highlight. To riff off Humphrey Bogart, “we’ll always have Cannes.”
1. The Time Life, Above All got a Two Thumbs Up…
For a film lover going to Cannes, very little tops the feeling of seeing a truly great movie, and the experience that’s left when the lights go up and you feel like something inside has shifted. When the credits began rolling after South African-born director Oliver Schmidtz’ moving drama Life, Above All, debuted in 2010, the audience rose to its feet, clapping solidly for ten minutes. Roger Ebert had sat near me during the screening and when I asked the revered critic, who died three years later after battling thyroid cancer, what he thought of the film, he gave me his trademark two thumbs up. It was a moment that made me feel as proud a South African as if I’d made the film myself.

If you a runner in New York and you’ve ever hit the streets with Bridgerunners, you’ll have seen Power Malu – his hair and big heart make him hard to miss. Seeing him do pull-ups on traffic lights in the middle of the run also makes him a notable character. Aside from being a runner, he’s an emcee and a True Yorker, who has a deep passion for the history of the city.
I met him for a run on the Lower East Side, to find out more about how running impacts his life. Power is part of Bridgerunners and one of my absolute running highlights was hitting the streets with them to celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2014. It was a pure celebration as about 300 of us hit the streets, making those sitting in cafes and bars outside jealous as we ran on by, high on the good vibes and crew love. The influential running group has been instrumental in the Bridge the Gap movement – seeing running crews from around the world pay homage to each other and hang out together all over the world.

For more on Power Malu, follow him here, and for all the deets on Bridgerunners, head here

  
                June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016

Four! And Three! And Two! And One!
Broad City, starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, is one of the funniest shows around – and not just because of its uncanny ability to be spot-on about what it’s like to live in NYC, but because it effortlessly encompasses the ups and downs of living as a 20-something, heck, a 30-something, in today’s millennial era, with the show taking digs at sexism, racism, elitism, and a bunch of other -isms.
By now, the story of how the sitcom came to be is well known – having been adapted from an online series the two comedians and friends, Abbi and Ilana, created when both of them were attending the Upright Citizens Brigade. Amy Poehler, who ended up as one of the executive producers of the show, got to know about the web series and played mentor to the pair, and now Broad City is on its third season on Comedy Central.
Abbi and Ilana won me over with their hilarious skit about subway encounters, and since then I’ve been known to scream out “yassss, kween!” more times than I’d like to admit, much as I dislike the colloquialisms of today that insist on re-spelling and re-pronouncing everything. With the third season being in full swing, I wanted to run to some of my favourite places featured in some of my favourite episodes. This season has stepped up in terms of the jokes, but also the cameos – Vanessa Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Hillary Clinton et al.
Here is the video…
And here is the route…
Beacon’s Closet to Green Hill Food Co-Op to Hillary Clinton HQ! Ignore the time it’ll take – that’s for walking. Really slowly, according to Google. Also, don’t make my mistake and go to the residential part of Pierrepont, but rather stick to the map and go towards Cadman Plaza! (Coincidentally, this part of Brooklyn was where I got horrendously lost during the OSR Midnight Half too – I just seem to have a block in this part of town…)
And when you’re done, pop by One Girl Cookies in Dumbo for one of the best slices of cake I’ve had anywhere in the city. Pro-tip for Summer – their iced coffee is made with coffee ice-cubes.
You’re welcome!

 

When you live in New York City, it’s easy to slip into avoid-Times-Square mode. I often have to go there for movie screenings, on a weekend night, and I’m often late, so the slow-traipsing, wide-eyed people out and about in that part of the city can be pretty frustrating. But avoiding Times Square is just no way to live life – especially if you’re a fan of theatre, living and breathing theatre, where the best of the best come to ply their wares and bare their souls.
This Wednesday, my friend Stevie and I made a double bill out of Eclipsed and The Crucible. One, an off-Broadway Public Theatre transplant (just like another little production you may have heard of called Hamilton), the other, an oft-performed classic of both stage and screen. Eclipsed is one of two recently written by Danai Gurira, directed by Liesl Tommy and stars Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o in a story set within the Liberian Civil War. Nyong’o is one of five women in the production, which is currently showing at the John Golden Theatre.
The set is sparse, with most of the play taking place within the four corners of a shack where three of the women are being held as “wives” of war generals. The story of war from the experience of girl child soldiers is one that isn’t really heard and so that already makes this an important story. A necessary one. While the cast is more than adequate in relating the story, I can’t help but wonder why I wasn’t more moved by the production. I am a great fan of Gurira and of Nyong’o, but for some reason, I didn’t have the kind of soul-shifting experience I expected to with a story of this nature – where a girl must face the question of her own fate. Should she take up arms and hurt and kill, or be hurt and killed herself? Weighty, almighty questions.
Perhaps it’s because I learned about atrocities of this kind of war in documentaries and current affairs shows in South Africa, from a young age, and so I needed a little more from the story itself. But this is the first time a Broadway play was written and directed by women of African descent, so my qualms are small in relation to the need for as many people as possible to see this show. It still asks its audience to think a little deeper. The title of the play led me to think of how much the lead character, played by Nyong’o, the Girl in question, allows fear to ‘eclipse’ her true nature in the most harrowing of circumstances. 
In following up Eclipsed with The Crucible, Stevie and I found ourselves confronting fear in a different form. Set in the late 1600’s (although this production is staged a little later), the story written by American playwright Arthur Miller in the 1950’s explores the fear of a town seemingly besieged by witchcraft. Originally set as an allegory to McCarthyism and communism, it gets deep down into the belly of the beast of fear – how it turns logic illogical, rational to irrational, comfort to chaos. This particular production, directed by Ivo van Hove, who last worked on David Bowie’s Lazarus, features an all-star cast, from Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan as Abigail Williams to Ben Whishaw and Sophie Okonedo as John and Elizabeth Procter. Tavi Gevinson, known for the blog-turned-magazine Rookie, is remarkable as Mary Warren. Whishaw, who usually plays soft-spoken characters is a tour de force here, making full use of the stage in his anguish, while Okonedo is his foil, repressing all that she feels. Ronan is solid and tempestuous, but for me, not the highlight of the production. The fear and tension created by the ensemble becomes another character in the story, and it’s an intense experience.
With both productions being heavy on subject matter and having deep relevance for our times still today – witness the impact of Boko Haram in Africa and the political games being played in the run-up to the US elections, I recommend filling the time in between with some light-fare, like sushi at City Kitchen, or perhaps a screening of Zootopia, as we did. Fear does too make an appearance in this latest animated offering from Disney, but it is combatted by a bunny who’s can-do attitude is immeasurably inspiring – a bunny who wouldn’t think twice about venturing into Times Square at any time.

Eclipsed is on at the John Gordon Theatre while The Crucible is at the Walter Kerr. And Zootopia is currently playing on a big screen near you!