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With ‘Striking Vipers’, ‘Black Mirror’ Embraces The Complexity Of Human Relationships.

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Black Mirror is not a show we turn to for optimism, victory, or sex positivity, but Season 5’s “Striking Vipers” somehow has all three. An episode that could have been stigmatizing or even homophobic instead leaves us to unpack a rich friendship and open our minds to new relationships and how to make them work.

“Striking Vipers” starts with college sweethearts Danny (Anthony Mackie) and Theo (Nicole Beharie), and their roommate Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Years later, Danny and Theo are married, and Karl makes a sporadic reappearance in their lives to gift his old bestie the video game Striking Vipers for his birthday.

That night, the old friends enter into Vipers’ simulated reality together (still unclear what the controllers are for), intending to beat the shit out of each other’s avatars – Roxette and Lance (Pom Klementieff and Ludi Lin) – but instead find themselves sharing a passionate kiss within the game.

They play it off as a fluke, which is easy to do since they themselves did nothing. But when they re-enter the game, there’s no time wasted: Their avatars smash faces immediately and have wild, passionate sex. And so begins a virtual affair in which neither man is physically cheating on his significant other, but his mind wanders off to what turns out to be the best sex he’s ever had.

This is where “Vipers” deconstructs and challenges the very language we have to describe what’s going on with Danny and Karl. Is it an affair if you haven’t physically touched anyone? They are quite literally friends with benefits, and have achieved the impossible goal of keeping those benefits entirely separate from their “real” lives. None of the messages they exchange in the real world are sexual; they read exactly like two buddies scheduling video game night, and what happens in the game stays in the game.

And of course, the ultimate question, which Black Mirror gladly turns on its head: “Fellas, is it gay if…” Is it gay if you have crazy intense sex in a simulated reality video game with your bro’s avatar? Is it gay if the avatars have heterosexual sex? Is the whole thing just next-level phone sex – creating physical sensations with virtual scenarios?

Danny and Karl ask themselves these questions and communicate up front. They quickly dismiss any qualms about their sexuality, but doubts resurface as game nights continue, as they grow distracted and pull away from their real-life partners, thinking about nights in the game with Roxette and Lance. This is the most Black Mirror aspect of the entire episode, the notion of technology creating distance between relationships in the physical world, even if Danny and Karl’s friendship grows stronger.

In its greatest twist of all, “Striking Vipers” does not end in devastation.

Danny ceases all physical intimacy with Theo, and only over their heartbreaking anniversary dinner does he realize how precarious his situation has become. There is no one else, he tells her, but he cannot bring himself to say that he still wants her physically. The hidden world of Vipers, which he thought he had compartmentalized, is proving to be his detriment.

The men finally conclude, in a display of surprising emotional maturity (and after an impulsive “I love you” from Karl via Roxette), that they should kiss in real life to see if their chemistry exists outside of Vipers. If they do feel an emotional connection, they’ll reassess their sexualities and relationship. If not, they have to face these unusual circumstances head-on.

The kiss builds up with believable confusion and nerves from both men, and in the end it yields nothing. It’s not, as Danny suggests, “an us thing,” at least not an “us” that doesn’t also include Lance and Roxette. While Danny is ready and willing to reset their friendship, Karl can’t let go of the game. “It’s burrowed right in here,” he says, jabbing at his temple, and then his best friend decides to beat that burrowed thought right out of him.

The brief fight is difficult to watch, harkening to the bullying and physical fights we’ve seen fictional characters and real people suffer due to sexualities that society doesn’t accept or understand. Even the poster for “Striking Vipers” directly recalls Moonlight, in which a young black man hides and ignores his sexuality before quietly accepting it.

In its greatest twist of all, “Striking Vipers” does not end in the devastation of two relationships, but in their successful integration. Once a year, Danny gets to join Karl in Striking Vipers, and Theo gets a night off from married life to explore the desires she admitted to cutting herself off from in order to prioritize their family. The arrangement carries shades of polyamory and open relationships, but with rules and time limits that work – at least for now.

In a generally toothless season, “Vipers” at least provides comfort in its ending. It’s one of Black Mirror’s most hopeful episodes, placing faith in our capacity as humans to adapt to technology mutating relationships. We may already live in a world where the best, most “transcendent” sex a person experiences is alone or involves a screen of some sort, and “Vipers” suggests that this can coexist with established practices like monogamy and marriage. It’s a wild ride that gives us plenty to think about, and a new reference point for unique relationships the world might finally be ready to accept.

Source: Mashable.

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Oscars: Ghana Selects ‘Azali’ for International Feature Film Category.

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Kwabena Gyansah's story of a teenaged girl's escape from an arranged marriage to a 70 year-old farmer is the African country's first ever Oscar submission.
Ghana has selected Kwabena Gyansah's Azali as its submission for the international feature film category at the 2020 Oscars.

Starring Asana Alhassan in her debut role, the film follows the journey of 14 year-old Amina from a village in Northern Ghana to the slums of the bustling capital, Accra.

Amina escapes her impending marriage to a 70-year-old farmer but finds herself on a truck being trafficked to Burkina Faso. A cruel twist of fate sees her rescued from the truck but flung into the bustling city of Accra. Amina has to choose between surviving in Accra and returning to her village and marriage.

Written by Gwandellen Quartey and directed by Kwabena Gyansah, Azali is produced by Ananse Entertainment with support from Motion Revolution, both Ghanaian companies.

It is the first time Ghana has submitted a film to the Oscars, although the country has recently become a production hub for international productions, including Beast of No Nation, Forgiving Earth and the upcoming USA network television show Treadstone Starring Jeremy Irvine.

Professor Linus Abraham, chair of Ghana's Oscar selection committee, told said: "Azaliis a consciousness raising film [and] we are very honored that for the first time, Ghana has found a film worthy enough to represent it at the 92nd Oscars. This has been a long time coming and it is a testament to the growth of the Ghana film industry. We believe this will enhance the image of Ghanaian films and encourage more co-productions and quality filmmaking."

Ghanaian-American filmmaker, Leila Djansi who serves as an advisor to the Ghanaian selection committee, told The Hollywood Reporter that language and resources had historically been major obstacles to the growth of the Ghanaian film industry.

"In a country with diverse languages, marketing your film is easier if it’s in English because that’s the official language of the country and majority of the continent, which has stifled a lot of voices.

"Foreign film markets have not had interest in African films beyond those that show war, extreme poverty or white saviors and this also largely limited the creative voice and of course, income. But things seem to be changing as more Africans embrace their local dialects. This will strengthen the identity of African cinema.”

The 92nd Academy Awards take place on February 9, 2020.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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Jennifer Lopez Stripper Film ‘Hustlers’ Banned In Malaysia

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A film about scheming strippers starring Jennifer Lopez has been banned in Malaysia because of its "excessive obscene content".

The country's film censorship board said Hustlers' naked breasts, erotic dances and scenes featuring drugs made it "not suitable for public screening".

Square Box Pictures, the company distributing Hustlers in Malaysia, confirmed the ban on social media.

The film is currently riding high in both the US and UK box office charts.

Pole dancing in film role 'hardest thing' for J Lo
In Hustlers, a group of exotic dancers set out to fleece their wealthy clients.

The film, which also stars Constance Wu and Julia Stiles alongside Lizzo and Cardi B in smaller roles, is based on a true story and was inspired by a New York Magazine article that went viral in 2015.

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) gave the film a 15 certificate due to its "sexualised nudity, strong sex references, language [and] drug misuse".

Earlier this year gay sex scenes in Rocketman were censored in Malaysia ahead of the Elton John biopic's release there.

Scenes were also removed from the film in Russia, while it received an outright ban in Egypt, Samoa and the Cook Islands.

Source: BBC News

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A New Netflix Docuseries Heads Inside Bill Gates’ Brain, But It Keeps Getting Sidetracked.

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Software magnate Bill Gates is one of the most famous people in the world, but the public barely knows him. Gates has been a household name for decades for two reasons: he was the face of Microsoft during an era when the company’s products became ubiquitous, and, perhaps more notably, he’s very, very rich. Yet, he’s never been the kind of celebrity whose personal life and political opinions are splashed across the tabloids and social media. And unlike the late Steve Jobs — his contemporary and occasional rival — Gates is rarely discussed in terms of some ineffable mystique.

The title of Davis Guggenheim’s three-part Netflix documentary Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (which debuts on Friday, September 20th) speaks to its subject’s opacity. What makes one of the world’s wealthiest people tick? What formed him? How did he come to dominate a fiercely competitive industry so thoroughly that the US government sued Microsoft under antitrust statutes?

Guggenheim gets into all that… sort of. Over the course of nearly three hours, Inside Bill’s Brain covers the basics of Gates’ life: his childhood, education, Microsoft stewardship, marriage to his wife Melinda, and the charitable foundation they co-manage.

At times, though, it seems like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is this doc’s real subject. Each episode of Inside Bill’s Brain focuses on one of the foundation’s major initiatives: improving sewage conditions in developing countries, eradicating polio, and developing a cleaner, safer form of nuclear power. Each of the three parts shifts rapidly between interviews, biographical material, and fly-on-the-wall footage of the Gates team’s philanthropic missions. Guggenheim eschews traditional transitions, and instead jumps from subject to subject, even when there’s no clear connection between them.

The point, apparently, is to replicate Bill Gates’ thought processes. Having spent most of his adult life (and even some of his teenage years) juggling multiple complicated projects, Gates doesn’t have the kind of mind that functions in neat, straight lines. At one point, Melinda even laughs at this series’s title, saying that her husband’s brain is as cluttered and chaotic as the cheap apartment he once shared with Paul Allen when the two were building Microsoft.

Guggenheim’s approach is frequently frustrating. The director has multiple worthwhile stories to tell here, which may explain why Inside Bill’s Brain is being released as a series rather than as a feature film. (Another reason: Netflix seems to favor the multipart format over a single movie.) But whenever one of those stories starts to build some narrative momentum, the doc skips to another, and then to another, and then back again. Inside Bill’s Brain often feels more superficial than it actually is because it switches topics so freely.

Given what the series’s title promises, viewers may also be disappointed that so much of Inside Bill’s Brain is about his charity work, not about his life, personality, or beliefs. But that really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with Guggenheim’s other documentaries. He won an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth, his film about former Vice President Al Gore’s efforts to educate the world about climate change. He also made Waiting for “Superman” about the flaws in the American public school system, and He Named Me Malala about Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel-winning Pakistani advocate for women’s rights. Guggenheim has a history of using his work as a form of social advocacy.

He isn’t turned off by wonky details, either. Inside Bill’s Brain risks losing its audience with its first episode, which keeps the Gates biography to a minimum, and instead dedicates a lot of its run time to various designs for better public toilets that are meant to improve the water supply in poorer villages and neighborhoods. The episode demands some fascination with plumbing and a high tolerance for images of fecal matter — both in graphic video footage and in the animated illustrations Guggenheim uses throughout the series.

If Netflix subscribers only have time to watch one Inside Bill’s Brain episode, they should pick the second, which comes closest to doing some “decoding.” The scenes dealing with Gates’ philanthropy largely take a back seat to reflections on the most significant decade of his life. In the 1970s, he and his high school classmate Paul Allen began making money with their programming skills and started talking about plans to develop software for the burgeoning personal computer market. Gates dropped out of Harvard in 1975, worried that if he waited until after he graduated to launch Microsoft, he’d arrive too late.

Part two of Guggenheim’s documentary gets into Gates’ preternatural drive to succeed, which, in the early years of Microsoft, had him memorizing license plate numbers in the company’s parking lot to track who was staying late. (A veteran of those days recalls the running joke that Microsoft jobs were “part-time” because employees could choose which 12 hours of the day they wanted to work.) Gates’ obsessive work habits eventually drove a wedge between him and Allen, and the obvious regret he has about how that friendship ending provides some of Inside Bill’s Brain’s more emotional moments.

The third episode could’ve used some of that emotion. The more biographical moments in part three deal with how Bill and Melinda met and married and how Gates handled accusations that he’d turned Microsoft into a monopoly. The billionaire is much more guarded in this set of interviews. He comes to life more in the episode’s other scenes, which have to do with potentially revolutionary ways of generating cheap energy.

In the end, Guggenheim fails to reconcile his competing agendas: to take an up-close and personal look one of this era’s most important cultural figures and to tally all the ways Gates is trying to leave a lasting, positive legacy. It doesn’t help that the director puts so much of himself into the doc, making his conversations with Gates seem like two amiable acquaintances shooting the breeze, rather than like a journalist pushing hard for meaningful answers.

Inside Bill’s Brain does have some fleeting insights into who Gates is and what he’s accomplished — again, mostly in episode two. But there’s a moment in the series where Guggenheim and Gates talk about the latter’s periodic “think weeks” where he goes off the grid with a stack of books and tries to open himself up to new ideas, largely unrelated to his daily work. A more focused version of this docuseries, with the same title and intentions, might’ve started here. Left alone with his thoughts, who is Bill Gates? Maybe someday, a better documentary will answer that question.

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Awards and Ceremoinies

“Before The Vows’’, ” The Burial of Kojo” Bags Nominations At AMMAs 19

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''Before The Vows'' and '' The Burial of Kojo'', directed by US based Ghanaian film directors, Nicole Amartefio and Blitz the Ambassador, respectively, have been nominated for this year's African Movie Academy Awards.
Unike Nicole, who has a webseries ''An African City'' to her directing credit, ''The Burial of Kojo'' is Blitz's debut directional film.

The African Movie Academy Awards scheme is organized to recognize and reward excellene in creativity in Africa.

The Burial Of Kojo
Before The Vows

Check out the list of nominees below;

Efere Ozako Award For Best Short Film

  1. The Fisherman (Ghana)
  2. A Tune of Kora (SENEGAL)
  3. ICYASHA (Rwanda)
  4. NAMOW2018 (KENYA)
  5. Vagabond (GHANA)
  6. Measure of a Woman (SA)
  7. Mma Moeketsi (SA)
  8. Motswakwa (BOTSWANA)
  9. Tonight’s Opening Act (EGYPT)
  10. Hello Rain (NIGERIA)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Animation

  1. Kitwana Journey – Kenya
  2. Choices – Nigeria
  3. Isolated- Kenya
  4. Afrogames – Burkina Faso AMAA 2019 Award For Best Documentary
  5. Djambar, Sembene the Unsubmissive (Cameroun)
  6. The State Against Mandela (South Africa)
  7. Golden Fish, African Fish (Senegal)
  8. Skin (Nigeria)
  9. Khartoum Offside (Sudan)
  10. Le loups d’or de Balole (Burkina Faso)
  11. Sur Les Traces de Mamani Abdoulaye (Niger)
  12. No Gold For Katsaka (Burkina Faso)
  13. Mother, I am Suffocating, This Is My Last Film About You (Lesotho)

Ousmane Sembene AMAA 2019 Award For Best Film in an African Language

  1. Makeroom (Nigeria)
  2. Mabata Bata (Mozambique)
  3. Rafiki (Kenya)
  4. Bahasha -The Envelope (Tanzania)
  5. Azali (Ghana)

Michael Anyiam Osigwe AMAA 2019 Award For Best Film by an African-Born Director Living Abroad

  1. Julius Amedume - Rattlesnakes
  2. Tosin Coker - Lara and the Beats
  3. Robert O. Peters – Makeroom

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Diaspora Short Film

  1. Bail (UK)
  2. Oath Bound (UK)
  3. Fevah (USA)
  4. I Am Superman (Brazil)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Diaspora Documentary

  1. Wax Print 1 FABRIC, 4 continent (UK)
  2. The Guardian of No Return (Guadalope)
  3. Dare to Dream (USA/CUBA)
  4. Drugs as Weapons Against Us (USA)
  5. My Friend Fela (Brazil)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Diaspora Narrative Feature

  1. Nine Nights (UK)
  2. Olympia (USA)
  3. Traffik (US)
  4. Hero (Trinidad and Tobago/Canada)
  5. Sprinter (Jamaica)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Production Design

  1. Redemption (Mozambique)
  2. Rafiki (Kenya)
  3. Ellen, The Ellen Parkies Stories (S. Africa)
  4. Urgent (Morroco)
  5. Burial of Kojo (Ghana)
  6. Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  7. Mercy of the Jungle (Rwanda)
  8. Delivery Boy (Nigeria) AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Costume Design
  9. Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  10. Light in the Dark (Nigeria)
  11. Rafiki (Kenya)
  12. King of Boys (Nigeria)
  13. Lara and the Beats (Nigeria)
  14. Urgent (Morocco)
  15. Mabata Bata (Mozambique) AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Make-Up
  16. Makeroom (Nigeria)
  17. Gold Statue (Nigeria)
  18. Veronica’s Wish (Uganda)
  19. Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  20. Before the Vows (GHANA)
  21. Mercy of the Jungle (Rwanda)
  22. The Burial of Kojo (Ghana) AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Soundtrack
  23. Subira (Kenya)
  24. Mabata Bata (Mozambique)
  25. Farewell Ella Bella (S. AFRICA)
  26. Mercy of the Jungle (Rwanda)
  27. Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  28. Lara and the Beats (Nigeria)
  29. The Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  30. Redemption (Mozambique)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Visual Effects

  1. Makeroom (Nigeria)
  2. Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  3. Knockout Blessing (Nigeria)
  4. Mabata Bata (Mozambique)
  5. The Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  6. The King of Boys (Nigeria)
  7. Burial of Kojo (Ghana)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Sound

  1. The Last Victim (S. Africa)
  2. Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  3. Makeroom (Nigeria)
  4. The Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  5. The Burial of Kojo (Ghana)
  6. Urgent (Morocco)
  7. Mabata Bata (Mozambique)
  8. Redemption (Mozambique) AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Cinematography
  9. Mabata Bata (Mozambique)
  10. Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  11. Mother, I am Suffocating, This Is My Last Film About You (Lesotho)
  12. Redemption (Mozambique)
  13. Rafiki (Kenya)
  14. Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  15. The Burial of Kojo (Ghana)
  16. Redemption (Mozambique) AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Editing
  17. The Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  18. The Burial of Kojo (Ghana)
  19. The Last Victim (S. Africa)
  20. Rafiki (Kenya)
  21. The Gold Statute (Nigeria)
  22. Diamond in the Sky (Nigeria)
  23. Mercy of the Jungle (Rwanda)
  24. Sew The Winter To My Skin (S. Africa)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Achievement in Screenplay

  1. The Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  2. The Last Victim (S. Africa)
  3. Rafiki (Kenya)
  4. Diamond in the Sky (Nigeria)
  5. Gold Statute (Morocco)
    6 Lara and the Beats (Nigeria)
  6. Redemption (Mozambique)
  7. Up North (Nigeria) AMAA 2019/National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB)Award For Best Nigerian Film
  8. The Delivery Boy
  9. Lara and the Beats
  10. Makeroom
  11. King of Boys
  12. Gold Statute
  13. Up North
  14. Knockout Blessing AMAA 2019 Award For Best Young/Promising Actor
  15. Youssef Alaoui (Ayoub) URGENT
  16. Angel Onyinyechi Unigwe (Adaeze) LIGHT IN THE DARK
  17. Cynthia Dankwa (Esi) BURIAL OF KOJO
  18. Emilio Bilo (Azarias) Mabata Bata
  19. Jamma Ibrahim (Amir) The Delivery Boy
  20. Catherine Credo (Neema) Fatuma

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  1. Remilekun “Reminisce” Sarafu (Makanaki) King of Boys
  2. Jarrid Geduld 9 (Abie) Ellen, The Ellen Parkies Story
  3. Zolisa Xaluva (Wyatt Earp) Sew the Winter to my Skin
  4. Kanayo O. Kanyayo (Chief Otuekong) Up North
  5. Kobina Amissah-Sam (Kwabina) The Burial of Kojo
  6. Bucci Franklyn (Dagogo) Knockout Blessing AMAA 2019 Award For Best Actress in a Supporting Role
  7. Eniola Shobayo (Vivian) Knockout Blessing
  8. Linda Ejiofor (Oby) Knockout Blessing
  9. Kandyse McClure (Golden Eyes) Sew the Winter to My Skin
  10. Adesua Etomi (Kemi) The King of Boys
  11. Joke Silva (Mama Jumoke) Light in the Dark
  12. Arlete Bombe (Mia) Redemption AMAA 2019 Award For Best Actor in a Leading Role
  13. Gabriel Afolayan Gold Statue
  14. Joseph Otsiman (Kojo) The Burial of Kojo
  15. Chinedu Ikedieze (Big Chi) Lara and the Beats
  16. Jimmy Jean Louis (Robert McQueen) Rattlesnakes
  17. Gil Alexandre (Bruno) Redemption
  18. Marc Zinga ( )Mercy of the Jungle)
  19. Ezra Mabengeza (Samson) Sew The Winter To My Skin
  20. Ayoub Bombwe ( Mwanyusi ) Fatuma

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Actress in a Leading Role

  1. Sheila Munyiva (Ziki) Rafik
  2. Rita Dominic (Jumoke Arinze) Light in the Dark
  3. Jill Levenberg (Ellen) The Ellen Parkies Story
  4. Beatrice Taisamo (Fatuma) Fatuma
  5. Seyi Shay (Lara) Lara and the Beats
  6. Sola Sobowale (Eniola) King of Boys
  7. Jemima Osunde (Nkem) The Delivery Boy
  8. Samantha Mugatsia (Kena) Rafiki

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Director-First Feature Film

  1. Blitz Bazawule - The Burial of Kojo (Ghana)
  2. Adekunle “Nodash” Adejuyigbe - The Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  3. Sippy Chadha – Subira (Tanzania)
  4. Nicole Amarteifo – Before the Vows (Ghana)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Director

  1. Wanuri Kahui – Rafiki (Kenya)
  2. Adekunle “Nodash” Adejuyigbe - The Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  3. Daryne Joshua -Ellen, The Ellen Parkies Story (S. Africa)
  4. Jahmil X. Qubeka - Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  5. Kemi Adetiba – King of Boys (Nigeria)
  6. Mohcine Besri – Urgent (Morocco)
  7. Mickey Fonseca – Redemption (Mozambique)
  8. Joël Karekezi- Mercy of the Jungle (Rwanda)

AMAA 2019 Award For Best Film

  1. Rafiki (Kenya)
  2. Mercy of the Jungle (Rwanda)
  3. The Delivery Boy (Nigeria)
  4. Ellen, The Ellen Parkies Story (S. Africa)
  5. Sew the Winter to My Skin (S. Africa)
  6. Redemption (Mozambique)
  7. King of Boys (Nigeria)
  8. Urgent (Morocco)
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