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Country Artists Who Have Served Their Country

Country music has a longstanding tradition of supporting the troops, but these stars took it to another level.

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Standing Rock film festival centers around pipeline protest

A film festival on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation aims to bolster the anti-pipeline movement that blossomed there last year while also fostering connections between the Native American community and the film industry.

The inaugural Standing Rock Nation Film and Music Festival, which runs this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the tribal casino near Fort Yates, will showcase the talent of Native American filmmakers and musicians. It also features films about American Indians and provides a venue for those who opposed the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline to reminisce.

"It was the most amazing coming together of people from all over the country, all over the world," said festival producer Tricia van Klaveren, an independent filmmaker in San Francisco who spent time in a protest camp in southern North Dakota that held hundreds and sometimes thousands of people between August and February. "Standing Rock represents, people really came together and united. History was created."

People in the camp dubbed themselves "water protectors," a reference to the fear that oil and gas pipelines threaten water sources. They couldn't stop Dakota Access — the line to move North Dakota oil to a distribution point in Illinois is set to go into commercial service on Thursday — but the movement has spread to other pipeline projects around the country.

Organizers hope some people will make a return trip for the festival, though the casino has a capacity of only 1,000 people. Many events and panels will be live-streamed online.

"It is our goal that this weekend festival will empower, enlighten, and entertain the Native community and all global citizens," said Mitchell Zephier, a member of the Lower Brule tribe in South Dakota and the festival's founder and executive director.

Among the films being screened are "AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock," which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April, and "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World," a documentary about Native musicians. That film, which won an award at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, is an example of another purpose of the event.

"Part of the festival is creating a bridge between the Native community and film industry," van Klaveren said. "Telling more of the stories that haven't been told, and telling them through the Native American lens, the Native American perspective."

The festival is free, though donations are encouraged so there's money to continue the event in future years, van Klaveren said. This year's festival is being funded by the tribe and volunteer labor, she said.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

John Williams serenaded with his biggest hits, a cappella style during Harvard’s commencement

Hearing the “Star Wars” theme or the song from “Indiana Jones” never gets old for some and members of Harvard’s Din and Tonics a cappella group put a new spin on the iconic instrumentals in front of the music’s creator, John Williams.

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Williams was at the Ivy League university for Harvard’s commencement on Thursday. He was not only given a unique performance of his music, he also received an honorary doctor of music degree, Entertainment Weekly reported.

Watch the video of Din and Tonics’ performance below or click here.

Mark Zuckerburg addressed the Harvard graduates during commencement ceremonies Thursday afternoon. He was granted an honorary degree Thursday morning. Zuckerberg had attended Harvard, but dropped out to start Facebook.

POLL: What's the Most Patriotic Country Song?

A readers' poll to determine country music's most patriotic song.

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Prince William talks of sadness that family can't meet Diana

Prince William says he is sad his wife and two young children can't meet his late mother, Princess Diana.

In an interview with the magazine British GQ, the heir to the throne opened up about his feelings about his mother's 1997 death in a Paris car crash.

William told the magazine he would have liked having his mother's advice and for her to meet his wife, Kate, and to see her grandchildren grow up.

Diana died long before 3-year-old Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who recently turned 2, were born.

The interview with former Tony Blair spin doctor Alastair Campbell focuses on William's strong support for charities working on mental health issues.

William says his chief goal is "smashing" the taboo surrounding mental health discussions.

‘Jetsons’ movie ready to blast off production

A piece of our childhood may be coming to the big screen.

Warner Bros. has tapped director Conrad Vernon to helm its planned animated film “The Jetsons,” Variety reported.

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Vernon has co-directed hits like “Shrek 2” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.” He also voiced the Gingerbread Man in the “Shrek” films.

“The Jetsons” has been on the planning board for years after Warner Bros. hired Matt Liberman to pen the script in 2015, Variety reported.

The original “Jetsons” tv series aired for one season in prime time on ABC in 1962-63, Smithsonian reported.

This isn’t the first feature film for the space-age family. Universal released an animated “Jetsons” film in 1990 which was directed by Joseph Barbera, co-founder of Hanna-Barbera studios and one of the creators of the series.

Paris mayor pans black feminist event over white exclusion

The mayor of Paris has strongly criticized and is threatening to cancel an upcoming festival for black feminists where four-fifths of the event space will be open exclusively to black women.

Rights groups have branded the event a step backward on race issues.

In a series of angry tweets on Sunday, Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she would call on authorities to prohibit the three-day cultural festival scheduled for July. Hidalgo said she might call for the prosecution of its organizers on grounds of discrimination.

"I firmly condemn the organization of this event in Paris (that's) 'forbidden to white people,'" Hidalgo wrote.

Telephone calls to MWASI, the group sponsoring the festival, were not immediately returned Monday.

The group describes itself on its website as "an Afro-feminist collective that is part of the revolutionary liberation struggles" and is open to black and mixed-race women.

France defines itself as a country united under one common national identity, with laws against racial discrimination and to promote secularism to safeguard an ideal that began with the French Revolution.

The program for the first annual Nyansapo Festival, which is set to run July 28-30 at a Paris cultural center, states that 80 percent of the event space only will be accessible to black women.

Other sections will be open to black men and "racialized women," and one smaller space will be open to everyone regardless of race.

Organizers hope the festival will travel around Europe in coming years and said on the event's website that "for this first edition we have chosen to put the accent on how our resistance as an Afro-feminist movement is organized."

Prominent French rights organization SOS Racism was among civil rights groups condemning the festival, calling it "a mistake, even an abomination, because it wallows in ethnic separation, whereas anti-racism is a movement which seeks to go beyond race."

The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), meanwhile, called the festival a "regression" and said American civil rights icon "Rosa Parks must be turning in her grave."

Identity politics remain a recurrent hot potato in a nation where collecting data based on religious and ethnic backgrounds is banned and the wearing of religious symbols — such as the full Islamic veil — in public is prohibited.

This approach, known to the French as "anti-communitarianism," aims to celebrate all French citizens regardless of their community affiliations.

Last week, several women attempting to stage a "burkini party" were detained in Cannes after a ban against the full-body beachwear favored by some Muslim women was upheld in a fresh decree.

The "'burkini" event was to highlight anger against the ban, which is part of a French secular law that bans the wearing of headscarves and other religious clothing in public areas.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K

J.K. Rowling updates fans on ‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel

J.K. Rowling has updated fans on the status of the latest movie in the Harry Potter universe.

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The author announced on Twitter that she has finished writing the sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” NME reported.

Rowling whet the appetites of the Potter faithful in February when she gave them a sneak peek of the script.

Filming is expected to begin later this summer with Eddie Redmayne reprising his role as Newt Scamander, Screen Rant reported. Callam Turner will join the cast as Newt’s brother. Johnny Depp will continue in his role as Gellert Grindelwald following his cameo in the first film. Ezra Miller and Zoe Kravitz are also returning. Jude Law will join the cast as young Albus Dumbledore, Screen Rant reported.

It is scheduled to hit theaters in November 2018.

International flamenco festival set to mark 30 years

Dancers from across the U.S. and Spain will gather in New Mexico for the 30th anniversary of a preeminent international flamenco festival.

The event organized by the world-renowned National Institute of Flamenco will be held June 10th through the 17th in Albuquerque.

Flamenco is a form of Spanish dance and folk music that developed from Romani music and dance more than two centuries ago.

Festival Flamenco Internacional De Alburquerque will feature internationally known flamenco dancers, along with workshops, history lectures and events for children.

Here are some things to know:

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THE PERFORMERS

Nearly 60 dancers, singers and musicians are scheduled to perform in theaters at the University of New Mexico and the National Hispanic Cultural Center. They include award-winning dancers Marco Flores and Rosario Toledo, of Spain.

On some nights, the artists will finish the evening at Tablao Flamenco Albuquerque, a new venue at a hotel in the city's Old Town where dancers and musician give spontaneous performances.

Workshops at the annual festival include beginner to advanced classes in repertory, costuming, castanets and guitar.

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THE IMAGES

This year's gathering also will showcase the work of the late photographer Douglas Kent Hall. He worked with the National Institute of Flamenco to document the event by capturing a number of images of dancers from some of the first festivals.

On June 17, National Institute of Flamenco executive director Eva Encinias-Sandoval will give a free flamenco lecture at the National Hispanic Cultural Center encompassing the event's history. Twenty photographs by Kent Hall will be on display during the speech.

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THE FIRE

The National Institute of Flamenco is located in Albuquerque, which was founded by Spanish settlers and is considered the flamenco capital of the U.S.

The institute's mission is to preserve and promote flamenco's history and culture through performance and education.

In December 2013, a fire destroyed its offices, including decades of festival photos, documents and clothing.

The institute then took part in many fundraisers and garnered support from Albuquerque businesses to eventually land a new home near the University of New Mexico on historic Route 66.

The organization continues to operate a conservatory and now runs Tablao Flamenco Albuquerque.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras.

How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts

Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all post-production visual effects, and after a decade of refining the process since Brad Pitt ran the gamut of time in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," it's becoming commonplace in major Hollywood movies.

Depp is just the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen, joining the ranks of Robert Downey Jr. (in "Captain America: Civil War"), Michael Douglas (in "Ant-Man"), Kurt Russell (in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2") and scores of others getting digital facelifts to play younger versions of themselves. In the old days, a lucky unknown lookalike (or look enough alike) could have scored the part of young Jack Sparrow or Tony Stark. Now, if the film has the budget, the stars get to have it both ways — and audiences get a nostalgic flashback.

Lola Visual Effects is responsible for Depp's transformation, and most of the Marvel tricks, which have included making Chris Evans scrawny for the original "Captain America" and Hayley Atwell some 70 years older for the sequel.

Lola was the pioneer behind "Benjamin Button," too, and sells their services to all the major studios. It's one of a handful of vendors that have gotten in the so-called "beauty work" business. It's often meant to go unnoticed (like removing a blemish), and is generally buried under mountains of confidentiality agreements.

In the case of Depp, and most of Lola's de-aging work, the process starts with capturing a performance from the actor and then manipulating it. This isn't always necessary — "Rogue One" recreated the late Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin without him, and Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia using doubles — but it was critical for "Pirates."

"No one else can be Jack Sparrow," said Gary Brozenich, the Oscar-nominated VFX artist who oversaw visual effects for the film. "Trying to do a digital approximation ... audiences would see right through it."

Brozenich and the filmmakers decided to bring Depp back to how he looked around the time of "21 Jump Street" and "Cry Baby" and went through a number of iterations, over the course of six months, to arrive at the perfect age (roughly 26) — which Depp, Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer had to sign off on. The final shots, of which there are 20-25, took about 15 artists a year of work.

That Depp has been famous since that age was both a blessing and a curse for the production. They had numerous reference points to work with, but, so would the audience.

"Working on the human face is one of the, if not the most challenging thing to do," said Trent Claus, the visual effects supervisor for Lola VFX. "People can tell when there is something amiss. Even if they can't put their finger on what is wrong, they can tell that something is wrong."

And while the artists have gotten better over the years and have mostly managed to avoid drifting into the dreaded uncanny valley — the term used to describe the eerie feeling you get when looking at a digital person who is near-lifelike, but not quite enough — there are still trouble spots.

"One of the things that we struggle with is the bottom of the chin. As you get older there tends to be a lot of sag and extra skin that develop underneath the jaw," Claus said. "It is unfortunately not just a simple task of removing the wrinkles because the skin isn't going to be responding the same as it did when you were younger. You have to change not only the way it looks on the outside but how it moves and reacts to movement and expressions."

To counteract this, productions will often shoot a younger double to mimic an actor's performance, which they will use as a reference point for how the younger skin should behave and look in certain lights.

"We're constantly fighting making it look lifelike. One of the advantages of the process that we use is by keeping the original actor, we have that starting point of life, of reality," Claus said.

It makes the whole process harder, but, "It's worth it."

Reactions, lately have been mixed, ranging from nostalgic delight and "how'd they do that" curiosity to dismay and wariness about its future.

New York Magazine critic David Edelstein wrote that the "recreations" are "far more disturbing in their real-world implications than the fictional destruction of planets and galaxies."

For New York Times critic Manohla Dargis, Russell's younger visage was "weird" and "disrupting."

"It makes you contemplate whether this Benjamin Button-style age-reversing is going to become an increasingly standard (and creepy) industry practice," she wrote.

"Pirates 5" co-director Espen Sandberg isn't as dark about it.

"For me it's just another storytelling tool and I think it's really cool," he said.

And for the VFX artists, it's only the beginning.

"Right now what we're using it for is a very nuts and bolts solution to a problem. There's a different and more creative future for it," Brozenich said. "There can be even crazier, more creative uses for it ... maybe a hybrid of several actors."

He thinks the next step is a digital character that plays a larger part, and not just a flashback. After all, the young Han Solo movie isn't using a de-aged Harrison Ford or Billy Dee Williams — they've cast Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover.

"We have digital characters that are a primary part of (films), like Rocket and Groot from 'Guardians of the Galaxy' ... But they're never a full-on human performer that plays a key role throughout the duration of a feature film," he said. "I think that that's really the Holy Grail."

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AP Entertainment Reporter Ryan Pearson contributed to this report.

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