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These Young Liberians Are Building an Arthouse Movie Theater

The students behind "Image of Liberia" Film Festival are building a new movie house in Monrovia.

Pandora Hodge, project coordinator of Kriterion, Monrovia Courtesy of Kriterion, Monrovia

Before Liberia's two civil wars its capital city, Monrovia, had a lot more entertainment options for young people. Teenagers learned traditional dance at cultural centers. Reading clubs flourished throughout the city. Families took their kids to two movie theaters on the weekend.

All that disappeared and much of it has yet to return in these peaceful times. A few years ago, a group of young Liberians began showing movies across the country to offer people a cultural leisure activity. Since its beginning in 2012, Kriterion Monrovia has done 40 screenings in more than 20 communities throughout Liberia. These screenings were so successful that the founders organized a film festival in 2014, "Image of Liberia."

Now the founders want to make it official and build an independent arthouse cinema in Monrovia. Over the next month, Kriterion Monrovia is running a crowdfunding campaign to raise 50,000 Euros for a cinema. So far the group has raised almost 12,000 Euros.

The Kriterion, Monrovia team Courtesy of Kriterion, Monrovia

"We want to bring the culture back to Monrovia," says Pandora Hodge, the project coordinator of Kriterion Monrovia. "We want to give a new vibe to these people. For us to start this and have people feel like they can go and relax in a cinema— that's showing development too you know," says Hodge.

A team that includes a program officer, finance officer, supervisor, secretary and more than 70 volunteers are working to raise the funds for the cinema.

The cinema will not only show movies that are financially accessible to local Liberians, but it will also be a place for young Liberians gain work experience and plan the future of Liberia. Kriterion Monrovia will be a cultural center for music, exhibitions and social gatherings.

Kriterion Monrovia is based on a cultural project that originated in Amsterdam after the second World War—Kriterion Amsterdam. Students involved in the anti-Nazi movement in Amsterdam started the cinema to fill the void of culture that the war left. Back then it was run as a cultural foundation that helped university students with living costs. In that vein, Kriterion Monrovia is supported by Young Urban Achievers, a Dutch foundation that helps young people around the world to set up their own business in the cultural sector.


The team on the road Courtesy of Kriterion, Monrovia

Like Kriterion Amsterdam, Kriterion Monrovia cinema will be run entirely by students like Hodge. Liberia's economy is improving but it's difficult for young students to study and earn money at the same. Kriterion Monrovia will provide the opportunity to young Liberians to work on an entrepreneurial project so that they can take those skills and create their own businesses in Liberia.

"The important thing about having space is being able to help young people in Liberia," Hodge says . " We will help them to become good entrepreneurs so they can rebuild Liberia and contribute to society."

Watching quality movies in a comfortable setting is almost impossible for locals in Monrovia. The only movie theatre in the city is in an upscale shopping mall marketed to expats. Another cinema that only showed Bollywood movies recently closed. Men sell DVDs on street corners throughout the city but the visual quality of these movies is often shoddy. They are often in other languages like Russian or Chinese. Tiny movie booths dot the city showing these poor quality films.

"It's so hot," says Hodge when talking about the movie shacks. "Everybody is sweating. You can barely understand or see anything. People are falling asleep on you."

Besides lack of a quality cinema, Monrovia also lacks options for leisure activities for young people. For most, a night out on the town includes stopping at a bar for a drink or a restaurant for a cheap meal.

The first film Kriterion Monrovia showed to a large group was "Life of Pi" at the University of Liberia in 2011. For most attendees, it was their first time seeing a movie with good sound. Hodge took the cinema on the road traveling to villages across Liberia to show movies. The movie gatherings became community events attracting the very young up to the very old. When Ebola hit Liberia, Kriterion had to stop its movie showings but the group had developed such good relationships with villages, that it traveled the country implementing an Ebola awareness campaign.

Kriterion Monrovia has the support of engineers and architects from Engineers Without Borders, who will design the cinema of their dreams for free. Young Urban Achievers and SPARK will support them with their business model and organizational structure.

A poster for their Kriterion, Monrovia's crowdfunding campaign.

Photo credit: Paras Griffi

Asake Has to Add Third O2 Academy Show After Selling Out in Minutes

As he climbs up the ladder of global superstardom, Asake continues to break glass ceilings and crash websites.

Asake has been making undeniable waves with his music and mass appeal, and his recent O2 Academy ticket sales are proof of that.

The new Afrobeats sensation recently sold out London's O2 Academy venue for his upcoming UK stint. Amidst the buzz of the sold out show, the official account of the O2 Academy took to social media to share that Asake would be headlining two additional shows at the event's center. Although the original date was slated for the 11th of December, the high demand for tickets pushed organizers to add on two more dates to the 11th, and "Mr. Money With The Vibe" will also now perform on the 12th and the 15th.

Asake's career trajectory has been swift, yet packed with back to back hits and critical acclaim. The Lagos-born artist first got his major big break when Olamide signed him to YBNL. His long trail of chart-topping records have quickly earned him the attention of fans, airplay and recognition. The Afrobeats singer's success, though sudden, has helped to propel him to the upper echelon of musical acts coming out of Africa. Because of the versatility of his sound, listeners have quickly gravitated towards his content. His ascent into superstardom has also ignited intrigue and conversation, inspiring many fans to root for him, because of his initial reputation as the underdog. Although he had received some recognition in 2020 after he released his "Mr. Money" single, 2022 was the year that he would gain the admiration and respect of his peers, as well as a bevy of fans and commercial success.

Though still a newcomer, Asake has proven that he is not a typical Afrobeats artist. His unique ability to fuse different Afro-inspired sounds from Fuji to Amapiano have made him a rare talent. He has also amplified the depth of most of his songs by merging different genres and articulating them with Yoruba language and the broken English spoken in some of the most intricate parts of Lagos. Those elements perhaps, are what have made Asake one of the most marketable and likable Afrobeats artists in recent time.

Photo by: Screenshot from The Daily Show'

"My Time is Up:" Trevor Noah Talks About Leaving 'The Daily Show' After 7 Years

The South African comedian announced that he would be leaving the Comedy Central series after his seven-year tenure.

Trevor Noah announced that he will be leaving The Daily Show after seven years.

In his statement Noah described his experience hosting the show as "absolutely amazing."

“It’s been absolutely amazing. It’s something that I never expected,” Noah said. “I found myself thinking throughout the time of everything we’ve gone through. The Trump presidency, the pandemic, just the journey, more pandemic and I realize that after the seven years, my time is up.”

Following the departure of Jon Stewart from the show in 2015, the South African comedian became the show's host, and has since interviewed the likes of Barack Obama, Burna Boy, Davido and a host of other notable public figures. The 38-year-old has also used his platform to elevate African artistry and elevate the African experience. Noah alluded to the idea that his decision to leave the show was inspired partly by his interest in returning to stand up comedy and exploring his skillset that way. Noah also thanked his viewers for giving him an opportunity when he first came on the American scene as a comedian who very few knew about.

“I spent two years in my apartment, not on the road, and when I got back out there, I realized there’s another part of my life out there that I want to carry on exploring. I miss learning other languages. I miss going to other countries and putting on shows,” said Noah.

Noah also referred to the show as "one of the greatest joys" of his life, and has credited the show for helping him hone his creative muscle.

“I’ve loved hosting this show, it’s been one of my greatest challenges and one of my greatest joys,” Noah said. “I’ve loved trying to find a way to make people laugh, even when the stories are particularly shitty, even on the worst days. We’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together.”

Although he did not make any comments about his last day on the show, or exactly when he would exit, he did humorously say that he would not abruptly leave without prior warning.

“Don’t worry, I’m not disappearing,” said Noah. “If I owe you money, I’ll still pay you.”

(YouTube)

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