Film Review

Film Review: Fantastic Fungi

The film opens  with the fungi  speaking, identifying the alternate universe—the invisible, intelligent network—just beneath our feet.

When you sense Oneness, you are with us. We brought life to earth…We flourish all  around in everything…even though you can’t see us…

 Then goes on to describe how fungi figures so predominately in the birth-death-rebirth cycle that, without fungi we would be in deep trouble. To the point that, potentially, life would have ceased to exist long before humans came along without the fungi kingdom, numbering 1.5 million species.

Mycologist-advocate-researcher Paul Stamets is largely featured. He’s been immersed in the world of mushrooms since quite young when his older brother took him into the forest and they found an unusual variety. Today he’s considered one of the foremost authorities on fungi. He also had a debilitating liability. Although he’d had years of speech therapy as a child, it had no effect. He was unable to communicate well and was socially isolated until one significant day… when, in college, he was given a bag of psilocybin—“magic mushrooms”—and took the whole bag, enough for ten people. As it began to come on, he set intent to lose the stuttering…and did. One enormous dose. The stuttering never returned. A remarkable story that would surely make one a believer.

Additionally,  Stamets is  backed up with segments by scientists, journalists, therapists, clinical trial participants and consciousness seekers. Wide-ranging uses for mycelium fungus are covered, potentialities affecting health, expanded consciousness, bioremediation and more.

The documentary covers the full history of mushrooms from Gordon Wasson’s introduction by curandera Maria Sabina of southern Mexico through its resurgence today as a viable ingredient to clean the environment all the way to providing a gateway for health and spiritual wellbeing.

You’d do yourself a favor by watching this film. I came away spiritually uplifted, hopeful for the planet and feeling gratitude for this great gift of Nature that’s been there, hidden in plain sight, for millenia. The cinematography is also stunning.

Now available to rent ($4.99) and stream or buy at Fantastic Fungi in several languages. 1 hour, 20 minutes.

 

Categories: Film Review, Global Consciousness, Healing, Honoring the Earth | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

I pulled the book out of the library stacks drawn by its unusual title, and then the cover with the tiny red shoes. What could Balzac have to do with a little Chinese seamstress? I vaguely remember hearing about the Cultural Revolution during the days of Mao Zedong* but I was quite young then. Too young to have much interest or understanding of what was happening on the other side of the planet to many children the same age I was. This novel educated me.

In 1968 Mao closed all the schools – elementary, high schools and universities – dictating that “young intellectuals” be sent to the countryside to be “re-educated by the poor peasants” presumably to create a great leveling. Books were banned and burned. Anything having a whiff of Western to it, or anyone, was denounced. Academics, writers, artists, any professionals were punished and sent off to labor camps to be “re-educated.” Multitudes did not physically survive and many considered themselves a lost generation.

balzac andThis is a coming of age story in a special setting under difficult circumstances. It’s about what happens when norms are stripped away. When suddenly families are forcibly separated… elements of society previously valued devalued…control wrought by fear…what arises as a result…and the ways in which humans hang onto a piece of themselves and seek to thrive.

The book opens with the unnamed narrator and his best friend Luo having already made the torturous two-day climb on a rugged path up a mountain known as the Phoenix of the Sky to its summit where they were assigned to the headman’s keeping in the poorest village of all. Their lodging was on stilts, a pig sty directly underneath, with little to no protection from the elements. The narrator’s parents were doctors. Luo’s father was a dentist who wasn’t wise enough to keep the fact to himself that he’d fitted Mao with new teeth. The boys were hardly intellectuals, having only finished middle school. Daily the boys were forced to carry buckets of liquid feces on their backs, sloshing as they climbed up the mountain to the fields where it would be used as fertilizer. By the end they’d be soaked with the contents only to begin again. Later they had to work underground for two months in mines that were little used.

In the back-breaking monotony of their days they retained some spirit – subterfuge to trick the headman, have some fun, fall in love, and maintain a semblance of control over their lives where they had little. When the boys arrived in the village, they’d brought two forbidden items. The narrator brought a violin in its case. Luo brought a wind-up alarm clock that contained a rooster pecking the clock’s floor as the minutes ticked away.

Of course, the violin and case were immediately detected and passed around to all those assembled. It was shaken, pounded, its strings nearly broken. The headman declared it a bourgeois toy and started to burn it when Luo stated, with an air of authority, that it was a musical instrument. And his friend the narrator was a fine musician. The narrator, nearly choking, started to play Mozart and Luo said the title of the piece was Mozart Is Thinking of Chairman Mao. Smiles all around.

The headman was fascinated by the alarm clock, never having seen one…especially with a rooster pecking out the time, to the point he’d carry it around and look at it constantly. The boys were able to retain it. One morning when they couldn’t face those buckets that early, Luo turned back the clock by an hour and went back to sleep. The headman was none the wiser. When they wanted to have an early day, they’d turn it forward. Finally, they had no idea what time it was. The headman went by the clock.

But what is the connection between Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress? The boys discovered some forbidden Western classics, translated into Chinese, by Balzac, Dumas and others, hidden in a locked suitcase belonging to another “intellectual” boy undergoing re-education in another village. This, about the same time they met the old tailor in a far village whose granddaughter was beautiful beyond perfection. She was illiterate – as were all the villagers – but hungry for the education books can bring.

There are many levels to this thin novel. It educated me in an area where I knew nothing. The author-filmmaker Dai Sijie also made it into a movie. You can see it in its entirety with English subtitles on You Tube. I suggest reading the book first and then watch the film. The book contains a lot that I would have missed if I’d only seen the film. The cinematography is stunning, and the film contains an epilogue not in the book, closing an open loop. One poignant that brought back my own memories, making me feel nostalgic.

This story takes on another significance considering it’s autobiographic. Dai Sijie was re-educated himself between 1971-1974. The book was his first and became an immediate bestseller and prizewinner in France at its release. Rights were later sold in nineteen countries.

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*Commonly referred to as Mao Tse-tung, he is also known as Mao Zedong and referred to that way in this book.

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Indigenous to the Journey

Imagine a people whose origins were once lost to time but who are now thought to have come from northwest India…who—in their own region—endured plunder, massacre and enslavement over 500 years and beyond at the hands of foreign rulers. The result finally creating a diaspora, spread over the world, in search of home…over 1500 years to present day.

When doors were shut to them, the road and their culture endured. It was a way of life. They were so close knit—for mere survival—that, for many of their present-day groups, it’s still a taboo to associate with outsiders except for livelihood…when they themselves are considered so. They’re communal, strict about their traditions and syncretic religion. They’re known for passionate song, music and dance, having influenced jazz, flamenco, and even classical music. They are mostly entertainers, artisans, laborers and trades people. Along with the Jewish people, they were the first target for annihilation by the Nazis, and their women underwent forced sterilization. Despite this, their culture maintains the heady expression of freedom, along with protection of their own.

For the rest of the world, they largely retain an air of mystique and are reviled or barely tolerated. Objects of fear. After all, they live outside the mainstream. They’re different. How can “other” be good?

Their names for themselves vary depending on country—Romanichal (England), Romansæl (Norway and Denmark), Sinti (Germanic countries), Manush (France), Kalo (Spain, Wales and Finland)—or clans—the Kalderash, Machvaya, Boyash, Lovari and others.

The Romani or Roma people are known to non-Roma by a number of names depending where they are: gitans, ciganos, zingari, gíftoi and others, along with the derogatory term gypsy.

Dispersed as the Roma are, in late May, from great distances, they stream into a diminutive French town in the Camargue on the Mediterranean Sea. In a massive gathering, they come to venerate, celebrate and reunite through the passions of devotion, music and processional.

For it is here the three Marys, Sarah—and some say—Lazarus and Maximin landed safely on the shores of Gaul in their tiny boat, site of the present-day Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. To the Roma she is known as Sara-la-Kali, Sara the Black, their patron saint, an adolescent Egyptian maid who accompanied the Marys. To others, Saint Sarah is the daughter of The Magdalene and Jesus.

And we will be there…women on pilgrimage of spiritual travel…sourcing the ways of love and light. We will be there for the music, dance, making our own prayers as we witness Sara-la-Kali…Saint Sarah in her glorious vestments carried from the church on the shoulders of the Roma, accompanied by the famous Camargue white horses, into the sea.

In Latcho Drom—meaning Safe Journey—you can catch a glimpse of this passion toward the end. Latcho Drom is a 1993 documentary about the Roma by filmmaker Tony Gatlif, himself Roma. This film is a cinematographic masterpiece telling the story of a people through song, dance, music and community. It subliminally tracks their geographic diaspora until you finally realize the whole by the end of the film.

This version of the documentary includes sporadic English subtitles of lyrics, just enough to emphasize the beauty and—later—the poignancy of the scenes.

In one with exuberant music and celebration that continues late into the night until the fire has burned out, a man sings and gestures first to a woman in their circle and then to the moon…

…I have placed my bed in a delicious spot. How can I sleep without you?

 Later…

…In the grounds of my coffee cup, I see your image…It drives me mad…

 And much later in scenes toward the end…

…We are cursed to wander all our lives…Deliver us from our trials…We fled from hate…No one will ever change our way of life…Me? I am a black bird who has taken flight…

 Latcho Drom may be viewed in its entirety streaming online for free. This is a haunting, inspirational depiction of a beleaguered people with a rich heritage not widely known. Highly recommend. 1 hour, 38 minutes.

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The May 20-29, 2020 women’s pilgrimage, Spiritual Travel to Southern France: Sourcing the Ways of Love and Light, takes place in the Languedoc and Provence focusing on Mary Magdalene, the Cathars, art and bounty of the land. There are currently 2 spaces open with group size very limited to maintain depth of process and outcome for participants.

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Film Review: The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

In 1994, local cavers Christian Hillaire, Eliette Brunel-Deschamps and Jean-Marie Chauvet discovered a previously unknown cave with extraordinarily preserved, ancient rock art. The cave is located in the Ardèche region of southern France. In 1998, a small team, headed by Dr. Jean Clottes, began research and Carbon 14 dated the art to 30,000-33,000 years old.

Chauvet Cave is about five hours to the east from where I was during June in the Dordogne region, the particular section called the Périgord Noir. This is where I was so fortunate to experience two caves with very limited access, Les Combarelles and Font-de-Gaume, and was simply overcome. A couple of people, whose names have slipped my memory, then suggested I see the documentary The Cave of Forgotten Dreams done by Werner Herzog on the Chauvet Cave. If any who directed me are reading this review, I thank you profusely.

cave of forgotten dreamsHerzog managed to produce a film that gives a visceral sense of another such hallowed space. Contained in the Chauvet site, home to cave bears, also rest antiquities – indeed lineage bearers, all that remains from the perceptions and sacred expressions of Paleolithic artists.

The team allowed to enter was quite small, some researchers and a few filmmakers, and only for limited times. They could touch nothing of the interior, walking on a carefully protected passageway alone. Remembering how overwhelmed I was when entering 10,000-year-old sites, I could only imagine the condensed energy of one 20,000 years older. One young scientist was interviewed and spoke of how, after working in the cave for five days straight, he found it so powerful he had to take a break to absorb it all.

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Panel of lions. Source: The Bradshaw Foundation.

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Fighting rhinos and four horses. Source: The Bradshaw Foundation.

There were so many similarities to my own visit to such sites in the Périgord Noir, although mine were but a snippet. The awe as to the sophisticated renderings and talent. How they translated movement and power of their subjects. How the very place seemed alive. This was so especially in the sweeping scene of images filmed purposefully in silence. I will confess it brought tears to my eyes.

Remember this is narrative art. The narrator pointed out two sets of lions. In one, the obviously male lion was courting a female who was not ready to accept his advances. She growled at him. In the other, the female had agreed, shown as snuggling the side of the male.

I highly recommend this film for those who wish to gain a new respect and appreciation of our ancient ancestors, and for art enthusiasts who want to trace influences on much later, modern artists.

As an aside, I noted in research elsewhere that when the age of the Chauvet Cave rock art came out, it was contested by those who insisted on adhering to their outdated, ego-entrenched conjectures. This also happened with the Altamira cave in northern Spain. Altamira itself was found by a local hunter in 1868. He told Marcelino Sanz de Sautola, an amateur archeologist who owned the land. In 1879, he began excavation, but it was his young daughter Maria who actually discovered the cave paintings. When Sanz de Sautola attempted to take the findings public, suggesting the art was 10,000 years old, he was declared a fraud and the paintings fake by those of the same ilk mentioned above, plus the Catholic Church. He suffered the effects of public humiliation until his death. Posthumously some twenty years later, he was recognized for his achievements, the age of Altamara cave art not 10,000 but 35,000 years old. An account is given in the little known film Finding Altamira, which can be viewed on Netflix.

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams is available on Netflix and has also been uploaded by viewers onto You Tube. One hour, 35 minutes.

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Film Review: Facing the Enemy

This 2001 film by Everyman, BBC Two, is for today. Right now. The times, the unprecedented questions and emotions, that must be dealt with are still relevant. The more that we challenge ourselves to face them, the more we can individually change the world⏤one by one, step by step.

In October 1984, Sir Anthony Berry was killed, with four more, by a bomb planted by IRA bombers at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England where Margaret Thatcher’s party gathered for a conference. Patrick Magee, one of three bombers, was caught. The other two never were. Convicted of murder, he was remanded to prison for 8 life sentences with a minimum of 35 years. But in 1999 he was released under the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement.

In the expanse of time from her father’s murder, Jo Berry held the desire to understand why such a thing could happen. She wanted to hear directly from the one who committed the act. She wanted to move through trauma and despair. She wanted to open her heart.

This is a documentation of meetings between Jo Berry and Patrick Magee that began in 2001. It’s an opportunity for us to witness two people speaking directly to each other, dealing with the action that brought them together and all the resulting emotions on both sides. It can give us courage to do the same in our own lives where it’s needed.

In September 2015, we at Kenosis Spirit Keepers collaborated with the Quad-City Interfaith Council to bring Jo to Prescott, Arizona. We viewed the film Beyond Right and Wrong in which they are featured. Then she took questions. You can see that video here.

In Facing the Enemy, Jo spoke haltingly of all the pain Patrick’s release from prison brought up for her, even though she thought all the grief was squeezed out, and so many years had gone by. Patrick received the expression of Jo’s pain and spoke of his own. Both of these individuals possess enormous courage not only to face each other as they did. But also having chosen to work together all these years in the hopes of allaying such tragedies in the world. Since then they have appeared together more than 150 times.

Truly, this video should be viewed as widely as possible. Recently uploaded for streaming on You Tube, 60 minutes. If you’re unable to see the embedded video below, go here.

Note: Jo Berry will be in Arizona, Washington and Colorado in October 2017. If you would like to book a venue in the US with Jo, please contact Karen Marchetti via email imaginepeace0928 (at) gmail.com.

 

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Film Review, Global Consciousness, Healing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review – Jesus Was a Buddhist Monk

Years ago I began to read books by researchers challenging the resurrection of Jesus as traditionally depicted in the Christian faith, as well as the role Mary Magdalen played in Jesus’ life. So when I stumbled upon the BBC documentary Jesus Was a Buddhist Monk, I was naturally drawn.

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Prophet Series: Warrior of the Spirit. ©2013 Carla Woody                  

It asks questions that, for some, would be considered heresies around the resurrection:

Would a man really die after only 6 hours on a cross (when it would normally take several days)?

Was he drugged?

Was he rescued?

If he didn’t die, where did he go?

Then the film methodically goes into the politics of the times, why a resurrection story might be a strategic means to an end, legends and historical references of Jesus’ appearances in other parts of the world after the crucifixion. The viewer is asked to contemplate the boat that landed on the shores of Southern France, the Cathars and findings of the Knights Templar. And what of a man named Issa, a long life in Kashmir and a burial site in Srinagar?

The documentary does a neat job of asking the questions that deliver answers depending on your perspective. And, if you’re so inclined, follow the threads to additional research.

Available for free streaming on You Tube. 49 minutes.

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Film Review: Beyond

Beyond charts the quest of photographer Joey L. as he seeks religious ascetics in Varanasi, India to include in his series on Holy Men. Each morning before dawn Joey L., his assistant Ryan and filmmaker Cale Glendening make their way down to the Ganges where they remain until dusk. They roam its banks to find just the right light and spot to capture the core essence of the sadhus who willingly agree. But first something else must occur.

This is not merely a documentary about shooting images. It’s just as much on the importance of relationship, understanding and respect. Only by sitting with the sadhus, hearing their stories, sharing a meal does the deeper meaning of their chosen life emerge through film and photography. Trust develops. With a sensitivity unusual for one this young, Joey L. is given to portray them and their rituals in a way that austere beauty is clearly spoken. This is so particularly of the Aghori who are little understood by outsiders and often feared.

In the end, the filmmakers speak candidly about their experiences, how aspects may change who they are, and what they consider to matter.

I was truly moved and fascinated by this film⏤to the point I’m still thinking about it a couple of days later. The cinematography was beautiful and the photography exquisite. For more examples, view the websites of Joey L. and Cale Glendening.

Watch Beyond streaming free on Vimeo. 43 minutes.

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Film Review: Accordions Rising

My favorite type of novel is when an author takes obscure subject matter or a little known historical occurrence then expands upon it, slipping in a perspective to make entertaining reading. I gain knowledge in an area where I had little or none without the drudge of academic study, all in the midst of pleasure.

That’s how I felt when I stumbled upon the films of Roberta Cantow. Earlier I reviewed Clotheslines. Now she’s just released Accordions Rising. Originally, I wasn’t necessarily attracted but remembered the unique spin she put on Clotheslines, which was really a statement on the status of women. So I watched the new one and became engaged just as I do with the type of novel I mentioned.

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This filmmaker moves you well beyond the instrument’s association with street vendors, Lawrence Welk and the polka to its surprising—for me—modern-day use in orchestral, experimental, jazz and ambient music. And history? How about accordion during rituals of Vodou’s Marie Laveau? Beyond the music itself, she features the accordionists giving voice  on how they came to their instrument. These are the kind of stories I personally love, plus all the examples of its role in traditions across the world. Then there’s the power of the accordion that you can hear throughout the film. Depending on the focus of the musician, it can take you on an emotional ride. And I guarantee you’ll be tapping your foot.

I was curious as to what drew Roberta to undertake all the intense research, time and other investments a documentary requires to do well…for something so unpopular. So I wrote to her and asked. I learned as much from her answer as I did from the film. I’m sharing a bit with you here.

 Let me start with this: The accordion, I have come to understand, is far less ‘obscure to mainstream’ than one might think. In fact, although I was not able to include all of these examples due to licensing issues, the list of musicians that play or include accordions is quite long. All with names that are familiar: Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, etc.  The instrument was simply not foregrounded. It certainly did fall out of favor at one time, but there has been a resurgence for the last 20-30 years.

When I began, my knowledge of the instrument was thin. I had enjoyed a set of disks called Planet Squeezebox going all the way back to the late 80’s, the accordion in every corner of the world. In the 90’s I started seeing photographs and graphic images that piqued my interest. I attended the San Antonio International Accordion Festival, and it was as if I were lit up. I loved that it had a home in so many different cultures and styles of playing. I thought that it reflected the diversity in our culture (and our world) today. I was also extremely intrigued with the people who were using the accordion differently and unexpectedly in new music and avant-garde forms. My eyes were opened wide to the versatility and various passions of the players. I felt that it didn’t deserve to be ‘maligned’ the way it was, so I set out to set the record straight. I begin the film with these words…. ‘I have often been drawn to the misunderstood….’ and that is true of the subjects of many of my films.

With both of Roberta Cantow’s films I’ve seen thus far, a major take-away: When you think you know something—if you take it at face value—you don’t know anything.

If you have Amazon Prime, you can see it for free or $2.99 otherwise. And tell her what you think in the rating and reviews section.

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Film Review: The Alma Drawings

You may have heard of the psychic phenomenon automatic writing. But what about automatic drawing?

In her later years Alma Rumball felt the urge to pick up a pen, and her hand began to move on its own. She said, “My hand started to move and I started to draw.” In that moment these creations took over her life and home. Eventually when paper wasn’t enough, her walls, floors and even bathroom fixtures became crowded with repetitive motifs.

Alma Rumball

Automatic drawing by Alma Rumball.

As I watched the film I became fascinated by the remarkable similarity of the symbols and figures in Alma’s work to those in Maya, Tibetan and other world religions. I also noted some resemblance to the technique called automatism introduced by the Surrealists meant to give the subconscious mind free range.

But those don’t appear to be the influences here. Alma was raised a devout Christian and had always led an isolated life in a rural area of Northern Ontario, with very little exposure to the outside world. She never studied art and took no ownership of what she produced. She allowed, “The Hand did them.” And sometimes there were spirits that lived near the ceiling who gave her messages. The Hand—being in charge—would let her know when she was done with a piece when it ceased to move. When The Hand came into her life at the age of 50, she withdrew even more so and claimed to know nothing of religions elsewhere in the world.

Filmmaker Jeremiah Munce covers Alma’s origins, later life and artwork, much through her own words thanks to a recorded interview. The question it puts forth—as ascribed to a number of artists—was Alma’s work directed by a higher consciousness…or the result of mental illness?

Alma Rumball passed in 1980 but left a rich collection of work. Go to the official website to view her art and read articles.

View The Alma Drawings in its entirety on You Tube. Highly recommend not merely as a curiosity but also as a question regarding the creative portal. Released 2005 in Canada, 46 minutes.

 

 

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Film Review: Clotheslines

ClotheslinesThis 1981 documentary takes us back to the time when women were defined by laundry and, in many parts of the world, still are. As bizarre as it sounds, Director-Producer Roberta Contow shows us this truth—as stated in so many words by the women she filmed.

Some reading this review will not have the faintest memory of clotheslines—the time before dryers were common—and certainly not of washboards. I wasn’t around for the latter. But viewing the film caused me to look back through my early years to remember my mother setting aside Mondays for laundry day. How she’d set up the ironing board in the spare room, sprinkle water on clean clothes and iron for hours—even the sheets if memory serves—and starching my father’s shirts. My mother kept any complaints to herself. But just witnessing this drudgery made laundry an onerous task to me—one I put off until absolutely necessary to this day. And I never learned to fold sheets well, probably on purpose.

For some, the perfect fold brought a sense of pride and artistry. The surprising part to me —albeit presented with humor—was how women judged other women related to this totally irrelevant category, which spoke to how little power they had that they could only unleash any frustrations on their own kind. If the laundry wasn’t organized on the clothesline by color and type, or upon inspection a speck of stain remained…well, it said something was lacking about your neighbor. Heaven forbid if there was nice lingerie on the line. That said she was cheating on her husband.

Clotheslines 2

I’m quite sure few women of those times recognized how something so trivial automatically became part of their identity by birth. It was just something expected and accepted even if they secretly hated it.

Watching this film caused me to reflect in what other ways any of us—women and men— automatically assumed, without question, stealth mores. Clotheslines is a film to watch especially for these times when—at least in Western culture—each of us has a voice…that we can make heard by our choices. What is onerous is not something to abide.

View Clotheslines online free on Folkstreams. Highly recommend setting aside the 32 minutes it takes. Also available on DVD for purchase directly from Roberta Cantow by emailing rcantow@originaldigital.net.

Categories: Film Review, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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