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  • International Community Gathers Together to Aid Victims of Australia Bushfires – Here’s How You Can Help

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    The devastating bushfires in Australia have now been raging for their fourth straight month, scorching millions of acres of land and already resulting in the deaths of over two dozen people and more than one billion animals. The international community has watched in horror as the fires show no signs of slowing down, rallying together to do what they can through donations and charities. It has been estimated that over a million people worldwide have supported the relief with no amount considered too small for the victims, firefighters and wildlife.

     

    The sheer magnitude of the devastation has been impossible to ignore, dominating the international news cycle and even the awards speeches of Hollywood’s Golden Globe Awards, held last Sunday.  Several award winners took the time from their speeches to share their sympathies for the victims of the bushfires and urged anyone who can to donate to charities and organizations supporting Australia and those affected by the fires.

    Other celebrities have taken to social media to do the same, using the massive goodwill and capital they’ve earned from successful careers in the entertainment industry to make large calls to action. Actors and performers like Nicole Kidman, Chris Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, Pink, Selena Gomez, Celeste Barber, Rebel Wilson, Naomi Watts, Kylie Minogue, Cate Blanchett, and Bindi Irwin have all implored their fans and followers to join them in supporting Australia in any way they can.

    New York Film Academy Australia (NYFA Australia) students from both Australia and the international community have had the distinct luxury of shooting in one of the most beautiful and diverse environments in the world. It is no coincidence that the film industry has turned to the Gold Coast and Australia so often to shoot iconic films and television series—the charm and beauty of the island continent is effortlessly captured by the camera’s eye.

    Films and series like Game of Thrones, Aquaman, Thor: Ragnarok, San Andreas, The Shallows, Kong: Skull Island, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and the 70s Australian film Walkabout—as well as countless student films by NYFA Australia students and alumni—have all taken advantage of Australia’s scenic backdrops. Seeing the continued destruction of both land and lives has been unspeakably heartbreaking, and NYFA Australia encourages those who can to support the victims of Australia’s fires in any way possible.

    In light of these devastating bushfires, the Gold Coast campus has been in contact with Foodbank Queensland to see how they can support those in need during this challenging period. Foodbank Queensland has requested much-needed toiletries and non-perishable items as donations for those affected. The NYFA Australia community has come together and collected donations at the Southport campus which will be sent down to Foodbank NSW Team on January 10th in support of the Bushfire Relief. The campus has received an overwhelming amount of support from staff and students who are keen to help out in any way they can which has been wonderful.

    Donations collected by NYFA Australia for the Bushfire Relief.

     

    Here’s How You Can Help

    For those willing and able to help, here are some of the organizations you can support to aid displaced people, wildlife populations, and Australia as a whole during this unprecedented emergency:

    The cinematographer of the Australian film Walkabout also NYFA Los Angeles’s Cinematography ChairAnthony Richmond shares this message and plea for support:

    Every dollar counts so any amount you are able to donate will help and Australians will surely appreciate it.

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    January 10, 2020 • Entertainment Australia, Outreach, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 658

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Li Cheng’s ‘Jośe’ Gets National Release After Winning Queer Lion Award at Venice Film Festival

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    It’s becoming more and more common for New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni to win major festival prizes, so it wasn’t any surprise when news broke out that Filmmaking grad Li Cheng won the 2018 Queer Lion Award at the 75th Venice Film Festival, one of the world’s most prominent cinema competitions; his film José is now the first Central American film to do so. Following the prestigious award as well as premieres in 50 countries and 100 festival cities worldwide, José now has a national USA theatre release, starting in a dozen major markets, with Cheng personally be presenting the film and speaking with audiences during each of the first three days for both the New York and Los Angeles screenings.

    Li Cheng Jose

    NYFA alum LI Cheng on set of Jośe, Courtesy of YQstudio LLC

    In 2008, Cheng attended the 4-Week Filmmaking workshop at our New York campus. “My NYFA experience was wonderful,” Cheng tells NYFA, “and key to getting started right: hands-on, quickly, low-cost/high-value, with passionate film professionals, and meeting and working together with creative, energetic, inspiring faculty, staff, and student-cohorts from day one. I couldn’t have asked for more, or a better kickstart to my career in film.”

    Cheng used that kickstart to his full advantage. His feature film José is a nuanced look at the challenges and joys of gay life in Central America. The Spanish-language, English-subtitled film follows star José (Enrique Salanic), who lives at home with his mother (Ana Cecilia Mota), who makes ends meet by selling sandwiches at bus stops and who is not ready to let go of her youngest child. But when he meets Luis (Manolo Herrera), José is pushed to break down his own boundaries and take a leap of faith with this new relationship. 

    José was written and produced by Cheng, along with George F. Roberson, and was shot in Guatemala with a non-industry artist and academic crew, making it the first major LGBTQIA+ film to come from the nation. Outsider Pictures is the film’s North American distributor and world sales, while international festival sales are handled by Rediance (of Paris and Beijing).

    Li Cheng Jose

    The powerful film has resonated with audiences. Winning the Queer Lion is an incredible achievement; the Queer Lion Award is the trophy awarded, starting in 2007, to the “Best Movie with LGBT Themes & Queer Culture” among those presented during the Venice International Film Festival. Previous winners include Tom Ford’s A Single Man and Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. José has also won Best Film at the Boston LGBT Film Festival and was cited for its “confident visual sense…a sensitive portrait [with a] depth of feeling” by The Hollywood Reporter.

    The film will screen at the Quad Cinema in New York City from Friday, January 31 – Sunday, February 2. Tickets are available here. Other screenings for José, including at the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles on February 7, can be found here. Q&A sessions between the audiences and Cheng will follow screenings each of the first three days for both the New York and Los Angeles releases.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Li Cheng on winning the Venice Film Festival’s Queer Lion award and looks forward to following his career as a filmmaker!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) South Beach Celebrates Art Basel 2019

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    New York Film Academy South Beach looks forward to Art Basel Miami Beach each year, an event where the city welcomes industry veterans, visual artists, and independent filmmakers alike. Studying at the epicentre of the festival, NYFA South Beach students and faculty draw inspiration from the eccentric art, installations, and events that the fair brings with it. 

    Art Basel is a for-profit, privately owned and managed international art fair staged annually in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach, Florida; and Hong Kong, selling the works of established and emerging artists and supporting galleries through nurturing artists. It’s known as a leading global platform that connects collectors, galleries, and artists from around the world.

    Art Basel 2019

    This year’s iteration of the annual event in Miami Beach presented artworks from across the globe through more than 250 of the world’s leading galleries, drawing over 70,000 visitors and offering an inspiring week for artists, collectors, critics, curators, and enthusiasts.

    One particular installation this year captured the attention of all–life-size sand sculptures on Miami Beach, created by Leandro Erlich in an effort to compel people to face the dangers of climate change. Titled “Order of Importance,” the latest work of the Argentine artist was designed to disrupt the landscape while also blending with it. The City of Miami Beach commissioned the installation with an allocation of $300,000, and it was the first of its public art projects with an intentionally short life.

    Art Basel 2019

    NYFA South Beach checked out the installation site, equipped with “NYFA News” filming gear to interview those visiting the sand sculptures and hear their thoughts on the inventive art and its powerful message. Additionally, NYFA South Beach Special Effects instructor and cinematographer Carlos Fueyo was commissioned to create an official promotional video on the installation.

    On campus, NYFA South Beach Dean and Director Maylen Dominguez conducted a Q&A with Carlos, touching on the art, the artist, his involvement in the project and what it’s like to be a filmmaker at Art Basel.

    Art Basel 2019

    “Art Basel exposes our students to thought provoking art, gallerists, artists and buyers form literally every corner of the world,” reflects Dominguez. “You see extraordinary work and things that are not to your taste. Art Basel is a great reminder that the important thing is to be creative and not judge yourself so much, because there’s someone out there who will buy the $120,000 duct-tape banana.”

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    December 8, 2019 • Community Highlights, Film School, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 53

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Acting for Film Alum Vicente Almuna’s ‘Sepia’ Generating Lots of Buzz

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    Sepia, a film written, directed, and starring New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Acting for Film alum Vicente Almuna, has been generating a ton of buzz since entering the festival circuit.

    Vicente Almuna

    NYFA alum Vicente Almuna

    Almuna originally hails from Chile and enrolled in the MFA in Acting for Film program at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus in 2016. While studying at NYFA-Los Angeles, Almuna learned skills not just in acting but behind the camera as well.

    He put those skills to work with Sepia, which he scripted and directed as well as starred in. The film tells the story of a man rejected from reentering his country of residency after visiting his country of origin. Due to being a former immigrant, he is prohibited from coming back to the place where he has built his life and relationships. Separated from his wife, he decides to undertake a journey by foot across the desert in order to be reunited with his love.

    Trailer Sepia from Vicente Almuna Morales on Vimeo

    “I believe we are going through very fervent times where a lot of meaningful events are occurring all over the world,” Almuna tells NYFA. “The violence and hate that humankind is experiencing nowadays, with fanatic nationalism rising in different parts of the globe; the terror of a next world war; the disputes between races and the immigration banning; or the desire of some countries to lock themselves hermetically from the rest of the world and people.

    “There is too much to be concerned about and I am not going to be just a simple witness of all that is going on around me,” he continues. “This is why I want to discuss about this, to talk about all this. To make a choice from an individual that has been living through this and has a perspective and something to say. I want to talk about my world and I want to create worlds about my world and contribute to make awareness and step by step, build a better place.”

    The film, co-directed by Luis Sánchez and produced by Sommer Saqr, has struck a nerve with festival audiences. Sepia has picked up awards for Best First-Time Director (Independent Short Awards), Best Actor (Independent Short Awards), and Best Cinematography (El Paso Film Festival), and has been nominated for Best First-Time Director (Queen Palm International Film Festival), Best Actor (Queen Palm International Film Festival), Best Dramatic Short (StoryMode Short Film Awards), Best Original Story (StoryMode Short Film Awards), Best Actor (StoryMode Short Film Awards), Audience Award (StoryMode Short Film Awards), and Best International Short (South Texas International Film Festival). Additionally, Sepia has screened at numerous other festivals.

    “NYFA taught me the primordial concepts and training to proceed on my own creative writing adventure,” Almuna describes when asked about his experiences studying at the Academy. “I understood the concept of try, fail, redo, try again. I understood the ideas of drafts, having my last script version after sixteen drafts. And I could keep on changing and modifying it eternally. I think every real and true artistic process never meets an end, it never reaches perfection. We could infinitely try to make it better.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Acting for Film alum Vicente Almuna on the success of Sepia and looks forward to following his career as it grows!

    Vicente Almuna

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) Present Youth Free Expression Film Contest Award

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    In collaboration with the New York Film Academy (NYFA), the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) honored this year’s Youth Free Expression Film Contest winners Molly Smith and Sage Croft, who accepted the award for their film Dear America. NYFA President Michael Young presented the award to the pair at a benefit event held in New York City on Monday, November 11, hosted by Drag Queen Story Hour’s Harmonica Sunbeam. Celebrating its 45th anniversary, NCAC also presented Free Speech Defender Awards to author Jason Reynolds and artist Carolee Schneemann (1939 – 2019).

    NCAC Youth Free Expression Film Contest

    NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program empowers students with knowledge, tools and opportunities to defend their rights and assert their voices. Too often, students are silenced when tough conversations get labeled disruptive. Over the past 15 years, the Youth Free Expression Film Contest has showcased the films of dozens of teens whose vision and respect for free expression will inspire generations to come. 

    NYFA offers crucial support for NCAC and the extraordinarily talented young filmmakers; the scholarship prize offered by NYFA allows award winners the opportunity to undertake any 4-Week hands-on workshop at any of NYFA’s domestic campuses—New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami.

    NCAC Youth Free Expression Film Contest

    Dear America, the film co-directed by this year’s winners—Molly Smith and Sage Croft of Clermont, Florida—is a vital example of just how important young voices are for sociopolitical discourse as well as the effectiveness of film as a medium for those voices. The film is an open letter on the topic of gun control from generation Z, and spotlights the psychological impact of gun violence on youth. Among a remarkably competitive field, Dear America earned the judges’ highest scores for its clear message and compelling visual technique.

    This year’s contest, which drew over 100 entries, invited teens to speak truth to power, directly addressing those with power to lead change by creating a cinematic postcard with a message they believe has gone unheard or silenced. The twelve finalist films tackled a wide range of polarizing—and often taboo—topics, including immigrant family separation, gender equality, toxic masculinity, shaming and bullying, and climate change.

    New York Film Academy and the National Coalition Against Censorship look forward to a continued partnership that gives students a platform to create films that speak to the free expression issues that affect their lives.

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    November 18, 2019 • Community Highlights, Outreach, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 660

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Damon J. Barnes Screens ‘Straight to Hell’

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    Straight to Hell, a period comedy written and directed by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes and produced by NYFA Filmmaking alum Furaha Bayibsa, screened last month in North Hollywood. Barnes attended the 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus in 2016; Bayibsa attended one year earlier. 

    Damon J. Barnes Straight to Hell
    The short film is a comedy about Christian gay conversation camps, and deals with very serious LGBTQIA+ issues in a humorous yet thoughtful way. Straight to Hell stars Bendan J. Shannon, Justin Selig, Noah Der, Gracie Lacey, and Collin Lapinsky.

    Straight to Hell began as Barnes’s thesis film while at NYFA. “One of the key driving forces for the film’s style, from choices in the script to choices in music, came from cinema from the 80s—more specifically, from the world of John Hughes,” says Barnes in an artist’s statement for the film. “The way Hughes’ storytelling captures the suburban teenage American experience in a fable-like, classicist body of work that stays true to the tradition of Hollywood romance and adventure was influential on the approach to make the story a comedy rather than a rough-edged, literal presentation—not to say those stories are not needed.” 

    Finding the right tone was important for Barnes. “At the heart of this film is a storyline that is tragic and unjust,” he continues in his statement on the film. “Comedy was used as the vehicle to tell that story. As absurd as conversion therapy is, is how absurd the comedy in the film was designed to be.”

    Damon J. Barnes

    NYFA Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes

    Damon plans to donate all the proceeds the film earns that week to nonprofit organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which uses litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy to fight hate and bigotry in our society.

    The film screened at the Laemmel NOHO Theater in North Hollywood from September 20 – 26.

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes on his film and encourages everyone to check out Straight to Hell when they can!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Photography Student Joseph Ford Photographs Jeff Bezos, Blac Chyna, and More

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    Joseph Ford, current BFA Photography student at New York Film Academy (NYFA), recently captured photo coverage of the Amazon float at the 2019 SF Gay Pride parade, including Amazon founder and richest person in the world, Jeff Bezos.

    Ford is a military veteran who originally hails from San Jose, California. After ten years of military service, Ford moved to Los Angeles to pursue his passion for fashion photography, enrolling in the BFA program at the Photo Arts Conservatory at New York Film Academy (PAC At NYFA). 

    Joseph Ford VoyageLA

    He’s since started a beauty and fashion photography company, Gifted Mindset Photography, and has had success shooting numerous models in beautifully composed, striking images.

    His talents have not gone unnoticed, and Ford has been tapped to shoot influencers like Blac Chyna and Brittany Renner, among others. He was tapped to cover the Amazon float at the 2019 SF Gay Pride parade, photographing the richest man in the world, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

    “I think what sets me apart from other photographers is the experience models get when they work with me,” Ford told VoyageLA in a recent interview. “I still approach each shoot with the excitement and passion I did when I first started. And that’s actually easy for me because the excitement and passion is still there.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates BFA Photography student Joseph Ford on his success and looks forward to seeing his future work as he continues his studies!

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  • Off-Broadway Show by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Instructor James Lecesne Available on Audible

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    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, the Off-Broadway show by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor, is now available to listen to on Audible, Amazon’s audiobook platform.

    Both written and performed by Lecesne, the story unravels around Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year-old boy who goes missing from a small town on the Jersey Shore. Leonard becomes an unexpected inspiration to the townsfolk, who begin to question how they live, who they love, and what they leave behind. Sound design for the production was done by Christian Frederickson, with original music by Duncan Sheik.

    The New York Times says that The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey will “leave you beaming with joy … a superlative solo show … Mr. Lecesne is a writer of wit and keen observational skills, who here unfolds a dark tale that shimmers with the needling suspense you associate with the best police procedurals.”

    Much of Lecesne’s work focuses on LGBTQIA+ themes, including his screenplay for the Academy-Award winning short, Trevor. That film directly led to his founding of The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Lecesne also wrote for Further Tales if the City, Will and Grace, and Vicious, starring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.

    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by NYFA Documentary Filmmaking instructor James Lecesne can be found on Audible here. New York Film Academy encourages the NYFA community to check it out today!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Movie Musical ‘Kaya: Taste of Paradise’ to Screen in Montreal

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    Kaya: Taste of ParadiseKaya: Taste of Paradise, the movie musical directed by Paul Warner for the Professional Conservatory at New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA), will be screening as part of Never Apart’s LGBT Film Series later this month in Montreal, Quebec.

    Kaya: Taste of Paradise is a movie musical set in 1979 and tells the story of a young South African immigrant, Kaya (Lethabo Mofomme), coming of age in New York City. Orphaned by the Soweto Uprisings of 1976, her brother, DeMarco (Okieriete Onaodowan of Broadway’s Hamilton and Great Comet), struggles to protect Kaya at all costs. While he rebuilds their lives in Harlem to provide a home for her, Kaya escapes to a disco in Brooklyn called Club Paradise in search of independence. She befriends Pato (Felipe Joglar), a gender-bending performance artist from Chile, and gradually becomes enchanted by the glamorous Cocoa (Stasi Berezovskaya), the headliner and owner of Paradise. The events unfold at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic.

    The movie musical was directed by filmmaker and NYFA instructor Paul Warner and written by Jerome A. Parker, with music and lyrics by Anna K Jacobs. “This film not only showcases exceptional music, storytelling, and direction, but it also celebrates a significant socio-political era in pursuit of civil rights,” says Sean Robinson, who edited and co-produced the film. “The gift of song should never be wasted and NYFA is providing an avenue for these students’ voices to be heard.”

    Kaya: Taste of Paradise

    Kaya will screen on August 15, at 7:00 p.m., followed by a Q&A with Warner, and hosted by Bradley Grill. The event, which coincides with Montreal’s Pride Week, is part of Never Apart’s month-long LGBT Film Series. Never Apart is a nonprofit based in Montreal, founded in 2015. The organization aims to bring about social change and spiritual awareness through gatherings, music, art exhibitions, panel discussions, workshops, and special events.

    New York Film Academy encourages everyone in the area to check out Kaya: Taste of Paradise on August 15! Details about the screening can be found here.

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    August 5, 2019 • Musical Theatre, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 792

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Issa Rae Executive Produces HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show

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    This Friday, HBO will premiere its newest comedy series, A Black Lady Sketch Show, executive produced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Issa Rae and created by Robin Thede. The landmark show will be the first ever sketch series on television starring an all-black women cast, as well as the first with an all-black women writers room.

    The first season of A Black Lady Sketch Show, which debuts August 2, 11:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT, comprises six episodes and around forty sketches. The show is a direct response from veteran comedy writer Robin Thede to the traditional lack of diversity in comedy; in 2015, Thede had become late night’s first black woman head writer when after joining The Nightly Show.

    “[A Black Lady Sketch Show] was definitely written from a very specific point of view,” Thede tells Salon, “but it’s from a diverse array of black women. So you’re going to get sketches that have aliens or musicals or thrillers or murder. You’re going to get sketches with all sorts of different things because of the diversity amongst the black women in our writer’s room … For us it’s really about showcasing something that is seen as very homogeneous and showing the layers that black women have. And even on this show, in six episodes, we can’t, we’ve barely scratched the surface.”

    The cast will include Thede, as well as Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, and Quinta Brunson. The show will be co-executive produced by Issa Rae Productions, the production company of New York Film Academy alum Issa Rae.

    After graduating the 4-Week Filmmaking Workshop at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus, Rae turned the success of her award-winning web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl into a deal with HBO. The deal included her series, Insecure, which she writes, produces, and stars in, and for which she earned Golden Globe nominations in 2017 and 2018. It also included developing more projects for HBO with a special focus on diversity. A Black Lady Sketch Show turned out to be the perfect fit for Issa Rae productions.

    New York Film Academy prides itself on its diverse, international student body with aspiring performers and visual artists coming from over 120 countries in a nearly even female-to-male ratio. Recently, NYFA Screenwriting alum Abby Ajayi was one of 63 black female writers featured in an epic photo shoot by The Hollywood Reporter late last year. Other notable women of color that have graduated from NYFA include Amy Wright, Furaha Bayibsa, Omoni Oboli, Paquita Hughes, and Akila Robinson.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Issa Rae on her latest production and wishes the best of success to Robin Thede and the cast and crew of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show!

     

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