NYFA Documentary Filmmaking
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  • Student Spotlight: Documentary Film Student Richard Brookshire Pens Article Featured in ‘New York Times Magazine’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Film student Richard Brookshire recently wrote an article for New York Times Magazine about his experience serving in the army as a Black, queer man, joining the Black Lives Matter movement, and what he has been doing to bring Black stories to life as a filmmaker and a storyteller.

    NYFA reached out to Brookshire to continue the conversation from his New York Times Magazine article and to discuss his experience as a Black documentary filmmaker, his upcoming short film Boukman’s Prayer 2.0, and the future of Black stories in the entertainment industry.

    Richard Brookshire, with his mother, Natacha, at his graduation from Army basic training in 2009 (Photo Courtesy of Richard Brookshire)

    Before pursuing filmmaking, Richard Brookshire served as a combat medic with the 170th Infantry Brigade in Germany, and later Afghanistan. At this time, Brookshire recalls his closeted sexuality due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and also remembers being one of a few Black soldiers in his 40 person platoon. In his article for New York Times Magazine, Brookshire wrote:

    Through Brookshire’s personal encounters, the experiences of his loved ones, and witnessing modern events of racial inequality unfold (like the horrific shooting of Trayvon Martin), led Brookshire to join the New York chapter of Black Lives Matter and to co-found the Black Veterans Project, a racial equity and archive initiative created to shed light on systemic racial inequities within the U.S military (both historic and present).

    Brookshire’s interest in racial injustice led also opened up another area of interest; film. “I recognized how the medium of [documentary] film was the perfect space to merge my background and skill set to capture Black American life for future generations.”

    “Film is one of the most powerful forms of propaganda we have in retelling histories and cultivating a public imagination around how we see ourselves as a society and our shared humanity,” says Brookshire. “Just as it can do harm, it can also harness good. It can expand our collective understandings, give us a window into lives far different than our own, and equip stakeholders and activists with powerful narratives to drive necessary and provocative awakenings around injustices across societies.”

    Brookshire during an Army National Guard, Upstate New York in 2015 (Photo Courtesy of Richard Brookshire)

    After Brookshire’s four year old niece passed away last year, he says it was the motivation he needed to study the documentary filmmaking craft. “NYFA felt like the perfect place to gain expertise from leading filmmakers in an intimate intensive program geared toward teaching me the fundamentals,” says Brookshire. “I credit NYFA alum, Clyde Gunter for persuading me on what NYFA had to offer.”

    Brookshire notes that documentary filmmaking can change or broaden an individual’s perspective. “It only takes one mind to begin planting the seeds of change and revolution. We are in constant evolution as human beings, and we must not shy away from harnessing the power we have to inspire each other to do better, to be better and to create new systems that reflect a reality that is informed by the shared understanding of our common humanity.”

    As a filmmaker and activist, Brookshire turns to creators like Spike Lee and Henry Louis Gates for imagination, creativity, and unforgettable storytelling. “I always joke with my friends that if Spike Lee and Henry Louis Gates had a director baby, it’d be me.” He notes that Spike Lee has always taken incredible care and consideration “in capturing the splendor and hardship of Black American Life.” As for Henry Louis Gates, Brookshire claims Gates “has created unparalleled works that dive deep into the overlooked African American histories.”

    Brookshire being interviewed recently at a protest at the Manhattan Bridge (Photo Credit: Dexter Philips)

    For his next project, Brookshire tells NYFA that his short film Boukman’s Prayer 2.0 will explore “five Black artists surviving the COVID-19 crisis in the days leading up to the riots.” In his essay film, Brookshire describes it as an exploration of “Black folk who find freedom within and access planes in their creative imagination to allow a spiritual awakening and healing outside of an anti-Black society.”

    While the country continues to address various systemic racial prejudices and injustices, the entertainment industry has its own work to do too. “The archive is full of Black histories and Black life to tell. The diaspora is rife with untold and unexplored characters and circumstances,” says Brookshire. “If we are to bridge the long-standing racial divide, we must create spaces for Black stories to exist, and not just those that retell Black traumas (which has been a primary avenue for Black filmmakers write large).”

    He continues to note the importance of Black documentaries and their ability to show “the vastness of our humanity and experience,” and urges the conversation of ownership with Black storytelling; “who owns Black stories is just as important as who tells them.”

    In addition, Brookshire shares that mentorship cannot be overlooked either. “Sharing resources and knowledge creates pathways to opportunity,” he says. “The reason the canon of documentaries is lacking relative to Black stories is because, for far too long, film was an exclusive space and, in many ways, it still is quite a privilege to be able to do this sort of work.”

    New York FIlm Academy would like to thank Richard Brookshire for continuing to share his stories and insight as a Black filmmaker and encourages everyone to read his New York Times Magazine article and to be on the lookout for his upcoming short Boukman’s Prayer 2.0.

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    June 30, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 660

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Students Shoot Mini-Docs in Belize

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking students are off on another international expedition this spring, traveling to Belize in Central America from May 19 through May 25.

    The Documentary Filmmaking department is partnering with Adaptation Fund in collaboration with Belize Fisheries Department on the Marine Conservation and Climate Adaption Project implemented by the government of Belize (MCCAP). 

    The crew is led by NYFA Documentary Faculty Chair – Los Angeles, Sanora Bartels, and includes students Cassandra Bauer, Ayu Logan, Jackson McGuire, and Ashley Valsin, who are working alongside NYFA Documentary alum Mollie Moore.

    The crew will shoot and edit several short (90-120 second) mini-docs that will be used by Belize Fisheries Department for dissemination of information and to highlight the project’s positive effect in alleviating climate change.  

    The crew landed in Belize on May 19, and on May 20 set sea to Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve. On Turneffe, the students will interview local fishermen and beneficiaries of MCCAP’s work.  They will also capture the work of administrative and scientific leaders connected to MCCAP and the Adaptation Fund. They’re really looking forward to shooting underwater footage concentrating on Marine Protected Areas, mangroves, fishing livelihood (seaweed cultivation), and coral restoration. 

    After Turneffe, the students will return to Belize City and edit the mini-docs as well as host a screening on their final night of the expedition. Once back in the US, the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking students will join the Adaptation Fund campaign by posting their films on social media in support of climate adaptation programs. Stay tuned to check out their finished work!

    Turneffe Atoll

    Marine habitats in Turneffe Atoll
    © Eric Ramos

    UPDATE (9/10/19): Adaptation Fund was thrilled with the work of NYFA Documentary students, and included their videos on their YouTube channel as well as in a written story found here.

    “Thanks so much to both Belize Fisheries for hosting and facilitating the filming project, and NYFA for their interest in this project and pursuing it,” says Matt Pueschel, Adaptation Fund Communications Officer. “It really turned out great, and seemed to be a great experience for all sides. I think the resulting videos are also impactful and will help spread the word of the importance of climate change adaptation.”

    Here are the four videos filmed by NYFA-LA students while in Belize:

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    May 21, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 1715

  • Oscar-nominated Editor Kristen Nutile Screens Heroin(e) at New York Film Academy

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    Academy Award-nominated editor and documentarian Kristen Nutile visited the New York Film Academy recently for a screening of Heroin(e) followed by a Q&A at the NYFA Theatre at the Battery Park campus.

    A Netflix original, Heroin(e) was nominated in the 90th Academy Awards Best Documentary Short category. The film follows three community leaders, all women, as they battle the opioid epidemic and work to save lives their city of Huntington, West Virginia, a place where the overdose rate is 10 times the national average. Heroin(e) is directed by Peabody-awarding winning Elaine McMillion Sheldon and edited by Kristin Nutile, a NYFA instructor.

    “When I was approached by Elaine, I was very moved by this particular problem and that is why I took on the project,” Nutile has told NYFA. “I loved how she was following three women trying to make a difference. I love that it was female-centric.”

    Despite the early, 7 p.m. start time and the fact that Heroin(e) runs at a tight 39 minutes, the event lasted late into the night, as Nutile generously and thoughtfully stretched her time to answer every student question.

    Nutile explained to a packed house of NYFA New York Documentary Filmmaking students, “I choose projects because I am interested in the subject and like to work with great people. Winning awards is never the goal. To be in an Oscar-nominated crew is truly amazing. Ultimately to me, it’s about the work.”

    Nutile has directed six of her own films and edited two dozen more in addition to teaching at New York Film Academy’s Documentary Filmmaking program in New York City. The program was named by The Independent Magazine in the Top 10 Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers and recently featured in IDA’s Documentary Magazine.

    Watch Heroin(e) on Netflix. You can also learn more on the website.

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  • WWF Features New York Film Academy Documentary Alum Valentine Rosado in Annual Report

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    With 2017 the third hottest year on record, climate change and environmental conservation have become trending topics. Yet for conservationists like biologist and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking alum Valentine Rosado, the important work to protect the planet is an ongoing, lifelong commitment.

    After returning from his studies at NYFA New York City through a Professional Development Grant from World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program (EFN), Rosado recently launched environmental consulting firm Grassroots Belize with his wife Angie in his home country of Belize.

    Now, Rosado and his work are featured in WWF’s Russell E. Train Education for Nature Annual Report.

    “Guadalupe Valentine Rosado, a biologist from Belize, received a Professional Development Grant to attend a six-week documentary filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy,” the WWF Report states. “He is using the skills learned in the workshop to create impactful and educational films about environmental issues facing Belize, such as mangrove reforestation and restoration.”

    With the WWF’s annual membership reaching upwards of 5 million, it’s exciting to see that news of Rosado’s incredible conservation work for Belize has reached such a wide audience, and that what he’s learned at New York Film Academy’s Documentary School has contributed to his important work in Belize.

    “Conservation endures as a living discipline because it is inhabited by a magnificent collection of people,” WWF President & CEO Carter Roberts states on their website. “Only by working together can we create solutions to the most vexing problems we face.”

    We couldn’t agree more. Congratulations, Valentine! We look forward to seeing what’s next for Grassroots Belize. You can learn by connecting with Valentine and following Grassroots Belize on Facebook.

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  • New York Film Academy Documentary Film Festival Screens 5 Fantastic Student Docs

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    The New York Film Academy recently celebrated The New York Film Academy Documentary Film Festival, offering a showcase of five exceptional thesis documentaries from our conservatory students.

    Held at the NYFA Theatre at the New York City campus, the festival served not only as a thesis presentation, but also a professional launch and celebration of an exceptional group of filmmakers. The surprising, compelling stories and unique visions of the Spring ’17 Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory carried a delighted audience of fellow NYFA students, friends, faculty, and staff around the globe and through a series of remarkable worlds you’d never have known existed.

    Screened at the festival were the following films:

    "Jatar" by Braulio Jatar

    “Running Out of Freedom” Directed by Braulio Jatar

    Braulio Jatar’s father, a high-profile Venezuelan dissident, is dying in prison. But the capture order on Braulio’s head makes returning to the country extremely dangerous. His family won’t allow it. But with his father’s life in the balance, and the Resistance gathering to make one last stand, the young journalist has decided to risk his life to fight for his father and for his country.

    “Cricket Liu” Directed by Julia Cheng

    An aging master of the ancient culture of cricket fighting now uses the art to entertain an endless river of tourists, earning all he possibly can, to send in precious red envelops as gifts to the beloved little grandson he is not allowed to know.

    “Gold Flakes” Directed by Santiago Machado

    A courageous father navigates Colombian rainforests, gleaning the last flakes of El Dorado’s gold.

    But it’s drying up. The abandoned mines threaten collapse, a guerilla army is taking over the area, and the government is trying to starve out the gleaners with new taxes and tightening regulations. Still, his family will eat tonight if he can find just one good gold flake.

    “The Future is Rotten” Directed by Nancy Dionne 

    Forests of the Pacific Northwest hold a rare treasure. A secret culture of foragers spend their lives hunting it. Its coveted flavor can bring up to $1000 per kg. But the Matsutake mushroom’s true genius is as a healer of ruined landscapes, and it may offer the best hope for an American forest system run amuk.

    “Sword Swallower” Directed by Katerina Olkhovaya 

    Notorious circus artist Magnificent Jewels makes a career of death-defying performances. Even outside the limelight, the vulnerable if hardened sword swallower sacrifices all for the burlesque circus that from Berlin, to Brussels, to Paris must always go on.

    Congratulations to our Spring ’17 Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory class! It was truly a proud and triumphant night for our documentary community.

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  • New York Film Academy Fulbright Student’s “Soul” at Berlinale, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory student and Spanish Fulbright scholar Pedro Peira produced the film “Soul,” completing its post-production while he studied at NYFA Los Angeles and seeing the project through to fruition in its digital premiere across North America early this December.

    Following its successful premier at the opening night of the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), “Soul” has now found online distribution with not one, but three major streaming platforms: iTunes,  Amazon Video, and Google Play.

    For those who loved 2011’s “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” Peria provides a thoughtful and delicious follow-up in the documentary “Soul.” Taking viewers behind the scenes of two of the world’s most-coveted restaurants to learn from two of its greatest chefs, “Soul” draws interesting parallels between Basque and Japanese cuisine, through the work of 3-star Michelin-rated Spanish chef Eneko Atxa, and the legendary Jiro Ono, one of the last practitioners of the fine art of traditional sushi making in Japan.

    While many people may not immediately see parallels between Basque and Japanese cuisine, “Soul” makes an appetizing case that these geographically unrelated regional cuisines share something very important in common: family secrets, soul, and fresh seafood.

    As the Hollywood Reporter (THR) described the film, “Soul” is a foodie’s dream that takes viewers to Spain, Japan, and even Paris, where the head of Michelin offers insights into the world of haute cuisine. THR notes that “Soul” comes at a time where the world is seeing “certain Spanish chefs are now famous enough to open up restaurants in Japan, while Japanese chefs are seen making a pilgrimage to Spain.”

    In such an increasingly international world, the New York Film Academy congratulates our Spanish Fulbright alumnus Pedro Peira for the success of “Soul.”

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  • Sundance 2018 Will Feature Work by New York Film Academy Documentary & Filmmaking Instructors

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    The Sundance Film Festival announced their 2018 slate this week, and the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking School is once again represented among the Sundance festival selections.

    As soon as Sundance released its announcement, the New York Times published the article, Sundance Film Festival 2018: 6 Films to Know,” which spotlights the documentary RBG.” NYFA Documentary cinematography professor Claudia Raschke is the director of photography for this much-anticipated documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, “RBG” focuses on Ginsberg’s early work and how it has impacted women’s rights, tracing her evolution as an outspoken Supreme Court Justice, now popular in internet memes as “Notorious RBG.”

    It’s no surprise to find Claudia behind the camera of one of the year’s most important docs. Her previous work has already been nominated for Academy Awards four times.  

    “That NYFA’s Documentary Filmmaking students work so closely with a cinematographer as accomplished and prominent as Claudia is a rare privilege and adds immeasurably to their educations,” says Chair of the Documentary Filmmaking Department Andrea Swift.

    Claudia also shot the 2nd Units of two more 2018 Sundance-selected films: “The Price of Everything,” directed by Nathaniel Kahn (U.S. Documentary Competition), and “The Game Changers,” by Louie Psihoyos (World Premiere).

    A still from “The Game Changers” via IMDB.

    “The Price of Everything” turns its focus to the thriving market of the contemporary art world, while “The Game Changers” follows The Ultimate Fighter winner and special forces trainer James Wilks on a nutritional investigation.

    Joining Claudia in screening work at Sundance 2018 is New York Film Academy Documentary Master Class professor Hilla Medalia, who produced Sundance selection “The Oslo Diaries.”

    “The Oslo Diaries” chronicles the 1992 illegal and clandestine meeting of Israelis and Palestinians in Oslo, which impacted the course of history in the Middle East.

    A still from “The Tale” by Jennifer Fox

    New York Film Academy instructor Debbie De Villa is also represented at Sundance 2018, in the U.S. Dramatic Competition film selection “The Tale,” for which she served as production designer. “The Tale” is written and directed by Jennifer Fox and stars Laura Dern, portraying a character who must reexamine her memories surrounding her first sexual relationship.

    Read more about the Sundance 2018 selections in Variety, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, and Screen Daily.

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  • New York Film Academy Documentary Program Chairs Interviewed in IDA’s Documentary Magazine

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    Poised as the training ground for the next generation of leaders in this field, the New York Film Academy’s Documentary School was featured in the Fall 2017 edition of Documentary magazine, the biggest international documentary magazine and a publication of the prestigious International Documentary Association (IDA).

    In a wide-ranging conversation about NYFA’s Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory, NYFA Los Angeles Chair of Documentary Sanora Bartels and NYFA New York Chair of Documentary Andrea Swift gave a wide-ranging interview to Documentary magazine’s Tom Gianakopoulos, in the Doc University section. Gianakopoulos also teaches screenwriting at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles’ youth programs.

    Sonora Bartels told Documentary readers that NYFA’s hands-on learning style sets it apart: “Students at both campuses hit the ground running, and that first semester is a doozy. Right off the bat you have camera classes; you have directing classes; you have sound and producing classes—all of the practical instruction.”

    Andrea Swift agreed: We are very story-focused and, as mentioned earlier, our structure comes from the guiding principle that you learn how to make films by actually making films. The beating heart of that is telling a story.”

    The Documentary interview also spotlighted NYFA’s inclusion in the Hollywood Reporter’s list of the Top 25 American film schools, as well as major alumni successes including Raphael Neihausen’s Academy Award-nominated “Joe’s Violin” and Muhammed Hamdy’s Oscar-winning “The Square.”

    The New York Film Academy Documentary programs have embraced a global worldview since their inception. “If you do documentaries because you want to learn about the world, come to NYFA,” Sanora Bartels told Documentary. “You will learn about the world around you right here in the classroom, where you will figure out how to work with other cultures very quickly.”

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  • NYFA Student Showcase is a Success at DOC NYC 2017

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    The 2017 edition of DOC NYC included another fantastic New York Film Academy Documentary Department Showcase, spotlighting the work of NYFA students. NYFA faculty also had work represented at the festival, which MovieMaker Magazine has named amongst the top 5 “coolest documentary festivals in the world.”

    NYFA President Michael Young with NYFA DOC NYC Documentary Filmmakers at the NYFA Showcase, IFC Center.

    Known as one of the most prestigious documentary festivals in the U.S., DOC NYC is held annually at the IFC Center in Manhattan’s West Village. The 8-day festival provides a cutting-edge platform for documentaries and includes panels and conversations with industry leaders.

    This is the third year in a row that NYFA Documentary Filmmaking students have premiered their original work at DOC NYC. The five NYFA student films premiering at the festival were “Atomic Love” (Yusaku Kanagawa), “Home Free” (Marie-Chan Kasongo), “Little Red Lie” (Mariko Ide), “Jatar” (Braulio Jatar), and “Janguaribara” (Lucas M. Dantas). Following the special screening, students, faculty, and industry guests alike enjoyed the usual excellent day-long after party/reunion, networking with fellow filmmakers and documentary industry insiders.

    NYFA Doc NYC Showcase Poster

    “DOC NYC is one of the most important documentary film festivals in the world. It’s a huge honor to be included in their showcase for the third year in a row.  Luckily, our students are up to the challenge,” said Andrea Swift, Chair, NYFA Documentary Department. “These five films are as accomplished as they are diverse, which is representative of the majority of NYFA documentaries.”

    Three NYFA faculty members were also honored with film screenings at DOC NY: “Scotty Bowers and the Secret History of Hollywood” (featuring NYFA Digital Editing Professor Bob Eisenhardt, multiple Emmy Award-winner and Oscar nominee), “Hot Grease” (NYFA Documentary Department Producing Professor Jessica Wolfson), and “Atomic Homefront” (NYFA Documentary Department Cinematography Professor Claudia Raschke, four time Oscar nominee).

    DOC NYC Shorts Programmer Opal Bennet and NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift with filmmakers.

     

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  • Fulbright Program Selects New York Film Academy to Provide Storytelling Workshops

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was recently honored to have Andrea Swift, NYFA’s Chair of the Documentary Department, selected to run a storytelling workshop at the annual mid-year conference for Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (Fulbright FLTA). Professor Swift will provide a short course on micro documentaries for non-filmmakers entitled, “You have a doc in your pocket!”

    The Fulbright Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, funded by an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA administers the program with the assistance of binational Fulbright Commissions in 49 countries, U.S. embassies in more than 100 other countries, and cooperating partners. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and the United States also provide direct and indirect support.

    This year, more than 400 Fulbright FLTAs from 53 countries across the globe will attend the conference in Washington, D.C. from December 7-10, 2017. Fulbright FLTAs teach over 30 different languages to American students, including critical and uncommonly taught languages, at more than 180 colleges and universities throughout the United States. Languages taught by FLTAs include Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Kiswahili, Persian, Russian, Turkish, Urdu, and Yoruba. The mid-year conference aims to enhance the FLTA experience by strengthening teaching methodologies and providing supplementary classroom techniques with an emphasis on cultural exchange.

     

    NYFA is proud to have hosted more than 50 Fulbright Foreign Students from nearly 30 nations over the past 11 years, representing countries as diverse as Angola, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, France, Indonesia, Lithuania, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vietnam, Zambia and more. Most of the participants have enrolled in NYFA’s MFA and MA programs to pursue their artistic and educational goals.

    NYFA is committed to maintaining an active relationship with the Fulbright community, from holding special film screenings for the Fulbright Association, an independent, non-governmental organization for U.S. Fulbright alumni, to helping organize and produce the Fulbright Association’s 2015 and 2017 TEDxFulbright events in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

     

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