Pitt sings the praises of Oyelowo

Plus: Sharma to play Provogue boss; putting the book in Facebook; Dogra agrees three-film deal; tributes pour in for ESPN star Stuart Scott; and French anti-colonial filmmaker Rene Vaulter dead at 86.

Brad Pitt, right, presents the Breakthrough Performance award to David Oyelowo for Selma at the 26th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala on Saturday, January 3, 2015, in Palm Springs, California. Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP Photo
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The first star-studded film-award ceremony of the new year was something to sing about. Although he didn't win a prize, the actor Brad Pitt stole the show by starting a singalong at the annual black-tie gala for the Palm Springs International Film Festival in California. Pitt, a producer of the director Ava DuVernay's historical drama Selma, was there to introduce the British actor David Oyelowo, who portrays the civil-rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr in the film. Oyelowo received the festival's Breakthrough Performance Award for his role. While introducing Oyelowo, Pitt led the audience in a singalong with lyrics that playfully teased Oyelowo about his often-­mispronounced surname – it sounds like oh-yellow-oh. Other award winners included Rosamund Pike, who also won a Breakthrough Performance Award for her role in Gone Girl; Reese Witherspoon, who won the Chairman's Award for Wild; Alejandro González Iñárritu, the director of Birdman, who was named Director of the Year; and The Imitation Game – released in the UAE on Thursday – which won the Ensemble Performance Award. – AP

Sharma to play Provogue boss

The comedian Kapil Sharma will make his Bollywood debut in the film Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon. He will star as the chief executive of the clothing company Provogue, which is branching out into film production, The Times of India reported. "I'm excited about my first film," said Sharma. "It's fun shooting for it since it is a comedy, which is a genre I'm very comfortable with. I'm also enjoying playing the role of a CEO because it is a challenging task." Nikhil Chaturvedi, the real-life managing director of Provogue, said: "I'm happy that we are being featured in this new movie with Kapil. It gives out a youthful vibe and that is something that's at the heart of our brand DNA." – The National staff

Putting the book in Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg wants to put more "book" in Facebook. The founder and chief executive of the social-network site announced on his page that he plans to read a book every other week this year, with an emphasis on learning about different beliefs, cultures and technologies. Zuckerberg created a page called "A Year of Books", urging others to join him in the project, which already has more than 120,000 likes. The first book he has chosen is Moises Naim's The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be. The Venezuelan-born Naim is an award-winning columnist, author and television host, a former trade minister in his country and a distinguished fellow in the International Economics Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His book was published in 2013. "It's a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organisations," Zuckerberg wrote. "The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply." – AP

Dogra agrees three-film deal

The filmmaker Abhishek Dogra, who is working on his first film, Dolly Ki Doli, starring Sonam Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao, has signed a three-film deal with its producer Arbaaz Khan, according to The Times of India. "I have a three-film contract with Arbaaz, but at the same time he has been very sweet to me and said that if I get a good offer from a good producer and with a good star cast, I should go ahead," Dogra said. "He has been a guiding force for me and always gives me ideas on how to go about certain things." – The National staff

Tributes pour in for ESPN star Stuart Scott

Sports stars and public figures yesterday paid tribute to sportscaster Stuart Scott, who died on Sunday at the age of 49. ESPN, where he had worked since 1993, said Scott died of cancer, which he had been battling since 2007. His use of pop-culture references and wordplay earned him a loyal following among American fans and athletes. His signature expression, “Booyah!”, spread beyond the sports world and he peppered his reports and commentary on athletes and their exploits with lively phrases such as “cool as the other side of the pillow” or “just call him butter ‘cause he’s on a roll”. In July, he delivered an eloquent speech upon accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2014 ESPY Awards, an honour named after Jim Valvano, a North Carolina State basketball coach who died of cancer in 1993 at the age of 47 after working as a commentator for ESPN. Scott said: “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” The NBA superstar LeBron James wrote on Instagram: “Thank you so much for being u and giving us inner city kids someone we could relate to that wasn’t a player but was close enough to them.” The American president Barack Obama said: “Twenty years ago, Stu helped usher in a new way to talk about our favourite teams and the day’s best play. Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us – with courage and love.” – AFP

French anti-colonial filmmaker Rene Vautier dead at 86

The radical filmmaker Rene Vautier, who claimed to be the “most censored director in France”, died on Sunday at the age of 86, his family said.

He died in hospital in his native Brittany, said his wife, fellow director Soazig Chappedelaine Vautier.

A lifelong critic of French colonialism, Vautier is best known for Avoir 20 ans dans les Aures, which depicted young French conscripts being turned into killing machines during the war in Algeria.

It won him the international critics’ prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972, but like much of his work, brought him into conflict with French authorities. Many of his films were banned or condemned by the establishment and one even landed him in prison.

He was sentenced to a year in jail for making Africa 50, which he shot when was 20, and which is considered the first French anti-colonial film. It denounced the crimes of the French army and the lack of education afforded to the natives of French colonies. It remained banned for 40 years.

Gilles Jacob, a former president of the Cannes film festival, said: “Rene Vautier was a politically engaged filmmaker when censorship reigned. He was one of the just.”

The war in Algeria, about which he made almost a dozen films, was Vautier's great cause. He was branded a traitor for making Algeria One Nation in 1954, and charged with "endangering national security".

He went on to train the first generation of Algerian film-makers. – AFP