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4 - Mapping Film Exhibition in Flanders (1920–1990): A Diachronic Analysis of Cinema Culture Combined with Demographic and Geographic Data

Edited by Julia Hallam and Les Roberts Indiana University Press ePub

DANIEL BILTEREYST AND PHILIPPE MEERS

Ever since the start of the film industry, Belgium was widely considered an open and lucrative film market.1 Being one of the most industrialized and prosperous countries in Europe before the First World War,2 the small kingdom had a vivid film exhibition scene with a high attendance rate as well as a wide range of cinemas. Before the war, Brussels, which was a transportation center, grew into an important film distribution center for international exports to the Netherlands,3 while in the capital and other major cities cinemas prospered. After the Great War, which had a more devastating impact on social, economic, and cultural life in Belgium than in any other country, Belgium largely maintained its liberal film policy. Because Belgium was one of the few countries without any adult film censorship and no significant film production of its own, movies from all major film production centers flew into the country, although with a large dominance of American and French titles. In practice, film distributors or exhibitors were not obliged to show their movies to a state or any other film censorship board and could distribute their film products freely—leading to a wide choice for audiences.4

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4 A Nameless Genre

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

“A man who works in an Asian’s store in Limbe in Blantyre is said to have made his children drink beer when he did not have money to feed the children.”1 This headline introduced a story about destitution that epitomizes many of the themes and rhetorical devices in Nkhani Zam’maboma. The man was said to live in a particular neighborhood in Ndirande, a township in Limbe’s twin city Blantyre, and his troubles came to a head when the Asian boss failed to pay his salary. Tired of poverty, his wife abandoned him, leaving behind children crying from hunger. Unable to find food in the house, the man went to look for leavings of masese, opaque homemade beer, in the cartons drinkers had thrown away. He returned to give the beer to the children as if it was porridge, with the result that the children became drunk.

Just as the stories involving witchcraft carried allusions to various other issues, so too did this story evoke a range of themes, amenable to further expansion by listeners all too familiar with the hardship and injustice it depicted. It illustrated the thin line separating ordinary poverty from destitution. When listening to it with villagers in Dedza District and migrants in Chinsapo Township, I began to realize how a single story could evoke a range of grievances and reflections among its public. Some listeners in the township would describe their own experiences of employers skipping the payment of salary. Others gave further examples of the arbitrary and exploitative labor conditions in the enterprises owned by the merchant class of South Asian extraction.2 They described workers being locked up to prevent them from taking a break, the rejection of their requests to attend funerals, unexplained deductions taken from salaries. The domestic trouble mentioned in the broadcast story sounded familiar to listeners in both rural and urban settings, the ideal of the man-as-provider and the woman-as-housewife crushed under the weight of poverty. Although the act of giving beer to hungry children was the detail that made this story out of the ordinary, the entire scene it conveyed was at variance with the carefully cultivated image of a nation enjoying the fruits of development in the MBC’s official news bulletins.

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Medium 9780861966899

Chapter 8 Sheila Skaff, Early cinema and “the Polish question”

Richard Abel John Libbey Publishing ePub

The failure of the first local filmmakers to earn broad recognition for their achievements fulfilled the expectations of the inhabitants of the Polish nation – a stateless entity in parts of the Kingdom of Prussia, Russian Empire, and Austro-Hungarian Empire comprising ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse populations committed to the restoration of eighteenth century borders – perfectly. In no other aspect of Polish national culture was fatalism more widespread, more profound, or more advantageous for foreign entrepreneurs. In Warsaw, this fatalism was manifest in initial praise, and eventual dismissal, of the first short films to document the daily routines and weekend pleasures of the city’s inhabitants. Following an initial period of enthrallment with local actualities, Warsaw audiences expressed disappointment in them and shunned local filmmakers in favor of traveling exhibitors. The first local filmmaker’s declining prosperity should be attributed to apprehension concerning the continued non-resolution of “the Polish question” (what the West should do for the millions of stateless Poles), and the complex relationship of modernity, nationalism, and cinema in Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century.

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Medium 9780253020871

8. Theories of Reception in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

When one surveys the history of efforts to explain how a fictive work produces an effect in a reader/spectator, several things become apparent. First, the diachronic sequence of theories of reception shows the same pattern or reaction and counter-reaction that one sees in the history of conceptualizations of the nature of fiction itself–in other words, a pendulum swing between antithetical possibilities. Second, the way theorists construe the dynamics and outcomes of reception have depended on their assumptions about three crucial components intrinsically involved in it: the nature of the human self, the way the mind works, and the status of a text with regard to meaning. In this chapter, after tracing the evolution of theories of reception to the present day, I propose that recent findings concerning the neurological functioning of the brain require us to rethink certain tenets that have held sway during the past fifty years: specifically, the view that meaning is wholly a subjective construction by the reader/spectator; the view that the text exists independently of the author, together with the idea that authorial intention is a “fallacy”; the view that the recipient’s perception of meaning is largely, if not exclusively, the outcome of a cognitive act; and a recent assumption that reception involves a form of hypnosis induced by the fictive representation whereby a recipient is manipulated, without independent agency, by the materiality of the specific form of representation. What is needed, I argue, is a more inclusive sense of the multiple emotional, psychological, and material factors involved in reception, without limiting reception to the confines posited by any one of the schools of thought that have tried to explain the phenomenon during the past few decades.

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Medium 9780861967148

Part IV Intermedial Performance

Kaveh Askari John Libbey Publishing ePub

Ludwig Maria Vogl-Bienek

Do you see the screen? When people assemble to gaze at a white wall or screen, they usually don’t actually want to see that surface. We don’t consider this behaviour as absurd because we are familiar with this cultural tradition and the related expectation that we will see something moving, attractive or informative appear there (Figure 1).

Technically, the projection surface, the screen, has always stayed the same. This principle applies for all forms of projection media and, figuratively speaking, for their history as well. The screen was firmly established as a part of international cultural life at the end of the nineteenth century. The rapid success of standardised photographic slides and cinematography at the turn of the twentieth century owed much to this art of projection and was historically regarded as a part of it.

The long history of performances with the magic or optical lantern, or simply the projection apparatus, culminated in the establishment of the cultural, economic, artistic and technical bases for these related screen media at the end of the nineteenth century. Above all, the new media of cinematography and photographic lantern slides used the same arrangement or dispositif between screen and audience which had been common for decades. The same was true for the theatrical principle of the performance: the appearances on screen were carefully arranged in a dramaturgical timeline and were always part of a live performance including lecturers, narrators, reciters, singers and musicians. This constellation also enabled the creative blending of traditional and new projection media within the same performance.

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Medium 9780253353801

10 “I’ll Keep Rolling Along”: Some Notes on Singing Cowboys and Bowling Alleys in The Big Lebowski

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Edward P. Comentale

So what about that tumbleweed-cum-bowling ball that crosses the steep, scrubby slope and crests atop the smoggy panorama of Los Angeles? It flops digitally across the painted desert, carrying us through the rugged terrain of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Jason McCord, leading us up up up, past even the starry sky, to the brighter vista of the Dream Factory itself. When it crests the hill, the tracking camera angle creates a vertiginous gap between the two landscapes, establishing an unsettling connection between the dreamy, if fraught, narratives of national expansion and the dream palaces of Hollywood itself—L.A. as natural extension of the American frontier, L.A. as bizarre alternative universe, a shimmering America beyond America. But the tumbleweed takes the leap, and it is tracked down the eerie, depopulated streets of the big city; it persists, abides (like the film’s hero), and makes its way to the shore, where, oddly, it does not fall into the sea, but veers to the side and follows the coastline, rotating sideways, perhaps endlessly, its forward progress now an inane recycling, the ceaseless revolution of a big nothing.

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Medium 9780253014078

5. Lapidary Dynamisms: River, Stone, Icon

Laleen Jayamanne Indiana University Press ePub

As Geeta Kapur said, “The cinematic construct by Shahani is premised from the start on a reclamation of our cultural history.”1 Shahani’s Khayāl gāthā (Khayal saga) (1988) is formed like a khayāl bandish or khayāl musical composition with recurrent themes and variations. Cyclical, serpentine movements reveal unexpected space-time configurations, colors, sounds, sensations, percepts, and affects where each end is a new beginning and vice versa, and each new face is but that of the same beloved known in so many previous lives. The work of “reclamation” and the transposition of complex systems of signs across several media proceed obliquely in serpentine moves.

However, as an outsider to the classical and folk traditions that inform Shahani’s Khayāl gāthā, I must take on the persona of one who seeks an apprenticeship in the perception of complex systems of signs and their transposition from one medium to another. This move is enabling in a mimetic way because the film itself conjures up a wanderer or seeker, a persona who is dispatched on a journey from the king’s palace while still a child, through the India of both legend and history, to learn – or, rather, to learn how to learn. The only advice given to the little boy as wanderer by the Sufi who garlands and blesses him on his journey is, “Stay close to the river to quench your thirst,” this thirst no water can slake, this river the river of knowledge. This mythical invocation of the river of knowledge enfolds the idea of thirst as a yearning for knowledge. But what kind of knowledge it is not easy to specify as yet: it is revealed gradually through the seeking itself. Language in its several avatārs, as speech, monologue, voice-over, voice-off, incantation, riddle, rune, song, does not mean what it says, operating on several registers (literal, allegorical, mythical, epic) at once. The first diegetic khayāl musical composition, heard over the wanderer’s journey on horseback, is the formal invocation to Saraswathī, the name not only of the lost and hence mythic Vedic river but also the name of the Hindu goddess of music and learning. As such, her name, Sa-ras (wathi), is a compound, Sa-ras meaning “with rasa,” flavor or aesthetic sentiment, while wathi is a feminine termination. The sensory and metaphysical dimension of this feminine mythical archetype is evoked at many critical moments of loss of direction, when a sense of aridity disables the seeker and he reaches a dead end.2

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Medium 9780253015754

3. A Mobile Glow: Nollywood Stardom and Corporate Globalism

Noah A. Tsika Indiana University Press ePub

3

A woman proudly hoists a BlackBerry in what appears to be a promo for the phone but is in fact a poster for a film. In another image, the same woman is holding a similar phone, only this time the ad has nothing to do with a movie. It is a flyer for a particular cell-phone service plan, and it first appeared on the pages of The Punch, a popular Nigerian newspaper. In yet another image, the woman’s face is rendered in cartoon form for the cover of Nigeria’s Y! Magazine—a cover whose upper right-hand corner is comprised of an ad (couched as a contest) for the BlackBerry Bold 5. Beneath the ad, but above the illustrated face, is a quote. It comes from Hillary Clinton: “You have just one life to live. It is yours. Own it, claim it, live it, do the best you can with it.” What Clinton’s words are doing on a Nigerian magazine cover—and at the precise meeting point between a Nollywood star and a cell phone—is hardly obvious. Upon closer consideration, however, the Clinton quote seems entirely appropriate, even indispensable. It speaks volumes, not only about Nollywood’s star system but also about that system’s growing relationship to a specific form of corporate globalism.

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Medium 9780861967025

The Best Years of Film History:

Edited by Martin Loiperdinger John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

for Chiara Caranti

In the summer of 2003 the festival Il Cinema Ritrovato presented a series of five programmes of films from 1903, curated and introduced by Tom Gunning. I do not know how this came about. The section was called, in English, The First Great Year of Cinema: 1903 and, in Italian, Cento anni fa: I film del 1903.

My involvement dates from April 2004, when the director of the Cineteca di Bologna, standing beside me, was wondering to himself whether the Hundred Years Ago series should continue and, if so, who might curate it that year – and muttering that it was, in any case, now too late as the festival starts at the end of June. I muttered back to him that I could do it – a remark which has afforded me the happiest seven years of my career.1

It is mostly thanks to the films. The body of work produced from 1904 to 1910 is the most interesting in the whole of cinema history, for it was then, as it would never be again, that a whole host of aesthetic and narrative possibilities of the medium were explored and tested. It is also the least known and most undervalued work. Moreover, films of this period have to be properly programmed, for screenings to be a success. All this makes the curator’s job both challenging and rewarding. We are talking about films or fragments with running times of between one minute and fifteen (except for the exceptions, of course). Choosing between hundreds of short films, grouping the chosen titles into programmes and putting them into an effective running order, with films being dropped or exchanged the whole time, is a job which can be done well or badly. It is as important to the way the films are received as the staging of a play is to its success. I aim, via my programming, to make the selected films accessible and to provide a context for them by the way they are combined, so that each film’s special qualities are shown to their best advantage and each film’s position in the programme fulfils a dramatic function. A badly-constructed programme reduces or destroys the audience’s ability to see, think and feel. But we have arrived far too quickly at these reflections on programming principles. So let us return to these rarely-seen films of before 1910.

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Medium 9780253353801

1 The Really Big Sleep: Jeffrey Lebowski as the Second Coming of Rip Van Winkle

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Fred Ashe

At the conclusion of the Coen brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski, the tale’s frame narrator, the Stranger, asserts, “It’s good knowin’ he’s out there, the Dude, takin’ her easy for all us sinners.” Most manifestly, Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski fits into the Jewish folk tradition of the schlemiel—the bumbling, charismatic character to whom things happen.1 Like the classical fool, the schlemiel’s “antirational bias,” as Ruth R. Wisse has written, “inverts the rational model underlying so much of English humor, substituting for it a messianic or idealist model instead” (51). The Dude’s bias is directed foremost against effort. Things happen to him because he is not the sort to make things happen, his priority being instead the stylish avoidance of societal expectations—employment, marriage, even hygiene—that might interfere with “takin’ her easy.” By placing this avoidance in the service of “all us sinners,” the Stranger explicitly figures the Dude as messianic. The Dude stands in for viewers who, on some level, would likewise like to forego responsibilities; he redeems our often-soulless bourgeois striving with his compelling, carefree sloth.

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The Crazy Cinématographe, or the Art of the Impromptu Spectator

Edited by Martin Loiperdinger John Libbey Publishing ePub

 

It’s a Sunday in early September. The sun, peeking through the clouds, has persuaded families that it would be a fine day for a stroll on the Schueberfouer, the great outdoor fair in the city of Luxemburg. With an amused or undecided air, you survey the stands of itinerant hawkers of cakes of soap, liqueurs and embroidered bonnets as you walk to the rhythm, regular enough not to annoy you, of the long, disorderly lines of people. The knife seller seems to call out to you, but his voice is drowned out by the blaring music and the mirthful and at the same time hysterical screams of the girls held prisoner in a fairground attraction whose cabins and arms are whirling about a few dozen metres over your head. The crowd becomes thicker in the narrow alleyways of the fair and at times you have difficulty making your way without being tripped up by the wheels of a baby carriage crossing your path. The smell of food, sweet or savoury but most often greasy, constantly tempts or nauseates you, and you begin to feel a little tired from the overload of sounds and sights produced by the countless rides and attractions (the bright, stroboscopic lights of the merry-go-round, the popular songs, the hyperbolic jingles and the slogans shouted out by the stall keepers), of which you are the quite willing victim. Suddenly, a young man in the crowd grabs your attention and hands you a little piece of paper, on which is written the big word Cinematograph, and you follow him to a tent a few metres farther on that you hadn’t noticed before. The young man abandons you, but facing you on a narrow platform, battling the decibels flying from the shooting range located across the way, two barkers, gleefully bickering, describe in Homeric terms the films being shown inside the tent. They urge you on: the show is about to start and – what, you haven’t got your ticket? – you rush to the ticket counter, take a few more steps, proffer your ticket in exchange for a fan and penetrate the semi-darkness of the warm lair of the Crazy Cinématographe. To your right, a raised projector appears ready to roar. In front of you the screen, and a little in-between space where the two barkers are noisily at work, inviting the spectators to take a seat on one of the wooden benches. “Come in, come in”, and in you come. “Squeeze in a little more, squeeze in a little more”, and you squeeze in a little more in the midst of these strangers who, like you, already seem to be enchanted by the mere incongruity of being in such a place. You’re thinking of Victor Hugo, of his idea of feeling alone together, of the fact that he died just before the invention of the cinematograph, when you become aware of the pianist nestled behind his keyboard and his joyful improvisation at the piano next to the screen. “Attention! attention!”, and you pay attention. “Are you ready?” Yes, you’re ready, and like the others you answer that you’re ready, without quite knowing whether you are or what you’re ready for. The projector starts up, the screen lights up and the lecturers welcome the first images of a hundred-year-old black-and-white film with delirious enthusiasm and for a brief, tender moment, but without any doubt, you sense that your neighbours, young and old, breathe a sigh of joy and amazement, almost as if they were discovering moving images for the first time, which is clearly not at all the case. You then think of Jules Romains’ poems on fairground attractions and, particularly, his poem about the crowds at the cinematograph:

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Medium 9780861967094

The Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource

Ludwig VoglBienek John Libbey Publishing ePub

Lucerna online database, “Search” page with summary of database content. www.slides.uni-trier.de/options.php

This article offers an introduction to Lucerna, an ambitious and wide-ranging initiative to create an online resource with the aims of generating new interest and facilitating new work on the magic lantern in its social and historical contexts. This represents a revisiting of some points I raised in an essay published in 2000, discussing how lantern-based media have been neglected, or often misrepresented as “pre-cinema”. One of my main arguments then was that “we need to make a more serious study of the nineteenth-century lantern trades, and we need to integrate our studies more closely”.1 I itemised a few aspects of this need:

But above all, what is important is coordination of this information. It is vital to be able to relate its various parts to each other; and to understand that complicated as it is, this is only part of an even larger picture which must also be considered.2

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Medium 9780861967094

Sentiment and Science in Harvard University’s Social Museum

Ludwig VoglBienek John Libbey Publishing ePub

Races, Indians: United States. New York. Iroquois. Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children, c.1903. Gelatin silver prints and printed label mounted to board, black ink, 35.5 x 55.9 cm.

Display Room, Social Museum, Emerson Hall, Harvard University, c.1910. Gelatin silver print, 11.6 x 16.8 cm.

In the second half of the 19th century, widespread industrialisation, immigration, and urbanisation resulted in the fundamental transformation of American society. For Francis Greenwood Peabody (1847-1936), Harvard University’s Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and the founder of its Social Museum, the key to the question of how to address problems that arose from these dramatic societal changes was the relationship between ethics and economics: “Sentiment without science is like steam unapplied to its proper work”, he wrote in 1887. “It seethes and boils and threatens its tumultuous vitality until it is compressed in its proper engine. Science without sentiment”, he continued, “is mechanism without steam, ingenious and complete, but without the dynamic which gives it motion and power”.1 Succumbing to pure emotion weakened one’s ability to reason, Peabody believed, but an over-emphasis on fact deadened the capacity to feel. Positioning reform as a modern agenda, he held that economic principles based in scientific method supplied the mechanism, but that a sense of moral purpose – defined by the rubric of “sentiment” – provided the motivating power.

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9 Beyond the Parity Principle

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” While the Second World War had attached new urgency to the definition and implementation of human rights, the 1990s wave of liberalization in Africa and elsewhere revived this project in the context of crumbling autocracies and widespread poverty. Much as its principled attention to all human beings could inspire fresh political, economic, and legal challenges to the status quo, the discourse on human rights was often highly selective in practice. Of the first article’s emphasis on freedom and equality, only the idea of freedom came to inform the public interventions by Malaŵi’s human rights activists and democratic politicians. As has been seen, the very concept of human rights was translated into Chicheŵa through the concept of freedom.

It would be futile, however, to expect that a conceptual shift from freedom to equality would by itself rectify the neglect of social and economic rights that the emphasis on political and civil liberties has seemed to reinforce. As central concepts in liberal political and moral theory, freedom and equality have been shown to carry multiple meanings and open up potentially contradictory possibilities. Feminist theorists, for example, have argued that once decoupled from its association with personal autonomy and self-rule, “freedom” can prompt questions of how social relations and institutions both enable and constrain subjects (Hirschmann 2003: 35–39; see also Friedman 2003). Such questions become particularly contentious when they no longer assume a categorical distinction between the subject’s desires and socially prescribed conduct, or that submission to external authority necessarily subverts the subject’s potentiality (Mahmood 2005: 31). As for “equality,” some philosophers have at least since Rousseau recognized how the apparent neutrality of formal equality can consolidate existing inequalities by denying differences in situations, resources, and needs (Hirschmann 2003: 223–224). Moreover, equality comes with variable complexions and goals, with the demand for one type of equality (such as equal rights) inconsistent with the demand for another type (such as the equality of incomes) (Sen 1992).

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Medium 9780253020659

4 The New Eldorado in Mediterranean Music

Hakim Abderrezak Indiana University Press ePub

Stuart tannock writes, “In the rhetoric of nostalgia, one invariably finds three key ideas: first, that of a prelapsarian world (the Golden Age, the childhood Home, the Country); second, that of a ‘lapse’ (a cut, a Catastrophe, a separation or sundering, the Fall); and third, that of the present, postlapsarian world (a world felt in some way to be lacking, deficient, or oppressive).”1 Many Beurs consider “the Golden Age, the childhood Home, the Country” to be located south of the Mediterranean. Within this particular vision, it is not surprising that French nationals of Maghrebi descent should be nostalgic of a past, from which migration acts as the “cut, Catastrophe, separation or sundering, the Fall,” which irremediably leads to “a world felt in some way to be lacking, deficient, or oppressive.” As Tannock adds, “the nostalgic subject turns to the past to find/construct sources of identity, agency, or community, that are felt to be lacking, blocked, subverted, or threatened in the present.”2 Nostalgia and exile have long played an important part in raï music, but in the context of French raï music (and raï made in France) they have recently become popular tropes.3 Recently, a series of Beur Raï n’b albums have positioned North Africa as a site of wealth and abundance. In this Maghrebi-French category, the Maghreb has replaced France as the gilded Eldorado. To combat negative depictions of the Maghreb and to advance the concept of a more welcoming and competitive North Africa, three DJS recently collaborated on a multivolume collection, which includes Raï n’b fever, Raï n’b fever 2, and Raï n’b fever 3. The reputation of the hybrid Raï n’b genre has enabled the labels to invite a great variety of artists to be part of this musical initiative. Some of the most famous names in raï, R&B, and hip-hop have participated in the project. Original songs even include tracks crafted especially for this musical style, as is evidenced by the dedication made to the DJS or the mentioning of the Raï n’b genre or even of a “Maghreb United”—a special rallying motto for the artists and for listeners in need of a sense of belonging south of the Mediterranean. Intended primarily for an audience based in the French metropole, the subject matter resonates with individuals disillusioned with France and nostalgic about an actual or imagined country of origin. Some of the songs partake in an obvious conceptualization of France as an ex-center, while others treat leavism as a worse evil and Europe-bound journeys as a dead end. For France-based listeners, the lived French experience is different from the Eldorado perceived by their North African counterparts. Instead, France is synonymous with the racism, alienation, and the towering, gray housing projects that outline the country’s urban peripheries.

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