Starzplay Available Through Apple TV in Middle East, North Africa

Starzplay, Starz’s video-on-demand streaming service, is now available to customers across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region through Apple TV channels on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, and select Samsung and LG smart TVs.

The service offers Hollywood and Arabic movies, TV shows, documentaries, kids’ entertainment and original content. Customers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt can sign up for a seven-day free trial and subscribe directly to Starzplay on the Apple TV app for $11 per month (prices vary by region).

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“Online streaming in the region is growing faster than ever,” said Danny Bates, CCO and co-founder at Starzplay, in a statement. “As the region’s leading video streaming service, we constantly look for innovative avenues to offer quality content to hungry audiences. Offering Starzplay through Apple TV channels will open up a whole new customer base and further drive the growth of the video streaming market in MENA. We are proud to be the first major content partner for Apple TV channels in the MENA region and look forward to unveiling more compelling content on the platform.”

Subscribers through Apple TV channels can watch online on demand or watch offline downloads of on the Apple TV app. With Family Sharing, up to six friends or family members can share subscriptions to Apple TV channels using just their Apple ID and password.

Israeli Drama ‘Broken Mirrors’ Due on Digital and VOD Sept. 22 From Level 33

The Israeli film Broken Mirrors will premiere on digital and VOD Sept. 22 from Level 33 Entertainment.

In the dramatic thriller, Shira Haas (Emmy Nominee, Netflix’s “Unorthodox”) plays 17-year-old Ariella, who is shadowed by a strict, military father who inflicts severe methods of punishment as a form of discipline. When she commits a grave error that her father isn’t willing to punish her for, seeking a punishment of her own, Ariella embarks on a dark quest where she will discover a secret to her father’s past that will lead them to confront one another.

The film also stars Yiftach Klein, Renana Raz, Yoav Rotman, Liora Rivlin, Manuel Elkaslassy, Yaakov Zada Daniel and Michaela Elkin.

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It won the Jury Prize for Best Actress at the Festival du Cinéma Israélien de Montréal and Schlingel Best Feature Film at the Film Festival for Children & Young Audience Schlingel. It was nominated for the Jury Award Narrative Feature at the Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFF); the Grand Prix at the Zlin Film Festival; the Award of the Israeli Film Academy; Best Actress, Best Casting and Best Screenplay from the Awards of the Israeli Film Academy; the Golden Zenith First Fiction Films Competition at the Montréal World Film Festival; and Alice in the City Prize Young Adult at the Rome Film Fest.

‘Legend of Tomiris’ Coming to Disc and Digital Sept. 29 From Well Go

The epic Kazakhstan drama The Legend of Tomiris, based on one of the world’s first female warlords, will debut on digital, Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 29 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Directed by Akan Satayev (The Liquidator), it follows the story of the life of the great queen of the steppe — the legendary Tomiris, a woman destined to become a skillful warrior and strategist, unite the Scythian/Saka tribes under her authority, and slay the founder and first king of the Persian empire. Based on historical heroine Queen Tomiris of Massagetae and her cadre of female warriors (the real-life 6th century BCE Amazonians), The Legend of Tomiris recounts the tale of the nomadic ruler who overcame great personal tragedy to repel the powerful Persian empire and unite the Great Steppe.

The Legend of Tomiris, the highest-grossing action film in Kazakhstan, stars Almira Tursyn, Adil Akhmetov, Yerkebulan Daiyrov, Berik Aitzhanov, Azamat Satybaldy, Aizhan Lighg and Ghassan Massoud (Kingdom of Heaven).

“We have a passion for incredible stories, and few are more compelling than the almost unfathomable life story of the first historical ‘Queen of the Amazons,’” said Doris Pfardrescher, president and CEO of Well Go USA Entertainment, in a statement. “Tomiris viewers will be left awe-struck by this fierce young warrior, who embodied such strength and unwavering love for her people that she overcame great tragedy to protect them at all costs, even when it meant waging war against the most powerful empire the world had ever seen.”

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While Queen Tomiris lived 2,500 years ago, her legacy continues to thrive today. Indeed, Tomiris’ influence was such that her life was described in detail by famed Greek historian Herodotus, her beauty was depicted on many European works of art and her legacy has endured for millennia to inspire people throughout Central Asia.

Well Go picked up North American rights from Arclight Films.

“There is a strong appetite for real life stories of powerful women, stories that deserve to be told,” Gary Hamilton, chairman of Arclight Films, said in a statement. “Tomiris tells one such story, and coupled with its exquisite landscapes and exceptional production values, it is an epic film that will enthrall audiences. When Kazakh-American film producer Gia Noortas (and head of the Honorary Consulate of Kazakhstan in Los Angeles) introduced us to this special project, we immediately recognized the extraordinary potential of this film. We are thrilled that our friends at Well Go USA are on board to bring the inspiring story of Queen Tomiris to U.S. audiences.”

Netflix Launches Hindi Interface

Netflix Aug. 9 launched its user interface in Hindi. The Netflix experience in Hindi, from sign up to search rows, collections and payment, is available across all devices on mobile, TV and Web.

Netflix members can switch to the Hindi user interface from the “Language” option in the “Manage Profiles” section on their desktop, TV or mobile browsers. On Netflix, members can set up to five profiles in each account, and each profile can have its own language setting. Netflix members outside India will also have the option to switch their user interface to Hindi.

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“Delivering a great Netflix experience is as important to us as creating great content. We believe the new user interface will make Netflix even more accessible and better suit members who prefer Hindi,” said Monika Shergill, VP of content for Netflix India.

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Netflix is investing heavily in Indian films and series across all genres and for all generations, including “Sacred Games,” “Bulbbul,” “Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai” and “Mighty Little Bheem.” The company recently announced a lineup of 17 stories, including “Ludo,” “A Suitable Boy” and “Mismatched” and the upcoming film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, which will bow Aug. 12. Netflix members can also view stories from other parts of the world, such as “Stranger Things,” “Extraction, Narcos: Mexico,” The Protector, Klaus, “The Witcher” and “Old Guard” with Hindi dubs or subtitles.

Last year, Netflix introduced the mobile plan in India for Rs. 199 per month.

Guatemala’s Jayro Bustamante Says Making Political Horror Mash-Up ‘La Llorona’ Was ‘Stategic’

Hailed by Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) as one of 20 directors who will shape the cinema to come, Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante continues his stellar career trajectory with La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), the third installment of a trilogy that kicked off with his 2015 Berlinale Silver Bear winner, Ixcanul (Volcano).

Winner of Best Film at the 2019 Venice Film Festival sidebar, Venice Days, La Llorona turns on the household of a retired general accused of spearheading the genocide of Mayan peasants decades ago, a clear reference to a similar case in Guatemala. As his wife, daughter and granddaughter take refuge with him, the house is besieged by protesters and his spooked domestic staff flees, with the exception of his devoted housekeeper. The arrival of a mysterious indigenous woman, who has answered the call for hired help, further spikes the atmosphere of dread.

La Llorona is Bustamante’s first foray into the horror genre. “Our decision to explore this genre was not so much artistic, as strategic,” said Bustamante who notes that Guatemalans are still in denial of the massacre of Mayan peasants during the government’s counterinsurgency operations in the early 1980s.

“A study revealed that Guatemalans consumed mostly horror and superhero movies, so we saw the genre as a way to bring the realities of our dark past to them,” he said. Bustamante drew on such references as Dracula, and the psychological suspense of Robert Eggers’ The Witch as well as Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. “I wanted the mythical figure of La Llorona to be elegant, like Dracula,” he said.

He reimagined the Latin American fable of a grieving mother seeking revenge for the death of her children to symbolize the victims of the genocide.

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“My three films represent what Guatemalans consider the three biggest insults,” said Bustamante who sees Ixcanul, which centers on a Mayan teen trying to own her sexuality and her pregnancy, embody the biggest insult you can hurl at a Guatemalan: “Indio!” Calling a Guatemalan “Indio,” despite the country’s overwhelming indigenous population, is considered a massive insult. “It just shows how we discriminate against ourselves, how low our self-esteem is,” he mused.

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His second film, Temblores (Tremors) epitomizes the slur ‘Hueco,’ which is a local derogatory term for gay. Temblores delves into the homophobia prevalent in conservative Guatemalan society as a well-to-do family seeks conversion therapy for its gay patriarch.

La Llorona embodies the third insult, “Communist,” which is a carryover of the 1950s sentiment against communism, which later devolved into accusing those advocating for human rights and for reducing Guatemala’s vast wealth gap as communists, said Bustamante.

All three films touch on social inequality, racism and the lack of opportunity in Guatemala.

La Llorona stars María Mercedes Coroy, Margarita Kénefic, Sabrina de la Hoz and Julio Díaz.

The film will be available Aug. 6 on Shudder in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Russian Film ‘Evil Boy’ Coming to DVD and Digital Sept. 8 From Well Go

The Russian supernatural horror film Evil Boy will be released on digital and DVD Sept. 8 by Well Go USA Entertainment.

In the film, several years after their son disappears, grieving parents adopt a feral boy who begins to eerily resemble their missing child. While the wife believes they’ve found their son, her husband is certain he died. As strange accidents begin happening around the boy, he suspects they’ve adopted something not entirely human.

Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Olga Gorodetskaya, the film stars Elena Lyadova (Leviathan), Vladimir Vdovichenkov (Leviathan), newcomer Sevastian Bugaev, Evgeniy Tsyganov (The Man Who Surprised Everyone), Anna Ukolova (Leviathan), Konstantin Topolaga (Steel Butterfly) and Roza Khayrullina (The Horde).

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Evil Boy had its international premiere at the 2019 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival.

The release features an all-new English dub, in addition to its original subtitles.

Korean Animated Film ‘A Dog’s Courage’ Coming to Disc Aug. 18 From Well Go

The South Korean animated family film A Dog’s Courage will debut on Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 18 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The title is already available on digital.

The film follows Jacob, a feisty and playful dog abandoned by his owners. He joins a pack of strays that embarks on a journey filled with adventures and life lessons in their pursuit to find a new and loving home, finding the perfect place of safety and peace, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

The film is available in both the original Korean and an all-new English dub.

Directed by Chun-Baek Lee and Oh Sung-Yoon (Leafie, a Hen Into the Wild), A Dog’s Courage was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2019 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

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Johannes Larcher to Head HBO Max International

WarnerMedia has named Johannes Larcher head of HBO Max International. He will join the company in August and report to Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer of WarnerMedia and president of WarnerMedia International Networks.

Larcher will be responsible for the international rollout and management of the WarnerMedia subscription streaming service, which launched in the United States May 27. His first focus will be the launch in Latin America, which is expected in 2021, according to the company.

Larcher will work closely with Whit Richardson, president of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks in Latin America, and Priya Dogra, president of WarnerMedia Entertainment Networks in EMEA and APAC.

Larcher currently serves as managing director of digital at MBC Group, the Middle East’s leading media company based in Dubai where he successfully transformed the group’s flagship digital product Shahid VIP into the world’s largest Arabic language video streaming service with more than 1.4 million subscribers. From 2016 to 2018, he was co-founder and CEO of SubVRsive in Austin, Texas, a virtual and augmented reality studio. From 2009 to 2013, he served Hulu as SVP, international, where he led the launch and initial growth phase of Hulu Japan. Earlier, Larcher was president and CEO of online video education start-up Academy123, sold to Discovery and served as GM International for paid search pioneer Overture Services until its acquisition by Yahoo! in 2003. Larcher started his career in 1995 at McKinsey in Los Angeles, where he served media, entertainment and technology clients. He holds an M.A. from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, and an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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“I got to know Johannes as a passionate entrepreneur,” Zeiler said in a statement. “His leadership skills, together with his strong direct-to-consumer and digital experience, international business foundations and tech expertise give him the perfect background to drive the growth of HBO Max beyond the United States.”

“Living at the crossroads of digital technology and content, I’m thrilled to help create unforgettable entertainment experiences for consumers in international markets and make HBO Max an indispensable streaming service around the world,” Larcher said in a statement.

Foreign Films ‘Internment,’ ‘16/03’ and ‘Coffee in Winter’ Among Titles Due on DVD Aug. 11 From BayView

Foreign films Internment, 16/03 and Love Is Cold as well as the U.K.’s Coffee in Winter and Moments of Darkness are among the titles coming from BayView Entertainment on DVD Aug. 11.

Internment (2018) is a drama set in Albania during communist rule. The Kulla family struggles as they are forced by government agents into internment. For Artur, the family’s son, things get more complicated when his girlfriend Frida is forced into an engagement with a high ranking operative. They continue to be subjected to cruel punishment when the arrival of a repatriated family friend complicates matters further.

In 16/03 (2017), haunted by the chemical attacks that claimed the lives of his family, Aryan, a Kurdish sniper, flees his homeland in search of a better life in the United Kingdom. Aryan begins to work in the film industry as a model of an asylum seeker but when an action scene goes horribly wrong and is attacked by terrorists, he is blamed as an insider. As the public outcry mounts against him, Aryan stands alone with only his English girlfriend believing his innocence. Detectives start to dig deeper into Aryan’s past and find evidence of his past military training, which adds more weight to the public’s desire for vengeance.

In Love Is Cold (2018), at the dawn of the 1999 handover of Macau to mainland China, two students (Endy Chow, Michael Tong) find themselves caught up in murder, pursued by mobsters and the police alike. When one of the student’s father tries to send her back to the Mainland, the true story is revealed.

Two other films from the United Kingdom are also coming to DVD Aug. 11, Coffee in Winter and Moments of Darkness.

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Coffee in Winter

In the dramatic romance Coffee in Winter (2020), Rod’s always lived life in accordance with his Indian culture and his family’s expectations: graduate, get a good job and get married. Hoping there’s more to life than this, he decides to quit his job as an I.T. professional and study a masters in photography. Hema, his sympathetic wife, encourages and supports him. When the semester begins, Rod meets a young and free-spirited German girl, Kim. Her passion for art and life inspire him to become more than the sum of his family’s expectations. They meet often, taking photographs, sharing ideas and discussing life over coffee. Caught up in the atmosphere of the city’s mellow nightlife, Rod finds himself moving further away from his traditional life.

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In Moments of Darkness (2020), after his recent release from prison, AJ tries to get his life back on the right track. However, his efforts are met with equally frustrating results as he struggles to find work. With his family and friends reluctant to get too close, he finds himself isolated and defeated. Eventually finding work as a night watchman in an old 19th century town hall, AJ becomes relentlessly haunted by disturbing events of his past as he starts losing his grip on reality. With his immediate future seeming uncertain, he’s left to piece together what is left his fractured life.

Japanese Action-Adventure ‘Samurai Marathon’ Due on Digital May 12, Disc July 21 From Well Go

The Japanese actioner Samurai Marathon will come out on digital May 12 and Blu-ray and DVD July 21 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Director Bernard Rose (Candy Man, Anna Karenina) co-wrote the screenplay with Japan’s Hiroshi Saito and Kikumi Yamagishi based on the novel The Marathon Samurai: Five Tales of Japan’s First Marathon.

Inspired by a race still held yearly, the film follows an aging lord in late feudal Japan who challenges his samurai to a grueling marathon — joined covertly by his daughter. The group must overcome deadly odds to survive. Meanwhile, a young ninja operates undercover in the court of the lord and finds his loyalties put to the test.

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Samurai Marathon stars Takeru Satoh (Rurouni Kenshin: Final Chapter), Nana Komatsu (The World of KanakoSilence), Mirai Moriyama (RageVision), Shota Sometani (First Love) and Danny Huston (X-Men Wolverine, TV’s “Yellowstone”). 

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Produced by Academy Award winners Jeremy Thomas (The Last Emperor) and Toshiaki Nakazawa (Departures), the film includes an original score composed by Philip Glass (The Truman Show), costume designs by Oscar winner Emi Wada (Ran) and cinematography by Takuro Ishizaka (John Woo’s Manhunt).