International Insider: Turmoil In Afghanistan; Nicole Kidman Isolation Backlash; Viacom & Comcast Unveil SkyShowtime; RIP Sean Lock & Sonny Chiba

Hello International Insiders. Tom Grater here with the week’s biggest international headlines, from Nicole Kidman’s Hong Kong shopping trip to an Indian animation milestone. To get this sent to your inbox every Friday, sign up here.

Afghanistan Evacuation

Chaos in Kabul: Disturbing scenes in Afghanistan this week after a swift Taliban takeover of capital city Kabul caught western governments off-guard and caused panic among international personnel and local residents. Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi hit the headlines on Monday when she released a desperate plea to the international filmmaking community, warning that the new regime would suppress art and that the Taliban had “massacred our people”. Video footage from Kabul airport was particularly troubling, with people so desperate to leave the country they were seen clinging to airplane wheels as they took off from the tarmac. On Tuesday, U.S. and UK troops helped secure the airport which meant rescue flights were able to pick up pace, and Karimi herself was able to leave. “My dear friends do not worry, I am fine and safe,” she tweeted after departing Kabul. Many more have been left behind, however, with reports today that thousands of people who collaborated with the previous regime remain stranded in the city and face real danger.

First-hand account: Deadline’s Jill Goldsmith spoke to Clarissa Ward, CNN’s chief international correspondent, who went viral this week after she donned a hijab / abaya for her broadcasts once the Taliban had taken control. Ward also put Ted Cruz in his place in a fiery twitter exchange after the Senator posted a meme accusing CNN of “cheerleading” for the Taliban. “For a people who have been living in this country for a long time, it’s hard for them to take the Taliban at their word. They have been petrified for a decade. Not an hour goes by where I don’t get a phone or text or WhatApp or tweet saying please can you help, please can you help. The desperation is real,” Ward told Deadline.

Presidential response: President Joe Biden went on ABC News this week to address the speed of the Taliban insurgency that followed the U.S. withdrawing troops from the country. “[There was] no way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing,” Biden said.

Nicole Kidman’s Isolation Controversy

Nicole Kidman

To quarantine or not to quarantine: Nicole Kidman found herself at the center of a backlash this week when she was seen out shopping in Hong Kong, despite having only arrived in the city from Sydney a week beforehand. Most people entering Hong Kong must observe a strict 21-day quarantine, but local authorities confirmed this was waived for the actress as she was there to work on Amazon series The Expats. Some locals were perturbed by the exception, taking to social media to express frustrations and note that many had not been able to leave the city for two years due to the pandemic. “So we have HK residents who can’t come back if not vaccinated (and even then with 2-3 weeks quarantine) but Nicole Kidman can just enter like this? It’s disgusting!” Wrote one user on Twitter.

Starring role: Deadline understands Kidman is indeed starring in the series, a fact Amazon has kept quiet until now. Today, Hong Kong’s commerce minister Edward Yau defended the decision to grant the waiver to the actress, telling The South China Morning Post, “These exemptions do not allow anybody to be free, rather there are a number of conditions attached … These [conditions] are meant to contain the risks in a manageable manner. We often strike a balance between facilitation and epidemic control.”

International Streaming Moves

Joint effort: Deadline reported last month that entertainment giants Comcast and ViacomCBS were exploring combined opportunities in the international market, and this week saw another significant development in that endeavor. The two companies will launch SkyShowtime – a joint streamer featuring a ton of content including titles from Paramount , Universal Pictures, Peacock and Sky Studios – in a host of European markets such as Spain and the Nordics from 2022 (subject to regulatory approval). The move means Paramount will be phased out in certain territories, it was later confirmed. The deal followed news last week that the two companies were partnering to launch Paramount in other Euro nations such as the UK, Italy and Germany. Read more.

A Milestone For Indian Animation

The Legend Of Hanuman

Transcendent moment: The Legend Of Hanuman season two is making waves in Indian streaming, having topped all other content on paid VOD services over the last week with 8.5 million views across its first 10 days, according to research firm Ormax Media. Deadline sat down with creator and showrunner Sharad Devarajan to discuss making his animated hit. “In the same way filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki redefined anime with Princess Mononoke, our goal was to create a transcendent moment for Indian animation and make audiences experience the medium as a new form of sophisticated storytelling that does justice to the complex subject matter and deeply spiritual themes of our mythologies,” he told us. Read the full exclusive.

Karlovy Vary In Focus

Karlovy Vary Closing Ceremony

European cinema feast: As the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival kicks off today, Deadline spoke to the heads of the Central European fest about what’s in store for this year’s physical event after last year’s edition was moved online because of the pandemic. The prominent event, which is one of the world’s oldest festivals, is known for attracting A-list talent and global cinephiles due to its eclectic European lineup. This year it will fete Michael Caine, Ethan Hawke and Johnny Depp, all of whom will touch down in the 13th Century spa town. The timing for Depp’s award is pretty interesting given his ongoing legal battle with ex-wife Amber Heard; Karlovy Vary is the second international festival to be honoring the actor this year (San Sebastian is also giving Depp an award next month). But Karlovy Vary exec director Kryštof Mucha insists in the Czech Republic “nobody really cares about his private life because with this we have no idea what is real and what is not real.” He adds: “We adore him as a filmmaker and have been trying to invite him for years.” Depp is there with two films – Minimata and Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan. Karlovy Vary gets underway tonight with Zátopek, David Ondříček’s feature about runner Emil Zátopek, the four-time Olympic gold medalist.

Steven Spielberg & More Raise $5M For India

Steven Spielberg, Annie Lennox, Mick Jagger, Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan

Charitable cause: Steven Spielberg, Mick Jagger, Annie Lennox, and Ed Sheeran were joined by a host of Indian stars including Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan, Nagarjuna, Chiranjeevi, Rajkumar Hirani and Kabir Khan to raise a healthy $5M to support India’s Covid response. Read our exclusive.

The Essentials

🌶️  Hot one of the week: Lenny Henry, Mirren Mack, Nathaniel Curtis and Dylan Moran have all joined The Witcher: Blood Origin as filming gets underway in the UK.

🍿  International box office: Ryan Reynolds-starrer Free Guy got underway with a solid start in international markets this week, check out Nancy’s full box office report.

👷 New build: A major new film and TV studio is being planned in Western Sydney.

🤝 Done deal: Eros STX and Amazon Prime Video have closed a multi-year first window output deal in South Africa.

🚚  On the move: Sheffield Doc/Fest director Cíntia Gil left the fest this week due to “artistic differences”.

🚚  Also on the move: Ben De Pear is stepping down from his role as editor of Channel 4 news after almost 10 years in the post.

🏆 Awards circuit: Nominations are out for the International Emmys’ News and Current Affairs categories, including a first nod for Kenya.

🎦 Trailer watch: A whole host of trailers this week. Check out Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand Of God; Marvel’s Eternals; and The King Of Laughter, the Venice Competition pic starring Toni Servillo.

👀  First look: Here’s Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana and Dominic West as Prince Charles in The Crown season 5.

And Finally…

Sean Lock / Sonny Chiba

RIP: Two sad pieces of international news to end on this week, with English comedian Sean Lock and Japanese martial artist and actor Sonny Chiba passing away.

Lock died at 58 after a battle with cancer. The comedian was a successful stand-up and a regular on British TV, including being a mainstay on panel show 8 Out Of 10 Cats. “I’ve known this day was coming for some time, but it’s no less heart-breaking. A true original both in comedy and life. I will miss him so much,” said fellow comedian Lee Mack in a statement. Read our obituary.

Sonny Chiba, known internationally for his roles in Kill Bill and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, died at 82 from complications related to Covid. He was a prolific actor in martial arts films in his native Japan, racking up 250 credits for the famed Toei studios. Kill Bill director Quentin Tarantino was a noted fan of the actor, having also made Christian Slater’s character a Chiba fan in his screenplay for True Romance. Read our obituary.

Diana Lodderhose contributed to this week’s newsletter.

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