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Special Collections

The African Diaspora

This collection of films exhibits the many lives people of African descent are living or have lived throughout the world.  Experiences of people interacting with different cultures make up many of the stories and explorations in these films and videos, from gripping documentaries to fantasies.

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James Spooner
2003, 66 min., Color, US
AFRO-PUNK explores race identity within the punk scene. This film tackles hard questions, such as issues of loneliness, exile, inter-racial dating and black power. We follow the lives of four people who have dedicated themselves to the punk rock lifestyle. They find themselves in conflicting situations, living the dual life of a person of color in a mostly white community. Afro-Punk features performances by Bad Brains, Tamar Kali, Cipher, and Ten Grand. It also contains exclusive interviews by members of Fishbone, 247- spyz, Dead Kennedys, Candiria, Orange 9mm and TV on the Radio to name a few.
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Jared Katsiane
1992, 12 min., BW
This beautifully shot film depicts the brutal and daily occurance of police violence. AMBUSHED uses experimental narrative techniques to delve into the life and consciousness of two generations of African American men who find their lives invaded by the police.
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Tami Gold
1998, 51 min., Color, US
Through found photographs, audiotaped interviews and archival footage, ANOTHER BROTHER tells the story of Vietnam veteran Clarence Fitch. Clarence Fitch was a man of and for his times, an African American who witnessed and took part in the social movements of this country from the turmoil of the sixties through the present decade. Telling a story fraught with both heroism and tragedy, the film situates Vietnam vet Clarence Fitch's life within the context of a remarkable range of issues--racism, the Black civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and its aftermath, the scourge of drugs, and finally the AIDS crisis.
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Manthia Diawara
2002, 76 min., Color, US
This original documentary shot by Arthur Jafa brings a new look to the modern African city and enables a better understanding from the inside of how democracy takes root in Mali. Discover how politics in the city and in everyday life is lived in a changing society still inscribed within tradition as the men and women of Bamako tell their own stories.
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Jule Buerjes & Heike Kleffner
Producer: KAOS FIlm and Video Team Cologne
1996, 70 min., Color, US
On August 17, 1995, Mumia Abu-Jamal, journalist and former Black Panther Party Member was scheduled to be executed. His case--he is one of 3,000 death row inmates in the US--has raised international attention and protest. The execution warrant was stayed, however, Governor Ridge of Pennsylvania immediately announced his plans to sign a new death warrant as soon as legally possible. This film documents Mumia-Abu-Jamal's long struggle for a new trial. It explores the history of his trial and subsequent hearings and meticulously tells the story of this famous case through interviews with Abu-Jamal himself, the attorneys, family members and others involved in the story of one of the U.
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Shari Frilot
Producer: Frilot and Black Nations/Queer Nations?
1995, 59 min., Color, US
This is an experimental documentary chronicling the March 1995 groundbreaking conference on lesbian and gay sexualities in the African diaspora. The conference brought together an array of dynamic scholars, activists and cultural workers including Essex Hemphill, Kobena Mercer, Barbara Smith, Urvashi Vaid and Jacqui Alexander to interrogate the economic, political and social situations of diasporic lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgendered peoples. The video brings together the highlights of the conference and draws connections between popular culture and contemporary black gay media production.
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Kara Lynch
Producer: Third World Newsreel
2001, 116 min., Color, US/Russia
BLACK RUSSIANS is a feature length documentary that investigates the lives of contemporary Afro-Russians aged 10 to 65, born and raised in Soviet Russia. Their experiences chronicle two ideological currents that have shaped major international events in the twentieth century: race and communism. Intimate interviews with a poet, a film producer, a reggae artist, a businessman and others, all Black and all Russian, guide us through this story of promise and non-discrimination. Archive images reveal rarely seen footage of Black political leaders in the Soviet Union, like Paul Robeson, Kwame Nkruma and Angela Davis.
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Rhonda L. Haynes
2003, 60 min., Color, US
Through the use of first person narrative and rare archival images, this documentary provides a moving glimpse of the women who have skillfully brought scores of children across the threshold of existence. Narrated by Phylicia Rashad, this evocative and passionate film celebrates women who have committed themselves to holistic answers amidst powerful misconceptions about the practice of midwifery and virulent opposition from practitioners of Western medicine.
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Yvonne Welbon
1992, 26 min., Color, US
This is an in-depth interview with filmmaker Julie Dash, whose first feature film, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, has become a critical and word-of-mouth sensation since its release in the Winter of 1992. Here, Dash discusses the era and the trials and triumphs of two decades of filmmaking by African American women.
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Manthia Diawara
2003, 82 min., Color, US
In January 2003, Director Manthia Diawara visited Guinea-Conakry to see what was left of the artists (Ballets Africains, Bembeya Jazz National) and intellectuals (D.T. Niane, Telivel Diallo) of the Guinean Cultural revolution, and how its citizens of Conakry were coping with globalization. The film casts a nostalgic look at Pan-Africanism in the 1960s, and asks what is the utopia of the Guinean youth today.
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Pam Sporn
2000, 57 min., Color, US/Cuba
Highlights the experience of a black Cuban American famiy, revealing that the Cuban-American experience is more diverse, racially and ideologically, than we are often led to believe.
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Michelle Lewis & Third World Newsreel Workshop
Producer: Third World Newsreel Workshop
2000, 13 min., Color, US
Today is the first day of the elusive diet for Lewis' main character. A funny and poignant meditation on American society's fascination with thinness, DE*FAT*TING explores food, addiction, obesity, and the contours of self image for Black women who do not fit the "thin is in" stereotype.
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Manthia Diawara
2000, 47 min., Color, US
Actor Danny Glover and director Manthia Diawara travel through West Africa from Goree to Dogon, creating conversations that link different sides and accounts of the African diaspora. "Diaspora Conversations" traces a journey of memory. Traversing through various locales, they negotiate between the current impact of globalization and the historical questions that both confront and facilitate community. Diawara's prose-like narrative guides the viewer through this video diary that examines the conflicting, yet mutually intersecting, legacies of colonialism and cultural tradition.
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Charles B. Brack
Producer: Charles B. Brack, CoProduced with Third World Newsreel
2008, 58 min., Color, US
EDUCATIONAL VIDEO-ON-DEMAND STREAMING NOW AVAILABLE: twn.tugg.com/titles/dreams-deferred
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Thomas Allen Harris
2001, 56 min., Color, US/Brazil
A mythopoetic feast of self-discovery that crosses three continents and three generations, E MINHA CARA traces the filmmaker's journey to Salvador Da Bahia, the African heart and soul of Brazil, as he seeks the identity of the spirits who haunt his dreams. Paralleling the journey his mother made twenty years before to Tanzania in search of a mythic motherland, the film incorporates an innovative sound design that uses rap and hip hop strategies of multi-voice sampling.
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Maureen Blackwood
Producer: Sankofa Film and Video Collective
1992, 42 min., Color, UK
This documentary profiles a fascinating family that has been based in Scotland since the end of the 19th century. It also traces the history of people of African descent living in Europe before the great migrations of the 1950s and 1960s. The Abrew family worked in Vaudeville, theatre, and later, in film made throughout Europe where they faced racial discrimination and exoticization as performers for primarily white audiences. Interviews, family photographs and archival footage weave a poignant story of the endurance and solidarity of a growing Black community in an isolating and hostile land.
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Camille Billops & James Hatch
1991, 55 min., Color, US
This documentary presents a moving yet unsentimental view of motherhood and adoption. It explores the feelings surrounding the reunion of a young woman with her natural mother 20 years after being given up for adoption. The reunion is between filmmaker Cmille Billops and her and her own daughter. Facing the re-encounter with mixed emotions, Billops interrogates her family and friends as well as her own motivations behind the decision. The result is an original and personal film that challenges societal biases about adoption and offers new insight on mother-daughter relationships.
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Narcel G. Reedus
1995, 27 min., Color, US
In this spiritual drama, an ancestor (Thomas Merdis) travels through time and space to interrogate a murderer (Chong Thi Nguyen) to find out why young black boys are killing each other.
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Kathe Sandler
1996, 26 min., Color
A coming of age story about the friendship between two young Black girls growing up in 1957 Harlem, Phyllisia Cathy from a newly arrived, upwardly mobile Caribbean family and Edith Jackson, Harlem-born and raised. Their friendship is a microcosm of the intercultural conflicts and accomodation between African Americans and Caribbean Blacks in the US, as well as a tale of two girls' struggle to build a friendship. An adaptation of Rosa Guy's novel"'The Friends", directed by award winning filmmaker Kathe Sandler.
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Brian Lindstrom
Bob McCullough
2001, 9 min., Color, US
HEART OF HARLEM traces the life and times of Holcombe Rucker, who founded a summer basketball league while working for New York Citys Parks Department in order to give young people a positive alternative to the streets. "The Rucker" quickly became the premiere summer basketball league in the country, attracting Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins, Julius Erving and other pro and college stars to Harlem's jam packed schoolyards to compete against playground legends like Earl "The Goat" Manigault, Joe "The Destroyer" Hammond" and Richard "Pee Wee" Kirkland.
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Maria Binder
1997, 28 min., Color, Germany
A moving documentary about the life and untimely death of Ghanaian-German poet, academic and political personality May Ayim. Ayim was one of the founders of the Black German Movement, and her research on the history of Afro-Germans, but also her political poetry, made her known in Germany and other countries.
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Julie Dash
1983, 34 min., BW, US
Set in a fictitious Hollywood studio in 1942, this elegant drama contrasts society's views of Black women with their self-perceptions. An ambitious movie executive, Mignon Dupree is perceived by her associates as white; she passes. While she is proud of her African American heritage, she considers her own race and gender incidental barriers to her goals. When a Black singer is called in to sing off-camera while a famous white actress lip-syncs in a movie musical, Mignon is confronted with her own complicity in the exploitive system.
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Manthia Diawara
1997, 26 min., Color, US
In 1996, the filmmaker and writer Manthia Diawara, now living in New York, returns to Guinea, thirty-two years after he and his family were expelled from the newly liberated country. Despite the years that have gone by, Diawara expects to be welcomed as an insider, and is shocked to discover that he is not.
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Charlene Gilbert
1993, 25 min., Color
A documentary portrait of a courageous African American woman, who after 18 years working at a textile factory in Goldsboro, North Carolina, became a passionate and outspoken leader in a struggle to unionize her plant. As a result of her efforts she was fired, but despite losing her job she continued to speak out about the conditions in her factory and in plants throughout the South.
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Ken Fero
2001, 98 min., Color
The story of the struggles for justice by the families of people who have died in police custody. Between 1969 and 1999, over one thousand people died in police custody in England. Not one police officer has ever been convicted for these deaths. Brian Douglas, Joy Gardner, Shiji Lapite and Ibrahima Sey all met violent deaths at the hands of the police. This film documents a five year period when the families of the dead came together to fight for the truth.
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Alan Roth
2001, 60 min., Color, US
INSIDE OUT IN THE OPEN focuses on the revolutionary, avant-garde developments in Jazz that evolved in the early 1960's, expanding the boundaries in rhythm, sound, harmonics, and collective improvisation with an expansive openness and deep emotion. It's a tradition that continues to this day, still filled with creative energy and affecting newer and younger listeners. The only voices in this film are of the musicians themselves, speaking about creating music, influences, memories of the 60's and more. Features performances and interviews with Reggie Workman, Roswell Rudd, John Tchicai and Baikida Carroll plus many other notable Jazz performers.
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Camille Billops & James Hatch
1994, 60 min., Color
Write Billops and Hatch: "Even as late as a hundred years ago, discrimination on the basis of race was considered a natural and even desirable trait for humans to possess. We Americans have tried to ignore it, deny it, suppress it, to contain it, tolerate it, legislate it, mock it, exploit it." Billops and Hatch are catalysts at the center of the film, and like a modern Virgil and Dante, they drive, cajole and lead the film's cast through a tour of the contemporary landscape of racism.
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Renee Gosson & Eric Faden
2001, 30 min., Color, US/Martinique
In LANDSCAPE AND MEMORY, the French West Indies most renowned identity theoreticians Jean Bernabe, Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphael Confiant investigate the different ways in which France, as a colonial power, marks colonized lands and peoples. Importantly, this is one of the few films about Martinique that adopts a Martinican perspective on France’s overwhelming and continued colonial and cultural presence. The Martinican writers ask how, in a country like Martinique, does a colonial power “re-map” space and land? How does it “re-map” a peopl
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Ada Gay Griffin & Michelle Parkerson
Producer: Third World Newsreel
1995, 60 min., Color, US
EDUCATIONAL VIDEO-ON-DEMAND STREAMING NOW AVAILABLE: twn.tugg.com/titles/a-litany-for-survival
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Patrice Mallard
1998, 58 min., Color, US
MUTE LOVE is a feature-length narrative film about three generations of African-American women who are trying to mend their fractured relationships. Mavis is a twenty-three year old recovering drug addict who has been clean for a year, but is struggling with an HIV diagnosis. She has not seen her mother Anna in the seven years since Anna kicked her out. Although there is great political and social resonance in Mavis's HIV infection, this story is essentially about a family of women--mothers and daughters who attempt to negotiate their differences.
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Bianca White & Sandra Krasa
2002, 26 min., Color, US
In the early 20th century, Ocoee was home to one of Florida's most prosperous African American communities. On Election Day 1920, Mose Norman and July Perry attempted to vote and the African American community was erased from Ocoee's history, until now. Through the voice of the grandson of the man that led the lynch mob, and the great-grandson of the man that was lynched, OCOEE: LEGACY OF THE ELECTION DAY MASSACRE exposes the events that ensued when two black men exercised their right to vote. Now, Ocoee must confront its past in an effort of reconciliation and healing.
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Yuko Edwards
1997, 26 min., Color, US
Follow one woman's search for the Hottentot Venus, the legendary link between ape and human and icon of black female subjectivity. Edwards's film explores the construction of race through both scientific discourse on the body (as a body is graphically exposed for the camera by a forensic pathologist) and personal narratives by women who have struggled with the health care system.
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Trinh T. Minh-ha & Jean-Paul Bourdier
1982, 40 min., Color, US
Filmed among diverse peoples in Senegal, West Africa, this classic film challenges conventional ethnographic documentary approaches to non-Western cultures in cinema. It explores daily life rich in imagery, symbolism, and information, juxtaposing Western perceptions of these cultures with African perspectives. It enables audiences to look at the Third World anew and question their own cultural biases.
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Mabel Maio
1999, 48 min., Color, Uruguay
This documentary explores the history and modern reality of candombe, the drum music of Uruguay's black parade bands. It is a way of life that was born in the musical gatherings of slaves in urban marketplaces and plazas. Despite persistent racism, past and present, the 200,000 Uruguayans of African descent experience candombe as a way of life, as part of the cast of characters that inhabit the tenements of Montevideo's Reus and Ansina neighborhoods, where parents rock cradles with drummed lullabies, and children learn to play drums on oil cans.
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Sonia Fritz
Producer: Frances Lausell
2006, 24 min., Color, Puerto Rico
This documentary captures the colors, music and culture that inspire the art of Samuel Lind, an Afro-Puerto Rican painter, graphic artist and sculptor. Originally from Loiza, Puerto Rico, Lind celebrates Afro-Puerto Rican culture in his work and is inspired by the Santiago Apostle Festivities, the popular bomba music and dance, local personalities and the beauty of the east coast scenery. Also an activist, Lind heads a movement to stop gentrification in his beloved coastal town.
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Manthia Diawara & Ngugi Wa Thiong'o
1994, 60 min., Color, UK
This rich documentary follows the legendary Senagalese filmmaker Sembene Ousmane from the Pan African Film Festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso back to the streets of Dakar and his Galle Ceddo home at Yoff, overlooking the sea. Revisiting several locations of his films, Sembene Ousmane reminisces about his career and discusses his craft.
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Yvonne Welbon
1993, 30 min., Color, US
A thirty-something black lesbian reflects on falling for her best friend in junior high. Set in the '70's and '90's, this is a delightful tale of love and friendship. Welbon incorporates recreated flash-backs and real reminiscences, mixes media and styles, and throws in an original tune that embodies the essence of young love.
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Camille Billops & James Hatch
2002, 56 min., Color, US
With this film, Camille Billops completes her family's trilogy - three documentaries that cover more than thirty years: "Suzanne Suzanne", shown in the New Director's series at the Museum of Modern Art in 1982 revealed how abuse of Suzanne by her father led to her drug addiction. "Finding Christa", winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1992, told how Camille's unwanted pregnancy led her to put Christa up for adoption and how Christa returned twenty years later to confront her mother.
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Camille Billops & James Hatch
1982, 30 min., BW, US
This poignant documentary profiles a young black woman's struggle to confront the legacy of a physically abusive father and her headlong flight into drug abuse. Suzanne, after years of physical and psychological abuse, is compelled to understand her father's violence and her mother's passive complicity, who suffered at her husband's hands as well, as the keys to her own self-destruction. After years of silence, Suzanne and her mother are finally able to share their painful experiences with each other in an intensely moving moment of truth.
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Camille Billops
1998, 11 min., Color, US
"My take on slavery: When the Africans boarded the ships bound for America, they carried in their bags all their memories of home. When they arrived in the New World, their bags had been switched, and in them they found nigger, beast, slave,...Many generations later, the children of these Africans toured the Museum of Modern Art to see the sculptures and art of Picasso, Braque and Matisse. Lo! There were the beautiful icons of their ancestors, the images that had been stolen from their bags."--Camille Billops
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Thomas Allen Harris
1995, 72 min., Color, US
VINTAGE is an experimental documentary which looks at three African American families through the eyes of lesbian and gay siblings--including the filmmaker and his younger brother. Three groups of queer siblings use video cameras to articulate the multiple stories that co-exist within the space of family, negotiating sexuality as a point of departure to explore these relationships. VINTAGE crosses the boundaries of truth, gender, time and power to create a collective and autobiographical portrait of modern American families.
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Al Santana
1985, 60 min., Color, US
This documentary captures the rich legacy of ancient African religions practiced today in the United States. It provides viewers with rare insight into the practices and beliefs of the Akan and Yoruba religions and illustrates how mass media has been used to ridicule and denigrate these belief systems. The director provides intimate and respectful studies of an Egungun ancestral communion ceremony and daily life in the Yoruba village of Oyotunji in Sheldon, South Carolina, the only traditional African village of its kind in the U.S. today.
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Elsie Haas
1989, 52 min., Color, Haiti
This film documents the significant role of Voodoo in Haitian culture from the perspectives of Voodoo priests, government officials, historians and politicians. Attacked by Western clerics and declared a "superstition" by law in 1935, Voodoo has always been a source of empowerment for the average Haitian. And scholars argue that despite the exploitation, romanticization and vilification of voodoo, it remains an authentic and stabilizing cultural base of everyday Haitian society.
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Ricardo Lobo
Producer: Chaim Litewski
2003, 52 min., Color
"Women of the Sand" is a documentary about nomad Islamic women in the Sahara desert. Filmed in Mauritania, it follows the day-to-day activities of women, documenting their work, family and community life, expectations and emotions. Filmed in cinema-verite style, with no narration, the non-intrusive camera allows the women to tell their own stories in a candid and intimate way. The stunning photography captures the immensity of the desert and the giant sand dunes which have already covered ninety per cent of the country and are threatening the very existence of the nomadic lifestyle.
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Jayne Cortez
2007, 75 min., Color, US
Globalization, now a buzzword in the West, has been a phenomenon that has shaped the culture and politics of Africa and its diaspora for centuries. YARI YARI PAMBERI brings together women from across the U.S., Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and South America. Renowned and emerging novelists, poets, playwrights, performers, filmmakers, scholars, critics, publishers, translators, visual artists, organizers, and archivists define the real meaning of globalization and its possibilities for development.
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Jayne Cortez
1999, 52 min., Color, US
Yari Yari -- Black Women Writers and the Future: An International Conference on Literature by Women of African Descent was held at New York University in October 1997. Yari Yari means "the future" in the Kuranko language of Sierra Leone, West Africa. It was the first major international literary conference of its kind, featuring such renowned writers as Edwidge Danticat, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, Werewere Liking and Sapphire. The video documents selected scenes from panels, readings, and performances during the conference.
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