Creature Features: The Classics

Seeing as it’s October and Halloween is around the corner, we have decided to make this month’s theme a compilation of the horrors and thrillers the film industry has to offer. We have chosen a couple of movies that are definitely worth a mention and that might spark some memories from your childhood.

IT [1990]

In 1960, a group of social outcasts who are bullied by a gang of greasers led by Henry Bowers are also tormented by an evil demon who can shape-shift into a clown and feed on children’s fears and kill them. After defeating the demonic clown as kids, it resurfaces 30 years later and they must finish it off as adults once again.

This TV Mini-Series based on the book written by Stephen King was definitely one of the scariest movies of its time and most definitely one of the main reasons people are afraid of Clowns. It is currently being remade under the direction of Andreas Muschietti and will be released in late 2017. First Look at New It [2017]

The Fly [1986]

Seth Brundle, a brilliant but eccentric scientist attempts to woo investigative journalist Veronica Quaife by offering her a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment have proved successful. Up to a point. Brundle thinks he has ironed out the last problem when he successfully transports a living creature, but when he attempts to teleport himself a fly enters one of the transmission booths, and Brundle finds he is a changed man. This Science-Gone-Mad film is the source of the quotable quote “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

 

#DidYouKnow, the infamous cat-monkey scene where Brundlefly fuses a cat and the remaining baboon and then beats it to death with a lead pipe was cut following a Toronto screening. According to producer Stuart Cornfeld, the audience felt that there was no turning back for Seth and they lost all sympathy for his plight, which caused the rest of the film to not play as well. In Cornfeld’s own words: “If you beat an animal to death, even a monkey-cat, your audience is not gonna be interested in your problems anymore”.

Gremlins [1984]

Miniature green monsters tear through the small town of Kingston Falls. Hijinks ensue as a mild-mannered bank teller releases these hideous loonies after gaining a new pet and violating two of three simple rules: No water (violated), no food after midnight (violated), and no bright light. Hilarious mayhem and destruction in a town straight out of Norman Rockwell. So, when your washing machine blows up or your TV goes on the fritz, before you call the repairman, turn on all the lights and look under all the beds. Cause you never can tell, there just might be a gremlin in your house.

 

#DidYouKnow, the set for Kingston Falls is the same one used for Back to the Future (1985). Both movies were filmed in the Universal Studios backlot.

Leprechauns [1993]

When Dan O’Grady returns to the U.S. after stealing some Irish leprechaun’s pot of gold, he thinks he can settle down and enjoy his newfound wealth. He thought wrong. The leprechaun followed him and O’Grady barely gets away with his life, having locked the little monster in his basement. Ten years later, J.D. and his spoiled daughter Tory move in. By accident, the leprechaun is released and almost immediately the annoying creature starts to look for his gold, not displaying any respect for human life.

#DidYouKnow, according to the director, Warwick Davis, the movie was originally planned as a scary kid’s film, but the studio thought it would work better as a more adult horror, so inserts were filmed to increase the gore and violence.

All these movies have a few things in common: Growing up they were the scariest movies around and it haunted our dreams for years to come. We were definitely not allowed to watch them and because of that reason we wanted to watch them even more no matter the consequences.

 

At Retro Afrika Bioscope we love our old Classics so we hope this sparked a new flame of nostalgia so you can curl up in front of the TV with your favourite childhood scary movie this October if you dare!!!

Movie content source: http://www.imdb.com/?ref_=nv_home

Blaxploitation: Actors of Their Time

To end off our Blaxploitation week, we feel it is appropriate to honour and recognize the stars who made the Blaxploitation genre what it is today. Every actor has a backstory, so it makes it interesting to learn about their journey and the events that led them towards the industry. Here are three famous actors who played a role in the Blaxploitation genre.

Pam Grier

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Pam Grier

Pamela Suzette Grier was born in Winston-Salem, NC, one of four children of Gwendolyn Sylvia (Samuels), a nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier Jr., an Air Force mechanic. Pam has been a major African-American star from the early 1970s. Her career started in 1971, when Roger Corman of New World Pictures launched her with “The Big Doll House” [1971], about a women’s penitentiary, and “The Big Bird Cage” [1972]. Her strong role put her into a five-year contract with Samuel Z. Arkoff of American-International Pictures and she became a leading lady in action films such as Jack Hill’s “Coffy” [1973] and “Foxy Brown” [1974], the comic strip character “Friday Foster” [1975] and William Girdler’s“Sheba, baby” [1975].

She continued working with American-International, where she portrayed William Marshall’s vampire victim in the Blacula [1972] sequel, “Scream Blacula, Scream” [1973].

Grier continued to star in more films during the 1980s, but her most famous role in the 1990s was probably “Jackie Brown” [1997], directed by Quentin Tarantino, which was a homage to her earlier 1970s action roles. She also appeared in John Carpenter’s “Ghosts of Mars” [2001] and co-starred with Snoop Dogg in “Bones” [2001]. Her entire career of over 30 years has brought only success for this beautiful and talented actress.

Calvin Lockhart (1934–2007)

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Calvin Lockhart

Born Bert Cooper to a large family in Nassau on October 18, 1934, he was raised there before moving to New York in his late teens with initial designs on becoming a civil engineer (Cooper Union School of Engineering). Dropping out after a year to pursue an acting career, Calvin worked as a carpenter and construction worker, among other odd jobs. He first studied with legendary coach Uta Hagen and then hit the New York theatre boards. The story goes that he was discovered by playwright Ketti Frings while working as a taxi driver. She was so impressed with his arrogance that she cast him in her play “The Cool World” in 1960.

From there Calvin drummed up interest via a bit of controversy on Broadway when he played a sailor in love with a white girl in the racially-themed “A Taste of Honey” starring Angel Lansbury.

Calvin made a distinct early impression as a slick preacher bent on fraud in the hip cop flick “Cotton Comes to Harlem” [1970] and as an English teacher in the inner-city potboiler “Halls of Anger” [1970]. He also involved himself in such black action features as “Melinda” [1972], “Honeybaby, Honeybaby” [1974] and “The Baron” [1977]. Calvin was then cast in “Uptown Saturday Night” [1974] and “Let’s Do It Again” [1975]. He could also play fey upon request, camping it up briefly in “Myra Breckinridge” [1970]. During this rich period, he also became an artist-in-residence with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford (the first black actor) and appeared prestigiously in such productions as “Titus Andronicus” [1972].
In 1974, Calvin married a woman also from the West Indies and had three children.

After his career subsided, he decided to return to his homeland in the mid-’90s and resettled in Nassau with his fourth wife, Jennifer Miles. There he involved himself with the Freeport Players Guild as a director. He also returned to films after a 15-year absence, completing “Rain” [2008], a movie shot in the Bahamas, shortly before he suffered a major stroke. Sadly, Calvin died of complications on March 29, 2007, and his family is in the process of establishing a scholarship fund in his name for Bahamian student pursuing an acting or film making career.

Ken Gampu (1929–2003)

Ken Gampu was one of the first black South Africans to be featured in Hollywood films, working alongside such stars as Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster. A former schoolteacher, law clerk and interpreter, he spoke seven native dialects in addition to English and Afrikaans. Discovered by playwright Athol Fugard, he was cast in the play “No Good Friday” in 1958. In the 60’s he moved to films and earned international distinction for his role in the movie “Adventure Dingaka” [1964]. He earned excellent notices as well a year later in Cornel Wilde’s African adventure “The Naked Prey” [1965] as a warrior leader. Several of his films have earned cult status with time, including “Zulu Dawn” [1979] and “The Gods Must Be Crazy” [1980].

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Ken Gampu

Ken was involved in many theatre musicals by Bertha Egnos, including “Dingaka” and “Ipi Tombi,” the most successful musical ever staged in South Africa. He was also featured in the jazz opera “King Kong”. He suffered indignities as a black actor in South Africa despite his success in Hollywood. In 1975, he was cast as Lennie in a South African stage production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” but was allowed to play the role only after the government gave him permission to share a stage with white actors. Gampu died at age 74 in Vosloorus, South Africa.

Many actors of this genre displayed a tremendous amount of talent and pazazz. Every actor showcased what they thought to be unique and most importantly, their own. During this time, being of colour was extremely limiting and difficult, especially for those who wanted to be taken seriously in the film industry in Hollywood. This re-emphasizes the stamina and determination of these actors, making them a true inspiration.

Credit Sources: http://www.imdb.com/ 

Retro Afrika Bioscope celebrating Heritage Day

This Saturday, South Africa will be celebrating Heritage Day.  And, with Retro Afrika Bioscope playing such a significant role in restoring and preserving this beautiful country’s diverse film heritage it seems only fit to dedicate a blog to this awesome day!!! It’s also very important to remember where it all started and what significance it has to the people of South Africa and our rainbow nation.

The History

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In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, President Nelson Mandela stated: “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”

And thus Heritage Day was born, to be celebrated every year on the 24th September. With such a diverse culture and rather than focusing on the cultural divisions, a recent initiative by the Braai4Heritage called upon all South Africans to celebrate their common roots by having a Braai (BBQ) on Heritage Day.

Retro Afrika Bioscope has been dedicated to preserving and restoring lost and forgotten films produced in the 1980s. These films might never have been seen by modern audiences if it wasn’t for this project. We started the long process of sourcing these films and restoring them to their former glory and today they are accessible on various platforms such as DVD and Video on Demand. In South Africa we have partnered with DSTV’s Mzansi Bioskop, channel (164) in bringing these once forgotten African Classics into your living room and this Sundays movie will be ‘Isiqalekiso’ [1980]’.

Isiqalekiso [1980s]

After hearing a story of missing golden treasure, a group of young boys set out on an adventure to look for it. After some time, they eventually find a box believed to be the missing gold. But very soon, the group of friends is overcome with gold-fever and it’s not long before they start turning on one another. When a local thug discovers that the boys have indeed found the hidden treasure, he manages to steal it away from them, and the friends are forces to reconcile and come together in order to retrieve their find and get their own back on the thief.

So how are you going to spend your Heritage Day? If you’re living outside of South Africa. why not go onto FilmDoo, Hoopla Digital or Bigstar to browse through our catalogue of movies and stream these Lost African Classics. You never know, you might find your next favourite between the rich treasures that is South Africa’s film pride and joy.

           

 

Blaxploitation: International Films

Blaxploitation arose at a critical time for the Hollywood film industry. While black political activists battled in the courtrooms and streets for the end of segregation and equal civil rights, it became increasingly difficult for Hollywood studios to ignore black society, which ultimately led to the infiltration of black actors and filmmakers in Hollywood. Thus; Blaxploitation was born. Here are just two examples of the type of films produced in this genre.

Across 110th Street [1972]

This film is set in Harlem, of which 110th street is an informal boundary line. In a daring robbery, some $300,000 is taken from a Mafia-owned Harlem policy bank. Several Mafiosi are killed, as are two policemen. Lieutenant William Pope, played by Yaphet Kotto, has to work with crude, racist but streetwise Italian-American Captain Frank Martelli, played by Anthony Quinn, in the NYPD’s 27th precinct. They are looking for three black men who slaughtered seven men, three black gangsters and two Italian gangsters. Mafia lieutenant Nick D’Salvio, played by Anthony Franciosa, and his two henchmen are also after the hoods. Will the mafia catch these criminals first, or will the police?

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Across 110th Street [1972]

The film has claimed to be more than just a cliché. It was deep and developed, yet had a simplistic story about cops and criminals, with a gritty and honest addition to its characters. It was seen as pure and uncut, with cinematic genius from beginning to end. Despite the many pitfalls seen by critics, the film continually saved itself by being genuine and dark throughout. The film demonstrated the raw force of truth, giving viewers a rare (yet fictional) story of the changing of the guard in Harlem, the truth of its streets, and the minds of its criminals.

Foxy Brown [1974]

A sexy black woman, Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) seeks revenge when her government-agent boyfriend is shot down by gangsters led by the kinky couple of Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and Miss Katherine (Kathryn Loder) that services local judges, congressmen, and police in the area. Foxy decides to pose as a prostitute to infiltrate the company, and helps save a fellow black woman from a life of drugs and sexual exploitation and reunites her with her husband and child. However, not long after she infiltrates the company,  Foxy is caught before she can escape…

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Foxy Brown [1974]

It was this film that catapulted Pam Grier to a level of iconic stardom. Foxy oozes independence and woman empowerment. She’s a ‘whole lotta’ woman who’s got what it takes to beat the baddies at their own game, a voluptuous body, a show-stopping Afro, and, most importantly, a “black belt in barstools”. Together with Jack Hill’s (director) slick direction and an exciting yet soulful Willie Hutch soundtrack, this movie is a modern classic that exceeds the Blaxploitation genre in which it evolved.

There are hundreds of International blaxploitation films on the market which we encourage you to watch. The genre carries many themes to suit your taste, such as action, romance, horror, crime, and sci-fi to name a few. So bring out the popcorn, kick up your feet, and enjoy!

South African Blaxploitation Films

What is Blaxploitation? Blaxploitation was a term coined in the early 1970s to refer to a sub-genre of black cinema, which incorporated the culture of Black people in America and worldwide. Although initially popular, it quickly disintegrated as a film genre criticized for stereotypical characterization and glorification of violence.

In retrospect, Blaxploitation and the legacy it left behind have been acknowledged as a positive contribution to African and African-American film history. Blaxploitation films such as Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss song [1971], Coffy [1973], and Dolemite [1975] proved that black actors possessed a strong box-office appeal, and despite the fact that many of the films were written, directed and produced by white people, black audiences finally saw the recognition that African and African-American actors, directors and writers deserved, and fought for, since the early days of silent film. The following South African films, restored by Retro Afrika Bioscope, depict the essence of Blaxploitation.

Umbango (The Feud) [1986]

When Kay Kay, a powerful, ruthless businessman sets out on a mission of revenge against two men accused of killing his brother, he strong-arms the local sheriff into forming a posse of thugs to aid in his vendetta. But when Jet and Owen, the two easy going friends, learn of the gang out for their blood, they prepare to stand their ground and fight back. It all comes to a head in a final gunfight, a showdown in the small western town where blood will have to be split if the friends wish to come out of this alive.

Bullet On The Run [1982]

Bullet is back, and this time he will have to put his reputation on the line as he goes deep undercover in prison to unfold the mystery of a police corruption ring, being run by one of the most wanted mob bosses in the country, a man known only as Snake.

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Bullet On The Run [1982]

When looking at Blaxploitation films, we can see a historical-cultural significance that comes from a time and place which transcends into the universal truths of freedom, expression, and community. Despite some of the controversy that these films created, it opened the doors to talented African-Americans, ultimately proving to its audience that they could thrive in film. Thus, their achievements speak for themselves.

International Women’s Day: Empowering Women in Film

In honor of Women’s month, it is important to reflect on the importance of women’s empowerment and to acknowledge some of the many struggles that women were faced with. There are a wide variety of films which depict this theme, and we encourage everyone to watch, learn and enjoy!

“Thelma and Louise” [1991] – one of the world’s “must see” women-empowerment films, is an ultimate classic about two women who decide to break out of their societal roles as women by hitting the road and embarking on a new journey. Their adventure, however, turns into a flight when Louise kills a man who threatens to rape Thelma. They decide to go to Mexico, but soon they are hunted by American police.

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Thelma and Louise [1991]

The film has many themes: Laughter, sadness, fear, and endurance. But overall, it gives viewers a feeling of happiness and comfort. It reflects on the importance of a strong bond between two women, and their efforts to help and love one another at their darkest of times. Women’s month reminds us to love, value, and respect all women, no matter their race, ethnicity or social class.

“Yesterday” [2004] is a South African film which captures a Zulu woman’s journey as she discovers that she is HIV positive. She must deal with consequences of her illness, but her singular motivation is to see that Beauty, her five year old daughter, enrolls in school the next fall. This is a significant and inspiring film, which portrays a woman in distress as she struggles to balance her relationship with her daughter and husband, and of course her newly diagnosed illness. Despite this, she chooses to remain positive and strong for her family. Even in the worst situation, her prime goal is to live long enough to see her daughter go to school.

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Yesterday [2004]

The film portrays a woman’s strength, courage, and bravery, and is a role model to all mothers and wives.

International Women’s Month reminds us to lead by example as strong women and the importance of women empowerment.

 

Bringing Lost African Gems Straight to your Living Room on Mzansi Bioskop

Gravel Road Entertainment Group’s Retro Afrika Bioscope and Mzansi Bioskop have teamed up to bring you a starlit line up of lost and forgotten South African films. Over the next couple of months, you can tune in every Sunday at 8pm to DSTV Channel 164, Mzansi Bioskop to feast your eyes on some of the most authentically South African films that were produced in the ’70s and ’80s. These films showcase all-African casts and in a number of local languages with English subtitles.

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“Umbango” will have it’s first-ever TV premiere this coming Sunday. The film was produced and directed by Tonie van der Merwe, starring Popo Gumede, Hector Mathanda and Kay Magubane and is arguably one of the first all African cast isiZulu Westerns. The film was digitally restored by Gravel Road Entertainment Group and was, together with the film Joe Bullet, an official selection in the Forum section at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015. Both films had sell-out audiences at the festival. “As the first producer and director of an African language film, it gives me great pride to finally get some recognition for our contribution to the South African film industry. I am proud of what we have achieved and it’s a great honour and privilege to experience this moment. It’s a shame that most of these actors such as Ken Gampu, Joe Lopez and Hector Mathanda cannot be here today to see these films on TV. Thank you again to all the actors and my colleges. I salute you!!” says Tonie van der Merwe.

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About “Umbango”

When Kay Kay, a powerful, ruthless businessman sets out on a mission of revenge against two men accused of killing his brother, he strong-arms the local sheriff into forming a posse of thugs to aid in his vendetta. But when Jet and Owen, the two easy going friends, learn of the gang out for their blood, they prepare to stand their ground and fight back. It all comes to a head in a final gun-fight, a showdown in the small western town where blood will have to be split if the friends wish to come out of this alive.

Retro Afrika Bioscope is Gravel Road Entertainment Group’s speciality release label for classic retro African content. In 2013, Gravel Road launched an initiative to locate, digitally restore and re-release films produced for the oppressed majority (African) audiences in the ’70s and ’80s under the old South African film subsidy schemes. All films being released by Retro Afrika Bioscope undergo a highly specialized digital restoration process.

The line-up of films for the month of July includes Abathumbi (Starring: Innocent Gumede and Khulekani Magubane), Zero for Zep (Starring: So Mhlanga and Khulekani Magubane), Umgulukudu (Starring: Roy Dlamini and Mandla Ngoya) and Thunder Valley (Starring: Roy Dlamini and Mandla Ngoya).

More information on these films are available on:
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YouTube Channel

Finding the Forgotten Cinematic Jewels of Africa

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Gravel Road Entertainment Group is a Cape Town-based entertainment company that focuses on creating quality film content. Aimed to enrich people’s lives and designed to be distributed across all market channels.

We then thought of an innovative idea to be distinct from other Film Companies and gave birth to a creatively genius idea. This is when Retro Afrika Bioscope was born. The initial idea behind this speciality release label was to locate, acquire, restore and expose once discarded and forgotten Classic African films to a whole new generation of African Cinema lovers around the world. Many of these films were banned from South African screens back then.

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These stories brought some form of eluding from what was happening in South Africa from 1960 till 1990. We all know that apartheid was brutal at that time and entertainment was very minimal due to South Africa’s harsh policies.

Even though black South African actors were very exploited back then we could see from the content they were generating that they loved what they were doing and enjoyed the platform they received which means they were made for this and nothing else made them happier than being in front of the camera.

All in all, these films, filmmakers and actors created a legacy for themselves and made a historical monument which Gravel Road Entertainment Group has brought forth and allowed our generation to enjoy Mzanzi’s own film ancestors. “Mayibuye I’Retro Afrika Bioscope Mayibuye” enjoy the African Cinematic jewels!!!

Written by: Thokozile Nwebani

Tonie van der Merwe receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 11th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in Port Elizabeth.

Cape Town – Tonie van der Merwe, once dubbed the father of the “black” film industry in South Africa, received the Life Time Achievement award last week at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in Port Elizabeth. Mr. van der Merwe created some 400 films in the 1970s and ’80s, including“Joe Bullet,” one of the country’s first all-black cast film.

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His movies launched the careers of many African actors and nurtured a generation of African film technicians and production hands. The majority of his films were distributed by means of an informal rural distribution network, reaching audiences estimated at in excess of hundreds of thousands.

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In 1973, the South African film Joe Bullet was banned by the apartheid government after its second screening at the Eyethu Cinema in Soweto. Though the ban was later lifted, producers never pursued another release until 2013.

The film premiered at the 2014 Durban International Film Festival. It also featured at the To Save and Project Film Preservation Festival in New York in November 2014. It was then screened at the Carthage International Film Festival in Tunisia, after which it travelled to Germany for the 65th Berlinale Film Festival in February 2015.

Established in 2005, AMAA aims to facilitate the development and relevance of African film & cinema by providing a rewards & recognition platform for filmmakers on the continent. African filmmakers work hard with very little and have, not through serendipity but through sheer audacity, managed to build the 3rd largest film industry in the world, and are poised to take poll position, beating America and India.

Today, African films serve as a link for Africans in the Diaspora with Africans at home. These films have the potential to serve as a shared collective experience, a reminder that Africa is a vibrant continent filled with colour, energy and possibility.

Tonie, on receiving his award, “I’ve had a good inning as a filmmaker and it’s probably time to pack away the cameras and lights, but I want to make one last film with an African producer. Hopefully in the near future.”

Content inspired by:

Screen Africa article 14th October 2014

AMAA website

Awesome Shots From Around South Africa!

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We live in a country rich with beauty + vibrant with culture. Our people are from all walks of life + they are the ones our films are for. We’re restoring vintage films from the 70’s + 80’s. The films were a way of escape during the harsh Apartheid years. Our current blog series – “What Was Happening When” – delves more into what was going on in the country during the years the films were made. You can clearly see the contrast between reality + escapism. These movies were a way to show a lighter side of life for viewers. Now, thanks to Gravel Road, we are bringing them back to the public. We have showed at some of the biggest film festivals in the world, including The Berlin Film Festival, The Carthage Film Festival, The Lumiere Film Festival, as well as at museums such as New York’s world-famous MoMA. We have also been at art screenings around South Africa, on South Africa’s Broadcasting Network (SABC) + on CNBC Africa. We have been written about in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Filmmaker Africa + more publications. People are sitting up + paying attention. Read more on our journeys around the world here on our blog: the category drop down menu on the right sidebar is easy to use. Subscribe to our newsletter by signing up to follow the blog. You will receive exclusive content such as news about specials, film screenings, DVD releases + behind-the-scenes photos of our team at work in our studios at Cape Town’s Waterfront. In the meantime, enjoy some photos from around South Africa, sourced from Pinterest + Google. Follow our story on Facebook here.

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