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In emotional reunion, Spielberg revisits 'Schindler's List'

Steven Spielberg says no film has affected him the way "Schindler's List" did.

Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and others reunited for a 25th anniversary screening of "Schindler's List" at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, in an evening that had obvious meaning to Spielberg and the hushed, awed crowd that packed New York's Beacon Theater. In a Q&A following the film, Spielberg said it was the first time he had watched "Schindler's List" with an audience since it was released in 1993.

"I have never felt since 'Schindler's List' the kind of pride and satisfaction and sense of real, meaningful accomplishment — I haven't felt that in any film post-'Schindler's List,'" Spielberg said.

The reunion was a chance for Spielberg and the cast to reflect on the singular experience of making an acknowledged masterwork that time has done little to dull the horror of, nor its necessity. "It feels like five years ago," Spielberg said of making the film.

Spielberg shot the film in Krakow, Poland, in black-and-white and without storyboards, instead often using hand-held cameras to create a more documentary-like realism. Neeson remembered Spielberg running with a camera and, on the fly, directing him and Kingsley down Krakow streets. "It was exciting. It was dangerous and unforgettable," Neeson said.

"Schindler's List," made for just $22 million (Spielberg declined a pay check), grossed $321 million worldwide and won seven Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. It also did much to educate the American public on the Holocaust. After the film, Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation, which took the testimony of 52,000 Holocaust survivors.

More needs to be done for Holocaust education, Spielberg said: "It's not a pre-requisite to graduate high school, as it should be. It should be part of the social science, social studies curriculum in every public high school in this country."

Making "Schindler's List" was a profound, emotional and fraught experience for many of those involved. Kingsley recalled confronting a man for anti-Semitism during production. Spielberg said swastikas were sometimes painted overnight. Recreating scenes like those in the Krakow ghetto and at Auschwitz were, Spielberg said, very difficult for most of those involved. Two young Israeli actors, he said, had breakdowns after shooting a shower scene at the concentration camp.

"That aesthetic distance we always talk about between audience and experience? That was gone. And that was trauma," said Spielberg. "There was trauma everywhere. And we captured the trauma. You can't fake that. (The scene) where everyone takes off their clothes was probably the most traumatic day of my entire career — having to see what it meant to strip down to nothing and then completely imagine this could be your last day on earth.

"There were whole sections that go beyond anything I've ever experienced or seen people in front of the camera experience," the 71-year-old filmmaker added.

Spielberg actually released two movies in 1993. "Jurassic Park" came out in June, and "Schindler's List" followed in November. While he was shooting in Poland, Spielberg made several weekly satellite phone calls with the special effects house Industrial Light & Magic to go over Tyrannosaurus Rex shots — a distraction he abhorred.

"It built a tremendous amount of anger and resentment that I had to do this, that I actually had to go from what you experienced to dinosaurs chasing jeeps," Spielberg told the audience. "I was very grateful later in June, though. But until then, it was a burden. This was all I cared about."

"Schindler's List" was a redefining film for Spielberg, who up until then was mostly considered an "entertainer," associated with fantasy and escapism. Since, he has largely gravitated toward more dramatic and historical material like "Amistad," ''Saving Private Ryan," ''Munich," ''Lincoln" and last year's "The Post."

But Spielberg initially shied away from "Schindler's List," scripted by Steven Zaillian and based on Thomas Keneally's novel "Schindler's Ark." He urged Roman Polanski, whose mother was killed at Auschwitz, to make it. Martin Scorsese was once attached to direct.

Yet the making of "Schindler's List" prompted an awakening for Spielberg, who has said his "Jewish life came pouring back into my heart." On Thursday, the director said he wanted to make the film about "the banality of the deepest evil" and "stay on the march to murder, itself."

To keep his sanity while shooting in Poland, he watched "Saturday Night Live" on Betamax and relied on weekly calls from Robin Williams.

"He would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone," said Spielberg. "I would laugh hysterically because I had to release so much. But the way Robin is on the telephone, he would always hang up on you on the loudest, best laugh you'd give him."

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Follow Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Cosby could spend rest of life in prison for sex assault

After decades of whispers, lawsuits, investigations and close calls, Bill Cosby could be headed to prison at age 80 for sexual assault for the rest of his life, vindicating a multitude of women who doubted anyone would ever believe their word against that of America's Dad.

The comedian was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004. Women's advocates called the verdict a turning point in the #MeToo movement that proved what Cosby's accusers had been saying all along: his nice-guy image was a sham.

Lili Bernard, who said Cosby sexually assaulted her before giving her a one-time role on "The Cosby Show" in 1992, became so emotional in the courtroom gallery that she accidentally banged her forehead on the bench in front of her.

"I'm overcome with gratitude," Bernard, sobbing, said outside the courthouse. "I feel like I have to pinch myself. Am I awake? It's a miracle."

The verdict, in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, sealed the spectacular late-in-life downfall of an entertainer who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as sweater-wearing, wisdom-dispensing Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said Cosby drugged and molested them over five decades but whose stories were often disbelieved or ignored years before #MeToo put a spotlight on sexual misconduct by powerful men.

Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele after the prosecutor demanded Cosby be sent immediately to jail. Steele told the judge they'd learned through the trial that Cosby has an airplane, and feared he could flee.

Cosby angrily denied he has a plane and called Steele an "a--hole," shouting, "I'm sick of him!"

Judge Steven O'Neill decided Cosby can remain free on $1 million bail while he awaits sentencing but restricted him to Montgomery County and the mansion where the encounter with Constand occurred.

Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying a standard sentence of five to 10 years in prison. The counts are likely to be merged for sentencing purposes, but given Cosby's age even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.

Sentencing will likely be held within three months. Before that, Cosby must face assessment to determine if he is a sexually violent predator. He will also be required to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated 14 hours over two days before convicting Cosby.

Constand, a 45-year-old Temple University women's basketball administrator, said Cosby knocked her out with three blue pills he called "your friends" and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized, unable to resist or say no. Cosby claimed the encounter was consensual, saying he gave her the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to relax.

Cosby waved to the crowd outside the courthouse, got into an SUV and left without saying anything. His lawyer Tom Mesereau declared "the fight is not over" and said he will appeal.

Shrieks erupted in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and some of Cosby's accusers whimpered and cried. Constand remained stoic, then hugged her lawyer and members of the prosecution team.

The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors had more courtroom weapons at their disposal than they did the first time: They put on the stand five other women who testified that Cosby, married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too.

At Cosby's first trial, which ended in a deadlocked jury less than a year ago, only one additional accuser was allowed to testify.

"Justice has been done!" celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represented some of Cosby's accusers, said on the courthouse steps. "We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed."

The district attorney became teary-eyed as he commended Constand for what he said was courage in coming forward. As Constand stood silently behind him, Steele apologized to her for a previous DA's decision in 2005 not to charge Cosby.

Cosby "was a man who had evaded this moment for far too long," Steele said. "He used his celebrity, he used his wealth, he used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes."

He added: "Now, we really know today who was really behind that act, who the real Bill Cosby was."

Since Cosby's first trial, the #MeToo movement has taken down powerful men in rapid succession, among them Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Sen. Al Franken. During closing arguments, Cosby's lawyers slammed #MeToo, calling Cosby its victim and likening it to a witch hunt or a lynching.

Cosby's new defense team, led by Mesereau, the celebrity attorney who won an acquittal for Michael Jackson on child-molestation charges, launched a ferocious attack on Constand during the trial, calling her a "con artist" and "pathological liar" who framed Cosby to get rich.

Cosby's defense team derided the other accusers as home-wreckers and suggested they made up their stories in a bid for money and fame.

But Cosby had long ago confirmed some of the rumors about drugs and extramarital sex. In a deposition he gave more than a decade ago as part of Constand's lawsuit, he acknowledged he had obtained quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with.

A federal judge, acting on a request from The Associated Press, unsealed portions of Cosby's deposition about quaaludes and sexual conquests in 2015, citing the disconnect between Cosby's private behavior and his reputation as a public moralist.

That prompted authorities to reopen the criminal investigation, and they eventually brought charges.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission. Constand has done so.

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Follow Mike Sisak at https://twitter.com/mikesisak .

Follow Claudia Lauer at https://twitter.com/ClaudiaLauer .

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For more coverage visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/CosbyonTrial .

Comparing Cosby's 2 trials: More accusers and a conviction

The retrial that led to Bill Cosby's conviction Thursday on charges he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia mansion played out far differently than one that ended in a hung jury last year.

This time, prosecutors had the advantage of calling five additional accusers to help make the case that the man once revered as "America's Dad" had a sordid secret life that involved preying on women for his own sexual gratification.

Cosby's lawyers countered with a witness who wasn't allowed to testify last time who alleged that chief accuser Andrea Constand talked about framing a high-profile person to score a big payday.

Cosby overhauled his legal team, with high-powered Hollywood lawyer Tom Mesereau, best known for winning an acquittal in Michael Jackson's 2005 child molestation case, leading the attack.

"I have never seen or heard of a retrial that was as different as this was from the first trial," said lawyer Dennis McAndrews, who has been following the retrial and is not associated with either side.

Jurors at the retrial deliberated for about 14 hours over two days before finding Cosby guilty on all three counts. The last jury weighed the charges for 52 hours over six days, but couldn't come to a consensus.

Here are some of the key differences between the trials:

PARADE OF ACCUSERS

Prosecutors in the retrial bolstered their case by building to Constand's testimony with that of five other women who told jurors that Cosby had also drugged and violated them in incidents dating to the early 1980s. One of them pointedly called Cosby a "serial rapist ." Another choked back tears as she asked, "You remember, don't you, Mr. Cosby?" A third declared: "I was raped." Just one other accuser was allowed to testify at the first trial.

$3.4 MILLION QUESTION

The retrial started with an answer to one of the biggest mysteries in the case: Cosby paid Constand nearly $3.4 million in a 2006 civil settlement. The amount had been confidential, and was kept out of the first trial, but Judge Steven O'Neill ruled it could be discussed at the second one. District Attorney Kevin Steele suggested Cosby wouldn't have paid so much money if the accusations were false. Mesereau called the settlement "one of the biggest highway robberies of all time."

'CON ARTIST' DEFENSE

Mesereau tore into Constand from the get-go, branding her a "con artist" whose goal was "money, money and lots more money." Mesereau's defense strategy was far more aggressive than one put forth by Cosby's first set of lawyers, buoyed by a ruling allowing a former colleague to testify that Constand once mused about framing a prominent person, so she could sue and "get that money." O'Neill didn't allow Marguerite Jackson to take the stand at the first trial, and Cosby's lawyers didn't put on much of a defense after that, other than insisting Constand was Cosby's lover and that the encounter was consensual.

12 YEARS TOO LATE?

Cosby's lawyers argued the very charges against him were illegal because the alleged assault couldn't have happened within the statute of limitations. They pored over phone and travel records and called Cosby's personal assistant to the stand, insisting he couldn't have been at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004. Prosecutors highlighted large gaps in the travel records and phone records with calls indicating Cosby may have been at the home after all. The date is important because Cosby was arrested on Dec. 30, 2015, just before the 12-year statute was set to expire. The defense didn't raise the issue at the first trial.

FEROCIOUS FINISH

The retrial had more fireworks, culminating in 5½ hours of closing arguments in which Mesereau slammed Constand as a "pathological liar " and prosecutor Kristen Feden turned the con artist label on its head. "Yes, you did hear about a con," she said, her voice rising as she moved toward Cosby and pointed at him. "The perpetrator of that con is this man, sitting right here." Cosby's lawyers drew sharp criticism for what some called a blatant attempt to "victim-shame" women who've leveled accusations against him.

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Follow Mike Sisak at https://twitter.com/mikesisak .

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For more coverage visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/CosbyonTrial .

Tom Brokaw accused of making unwanted sexual advances against former colleagues

Legendary NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw is denying allegations he made unwanted sexual advances toward two former colleagues in the 1990s.

>> Read more trending news 

According to the Washington Post, former NBC correspondent Linda Vester said the now retired Brokaw made sexual advances, including “a forcible attempt to kiss her,” two separate times when she was in her 20s. She told the Post she did not report the incidents to management at the time.

Brokaw, in a statement from NBC, said he never made advances toward Vester. 

“I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago, because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC,” Brokaw said.

>> Related: Recently fired anchor Matt Lauer a "weak and broken" man, friends say

“The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures toward her, at that time or any other,” he said.

Vester said she did not report the incidents at the time because she was afraid of losing her job.

Brokaw, 78 and retired from the anchor chair in 2004, also denied a second allegation from a young production assistant, who accused him of making unwelcome advances toward her also in the ‘90s.

>> Related: Ann Curry speaks out about Matt Lauer sexual harassment allegations in new interview

These latest allegations follow the firing of longtime NBC anchor Matt Lauer last year after revelations of sexual misconduct against several female colleagues over a period of years.

 

Tom Brokaw denies sexual misconduct claim by ex-NBC reporter

A woman who worked as a war correspondent for NBC News said Tom Brokaw groped her, twice tried to forcibly kiss her and made inappropriate overtures attempting to have an affair, according to two reports published Thursday.

Linda Vester told Variety and the Washington Post that the misbehavior from the longtime news anchor at the network took place in NBC offices in Denver and New York in the 1990s, when she was in her 20s. Variety reports that Vester, now 52, showed them journals from the time that corroborated the story.

Brokaw, who is 78 and has been married since 1962, denied doing anything inappropriate.

"I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC," Brokaw said in a statement to the two outlets issued through NBC News. "The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda's allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her at that time or any other."

Another woman, who was not identified, made similar claims about Brokaw to the Post.

Vester, who had reported from the Middle East and covered the Gulf War for NBC, was 28 when she was in Colorado in 1993 with Brokaw to cover Pope John Paul II's visit to the U.S.

"We were in the Denver bureau, and there was a conference room. I'm standing there, and Tom Brokaw enters through the door and grabs me from behind and proceeds to tickle me up and down my waist," she told Variety.

Vester said others were in the room, but no one "acted like anything wrong was happening.

"He was the most powerful man at the network, and I was the most junior person," she said.

Vester said the following year in New York, Brokaw sent her suggestive computer messages in the office before later announcing on the phone that he was coming to her hotel room.

Vester said she felt powerless to tell him not to come.

"He grabbed me behind my neck and tried to force me to kiss him," she told Variety. "I was shocked to feel the amount of force and his full strength on me."

She said Brokaw left when she broke away and made it clear she did not want any more.

Vester left NBC in 1999 to work at Fox News, where she remained until 2006.

Brokaw is the most recent of many media personalities to be accused of sexual misconduct in recent months, including his former colleague Matt Lauer, who left the "Today" show and the network after several women came forward with allegations.

Lauer has admitted that he acted inappropriately, but denies any coercive or abusive behavior.

Cosby's life of achievement stained by assault conviction

Over and over again, Bill Cosby, the charmer, persuaded America to drop its guard.

Before Cosby and "I Spy," no African-American man had landed the lead in a television drama series. Before Cosby and "The Cosby Show," no affluent, educated black family existed on TV. Before Cosby, few black celebrities were hired to pitch something as mainstream as Jell-O.

It all made for an unmatched contribution to ethnic equality, a legacy seemingly invulnerable to claims spanning decades that "America's Dad" was sexually abusing women. He denied it all and, year after year, that proved good enough.

Until it wasn't. The collective willingness to trust in Cosby ended in a Pennsylvania courtroom Thursday. Jurors convicted the 80-year-old comedian of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, whose 2004 experience with Cosby echoed that of so many of his accusers who emerged before last year's #MeToo wave began.

His wildly successful stand-up concerts and albums, the smash hit TV shows, the immense comedic talent that gave him power to change pop culture — nothing is left unstained.

"It is just about impossible to see any of that except through the hindsight of his being a predator," said Martin Kaplan, Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Cosby parlayed his authority as a father figure into the right to counsel — or as critics saw it, lecture — young people, especially African-Americans, on how to live, Kaplan said.

"He was Dr. Cosby, and a great authority on issues where you need moral standing," the professor said.

"So now we all have to ask ourselves: What were we thinking? Why didn't we see it?" Kaplan said, comparing Cosby's fall from grace to the hit on poet T.S. Eliot's reputation when his anti-Semitism came to light.

Cosby first won attention in the early 1960s as a clean-working comic who mined the experiences of children and parents for his material. He turned to acting in 1965 with "I Spy," winning three straight Emmys and the title "the Jackie Robinson of television" for breaking one of TV's major ethnic barriers.

Then came "The Cosby Show," which aired on NBC from 1984 to 1992, in which he and Phylicia Rashad starred as firm but loving parents to an appealing brood of children. Mom and dad were high-achieving professionals, he in medicine, she in law.

"He was the biggest star in the U.S. in the '80s, which made him the biggest TV star in the world," longtime Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman said.

And as Cosby's fame and wealth grew, he became a generous benefactor to schools and other institutions, adding to his luster.

Now many of those institutions have cut ties with him, and much of what endeared Cosby to baby boomers and younger fans of classic TV has been wiped clean from the screen.

Syndication staple "Cosby Show" was dropped by TV Land as allegations against Cosby built, and Bounce TV reportedly was pulling the series after the verdict.

It's far from the final act that Cosby had been working on. Just a few years ago, he was developing a new sitcom with NBC in which he was to play a grandfather dispensing advice. He also was looking forward to Netflix's release of a new stand-up special and was preparing to launch an ambitious standup tour.

Although his appeal crossed generational and ethnic lines, his slams against the dress, behavior and language of black youngsters provoked dismay from some African-Americans. It was that divide, not yet another woman's accusation, that helped accelerate the unraveling.

Black comedian Hannibal Buress was onstage in 2014 when he criticized Cosby for his self-righteousness, declaring, "You rape women, Bill Cosby."

Though Buress later said he was simply making a joke that went further than he expected, an audience member posted a video of the remark, prompting allegations from dozens of women telling similar stories to news outlets: Cosby gave them a pill or drink, they became intoxicated or incoherent and they were powerless to stop him from having sex with them.

NBC dropped its plan for the new comedy series, the Netflix special was pulled and concert dates began to dissolve. A new biography by the respected journalist Mark Whitaker foundered for largely overlooking the allegations of Cosby's assaults.

Can any aspect of what Cosby created stand? Bragman, for one, said it's impossible right now to separate the man's work from his actions.

"This is his legacy in his lifetime," he said.

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Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.

Pictures From Queen 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Film Emerge

Twentieth Century Fox has released in a pair of stills from the upcoming Queen biopic, 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'

Continue reading…

Comic who called Cosby rapist credited after his conviction

Standup comic Hannibal Buress, whose 2014 remark about sexual-assault accusations against Bill Cosby went viral, is getting another serious surge of attention.

The path to Cosby's conviction on Thursday on charges he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home arguably started 3 1/2 years earlier in a Philadelphia comedy club, where Buress during his standup act mocked Cosby's smug preachiness and called him a rapist.

"I've done this bit on stage, and people think I'm making it up," Burress said. "Bill Cosby has a lot of rape allegations. ... When you leave here, Google 'Bill Cosby rape.'"

Cellphone video of the moment taken by then-Philadelphia Magazine reporter Dan McQuade went viral, and so did the allegations. Stories that had been public but largely ignored for years suddenly got a footing. New accusers emerged, and old accusers remerged. Lawsuits and criminal prosecution soon followed.

Buress was silent on the subject after Thursday's verdict against Cosby, tweeting out only tour dates, and his representatives didn't respond to requests for a statement. But thousands of people were talking about him on Twitter in posts like these:

— "Think about the impact Hannibal Buress made." — CNBC politics reporter John Harwood.

— "These allegations were made for years and were almost uniformly ignored. Then Hannibal Buress referenced them in a standup comedy routine that went viral, and suddenly it was an avalanche." — Michael David Smith, managing editor of Pro Football Talk.

— "Somebody buy @hannibalburess a drink today. And then again tomorrow. Forever." — TV comedy writer Travon Free.

— "Hannibal Buress changed history." — John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary.

Cosby, who was known for his good-guy image as wisdom-dispensing, sweater-wearing Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," repeatedly denied sexually violating a Temple University employee at his mansion in 2004. Cosby, who's 80, could get up to 10 years in prison on each of three counts of aggravated indecent assault but is likely to get less than that under state sentencing guidelines.

Buress has refused to talk about Cosby in interviews, but he addressed what he had started in his 2016 Netflix special.

"That situation got out of hand. Yikes!" Buress said. "I was just doing a joke at a show."

He said most of the media coverage contained a "slight dis" when it called him "unknown comedian Hannibal Buress."

No one calls him that anymore.

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For more coverage visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/CosbyonTrial

Kent Jones' 'Diane' takes top award at Tribeca

Kent Jones' intimate drama "Diane" landed a leading three awards at the 17th annual Tribeca Film Festival, including best narrative feature.

"Diane" stars 70-year-old Mary Kay Place as a memory-haunted widow in rural Massachusetts. It's the first fiction film for Jones, the film critic and director of the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. "Diane," which is produced by Martin Scorsese, also won for Jones' screenplay and Wyatt Garfield's cinematography in awards announced at a ceremony in New York on Thursday night.

"We have chosen a film that we believe encompasses the beauty, aesthetic, as well as the powerful themes of love, struggle, life, death, and womanhood that are the spirit of this year's festival," said the jury for best narrative feature.

"Diane" was among the most acclaimed films at the festival, which runs through the weekend. Variety raved: "It's up to Kent Jones whether or not he wants to abandon his day job, but 'Diane' demonstrates that he has the potential to be a major filmmaker."

Best documentary went to Gabrielle Brady's "Island of the Hungry Ghosts," about an Australian detention center on a remote jungle island in the Indian Ocean.

The festival's Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award was given to Dava Whisenant for "Bathtubs Over Broadway." The film chronicles the discovery by Steve Young, a longtime writer for David Letterman's "Late Night," of a long-forgotten world of "industrial musicals" — lavish productions put on by major corporations at annual sales meetings.

The Nora Ephron Award, which honors female filmmakers, went to Nia DaCosta for "Little Woods," a neo-western thriller starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James.

Other winners included Ali Shawkat ("Duck Butter") for best actress, Jeffrey Wright ("O.G.") for best actor and Marios Piperides' "Smuggling Hendrix" for best international feature. The virtual reality installation "Hero" won the festival's Storyscapes Awards for immersive storytelling.

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Follow Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Neville Brothers saxophonist Charles Neville dead at 79

New Orleans-born saxophone player Charles Neville, who once backed up B.B. King and later gained fame with the Neville Brothers band and their rollicking blend of funk, jazz and rhythm and blues, has died. He was 79.

His death came Thursday, months after he disclosed he was fighting pancreatic cancer.

Neville's career dated to the 1950s when he performed with King and other musical greats. Yet he was best known for three decades of performances with his siblings Aaron, Art and Cyril as the Grammy-winning Neville Brothers band. The band was formed in the 1970s and gained fans with high-energy performances featuring a distinctive fusion of funk, jazz and New Orleans rhythm and blues.

A publicist for Aaron Neville's management agency confirmed the death in an email. Aaron Neville, who first disclosed the news to WWL-TV in New Orleans, declined an interview but posted a lengthy tribute to his brother on Facebook.

"I know you have a spot in the heavenly band next to James Booker, James Black, Herbert Hardesty, Fats Domino, Johnny Adams all the jazz bebop players who you turned me on to," Aaron Neville wrote. "Dizzy, Charlie Parker, Miles and the list goes on."

Charles Neville, who lived in Massachusetts in recent years, had announced in January that he had pancreatic cancer.

His death came a day before the opening of his home town's signature musical and cultural event, the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

The Neville Brothers were a fixture on closing day of the festival for years. And members of the family continue to be a part of the event. Aaron is scheduled for a May 4 performance. Charles' daughter, singer Charmaine Neville, is scheduled for a May 5 performance, the same day Aaron's son Ivan performs with his band Dumpstaphunk.

Charles' Neville's life included a stint at Louisiana's state prison in the early 1960s. He told an interviewer that he was sentenced to five years for possession of two marijuana cigarettes. The prison was notoriously dangerous but Neville said on the public radio program "Music Inside Out" that the time there sharpened his musicianship.

He explained that he worked in the prison music room. "I stayed in the music room practicing all day," he said. He also had access to books on music, and, at times, exposure to other imprisoned musicians. "James Booker was there," he said, referring to a celebrated New Orleans pianist.

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