Tag Archives: James St. James

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Trudie Styler’s Freak Show starring Alex Lawther & Bette Midler gets a UK release date

Entertainment Focus Trudie Styler’s Freak Show starring Alex Lawther & Bette Midler gets a UK release date JASON PALMER August 29, 2018 Trudie Styler’s directorial debut Freak Show, starring Alex Lawther, AnnaSophia Robb, Abigail Breslin and Bette Midler gets a UK release date set. Based on the award-winning cult novel by James St James and rumoured to be in the same vein as Clueless and Napoleon Dynamite, Freak Show tells the moving, heart-breaking and hilarious story of Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther). Billy is a boldly confident and eccentric teenager who faces intolerance and persecution at his ultra conservative high school, and decides to fight back on behalf of all the misunderstood freaks of the world. Trudie Styler’s directorial bow Freak Show stars Alex Lawther (Ghost Stories) alongside Abigail Breslin, Bette Midler, Larry Pine, John McEnroe (Borg v McEnroe), AnnaSophia Robb and Laverne Cox and comes to cinemas across the UK and on demand on 22nd June through Maven Pictures. Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther), once lived a fabulous life in Connecticut, with his equally fabulous mother, MUV (Bette Midler). But when he is suddenly shipped off to his father’s (Larry Pine) Southern mansion, he finds himself a fish out of water. With his closet of extravagant and flamboyant attire, Billy is completely different from the cheerleaders, bible belles and beefy quarterbacks at his new high school. Yet despite the well-meant advice of his father and his housekeeper Florence (Celia Weston) that he should just throw on some blue jeans, Billy is determined to be himself – even if that does mean wearing face glitter to school. A rising British star, Alex Lawther won the London Film Critics’ Circle Award for “Young British Performer of the Year” for his role as the young Alan Turing in the Oscar-Winning film The Imitation Game (2014). Most recently, he was seen in Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror (2016), alongside Domnall Gleeson in Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017), and is currently the lead on the wildly popular Netflix Original show The End of the F***ing World (2017). Trudie Styler is an actress, film producer and director. She is married to music legend Sting. In 2011, she formed Maven Pictures with Celine Rattray. The company’s production credits include the award-winning Filth (2013) and Still Alice (2014); American Honey (2016) which won the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival; and The Kindergarten Teacher (2018), which won the Directing Award for Sara Colangelo at Sundance 2018. Freak Show is her feature directorial debut, premiering at the Berlin International Film Festival and receiving its UK premiere at BFI Flare earlier this year.  
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Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Powerful Film Is Putting The Struggles Of A Genderfluid Teen Front And Center

Huffington Post A Powerful Film Is Putting The Struggles Of A Genderfluid Teen Front And Center By James Michael Nichols 01/26/2018 04:35 pm ET A new film from director Trudie Styler is placing the story of a genderfluid teen in the limelight and humanizing the struggles of young people living outside of binary notions of gender. “Freakshow” tells the fictional story of Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther). Billy is a young, queer teen who suddenly has to deal with the painful realities of a quintessential American high school after his mother (Bette Midler) pushes the responsibility for his well-being onto her husband (Larry Pine) years after their divorce. Bloom, who enjoys dressing up and presenting his gender nontraditionally, is forced to find a way to live at his new ultra-conservative high school ? and ultimately decides to run for homecoming queen against one of his biggest bullies, Lynette (Abigal Breslin). “Freakshow” is based on a book of the same name by James St. James, of “Party Monster” and Club Kid culture fame. St. James told HuffPost he hopes the film contributes to a larger conversation about the bullying that queer and genderfluid kids face every day in schools all across America. “The book was written almost 10 years ago, long before the subject of LGBTQ bullying was a national dialogue, and long before LGTBTQ teens were actually running for ? and becoming! ? prom queens and homecoming queens,” St. James told HuffPost. “In that way, it’s ahead of its time. And, in a way, I’m glad that it took so long to make. The themes of bullying feel more relevant now in Trump’s America than they did back then. I hope the movie furthers the discussion of bullying and the acceptance of the genderqueer and genderfluid kids out there who are defiantly making an impact and getting their voices heard.”
Alex Lawther as Billy Bloom.
The film also tackles another important topic: the bonds between queer youth and their straight peers, and how precious these relationships can feel. The central relationship in the film is the one between Bloom and his best friend Flip ? a straight jock whose kindness and compassion literally save Bloom’s life at one point. “The characters of Billy and Flip could not be more different, and yet they find a commonality,” St. James said. “They bond and form a friendship that they both learn from and both grow because of it … This story feels modern in that it focuses on two boys, one gay one straight, and how they form a powerful lifelong bond based on mutual respect. I hope kids can learn from that.” “Freakshow” is now playing in select cities and through video on demand.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

In This ‘Freak Show,’ Conformity Is The Real Bully

WBUR In This ‘Freak Show,’ Conformity Is The Real Bully January 11, 2018 Scott Tobias The funniest throwaway moment in Freak Show, an unsteady coming-of-age fantasy, finds Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther), a gay teenager with a penchant for sequins and feather boas, introducing himself to his new classmates at a private school somewhere in the Deep South. Oblivious to the camera phones and snickers that have already sent a hostile signal, Billy stands up in front of his biology class and announces that he’s transferring from Darien, Connecticut, “the hometown of Chloë Sevigny.” He fully expects they will know and appreciate the reference, and perhaps chat him up later about Sevigny’s eclectic career as a cult actress and fashion icon. Adapted from James St. James’ YA novel, Freak Show treats Billy’s obliviousness as tragicomedy, as a kid who often delights in the fabulous, candy-colored world of his imagination but smarts from the cruelty of those outside of it. He has the jump on his peers because he’s knows who he is, but their own adolescent uncertainties and insecurities are weaponized against him. It’s never easy being “the other,” but it’s never worse than high school, where peer pressure can marshal entire swaths of the student body against you. The real question in the film is whether Billy will conform to the academy or the academy will conform to him. His odds in that fight aren’t as long as they seem. Making her directorial debut after a career producing notable indie breakthroughs like Moon, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Trudie Stylar isn’t interested in examining Billy’s cloistered perspective so much as seeing the world through it. That doesn’t entirely forgive the stereotypes and clichés that populate the film, but it does explain how a young man so estranged from other kids can flatten them out in his mind. There are times when Freak Show seems like a high school film repurposed from other high school films, rather than an authentic vision of life outside Chloë Sevigny’s hometown. Unexamined wealth is a factor. In the omnipresent voiceover narration, Billy recalls a childhood where his glamorous, cocktail-sipping mother, played with a wink by Bette Midler, served as his ally and co-conspirator while his conservative, ultra-rich father William (Larry Pine) existed mainly to throw cold water on their fun. He’s discover the truth is more complicated, but until then, it’s his father’s money and his mother’s encouragement that allows him to flourish as the cross-dressing, Oscar Wilde-quoting, sports-averse wildflower he is. When he’s suddenly shipped South to live with his now-single father under mysterious circumstances, it’s the first time anyone forces him to question who he is. After that initial blast of disdain leads to a daily gauntlet of spitballs and the more serious specter of violence, Billy does find a couple of allies in a cheerful gossip (AnnaSophia Robb) whose name he can never remember and in Flip (Ian Kelly), the school’s star quarterback, who harbors a secret passion for comic books and abstract expressionist painters. Flip advises Billy to “tone down” his look and behavior in order to protect himself and Billy obliges, mostly because he has a crush on Flip. His friendship with Flip buys him a certain period of acceptance, but he throws himself into controversy again when he decides to run for Homecoming Queen against Lynette (Abigail Breslin), a Bible-thumping mean girl who’s unwavering in her odious homophobia. Though Flip’s trajectory is as predictable as everyone else’s in Freak Show —this is the type of film where the biggest bully is the obvious closet case — his character at least has a little dimension, because he has to negotiate between being the most popular guy in school and spending his social currency on its resident outcast. When he expresses admiration for the freedom Billy has to do whatever he pleases, the film’s message starts to surface: Freak Show isn’t just about the virtues of tolerance, but the importance of allowing everyone the space to be themselves. Teenagers have a tendency to enforce conformity on the outside while suppressing the inner desires that might get them shunned. Stylar approaches the story with a bright, hyper-real style that’s seductive at times — Dante Spinotti, the veteran cinematographer of Heat and L.A. Confidential, drops the glitter bomb here — but too often exposes the thinness of the characters, who are as fussily arranged as Billy’s wardrobe closet. Stylar and her screenwriters, Beth Rigazio and Patrick J. Clifton, never suggest they have lives independent of Billy’s self-actualization, which undermines the point about everyone needing to celebrate their uniqueness. It winds up being an exclusive plea for inclusion.
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Trudie Styler and James St. James Shine Light on Teen Bullying In The New Movie “Freak Show”

Mister D: This is also playing on DirecTV and Amazon Prime The Advocate Trudie Styler and James St. James Shine Light on Teen Bullying BY DAVID ARTAVIA JANUARY 10 2018 5:25 AM EST A new hero has risen in the form of eccentric teenager Billy Bloom, the character at the center of Freak Show, a film based on the award-winning cult novel by James St. James and the directorial debut of actor and activist Trudie Styler. The film, which can be seen across most digital platforms on Friday, follows Billy (Alex J. Lawther), who once lived a fabulous life in Connecticut with his equally eccentric mother, Muv (Bette Midler). After he is shipped off to his father (Larry Pine)’s Southern mansion, his integrity is put to the test when he chooses to fight back against intolerance at an ultraconservative high school. Produced by Styler’s production company, Maven Pictures, and Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films, Freak Show is a compelling — sometimes ironic and raw — spotlight on high school bullying. Styler exposes the trauma inflicted on those who suffer at the hands of bullies, while bringing to light the consequences both teachers and parents face as a result. Styler was deeply connected to the story from the beginning, having been bullied in school herself due to a facial scar she received as a toddler after being hit by a truck. “[The kids] called me ‘Scarface,’” she tells The Advocate. “I felt myself as a loser as a child and teenager. And the corridors of school were shaming. You had to get from one class to another, traversing a hallway, and the students would be lined up left and right, watching everyone walk by, scrutinizing. It was like a catwalk.” It was destiny, Styler explains, that she became attached to direct this film. Originally her role was as producer — that is, until they lost their original director due to unforeseen circumstances. After meeting with James St. James several times to discuss the vision, it became clear this was a story she was meant to tell. And it’s evident onscreen. “He is such an extraordinary man — so talented. And a really good writer. I was thrilled it came to me,” she says of St. James, whom she first met in the early 2000s when she was shortlisted to play Macaulay Culkin’s mother in Party Monster, another film adapted from a St. James book. “The wonderful thing about Freak Show is that everyone pitched in. The writers didn’t leave my side. We were working on it constantly.” Styler used her own high school experience in the corridors as a springboard to shoot one of the film’s most poetic scenes: when Billy gets beaten up. While she wanted the scene to be heart wrenching and aggressive, Styler says she did not want it to be violent but rather to have a visual “almost like a danse macabre” and for it to be full of “kinetic energy,” with the corridors to seemingly have their own personalities. With his closet of extravagant and flamboyant attire, Billy is completely different from the cheerleaders, Bible belles, and beefy quarterbacks at his new high school. Yet despite the well-meant advice of his father and his housekeeper, Florence (Celia Weston), for him to just “throw on some blue jeans,” Billy is determined to be himself — even if that means wearing face glitter to school. Styler has been married to legendary singer, Sting, for 25 years. Together, they have been staunch advocates for environmental legislation and have continued to champion the rights of indigenous people. Freak Show acts as a lighthouse for parents, and Styler hopes it will be a call for action to bring forth serious change in the world. “I think adults — no matter what gender, creed, or race — can all learn,” the mother of four says. “We’re given a life where all people should be born free to be themselves, to be able to express themselves as the people they are. We’re at a point in our evolution where we have everything to do everything good — to do good work, to be inclusive, to be compassionate, to be tolerant — and yet the world seems to be pushing against all those things we have at our fingertips. We seem to be intent on destruction and pushing to the right, in wanting people to have less, and not sharing.” Styler also points to the Trump administration as an example of a bully’s impact. “Look at this administration,” she says. “It’s repealing all the things Obama has put in place. We have to ask ourselves, ‘What is it that we’ve done that’s created this world? How can we go on? What can we teach our kids, and how can we do things better?’ I think the only way is that we all have to stand together, be together, and come together. Treat each other better.” “These examples have to begin, surely, in our places of education,” she adds. “If schools take a strong stance on inclusivity and really deal with bullying in a very substantial way, that’s the only way we can go forward into the workplace and know that bullying is not civilized human behavior. It’s unacceptable.”
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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Film Review: Freak Show – Movie delivers nicely on both entertainment and emotional fronts

Film Journal Film Review: Freak Show Although it has its serious, even harrowing moments, this quirky, glitteringly gussied-up treatise on teen bullying keeps things likeably frothy and delivers nicely on both entertainment and emotional fronts. By David Noh Jan 12, 2018   The hallways of high school in the Deep South constitute something like the Stations of the Cross for young, flamboyantly cross-dressing Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther), who has been taken from his alcoholic Connecticut mother, Muv (Bette Midler), by his far more conventional and less fun dad (Larry Pine). In a sharp departure from the East Coast (“where,” in our hero’s words, “Chloë Sevigny is from”), the teenage yahoos at Billy’s new home as a senior hate anything unusual or even vaguely transgender. The daily bullying—amidst barrages of spitballs—is pretty ferocious. Despite the shameful indifference of the faculty, this Bloom refuses to be some suicidal shrinking violet and repeatedly pays a terrible price as he seeks the self-destructive spotlight for himself, impersonating Zelda Fitzgerald as a convulsing, immolated flapper-victim for a book report and even running for homecoming queen against his loathed Queen Mean Girl rival (Abigail Breslin, brimming with Dixie spitefulness). Trudie Styler, the gifted actress, producer, philanthropist and wife of rock god Sting, makes her feature directorial debut here, adapting her story from a memoir penned by former notorious New York City club kid James St. James. It’s a winsome and quite winning take on the now almost ubiquitous topic of teen bullying. I, for one, far prefer it to the overpraised, no doubt soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture Broadway hit musical, Dear Evan Hansen. Instead of saturating itself in the excessively maudlin, like that show, Freak Show positively basks in the restorative qualities of outsider glamour, which many a queer kid (this writer included) embraces as an escape from all the teasing and torment. Given his handy way with a needle and thread, as well as Daddy’s deep pockets and Mommy’s status as an unapologetic fashionista, Billy is able to wow with more costume changes than a Cher concert, paying witty homage to mermaids, Goth brides, David Bowie, Boy George and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. Dante Spinotti’s luminous cinematography and the terrific costumes by Colleen Atwood magically transform the gifted and chameleonic Lawter, who can look Hedy Lamarr-gorgeous one second and Black Lagoon Creature-grotesque the next. Also extremely efficacious is one of the best-curated music scores I’ve ever heard, with the 1977 French hit “Ça plane pour moi” by Plastic Bertrand getting an especially rousing workout. That last song accompanies an exhilarating romp with Billy and Mark (Ian Nelson), the school’s football star who, a closeted artist himself, becomes one of Billy’s only two friends. Nelson is, if anything, even more winning than Lawther. He’s a true star in the making, boasting perfect James Dean features and an irresistibly adorable personality that goes a long way to making credible this unlikely buddy pairing. Styler has cast her movie impeccably, with charming chatterbox AnnaSophia Robb as Billy’s other friend, the aptly named Blah Blah Blah (because Billy never quite catches her real one), and wonderful character actress Celia Weston, who as Billy’s housekeeper lends a whole lot of heart to the proceedings. Pine, one of New York’s finest stage actors, brings welcome and quite touching gravity. Midler, whose appearance is relatively brief, makes the very most of her scenes as a mom who seems like but is not exactly your perfect Auntie Mame for a troubled, fey youth. Click here for cast and crew information.
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Thursday, January 11, 2018

James St. James Talks Releasing ‘Freak Show’ Movie in Trump’s America, Working With Bette Midler & Laverne Cox

Billboard James St. James Talks Releasing ‘Freak Show’ Movie in Trump’s America, Working With Bette Midler & Laverne Cox 1/10/2018 by Rebecca Schiller If there were ever a time when the world needed a film about acceptance and resilience, it’s now. James St. James, the former club kid and author of Disco Bloodbath, which was later turned into the 2004 film Party Monster, is now witnessing another book of his being transformed into a cinematic production, with his 2007 young adult novel Freak Show hitting theaters Friday. Billboard caught up with St. James to find out why the story of Billy Bloom — a young bullied drag queen living in the red state of Florida who decides to run for homecoming queen — is even more important to tell in today’s climate than when the book was initially released over a decade ago. He also discusses how producer Trudie Styler transformed the project and recruited the likes of Bette Midler and Laverne Cox to join the cast and chats about the film’s soundtrack, which features a Boy George cover of a classic track. Plus, he shares a story about Marilyn Manson teaching a young Macaulay Culkin how to smoke a cigarette on the set of Party Monster. You’ve previously mentioned that Freak Show is semi-autobiographical and that Billy’s story parallels your own story growing up — at least in the first half of the book. For those not familiar with your story, can you explain how the book reflects your personal experiences? It’s funny because after Party Monster [a film based on St. James’ memoir about the rise and fall of the Club Kids of the late 1980s/early 1990s, and the murder of Andre “Angel” Melendez] came out, which is a completely different story [laughs], I started getting a lot of emails from — this was like in the MySpace days – I was getting messages from kids who were like 14, 15 years old, and it disturbed me because I didn’t know that they were taking away the right things from it, because there’s a lot of snarkiness and a lot of black humor and a lot of things that I don’t know that kids get, a lot of ambiguities. So when I was approached by Penguin to write something for young adults, I wanted to do something that had the same spirit of the Club Kids and still had the same joie de vivre and over the top outfits and Auntie Mame attitude and all of that but without all the sex and drugs and rock and roll. So that’s basically how it started. I was approached by my editor at the time and he said, “Have you ever thought about writing for teens?” and I said, “No I’m a 40-year-old drag queen, what do I know?” But then the more I started thinking about it, the more I thought, well, I had been through hell in high school, and as fabulous as it is now for LGBTQ teens, it still sucks to be different. It’s always gonna be hell to be a teenager, and so I thought maybe I would just tell my story and tell a bit about what happened to me. So the first half of the book is me, and the second half is the me that I wish I would have been, because I did sort of let it happen to me, and I wish I would have been a stronger person, you know?

I think we all wish we could be a bit more like Billy. ...  Read More

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The ‘Freak Show’ Trailer Will Speak To Everyone Who Has Ever Dared To Disrupt Gender Norms

Bustle The ‘Freak Show’ Trailer Will Speak To Everyone Who Has Ever Dared To Disrupt Gender Norms ByAMY ROBERTS 4 days ago If you can in some way identify with being a “gender obliterater,” then you need to watch the first trailer for Freak Show. Based on the eponymous novel by iconic club kid James St. James, the movie follows self-proclaimed gender-obliterating teenager Billy Bloom, as he traverses the difficulties of attending a Red State high school as a radical non-conformist. Bloom strikes up even more controversy when he decides to run for Homecoming Queen. Featuring a phenomenal cast including Laverne Cox, Abigail Breslin, Willa Fitzgerald, and Bette Midler as Bloom’s extravagant yet distant mother, Freak Show looks to be a proudly queer dramatic comedy (emphasis on the drama). And whether you’ve in some way lived this experience or know James’ work already, you will definitely recognize something vital within the trailer. For instance, you’re likely already familiar with James as a result of the 2003 cult-classic, Party Monster, which was based on his memoir, Disco Bloodbath. The book documented his own life in the New York City club scene, as well as the rise of his peer, Michael Alig, the infamous club kid upon whom Party Monster is based. Though Alig was notorious in his own right, it was his drug addiction and subsequent shocking murder of Andre “Angel” Melendez (for which Alig plead guilty) that officially made him the subject of tabloid headlines and media attention. Though Alig’s crimes were the focus of Party Monster (which starred Macaulay Culkin as Alig and Seth Green as James), it’s worth noting that the movie brought queer club culture back to the attentions of the mainstream at that time. The lead character of Freak Show might be fictional, but from the looks of the trailer, Bloom feels like a younger version of what we see of James in Party Monster. Proudly queer, fabulously dramatic, and tenacious in his knack for subverting gender norms, the character will be immediately recognizable to anyone who falls within the extensive LGBTQ+ spectrum. These are qualities that were also recognizable on a personal level to James, too. In an interview with Punk Globe, James revealed Freak Show was written specifically for teenagers after he was approached by an editor about potentially following up Disco Bloodbath with a Young Adult effort. “My first response was: ‘Usually they try and keep me AWAY from the teens,'” he joked, “I have a rather Satanic reputation among parents, after all,” but then revealed that this is what ultimately inspired him to move forward with it. Particularly, as he knew how much his younger self would appreciate such a book. James explained that Freak Show reflected his “high school experience” and said, “it’s all me,” before elaborating:
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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Outfest Closes With Freak Show Starring Bette Midler and Laverne Cox

Big Gay Picture Show Outfest Closes With Freak Show Starring Bette Midler and Laverne Cox July 13, 2017 By Tim Isaac 2017-05-20_1-03-10 We haven’t seen Bette Midler in a movie since Parental Guidance in 2012. However, she’s returning with Freak Show, which will be the Closing Night movie at this year’s Outfest LA LGBT Film Festival this Sunday. The movie has recently been picked up for release by IFC Films in the US, who have released the first clip. Here’s the synopsis: ‘Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther), once lived a fabulous life in Connecticut, with his equally fabulous mother, Muv (Bette Midler). But when he is suddenly shipped off to his father’s (Larry Pine) Southern mansion, he finds himself a fish out of water. ‘With his closet of extravagant and flamboyant attire, Billy is completely different from the cheerleaders, bible belles and beefy quarterbacks at his new high school. Yet despite the well-meant advice of his father and his housekeeper Florence (Celia Weston) that he should just throw on some blue jeans, Billy is determined to be himself – even if that does mean wearing face glitter to school. ‘With Muv missing in action, Billy experiences a culture clash the likes of which he has never known before – and his only allies come in the form of handsome football player and schoolboy crush Flip Kelly (Ian Nelson), and a chatterbox girl he calls Blah Blah Blah (AnnaSophia Robb)… because when she talks that’s all he hears. ‘When Muv finally comes to visit, Billy thinks his troubles are over, but he is in for a shock that shakes him to the core. Just when it seems life can’t get any worse, his finds himself up against ultimate mean girl Lynette (Abigail Breslin) in a battle of tolerance versus ignorance. Billy’s indomitable spirit rises once again to challenge the conservative traditions of Grant Academy, taking him on a journey that will lead to extraordinary and hilarious results.’
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Monday, June 19, 2017

‘Freak Show,’ ‘Beach Rats,’ and 10 other must-see features from the most incredible film festival season

Queerty ‘Freak Show,’ ‘Beach Rats,’ and 10 other must-see features from the most incredible film festival season By David Reddish June 15, 2017 at 5:06pm  
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Monday, May 1, 2017

Bette Midler On Why She Wouldn’t Debate Anita Bryant:

Bette Midler On Why She Wouldn’t Debate Anita Bryant: “She’d find passages in the Bible to try and support her position, and I’m afraid I would be speaking from raw emotion.” (Morning Star, July 19, 1977) Image may contain: 1 person
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