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Oscars: Controversy Erupts Over New Documentary Branch Rules – Are Smaller, More Serious Films Being Pushed Out Of Race?

Pete Hammond

Oscars: Controversy Erupts Over New Documentary Branch Rules – Are Smaller, More Serious Films Being Pushed Out Of Race?The June 27th announcement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences regarding new and tweaked rules for the 87th Academy Awards seemed pretty much by-the-numbers at the time, but in the days since has engendered controversy over a new requirement in the Documentary Feature category that now requires even stiffer regulations for a film’s seven-day qualifying run. Instead of the previous requirement of two shows a day without specifying times, the new rule calls for a minimum of four shows per day at theatres in LA and NY with screenings beginning between noon-10 PM including at least one “prime” show beginning between 6-10 PM. Sources at the Academy tell me this is an effort to get the films seen by the public in a theatrical setting.

“The main reason was to get those documentaries to be seen by paying audiences,” an Academy executive told me. “As you know a lot of those (qualifying runs ) movies are basically four-walled at 11 AM and nobody sees them in a theatre. So by allowing  four showings daily for a week it allows so much greater access for the consumer and the public to see these movies.” I am told the docu branch leadership was passionate about the change because “it really allows the movie fan to see documentaries with so much more opportunity.” It also reinforces the idea that these Oscar-qualifying films are indeed theatrical experiences, something the Academy has always been rightfully concerned about emphasizing in their annual competition. Read More »

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WB Dates Whitey Bulger Pic ‘Black Mass’ For Fall 2015

By | Monday June 30, 2014 @ 6:10pm PDT

WB Dates Whitey Bulger Pic ‘Black Mass’ For Fall 2015Warner Bros. announced today that their untitled Whitey Bulger film starring Johnny Depp, also known as Black Mass, will hit theaters on September 18, 2015. Universal’s Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke true life disaster pic Everest is the only wide-release competition currently slated for that weekend. Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) is helming the drama about Boston gangster Bulger’s notorious relationship with FBI agent John Connolly, which also stars Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson, Rory Cochran, Julianne Nicholson, and Adam Scott. Kevin Bacon joined the cast last week as the film continues to shoot through the summer.

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Q&A: ‘Whitey’s Joe Berlinger On Finding Great Docu Subjects From Mobsters To Metallica And The West Memphis 3

By | Sunday June 29, 2014 @ 6:31pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Q&A: ‘Whitey’s Joe Berlinger On Finding Great Docu Subjects From Mobsters To Metallica And The West Memphis 3If all filmmaking is struggle, none struggle harder than the documentary director who: searches for truth and injustice; raises the money to expose it; fights to escape the common result of barely leaving a festival footprint before vanishing; and then starting all over. Joe Berlinger has fared better than most. An argument could be made he and ex-partner Bruce Sinofsky helped reassemble the band Metallica, and it’s indisputable they kept one member of the so-called West Memphis 3 from being executed and the other two from dying in jail for the murder of three Arkansas children prosecution said was part of a satanic ritual, though it offered no physical evidence.

joebBerlinger’s gone solo as Magnolia this weekend released Whitey: United States Of America V. James J. Bulger. Hollywood loves the story of the ruthless Boston mob boss who used his station as protected FBI informant to build a criminal empire and get rid of rivals. Johnny Depp plays Bulger in an upcoming Warner Bros film, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are percolating another, and Jack Nicholson played a composite in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winner The Departed. Berlinger takes an unexpected path into a familiar story. What if, as Bulger and his lawyers claim, he was not a rat, but a pawn to obscure widespread law enforcement corruption? Berlinger chases that thread while following survivors of Bulger murder victims who sought truth when Bulger was finally captured and put on trial. Here, Berlinger talks about the documentary life, how luck plays a part in great docus, and about processing the shocking death of Oscar-winning Searching For Sugar Man director Malik Bendjelloul.

DEADLINE: The Paradise Lost trilogy you and Bruce Sinofsky made kept Damien Echols from being executed, and Jessie Misskelley Jr and Jason Baldwin from dying in prison. What compelled you to make a film that explores the alibi of a notorious criminal like Bulger?
JOE BERLINGER: The film in no way is a Bulger apology. Bulger was a vicious, brutal killer who did terrible things, but he was enabled by the government, he was allowed to kill. You know the accepted story about Bulger that people have written books and made movies about; he was an FBI informant. It’s bad enough as an FBI informant, FBI agents look the other way and in some cases aided and abetted some murders by giving him information. This is the first time Bulger has ever been heard from. Despite the glut of media, the dozen books, the Affleck-Damon movie, the fictionalized version in The Departed, as the film unfolds you see there is very strong evidence he may have not been an informant at all. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger’

The latest docu from Oscar-nominated director Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) tracks the trial of notorious criminal James “Whitey” Bulger, using his court proceedings as a platform to examine accusations of corruptions within the American legal system. Berlinger premiered the CNN Films and Radical Media-produced docu at Sundance in January. Magnolia will debut Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger June 27 in limited release:

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Joe Berlinger’s Whitey Bulger Docu Gets Magnolia Theatrical Release

By | Tuesday March 25, 2014 @ 12:38pm PDT
Mike Fleming

whiteyMagnolia Pictures acquired U.S. theatrical, VOD and home entertainment rights to Whitey: The United States Of America V. James J Bulger, the Joe Berlinger-directed docu on notorious Irish gangster Whitey Bulger and the massive law enforcement corruption that allowed his reign of terror to proliferate in South Boston and enable his escape from justice. The film premiered at Sundance and Berlinger Co-directed Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster and the Paradise Lost trilogy. Pic was produced by RadicalMedia for CNN Films.

Magnolia will be giving the film a day and date theatrical and on demand release this June, followed by a broadcast on CNN later this year. Berlinger takes a surprising angle. While it was long believed that Bulger ran his operation while he was an FBI informant, Berlinger investigates whether that was actually the case. He certainly operated under the noses of law enforcement. But was he a rat?

“Whitey is a jaw-dropping true crime epic—a real life The Departed,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “As longtime admirers of Joe Berlinger’s films, we’re excited to be working together on this rigorous, thoroughly entertaining and tough-as-nails film.”

Cinetic Media repped the filmmaker.

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Post Christian Grey’s S&M Obsession In ‘Fifty Shades’, Dakota Johnson To Play Mob Moll Opposite Johnny Depp In ‘Black Mass’

By | Friday March 21, 2014 @ 4:30pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Dakota Johnson Black Mass Johnny DeppEXCLUSIVE: Fresh from what should be a star-making turn as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Of Grey, Dakota Johnson is in early talks to play the love interest of Johnny Depp’s Whitey Bulger character in the Scott Cooper-directed Black Mass. Bulger has a couple of women in his life, but Johnson will play Lindsey, his girlfriend and the mother of his 6-year-old son Douglas, who dies tragically. The film is coming together quickly with Warner Bros distributing worldwide with Depp as Bulger, and Joel Edgerton as disgraced FBI agent John Connolly, who grew up with Bulger and was alleged to have tipped him off when the feds were closing in, leading Bulger to go on the lam for a decade until he was finally caught. Guy Pearce will play Bill Bulger, brother of the mobster who was president of the Massachusetts Senate and a major power broker in town.

Related: Johnny Depp Seals Deal To Play Whitey Bulger In ‘Black Mass’

Johnson, who is the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, is expected to return for what will be three and possibly four movies made from the E.L. James book. The first film, which also stars Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, will be released by Universal and Focus Features … Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

By | Sunday March 2, 2014 @ 4:15pm PST

Before tonight’s Academy Awards, catch up on the top stories you missed this week on Deadline:

Oscar_badgeOscars Finally Here – Record Voting Turnout According To Academy But What Does It All Mean?
By Pete Hammond – The robocalls and emails apparently did the trick as Academy CEO Dawn Hudson reports the 86th Oscar contest is responsible another significant high mark in the Academy’s efforts to turn out the vote.

OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever
By Pete Hammond – With no real clarity from the usually reliable guild contests and critics awards, the best picture race is one of the most80th Academy Awards NYC Meet the Oscars Opening unpredictable in years. Considering the preferential Oscar voting system, it is not probable there will be a winner on the first ballot because it’s unlikely any film in this great year for films will be able to  muster more than 50% of the first-place votes required. The second choice on those best picture ballots could end up being the most important. Read More »

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UPDATE: Warner Bros’ Next Whitey Bulger Move: Ease Rift With Ben Affleck And Matt Damon

Mike Fleming

UPDATE, 12:04 PM: By damon_affleckWarner Bros jumping aboard the high-profile Johnny Depp-Joel Edgerton pic Black Mass, it means the studio won’t be taking on another Whitey Bulger project in its own backyard: the one that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon had been developing for a couple of years as a starring vehicle for Damon via their Warners-based Pearl Street Films. I’m hearing that Affleck and Damon were given a day or two advance notice that the studio was putting its eggs in the Black Mass basket, but that news came just a day before the latest rewrite was turned in by Aaron Stockard, who worked with Affleck on The Town and Gone Baby Gone and who rewrote the script by Oscar nominated The Wolf Of Wall Street scribe Terence Winter. There was much enthusiasm, then radio silence, and then…Naturally there are bruised feelings that Warners will have to repair with two of its most valuable players, as this was the first project pitched for Affleck to direct and Damon to star after Pearl Street inked its overall deal there, and I’m told the studio assured the pair it wanted to make their movie.

warnerbrosThis is all a part of the big rough and tumble game of studios needing to fill slates, and clearly someone was going to come out first with a Bulger biopic. But there are plenty of reasons to smooth any ruffles here. Affleck is directing and starring in Warner Bros’ Live By Night, an epic period crime drama that he adapted from the best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane, author of Affleck’s first directorial outing Gone Baby Gone. It’s the follow-up to the Best Picture Oscar winner Argo he made for the studio. He also is playing Batman in Warner Bros’ Batman Vs. Superman. Read More »

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Berlin: Johnny Depp Seals Deal To Play Whitey Bulger In ‘Black Mass’; Tom Hardy In Talks To Play FBI Pal John Connolly

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Johnny Depp has made his deal to star in Black Mass, hardyThe Lone Ranger --UK Film Premierethe drama Scott Cooper will direct about the Boston crime kingpin-turned-fugitive Whitey Bulger, for Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media. Now, they are in early  talks with Tom Hardy to play John Connolly, the FBI agent and childhood pal of Bulger, who is in prison for tipping Bulger that he was about to be indicted. That led Bulger to go from ruthless Boston crime kingpin to the top of the FBI’s Berlin2014_200most wanted list. Domestic distribution hasn’t yet been decided and there are some territories that Exclusive is selling at Berlin, a task made easier by these casting developments.  Production will begin in May.

Depp was originally expected to play Bulger when Barry Levinson was attached to direct, but the deal fell through over money even though the deal was near $20 million. Deadline revealed last month that talks had rekindled with Depp, and this has now become a blue-chip project, particularly when Crazy Heart and Out Of The Furnace helmer Cooper boarded it. The script is by Mark Mallouk, who adapted the 2001 Dick Lehr/Gerald O’Neill New York Times bestseller Black Mass: The True Story Of An Unholy Alliance Between The FBI And The Irish Mob. Read More »

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‘Out Of The Furnace’ Helmer Scott Cooper In Talks For ‘Black Mass;’ Johnny Depp Talks To Play Whitey Bulger Reignite

Mike Fleming

scottcooEXCLUSIVE: Scott Cooper is negotiating to rewrite and direct Black Mass, the drama about the Boston crime kingpin-turned-fugitive Whitey Bulger, for Cross Creek Pictures and Nigel Sinclair and Guy East’s Exclusive Media, with Universal releasing through Cross Creek’s distribution deal with the studio. And guess what? Talks have rekindled for Johnny Depp to possibly play Bulger in the film. You’ll recall he was nearly set last year, but talks fell apart over money.
The subject matter is irresistible. Bulger had risen to the top of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List when he disappeared for a decade before he could be put behind bars. Many felt he could never have gotten that far without the help of John Connolly, an FBI agent and childhood pal of Bulger and his brother William, the former president of the Massachusetts Senate. Joel Edgerton had been in talks to play the FBI pal. Connolly was tasked with bringing down the Italian mob, and he was aided by Bulger, who burnished his own position as Boston crime kingpin by getting rid of the competition for his Winter Hill gang. Connolly was lauded for his work before things went south for him. He eventually was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice for aiding Bulger, who is currently in a Massachusetts state prison for second-degree murder. Read More »

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Fox Developing Event Series About Whitey Bulger’s Enforcer With Peter Facinelli Co-Starring & Michael De Luca Producing

By | Wednesday October 30, 2013 @ 4:02pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: While Warner Bros. is working on its Ben Affleck/Matt Damon Whitey Bulger feature, another project about New England’s most notorious crime boss is coming together, this time in TV. Fox has put in development Street Soldier, an event series that has The Twilight Saga alum Peter Facinelli attached to play a lead and executive produce and Michael De Luca to executive produce. Street Soldier chronicles the life of boxer and drug dealer Eddie MacKenzie as an enforcer for Bulger and details how he was able to extricate himself from Whitey’s gang without getting killed. Larry Golin will write the script based on MacKenzie’s memoir Street Soldier: My Life As An Enforcer For Whitey Bulger And The Boston Irish Mob, co-penned by Phyllis Karas. De Luca, Golin and Facinelli will executive produce with Facinelli’s producing partner at A7SLE Films Rob DeFranco and Ted Mann (Hatfields & McCoys). A7SLE Films acquired Street Soldier several years ago and originally developed it as an indie feature.
Read More »

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Warner Bros, Ben Affleck Bring Aaron Stockard Aboard Whitey Bulger Tale

By | Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 3:52pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros is making a deal with Aaron Stockard to do script work on the Whitey Bulger movie that Ben Affleck plans to direct, with Matt Damon playing New England’s most notorious gangster and a man who has inspired numerous movie and TV bad guys, most recently played by James Woods on the Showtime series Ray Donovan. Affleck and Damon are producing through their Warners-based Pearl Street banner.

The script was originated by Boardwalk Empire creator and writer Terrence Winter, and the hiring of Stockard shows that Affleck and Damon are serious even though there is a rival project, Black Mass, that threatens to go into production first. Stockard worked with Affleck as a writer on his directing vehicles Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

Deadline broke the story on the film in late 2011, and the plan is for Affleck to also co-star along with Damon and his brother Casey Affleck, making it a real Good Will Hunting reunion. Read More »

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Johnny Depp Now Off ‘Black Mass’ After Salary Spat

By | Thursday May 30, 2013 @ 11:24am PDT
Mike Fleming

UPDATE, 11:24 AM: Deadline broke news last night that Johnny Depp was teetering toward the exit door on Black Mass, the Barry Levinson-directed story of Whitey Bulger, with Joel Edgerton playing his disgraced FBI pal John Connolly. There was some hope last night that after some hard negotiating, things might turn around and Depp would stay in the movie. I’m now told that’s not going to happen. The financiers, Cross Creek and Exclusive Media, are moving to recast the lead, balking at paying Depp the equivalent of $23 million to headline the indie crime drama. If you remember, Ben Affleck planned to direct buddy Matt Damon in a Bulger picture, but this news isn’t going to help those heavily booked fellas. The Black Mass team — which sold the picture heavily in Cannes — expect to have a new star in place so they can shoot the picture later this year. Read More »

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Johnny Depp Lays Out His Dance Card, With ‘Transcendence’ And ‘Black Mass’

By | Wednesday February 27, 2013 @ 4:03pm PST
Mike Fleming

When Deadline broke the story that Johnny Depp would star as Whitey Bulger in the Barry Levinson-directed Black Mass, it raised a lot of questions about his intentions to star in Transcendence, the film directed by Chris Nolan’s visionary cinematographer Wally Pfister. His reps have now clarified the dance card of Depp, who’ll next be seen reuniting with Gore Verbinski in The Lone Ranger this summer. Here’s the deal:

LOS ANGELES (February 27, 2013) — Johnny Depp is set to star in Transcendence, the directorial debut of Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister. The film will begin principal photography in April.

The film is being financed and produced by Alcon Entertainment’s Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove and will be released by Warner Bros. The film will also be produced by Straight Up Films’ Annie Marter, Marisa Polvino and Kate Cohen along with David Valdes. Pfister will direct from newcomer Jack Paglen’s screenplay, which was developed with Annie Marter, with the most recent draft by Noah Oppenheim. Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are serving as executive producers. Straight Up’s Regency Boies will co-produce.

Producers are not revealing the film’s plot.

Following Transcendence, Depp will segue into the crime thriller Black Mass, about notorious Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger, to be directed by Barry Levinson, with Jez Butterworth writing a new draft of the screenplay by Mark Mallouk, based on the New York Times best-seller Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Boston Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill.

Filming is beginning in early summer of 2013.

Read More »

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In Time For Berlin: Johnny Depp Plays Boston Mob’s Whitey Bulger In ‘Black Mass’

By | Saturday February 2, 2013 @ 6:07pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Just as Whitey Bulger rose to the top of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List when he disappeared for a decade before he could be put behind bars, the fast mobilizing movie about the Boston crime kingpin just rose to the top of the most wanted list in the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin. That’s because Johnny Deep has become attached to star in the Cross Creek crime thriller Black Mass, with Barry Levinson directing him. The picture is a co-production between Cross Creek and Nigel Sinclair and Guy East’s Exclusive Media, with the two entities co-financing. Universal Pictures is aboard to release the film in the U.S. through Cross Creek’s distribution deal with the studio, and production is to begin in May.

The film will be produced by Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson, John Lesher, and Christi Dembrowski, Depp’s partner in Infinitum Nihil. Exclusive Media’s Tobin Armbrust, President Worldwide Production and Acquisitions and Cross Creek Pictures Sr. VP of Production Adam Kassan, will oversee production. Alex Walton, Exclusive Media’s President of International Sales and Distribution, will introduce Black Mass to overseas buyers at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin.

The title of the film comes from the 2001 Dick Lehr/Gerald O’Neill New York Times bestseller Black Mass: The True Story of Read More »

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Ben Affleck To Direct Matt Damon And Casey Affleck in Whitey Bulger Mobster Saga

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are reuniting in their first real picture partnership since  Good Will Hunting. The Boston guys are taking on the story of New England’s most notorious gangster, Whitey Bulger. Warner Bros will make the film, Affleck will direct, co-star and produce with Damon, who’ll play Bulger. They’ll produce under their Pearl Street Films banner. Boardwalk Empire creator and writer Terence Winter is penning the script. Casey Affleck, who also starred in Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone, will play a supporting role as well.

“Matt and I have been looking for something to do together for some time,” Affleck said. “We’ve heard about Whitey Bulger since we were kids, and we are excited by the prospect of putting it on screen.” Ironically, Damon played a crooked cop in The Departed, the Martin Scorsese-directed film that took a page from the Bulger story. He is the notorious South Boston crime boss who fled in 1994 and remained a fugitive for 16 years — 12 of them on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. He was arrested in June in Santa Monica. The story will cover Bulger’s youth to his incarceration on Alcatraz, through his rise to become a mob boss while secretly serving as an FBI informant for decades. Pearl Street’s Chay Carter will be executive producer. Read More »

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Cross Creek Pictures Hires Becky Sloviter As Senior Production Veep

Mike Fleming

After making a splash by funding the wildly profitable Darren Aronofsky-directed Black Swan, Timmy Thompson and Brian Oliver’s Cross Creek Pictures has become an increasing presence in the independent film producing and finance game. To help manage the growing project volume, they’ve hired Becky Sloviter to be senior vice president of development and production. She started work yesterday and had most recently been veep of development and production at MGM, where she worked on such titles as the Kevin James-starrer Zookeeper and the Drew Goddard-directed The Cabin in the Woods, as well as the musical Valley Girl which is on a fast track at MGM. Before that, Sloviter had been a production exec at Stuber/Parent Productions. Read More »

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‘Twilight Saga’s Peter Facinelli Producing Pic About Whitey Bulger’s Boston Gang

By | Tuesday June 28, 2011 @ 10:52am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Twilight Saga star Peter Facinelli is producing an adaptation of Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer For Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob, an adaptation of the Edward MacKenzie and Phyllis Karas book. Facinelli Films is teamed with Brookstreet Pictures on an indie film that will tell the story of Bulger’s rise and disappearance from the Boston mob scene. While Bulger was said to have informed the character that Jack Nicholson played in The Departed, his tale has drawn film interest after he was apprehended in Santa Monica after vanishing in 1994 as federal agents were about to arrest him in connection with 21 killings, racketeering and other crimes perpetrated in the 70s and 80s involving his Winter Hill gang.

Fortunately for Facinelli, he got involved nine months ago and has a Nick Gordon script and funding commitment from Brookstreet Pictures. He wants to tell the story from the vantage point of MacKenzie, a boxer, drug dealer and feared enforcer. They will go out to filmmakers and a cast. “With the extraordinary capture of Whitey Bulger, there is no better time to tell this amazing story of the Boston Irish Mob from the gripping perspective of Eddie Mac,” said Brookstreet president/CEO Trevor Matthews, who’ll produce with Facinelli, Rob DeFranco and Alison Haskovec. Brookstreet previously produced Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer and The Shrine. Gersh’s Jay Cohen and the … Read More »

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