Massive Eradication Effort Ends Rodents' Reign Of Terror On Forbidding Isle

Jane Tansell, one of the two handlers responsible for the rodent detection dogs, looks on from the background as a seal stares down the camera on South Georgia Island earlier this year.

Oliver Prince/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust

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Oliver Prince/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust

There are no other birds quite like them in the world. The South Georgia pipit and pintail are so distinctive in the grand pantheon of ornithology, in fact, they draw their names from the one place they’ve made their home: South Georgia Island, sitting lonely in the forbidding South Atlantic not far from Antarctica.

Yet even in such a remote location, surrounded by penguins, fur seals and seemingly endless ocean, the birds have long been besieged by tiny alien invaders: rodents. Since the first European ships arrived in the late 18th century bearing rodents as stowaways, the voracious predators have devastated the South Georgia birds — which, with no trees to nest in, must make their vulnerable homes on the ground or in burrows.

Now, after more than two centuries, those invaders have been rebuffed.

The South Georgia Heritage Trust announced Wednesday that the island is once more rodent-free, following an international effort that dates back a decade. Using poisoned bait strewn from aircraft and three sniffer dogs, the team confirmed that nearly 400 square miles have been cleared. The SGHT says that’s more than eight times larger than the Australian island that used to hold the record for such an eradication.

The South Georgia pipit, seen posing for a glamour shot earlier this year, had been among the species hardest hit by the island’s invasive rodents.

Ingo Arndt/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust

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Ingo Arndt/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust

“I must say we were being overly ambitious, almost, in thinking that as a small nongovernmental organization based in Scotland, we could take on this massive task,” Mike Richardson, chairman of the trust’s steering committee, tells NPR.

But it had help.

With the “absolutely amazing” support of the U.S.-based Friends of South Georgia Island, which carried out the vast majority of fundraising, the project managed to bring in more than $13 million. It used that money to deploy several helicopters and thousands of other, simpler devices — as simple as peanut butter spread on a “gnaw-stick” — to attract the brown rats and house mice to their untimely doom.

Added to these instruments, the terrain of the area itself helped, too: Its many glaciers and snowfields posed impossible obstacles to the movement of these hardy creatures, essentially making what Richardson calls “a group of islands within an island” that team members could tackle one by one.

Still, they were facing down a formidable foe.

“When you’re dealing with the dear old brown rat,” Richardson notes, “you’re dealing with one of the most successful mammals on the planet.”

Well — make that two formidable foes: One can’t forget the very weather in South Georgia, Richardson adds, “which can be absolutely ferocious” and threatened to completely derail one of the project’s four major expeditions to the subantarctic island, in 2013.

“We had parked two of the helicopters ashore — we thought safely. They were tied down. We came back the next day and found one helicopter had had its blades snapped off and the other was half-buried in the gravel, just simply through the weather conditions. At that stage, we thought this is going to be a failure for this year.” he says, adding that though they lost one of those choppers, “we managed to retrieve the situation and keep going.”

Rat detection dogs Will and Ahu, seen on the job earlier this year on South Georgia Island.

Oliver Prince/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust

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Oliver Prince/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust

The coup de grâce came just months ago, when, after waiting more than two years, the team members returned to determine whether any rats remained on the island. And this time, they had reinforcements: a trio of small sniffer dogs, specially trained in New Zealand to nose out rodents.

The dogs covered some 1,500 miles in the span of half a year, ranging over the island’s mountainous terrain with their two handlers to confirm the happy news the inert instruments were telling the team. And indeed those dogs confirmed it: There were no rats to be heard from.

OK, fine, twist our arm: Here’s a shot of the third pup, Wai, surrounded by thousands of penguins while on the job at South Georgia’s Right Whale Bay in March.

Oliver Prince/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust

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Oliver Prince/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust

What they did hear, however, were some of the birds they’d been seeking to save, the South Georgia pipit. It’s the world’s southernmost songbird, and in the absence of rodents these past few years, their numbers have grown.

So have their decibel levels.

Congratulations to @SGHTcharitysite! For the first time in more than 200 years – today, we can officially say #SouthGeorgia is rat free. A truly remarkable achievement.

— Government SGSSI (@GovSGSSI) May 9, 2018

Denise Landau of the Friends of South Georgia visited the island earlier this year, only to find that, according to Richardson, the revitalized pipits had grown so loud they were drowning out the typical chorus you’d hear in the area, the clamorous groans of the elephant seals.

The job isn’t finished, of course. Thousands of visitors arrive on South Georgia Island each year, which is famed for its natural beauty, and each arrival poses new risks for a rat revival. But the South Georgia Heritage Trust, together with authorities of the British overseas territory, hope to stave them off with stringent regulations and the continued help of rodent-detecting dogs.

But for all this removal and prevention, Richardson and his colleagues hope at least one thing spreads: the ambition to return other islands across the world to their natural ecosystems, whether that’s in Oceania, Latin America or the Mediterranean.

“I think people will become emboldened when they realize that actually we were a very small charitable organization, and yet we managed to take on something of such a large scale,” he says.

“And I hope that will give others the impetus to do similar work.”

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Tidal Accused Of Faking Hundreds Of Millions Of Plays For Kanye West And Beyoncé

Beyonce attends Tidal X at Barclays Center on October 15, 2016 in Brooklyn.

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Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo were always bound to be overwhelmingly successful albums — returns after relatively long absences from two of the world’s most well-known artists. But Tidal, the streaming service purchased by Jay-Z in January 2015 and introduced to the public just two months later in a celebrity-stacked event, has been accused of artificially inflating the play counts of both, according to a lengthy investigation by the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Nærengsliv. Both artists are “artist-owners” of the company.

In its piece, Dagens Nærengsliv says it was surreptitiously given a hard drive containing internal company play data, billions of lines of it, spread across dozens of files, ostensibly covering 65 days of streaming on the platform. The data is said to have covered streams between two periods: Jan. 21 through Mar. 3, 2016, and Apr. 18 through May 9, 2018.

The paper found evidence of certain users having streamed the two albums a surprising amount — 15 plays of Lemonade, in full, in one one day, by one person. The paper interviewed that person, a 34-year-old Washington, D.C., law student, to ask if she could verify that the plays were hers. “I love Beyoncé — but 11 hours? No,” she told Dagens Nærengsliv.

An announcement by Tidal last year claimed The Life of Pablo was streamed 250 million times in the first 10 days it was available. It also claimed last year to have 3 million subscribers, meaning each user played the record 83 times. Before those numbers were released, West was said to have requested his streaming numbers from the platform be withheld. A different investigative piece published by the paper last year also accused Tidal of inflating its subscriber numbers in public statements.

In total, it accuses Tidal of fabricating 320 million “false” streams. Because of the way streaming revenues are distributed, the effect of drastically inflating two albums’ listen counts is to apportion more revenue toward those albums and away from others, in what’s called a “pro rata” (in proportion) distribution system. This means smaller artists are, in a way, pitted against the most successful artists in the world for pieces of a finite pie — and the large artists, for the most part, receive a disproportionate cut of the revenue. (For a more detailed explanation, several Finnish music organizations conducted a study of the model used.)

All of this means that if the data were manipulated — whether Tidal itself or the intermediary who gave it to them — wanted Beyoncé and Kanye to actually receive, or appear to receive, an outsized portion of the service’s revenues. Despite that, Tidal says it provides “the highest compensation to artists and are consistent in our approach regardless of whether an artist is on a major label or independent.”

The stakes are higher than ever, now that streaming is the dominant source of revenue for the recording industry.

Sony Music and Universal Music Group, which either released or distributed the albums, declined requests for comment on the report. Tidal issued a strongly worded statement on the situation:

This is a smear campaign from a publication that once referred to our employee as an “Israeli Intelligence officer” and our owner as a “crack dealer.”

We expect nothing less from them than this ridiculous story, lies and falsehoods. The information was stolen and manipulated and we will fight these claims vigorously.

A request for Dagens Nærengsliv‘s response to Tidal’s accusations was not returned.

The paper also gave the data, after anonymizing it, to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to look for anomalous behavior by Tidal’s users. Its report says that, after analyzing the data in nine separate ways for strange, non-human listening patterns, “there has in fact been a manipulation of the data at particular times. The manipulation appears targeted towards a very specific set of track IDs, related to two distinct albums.” The school’s investigators found that the data was manipulated in a way that is “hard to detect.” It found that over 90 percent of the platform’s users were affected by the manipulation.

In an email to NPR, NTNU maintained the data had been manipulated, but “cannot, based on the data provided to us, determine the source of the manipulation.”

“It speaks to the broader industry-wide issue with streaming — when it’s dependent on data, its vulnerable to fraud or accusations of fraud,” Kevin Erickson, a director of artist advocacy group the Future of Music Coalition, tells NPR. “When we’re shifting towards an economy where the allocation of revenue is dependent on the quality of the data, this incredible volume of data, at the same time that individualized data is a commodity — listener data for advertising, for example — it incentivizes bad behavior.”

Examples of people manipulating the opaque, and often misunderstood economy of music streaming aren’t hard to find. This year, a group of clever Bulgarians reportedly made hundreds of thousands of dollars through a byzantine, and technically legal, manipulation of Spotify’s payout system. (That scam reignited a debate around the structure of these systems.) It’s been common knowledge for years that artists or labels can purchase slots on playlists — another technically legal practice — in what’s referred to as “playola,” a reference to the practice of music promoters paying radio DJs to spin singles (which is illegal).

“We support full transparency to better educate consumers and stakeholders, and encourage all music industry stakeholders to embrace open communication about the cost of their services,” Tidal’s mission statement reads, in part.

“Transparency can help with all of this,” Kevin Erickson says. “We need a baseline transparency to understand what’s going on, but what we really need is regulatory oversight.”

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Hamas Leader Implies 'Hundreds Of Thousands' Of Palestinians May Breach Israel Border

Yehiyeh Sinwar, the Hamas militant group’s leader in the Gaza Strip, speaks to foreign correspondents in his office in Gaza City on Thursday. “What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through?” he said. The border fence, he said, was not a “sacred cow.”

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Khalil Hamra/AP

He served behind bars in Israel for two decades. He was a shadowy figure in the military wing of the Islamist group Hamas.

Now Yehiyeh Sinwar is head of the group’s Gaza branch. He spoke with members of the international press corps for the first time on Thursday.

“I usually don’t talk to the media,” he said.

But he called it a “critical” time before the culmination of weeks of deadly Palestinian protests on the Israeli border. The biggest protests are scheduled for May 14 and 15, coinciding with both the opening of the new U.S. Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem and the “nakba,” the Palestinian national day of mourning surrounding losses in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s founding.

The United States and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group, and the U.S. has designated Sinwar a terrorist as a founder of Hamas’ militant wing, which remains active in Gaza. He has served as head of the Gaza branch since early 2017.

Israeli officials have described Sinwar as a steely, hard-line militant.

Kobi Michael, a former head of the Palestinian Desk at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs, said in 2017 that Sinwar represents “one of the most radical and extreme lines of Hamas” and is focused on building up the group’s military capabilities.

“The idea that he was elected is a very dangerous and concerning indication of the destabilization of the region,” Michael said.

The gray-haired Sinwar, who was born in 1962, appeared relaxed and confident in his two-hour meeting with international journalists at his Gaza City office, wearing a charcoal-gray jacket and open-collar shirt and sitting behind a table decorated with flower bouquets and attractive tissue boxes.

Hamas leader Yehiyeh Sinwar speaks with protesters at the Gaza Strip on April 20.

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Khalil Hamra/AP

His group has helped fuel weeks of protests at the Israeli border that have captured international attention, as Israeli troops have killed dozens of Palestinians and wounded several thousand, according to Palestinian officials.

Israel has been accused of excessive force, but the country defends its response, saying it shoots those Palestinians who pose a danger or try to breach the border fence and cross into Israel.

Crossing into Israel is exactly what Sinwar suggested he would support Palestinians doing on May 14 and 15, the final planned days of protest.

“What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through?” he asked. The border fence, he said, was not a “sacred cow.”

It is a dangerous prospect; Israel has vowed to shoot anyone trying to cross into the country.

The stated aim of the Palestinian protests — billed as the “Great March of Return” — is for Palestinians to return en masse to lands lost to Israel 70 years ago, when the country was founded.

It is a prospect many might call a pipe dream, and one Sinwar himself did not dwell on. He struck a pragmatic tone, saying the protests would refocus international attention on Gaza and were aimed at pressuring Israel to relax a blockade on the territory, which has crippled its economy and severely restricted movement in and out. Israel and Egypt have blockaded the territory for 11 years, since Hamas came to power in Gaza.

He said his two decades — half his lifetime — behind bars in Israel taught him a lesson: Such protests work.

When he waged a 20-day hunger strike in an Israeli prison, it led officials to give him pens and notebooks, he said. He compared Gaza to a large prison, and said Palestinians would protest for better conditions.

“We won’t accept the walls of this prison,” he said. “I don’t think any of you would accept such a life.”

It appears the tactic is succeeding to a certain extent. Though Hamas is isolated by the West, international envoys and mediators have spoken with its leaders in recent weeks, seeking to deescalate tensions, Sinwar said. He named-dropped Nickolay E. Mladenov, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

“I told Mladenov: there is a hungry tiger blockaded for 11 years. Now this tiger is out of its cage. No one knows where that tiger is heading,” Sinwar said.

A day earlier, Sinwar reportedly told a gathering of Gaza youths that Hamas had rejected international proposals to stop the border protests.

Tareq Baconi, an expert on Hamas and the author of Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, said Sinwar was akin to a hawk from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, and could deliver on any deal struck with Israel, Hamas’ archenemy.

“He has a very strong ideology, firm convictions, strong beliefs about what a deal must entail, while also having a sense of what is practical,” Baconi said. “He has the most political and military clout in the organization. So if a deal is on the table, he is absolutely the leader who would be able to push Hamas into major concessions, after driving a very hard bargain.”

In separate comments at Thursday’s press conference, Sinwar publicly addressed the fate of two Israelis believed to be held captive by Hamas in Gaza for several years — the highest-ranking Hamas official to do so. Israel says they are civilians who crossed into Gaza and have mental health conditions. Hamas media has referred to them as soldiers.

Sinwar said the 6,000 Palestinian prisoners currently in Israeli jails could only be freed through a prisoner exchange, such as the one Hamas negotiated that led to his release from prison in 2011 in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier in Hamas custody.

“Because of that, we keep this case totally classified,” Sinwar said. “I can assure you, any captive soldier has full access to their rights, considering the complicated security situation.”

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What Hondurans In The U.S. Can Expect When They're Deported

Families live by a creek in an impoverished neighborhood in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

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John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. immigration officials view Harold James Tatum as a Honduran but Tatum views himself as a New Yorker. Tatum was deported to Honduras 18 years ago but he says he’s never really gotten used to it.

“I don’t even know the national anthem of this country,” says Tatum, sitting behind a table selling jewelry near the beach in Tela on Honduras’ Caribbean coast.

“I feel like I’m more American than I am Hondureñan because everything that I do is American, you know.” For instance his boom box is streaming the New York radio station 77 WABC. It’s keeping him up to date on the latest twists in the Stormy Daniels/Donald Trump saga.

Tatum, who’s now 57, left Honduras with his family when he was six. He grew up in New York City and says all his habits are from the U.S.

Harold James Tatum was deported to Honduras 18 years ago. He says he’s never really gotten used to it — or found steady work. He now sells jewelry by the beach but says he doesn’t make enough to live on.

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Jason Beaubien/NPR

“The stuff I buy to eat, the movies I watch, the music I listen to — it’s like it’s tattooed in me to be an American,” he says.

But he never got around to applying for American citizenship. In the mid-1990s after serving five years in prison for a drug conviction, Tatum lost his legal residency in the U.S. and was deported to the country of his birth, Honduras.

It was not a happy homecoming. “Well I find it hard because there’s no jobs here,” he says. Over the years Tatum has managed to get some menial work. He worked for a while in the kitchen of a hotel, making $6 a day plus a plate of food. Then he got a job recruiting tourists to go on boat tours of the harbor. But none of those gigs lasted. Now he sells bracelets and necklaces by the beach. This keeps him busy but he says it doesn’t pay enough to live on.

“I’m surviving through my brothers and sisters,” he says of his siblings still back in New York. “They help me out. They send me money every month, pay my rent.”

His brothers and sisters all became U.S. citizens.

The Trump administration last week terminated Temporary Protected Status for nearly 60,000 Hondurans who’ve been living in the U.S. for years and, according to the Center for Migration Studies, have 53,500 U.S.-born children.

TPS was granted to Hondurans in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch ravaged their country.

Now tens of thousands of other Hondurans could soon be following in Tatum’s footsteps. The former TPS recipients could face deportation as early as January 2020.

This could be a major economic blow to the Central American nation.

Honduras is the second poorest country in the Americas. Its per capita income is $5,500 per year; only Haiti’s is lower. The minimum wage is just over $1 an hour. The two largest cities Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula have recently been ranked as two of the most violent places in the world.

The Secretary of Homeland Security in a statement announcing the end of TPS for Hondurans said the crisis — Hurricane Mitch in 1998 — that prompted the U.S. to offer refuge to Hondurans no longer exists and thus their temporary immigration status should also end.

“Based on careful consideration of available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, the Secretary determined that the disruption of living conditions in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch that served as the basis for its TPS designation has decreased to a degree that it should no longer be regarded as substantial,” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen said in the announcement, “Thus, as required under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated.”

Dana Frank, a professor of history at the University of California Santa Cruz, who specializes in Latin America and contemporary Honduran politics, says the Honduran economy is in shambles and is no position to take in tens of thousands of deportees.

“There’s no way the economy can absorb them,” she says. “I think there’s almost no work available. I know hard-working, able-bodied people who love to work who haven’t been able to find jobs for ten years. Then those people try to find work in the informal economy selling things on the side and now those people are being extorted by the gangs so they can’t even do that.” She calls the decision to end TPS “cruel.”

Behind his collection of modestly priced jewelry, Tatum says the returnees have a tough road ahead of them.

And there’s another looming economic problem. In 2016 Hondurans in the U.S. sent $3.4 billion back home to family and friends.

“And most of them been away from here for so long that they’re slightly Americanized,” he says. “Coming back here they’re not going to be able to survive like they want to unless while they were there (in the U.S.) they were sending money here and possibly built a little house or something like that but otherwise they’re going to have it hard.”

It’s definitely not like living in New York City.

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Kubrick's Longtime Assistant Comes In From The Cold In 'Filmworker'

Filmworker is a documentary about Leon Vitali, who was Stanley Kubrick’s assistant for more than two decades.

Kino Lorber

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Kino Lorber

Leon Vitali was a young and talented British actor on the rise when he signed his soul away to Stanley Kubrick. He’d just given a magnetic performance as the spoiled, seething yet sensitive Lord Bullingdon in the director’s droll period epic Barry Lyndon (1975), and offers were pouring in. Instead of acting on them, Vitali decided he’d rather become Kubrick’s devoted assistant. He had been lucky enough to earn the good graces of a true master, he reasoned, and you don’t let true masters out of your life. Instead, Vitali allowed Kubrick to subsume him into his.

The documentary Filmworker presents itself as a kind of tribute to Vitali’s breed: Jacks-of-all-trades on movie sets who do a little bit of everything for their bosses, from location scouting to color correction, for at most a tiny nod of acknowledgment at the film’s end. There’s a clever spin on the end credit sequence to that effect. But as the movie details the kind of absurdly time-consuming, frequently degrading tasks that Kubrick demanded his young protégé perform in order to remain in his favor, it also becomes a dark meditation on the cost that an artistic temperament can exert on a life. Sure, we all say we’d like to be in the presence of genius. But what if genius demands that you run around London looking for video stores promoting their movies, recut different trailers for every international market and rig a closed-circuit TV to broadcast their dying pets in every room of their house?

On the other hand, if your only metric for a life well spent is artistic output, then Vitali has been blessed. From the time he joined Kubrick’s company in 1975 to the master’s death in 1999, he aided in the production of three masterpieces, each a testament to their creator’s cold and remorseless view of human nature: The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut.

Filmworker dutifully devotes passages to all three, and includes plenty of trivia for Kubrickians to obsess over, including details on how Vitali coached the young Danny Lloyd on the set of The Shining and helped promote R. Lee Ermey from a consultant on Jacket to its spittle-flecked centerpiece as the explosive insult king Sergeant Hartman. (Ermey pops up, too, shortly before his death.) Plus, guess who was under some of those masks in the Eyes Wide Shut orgy sequence.

Director Tony Zierra uses the film-nerd bait to Trojan Horse the melancholy and despair these works and their maker visited upon Vitali over the years. We can’t help but see our hero through Kubrick’s eyes, as an awestruck and easily manipulated young soul whose full-throttle passion — a passion that clearly distinguished him from most of the bone-dry leading men in Kubrick’s films — could be easily channeled into cult-like devotion. There was a bit of prophecy to their first time on set together, when Kubrick instructed Barry Lyndon star Ryan O’Neal to actually hit Vitali, hard, during a fight scene.

Such line-crossing would become common. Sixteen-hour days, working through weekends, phone calls at all hours of the night: These were the normal state of affairs, while compliments and apologies were doled out so rarely that today Vitali fondly remembers every small head nod. All to keep him in check, to make him believe he was only good enough to serve the director. Kubrick’s treatment also alienated Vitali socially: Other cast and crew interviewed here attest that they treated him like a spy on set, and Kubrick sometimes sent him to fire people in his stead.

As an interviewee, Vitali is a curious breed. Gaunt and fidgety, often adorned with a bandanna, he waxes endlessly about Kubrick’s films but doesn’t offer much in the way of introspection — he believes in his career choice wholeheartedly, never bothering to wonder if perhaps he’d been treated unfairly by either Kubrick himself or the larger film-industry apparatus that completely overlooked his part in the director’s enshrinement. So it is that, in the two decades since Kubrick’s death, Vitali has had little else to do but safeguard his former boss’s legacy, continuing to supervise new transfers and special screenings of his back catalog; a cycle that could continue, theoretically, until the end of time. He has to borrow money from his children to make ends’ meet because working night and day for Kubrick had failed to secure him a livable savings.

Vitali’s reward for decades of devotion? A complete cold shoulder from Hollywood: First, when Warner Brothers slapped together an unauthorized DVD transfer of the Kubrick catalog to cash in on his death, and then in 2012 when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art put together a “complete” Kubrick retrospective without so much as phoning him. Watching Filmworker as a cinephile, it’s easy to be awed by the Zen-like devotion of Vitali’s life’s work. But it’s also possible to be simultaneously filled with rage at the way people like him are simply left to run endlessly on their hamster wheels. You get the sense that had Kubrick so much as taken a passing interest in his assistant’s affairs, Vitali might be leveraging his vast knowledge of every corner of the production experience to make films on his own today.

The fact that Filmworker itself is rather shoddily made, with poor sound mixing and most interviews conducted in less-than-ideal conditions, is either yet another insult to Vitali or a perversely fitting framework for the story of someone who gave his life in service of an unattainable perfection. One thing the film doesn’t tell us, though, is whether Kubrick himself would have enjoyed watching it.

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In The Nerve-Wracking Thriller 'Beast,' A Dark Beauty

Moll (Jessie Buckley) gets ready to go out in the thriller Beast.

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Kerry Brown/Roadside Attractions

As Beast‘s handheld camera careens around the isle of Jersey, it’s nearly always focused on Moll (Jessie Buckley). But the movie also seems to live inside the young woman’s head, which churns with feral intensity and adolescent bewilderment. And Moll, a breakout role for flame-haired Irish actress Buckley, may not even be this murder mystery’s title character.

The story begins when Moll flees her own birthday party — especially her prissily monstrous mother (Geraldine James) — and ends up on the beach at sunrise. A lout tries to kiss her, but is scared off by a rifle-toting passerby. Enter the tale’s third brute, Pascal Renouf (Johnny Flynn), a scruffily charismatic handyman and poacher. His ungroomed beard visually rhymes with Moll’s untamed curls.

Pascal is, as a disapproving observer later puts it, “a bit of rough.” But he’s chivalrous in his way, and something of a nurturer. “You’re wounded. I can fix that,” are his first words to Moll, spoken before the viewer has any idea how wounded she truly is.

Despite her barely hidden psychic turmoil, Moll lives a conventional life. She trills medieval tunes in a choir directed by her mum, and works as a guide on bus tours of the mostly British but slightly French island. A troubling incident at school when Moll was 13 has led to strict supervision by her parents. (Dad’s still around, but has some form of senile dementia.) Pascal could be Moll’s get-of-jail-free card.

Which one of them is more dangerous? Pascal has a record of teenage crimes, and when he teaches Moll how to kill a rabbit he seems to be initiating her into a life of violence. That might even lead to homicide, since Pascal is one of the local police’s prime suspects in a murder spree that just claimed its fourth young female victim.

Yet Moll sometimes seems more menacing than her new boyfriend. Her unpredictable character, which is much more interesting than the serial-killer plot, powers the movie’s tension and headway.

Beast hurtles toward a climax that will finally establish which character is the bigger threat to the other. The principal narrative dilemma is that either outcome is likely to be less interesting than the tale’s jittery setup.

Writer-director Michael Pearce, playing his feature debut, is a Jersey native. His script draws on an actual incident, as well as a more symbolic history of shifting control between the British and the French. (“You’re on my land,” jokes Pascal, who claims aristocratic Norman lineage.) Such conflict aside, the island seems a green and pleasant land. The bunnies Pascal stalks are the wildest non-human creatures in sight.

The film opens with the singing of Moll and her fellow choristers, but that’s soon replaced by the thumps, throbs, and wails of Jim Williams’ dynamic score. Its off-kilter style matches Benjamin Kracun’s camerawork, which lurches as often as it glides. It emulates the eccentric motion of boots on uneven ground or a jeep traveling too fast on gravel roads.

Pearce has some mildly wicked fun with his scenario, winking as he stages such routine thriller-flick maneuvers as having the lights suddenly cut out. He also presents, without warning, a couple of his heroine’s exceptionally vivid dreams.

Yet the film’s most vehement moments belong not to the director but to Buckley. Moll may be confused much of the time, but when she banishes a pair of bullies simply with a piercing howl, she shows how keenly she can deploy her animal instincts.

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