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The Year in Film 2012: Feature and Nonfiction Top Tens

Keyframe contributors and friends weigh in on the year that was with Feature and Nonfiction Film Top Tens.

HOLY MOTORS

‘Holy Motors’

Do Top 10 lists matter? One has to wonder, particularly at this stage, with the contenders for Oscar pretty much decided, the 2012 box office champions sorting their receipts, the campaigns homing in on the Academy itself. If influencing an election were the only reason for making year-end lists, we would indeed by shouting into the wind at this point.

But when thinking of minutiae, like the hundreds of films we winnow down to a list of ten favorite every year, I’m reminded of the most heartbreaking summation I’ve ever read—a summation of a life. “Jesus, there are lots of little funny things. I can’t even remember half of them,” former San Francisco Film Society Executive Director Graham Leggat wrote to Leah Garchik in his final weeks on earth in 2011. “That’s what happens to a life, though, isn’t it. The little ornate things drizzle away, like cakes in rain, while the big blocky stuff is left to stand in for a lifetime of minutiae. Sad and beautiful.”

What I argue by presenting these final three installments of lists, distilled memories, opinions and appreciations in these very last days of December is that our lists are more than just “votes,” they are personal expressions on the year that was, goodbye notes with our POV stamped on them, “big blocky stuff” standing in for a lifetime of minutiae. Sad, perhaps, beautiful, maybe. Necessary? You decide.

Jesse Ataide
1. August and After (Nathaniel Dorsky)
2. Whores’ Glory (Michael Glawogger)
3. Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs)
4. Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold)
5. House of Pleasures (Bertrand Bonello)
6. Beloved/Les Biens-aimés (Christophe Honoré)
7. Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh)
8. Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh)
9. The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)
10. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)

THIS IS NOT A FILM

‘This Is Not a Film’

Michael Atkinson
1. Amour (Michael Haneke)
2. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)
3. Post Mortem (Pablo Larraín)
4. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
5. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon)
6. Alps (Yorgos Lanthimos)
7. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
8. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
9. Barbara (Christian Petzold)
10. Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman)

Sean Axmaker
1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
2. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
3. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
4. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon)
6. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
7. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
8. Barbara (Christian Petzold)
9. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)
10. Life of Pi (Ang Lee)

MOONRISE KINGDOM

‘Moonrise Kingdom’

Miriam Bale
1. Kuichisan (Maiko Endo)
2. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
3. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)
4. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
5. Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke (Jillian Mayer)
6. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)
7. Sun Don’t Shine (Amy Seimetz)
8. Bernie (Richard Linklater)
9. Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman)
10.The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Marie Losier)

Livia Bloom
I. Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh)
2. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
4. Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
5. A Man Vanishes (Shohei Imamura)
6. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
7. The Loving Story (Nancy Buirski)
8. The Invisible War (Kirby Dick)
9. 17 Girls (Delphine and Muriel Coulin)
10. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon)

DECLARATION OF WAR

‘Declaration of War’

Nelson Carvajal
1. Declaration of War (Valérie Donzelli)
2. Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul)
3. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
4. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. Bullhead (Michael R. Roskam)
6. The Sessions (Ben Lewin)
7. Paradise: Love (Ulrich Seidl)
8. The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)
9. The Snowtown Murders (Justin Kurzel)
10. Cloud Atlas (Tom Twyker, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski)

Brian Darr
1. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
2. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)
3. Goodbye First Love (Mia Hansen-Løve)
4. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
5. Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman)
6. The Sheik and I (Caveh Zahedi)
7. The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-soo)
8. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
9. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)
10. L’enfant d’en haut/Sister (Ursula Meier)

ZERO DARK THIRTY

‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Cheryl Eddy
1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
2. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
3. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
4. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
6. The Fourth Dimension (Aleksei Fedorchenko, Harmony Korine, Jan Kwiecinski)
7. The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield)
8. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
9. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
10. Amour (Michael Haneke)

Steve Erickson
1. The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)
2. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
3. The Color Wheel (Alex Ross Perry)
4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
5. Abendland (Nikolaus Geyrhalter)
6. Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
7. Compliance (Craig Zobel)
8. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
9. How to Survive a Plague (David France)
10. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)

KEEP THE LIGHTS ON

‘Keep the Lights On’

David Ehrenstein
1. Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs)
2. Amour (Michael Haneke)
3. Un été brûlant/A Burning Hot Summer (Phillipe Garrel)
4. The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)
5. How to Survive a Plague (David France)
6. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
7. Bernie (Richard Linklater)
8. Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan)
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
10. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)

David Fear
1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. Compliance (Craig Zobel)
3. Bestiaire (Denis Côté)
4. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
5. Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh)
6. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
7. The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans)
8. Amour (Michael Haneke)
9. Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs)
10. Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold)

AFTER LUCIA

‘After Lucia’

Marilyn Ferdinand
1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
2. Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni (Rania Stephan)
3. In the Family (Patrick Wang)
4. After Lucia (Michel Franco)
5. Anna Karenina (Joe Wright)
6. John Carter (Andrew Stanton)
7. Tey/Today (Alain Gomis)
8. 2 Days in New York (Julie Delpy)
9. Night Across the Street (Raoul Ruiz)
10. Jai Bhim Comrade (Anand Patwardhan)

Glenn Fox
1. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon)
2. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
3. Margaret extended version (Kenneth Lonergan)
4. Beats Being Dead (Christian Petzold)
5. Barbara (Christian Petzold)
6. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
7. The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)
8. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
9. Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier)
10. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)

AMOUR

‘Amour’

Michael Fox
1. Amour (Michael Haneke)
2. The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)
3. Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier)
4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
5. Policeman/Ha-shoter (Nadav Lapid)
6. The Waiting Room (Peter Nicks)
7. The Law In These Parts (Ra’anan Alexandrowicz)
8. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
9. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon)
10. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)

Susan Gerhard
1. Sister (Ursula Meier)
2. Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Jay and Mark Duplass)
3. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
4. The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield)
5. The Sheik and I (Caveh Zahedi)
6. This Is 40 (Judd Apatow)
7. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
8. 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord, Chris Miller)
9. Looper (Rian Johnson)
10. Farewell, My Queen (Benoît Jacquot)

Robert Ham
1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. Looper (Rian Johnson)
3. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
4. Haywire (Steven Soderbergh)
5. The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)
6. Lockout (James Mather, Stephen St. Leger)
7. Dredd 3D (Pete Travis)
8. Your Sister’s Sister (Lynn Shelton)
9. Chicken With Plums (Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi)
10. Bernie (Richard Linklater)

ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA

‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Brandon Harris
1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold)
3. Post Mortem (Pablo Larraín)
4. Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh)
5. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
6. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon)
7. Snow on tha Bluff (Damon Russell)
8. Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell)
9. Artificial Paradises (Yulene Olaizola)
10. Haywire (Steven Soderbergh)

Dennis Harvey
1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. Girl Walk // All Day (Jacob Krupnick)
3. Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs)
4. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
5. Klown (Mikkel Nørgaard)
6. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
7. Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore)
8. Footnote (Joseph Cedar)
9. The Hunter (Daniel Nettheim)
10. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)

THE TURIN HORSE

‘The Turin Horse’

Glenn Heath Jr.
1. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
2. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
3. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)
4. Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo)
5. The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-soo)
6. The The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)
7. Barbara (Christian Petzold)
8. Girl Walk // All Day (Jacob Krupnick)
9. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon)
10. Perfect Sense (David Mackenzie)

Glen Helfand
1. The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb)
2. Beloved/Les Biens-aimés (Christophe Honoré)
3. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb)
4. ParaNorman (Chris Butler, Sam Fell)
5. People Mountain People Sea (Shangjun Cai)
6. Policeman/Ha-shoter (Nadav Lapid)
7. Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield)
8. Sound of Noise (Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjärne Nilsson)

NEIGHBOURING SOUNDS

‘Neighbouring Sounds’

Steven Jenkins
1. Beyond The Hills (Christian Mungiu)
2. Compliance (Craig Zobel)
3. Guilty (Vincent Garenq)
4. The Imposter (Bart Layton)
5. Neighbouring Sounds/O som ao redor (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
6. Only the Young (Elizabeth Mims, Jason Tippet)
7. Policeman/Ha-shoter (Nadav Lapid)
8. Polisse (Maïwenn)
9. The Sheik and I (Caveh Zahedi)
10. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)

Shari Kizirian
1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
2. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)
3. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
4. Elena (Andrey Zvyagintsev)
5. Neighbouring Sounds/O som ao redor (Kleber Mendonça Filho)

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

Ehsan Khoshbakht
1. Caesar Must Die (Paolo Taviani, Vittoro Taviani)
2. Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
3. Amour (Michael Haneke)
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
5. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)

Jay Kuehner
1. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel)
2. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
3. Neighbouring Sounds/O som ao redor (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
4. In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo)
5. Two Years at Sea (Ben Rivers)
6. small roads (James Benning)
7. Viola (Matias Piniero)
8. O Gebo e a Sombra/Gebo and the Shadow (Manoel de Oliveira)
9. Vers Madrid/The Burning Bright (Sylvain George)
10. Arraianos (Eloy Enciso)

TABU

‘Tabu’

Jonathan Marlow
1. Die Wand/The Wall (Julian Pölsler)
2. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
3. Palácios de pena/Palaces of Pity (Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt)
4. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
5. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon)
6. Two Years at Sea (Ben Rivers)
7. L’enfant d’en haut/Sister (Ursula Meier)
8. No (Pablo Larraìn)
9. Compliance (Craig Zobel)
10. Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland)

Ian Miller
1. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr)
2. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
3. Kill List (Ben Wheatley)
4. The Kid with a Bike  (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)
5. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)
6. Beyond the Black Rainbow (Panos Cosmatos)
7. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
8. Amour (Michael Haneke)
9. Argo (Ben Affleck)
10. The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)

THE DEEP BLUE SEA

‘The Deep Blue Sea’

Craig Phillips
1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
2. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
3. I Wish (Hirokazu Koreeda)
4. The The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)
5. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
6. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
7. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
8. The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)

Anna Tatarska
1. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
2. Fill the Void/Lemale et ha’halal (Rama Burshtein)
3. Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs)
4. Post tenebras lux (Carlos Reygadas)
5. Broken (Rufus Norris)
6. War Witch/Rebelle (Kim Nguyen)
7. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)
8. Amour (Michael Haneke)
9. The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)
10. Electrick Children (Rebecca Thomas)

Sara Maria Vizcarrondo
1. The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-soo)
2. Twixt (Francis Ford Coppola)
3. The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)
4. The Color Wheel (Alex Ross Perry)
5. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
6. Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (Matthew Akers, Jeff Dupre)
7. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman)
8. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
9. Your Sister’s Sister (Lynn Shelton)
10. Pitch Perfect (Jason Moore)

Nonfiction Top Tens

THIS IS NOT A FILM

‘This Is Not a Film’

Jesse Ataide
1. Whores’ Glory (Michael Glawogger)
2. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
3. Crazy Horse (Frederick Wiseman)

Michael Atkinson
1. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
2. Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours (Rirkrit Tiravanija)
3. Tears of Gaza (Vibeke Løkkeberg)
4. The Double Steps (Isaki Lacuesta)
5. The Imposter (Bart Layton)

Miriam Bale
1. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Marie Losier)
2. Thchoupitoulas (Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross)

Livia Bloom
1. A Man Vanishes (Shohei Imamura)
2. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
3. The Loving Story (Nancy Buirski)
4. The Invisible War (Kirby Dick)
5. Tahrir: Liberation Square (Stefano Savona)

THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE

‘The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye’

Brian Darr
1. The Sheik and I (Caveh Zahedi)
2. The Great Northwest (Matt McCormick)
3. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
4. The Florestine Collection (Helen Hill)
5. Racing the Rez (Brian Trugilo)

Cheryl Eddy
1. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
2 The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield)
3. Last Days Here (Don Argott, Demian Fenton)
4. The Flat (Arnon Goldfinger)
5. The Imposter (Bart Layton)

David Ehrenstein
1. How to Survive a Plague (David France)
2. United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP (Jim Hubbard)
3. Brooklyn Castle (Katie Dellamaggiore)
4. Bully (Lee Hirsch)
5. The Invisible War (Kirby Dick)

Steve Erickson
1. Abendland (Nikolaus Geyrhalter)
2. All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (Adam Curtis)
3. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
4. How to Survive a Plague (David France)
5. Crazy Horse (Frederick Wiseman)

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE

‘How to Survive a Plague’

David Fear
1. Bestiaire (Denis Côté)
2. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
3. How to Survive a Plague (David France)
4. Detropia (Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady)
5. The Central Park Five (Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon)

Robert Ham
1. Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (Matthew Akers, Jeff Dupre)
2. The Imposter (Bart Layton)
3. Head Games (Steve James)
4. Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul)
5. Brooklyn Castle (Katie Dellamaggiore)

Brandon Harris
1. The House I Live In (Eugene Jarecki)
2. The Waiting Room (Peter Nicks)
3. Only the Young (Elizabeth Mims, Jason Tippet)

THE INVISIBLE WAR

‘The Invisible War’

Dennis Harvey
1. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
2. The Invisible War (Kirby Dick)
3. The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield)
4. Surviving Progress (Mathieu Roy, Harold Crooks)
5. The Waiting Room (Peter Nicks)

Glenn Heath Jr.
1. Whores’ Glory (Michael Glawogger)
2. Burn (Tom Putnam, Brenna Sanchez)
3. Two Years at Sea (Ben Rivers)
4. El Velador (Natalia Almada)
5. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (Chad Freidrichs)

Steven Jenkins
1. How to Survive a Plague (David France)
2. Marina Abromovic: The Artist Is Present (Matthew Akers, Jeff Dupre)
3. The Rise And Fall Of The Clash (Danny Garcia)
4. Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul)
5. The Source (Maria Demopoulos, Jodi Wille)

Ehsan Khoshbakht
1. The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling—Ireland ’65 (Mick Gochanaur)
2. Jerry & Me (Mehrnaz Saeedvafa)
3. Reconversão (Thom Andersen)
4. and 5. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (Sophie Fiennes) and Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)

Beth Lisick
1. Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (Stacy Peralta)
2. Beauty Is Embarrassing (Neil Berkeley)
3. Her Master’s Voice (Nina Conti)
4. Wildness (Wu Tsang)
5. Informant (Jamie Meltzer)

SMALL ROADS

‘small roads’

Jonathan Marlow
1. small roads (James Benning)
2. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer)
3. Brooklyn Castle (Katie Dellamaggiore)
4. Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul)
5. The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Marie Losier)
6. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb)
7. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
8. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (Drew DeNicola)
9. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)
10. The Sheik and I (Caveh Zahedi)
11. In Search of Emak Bakia (Oskar Alegria)
12. Master Plan (Robert Todd)
13. As Above, So Below (Sarah Christman)
14. I Have Always Been a Dreamer (Sabine Gruffat)
15. Zero Killed (Michal Kosakowski)

Jonathan Marlow
Documentary and/or ‘Experimental’ (‘Observational’) Shorts
1. April (Nathaniel Dorsky)
2. The Creation as We Saw It (Ben Rivers)
3. River Rites (Ben Russell)
4. Across and Down (Lori Felker)
5. Maurice (Patrick Kack-Brice)

Craig Phillips
1. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
2. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman)
3. Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul)
4. Chasing Ice (Jeff Orlowski)

Anna Tatarska
1. West of Memphis (Amy Berg)
2. This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
3. Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul)
4. Detropia (Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady)
5. How to Survive a Plague (David France)

Thanks to Ryan Prendiville for his generous work sorting and posting the year-end contributions.

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One Comment »

  • I wanted to add a few extraneous thoughts to my list above, just for s–ts and giggles, but also to give more context.

    Hon Mention: Oslo, August 31st; Once Upon a Time in Anatolia; Compliance
    2nd Tier Honorable Mention: Bernie; Life of Pi; Loneliest Planet; Looper

    Deserves Some Kind of Mention: Beasts of the Southern Wild (God I have a love-hate relationship with this film but it’s undeniably stayed with me and in unexpected ways)

    **Yet to See list includes: Zero Dark Thirty; Amour; The Turin Horse (sadly). I feel like I want to cheat and re-do my list in a couple of months after I finally catch “everything.”

1 Pingbacks »

  • [...] Like cakes in rain Jesus, there are lots of little funny things. I can’t even remember half of them. That’s what happens to a life, though, isn’t it. The little ornate things drizzle away, like cakes in rain, while the big blocky stuff is left to stand in for a lifetime of minutiae. Sad and beautiful. – former San Francisco Film Society Executive Director Graham Leggat [...]

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