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Jumping, Climbing and Running: Nothing Stands in the Way of Parkour


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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English. I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Music from the Chemical Brothers …

A question from Indonesia about the artful exercise of parkour …

And a look at Washington's Environmental Film Festival.

Environmental Film Festival

For sixteen years, the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C., has been showing movies that raise awareness about environmental issues. This year, the twelve-day festival is showing one hundred fifteen movies from thirty countries. Faith Lapidus has our story.

Flo Stone created the Environmental Film Festival in Washington in nineteen ninety-three. She believed it was important for people to be able to see high-quality films about the environment and discuss them together. She felt the subject of the environment, examined with the artistry of filmmakers, could be an influential source of learning.

People can see these films in embassies, movie theaters and museums around the nation's capital.

Some movies star wild animals. This year, in "Edge of Eden: Living With Grizzlies," Canadian filmmakers Jeff and Sue Turner explore the work of bear expert Charlie Russell. For over ten years Mr. Russell worked to raise rescued baby bears in a protected area of eastern Russia.

"Edge of Eden" shows him playing with the bears, feeding them and even protecting them from larger wild bears. The movie makes a powerful statement about the need to protect these animals before they disappear from the wild.

In "Animals in Love" French director Laurent Charbonnier looks at the movements, songs and dances that eighty kinds of animals use in order to find a mate.

Some movies explore economic issues. One Kenyan movie examines the lives of people struggling to survive in the Kibera part of Nairobi. About a million people live in poverty in this area.

Another movie, "All in This Tea," looks at the way modern life has changed the traditions of the tea trade in China.

The movie "The Price of Sugar" examines the difficult life of Haitian immigrants working for sugar companies in the Dominican Republic.

And several movies at the festival are old favorites. These include the nineteen thirty-seven film "The River," a history of the Mississippi River by American director Pare Lorentz.

The Environmental Film Festival ends on Saturday, which is also World Water Day. All day around Washington, people can see movies about this most important of natural resources.

Parkour

Our VOA listener question this week comes from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Widi Nugroho wants to know about the activity called parkour. The aim in parkour is to jump, climb or run over and around any wall, staircase, or fence blocking your path. Usually, this is done in a city environment. If you have seen the beginning of the James Bond movie "Casino Royale," then you have seen an excellent example of parkour.

The name comes from the French word parcours, which means route or path. A man who performs parkour is called a traceur. A woman is a traceuse.

A young Frenchman, David Belle, developed parkour in the nineteen nineties. His father's stories of being a fireman as well as an acrobat influenced him. His childhood friend, Sebastien Foucan, is the actor shown in the "Casino Royale" movie. Foucan is considered to have developed free-running, which is a more artistic and expressive version of parkour.

David Belle traveled to India and says one way he trained was by watching monkeys jump from tree to tree. But for Belle and others, parkour is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. The aim is to become so skillful, it is almost unnecessary to think about the different actions in running through a path full of barriers.

Parkour is not exactly a sport. It was not developed for competition. It is more about learning to control mind and body in difficult situations.

There are many basic movements in parkour. One example is where traceurs swing through the narrow space between two bars while keeping their body level with the ground. This is called the underbar. Other movements are the tic-tac and the kong vault jump.

Skillful traceurs seem to go against the laws of gravity.

The popularity has spread largely because of parkour videos and communities on the Internet. To see David Belle at work, you can search for his name on YouTube -- his last name is spelled B-E-L-L-E. Parkour is P-A-R-K-O-U-R.

And if you search on the Web, you might even find parkour groups performing their skills near you.

The Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers are a Grammy-winning British band. Their electronic music combines different influences such as hip-hop, rock and techno. Their songs are layers of sounds and sometimes voices, often sampling from other groups. Barbara Klein has more.

That was "Song to the Siren," one of the early tracks by the Chemical Brothers that helped introduce their music to the dance club scene in London.

Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons started performing together in nineteen ninety-two. They started as the Dust Brothers, but later changed the name.

Their first full-length album "Exit Planet Dust" came out in nineteen ninety-five. Here is "Life is Sweet".

The second album by the Chemical Brothers was "Dig Your Own Hole." It included "Block Rockin' Beats" which became a number one hit in Britain. In the United States, it also earned the two musicians a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental.

Over the years, the Chemical Brothers have continued making albums while also performing in concerts and dance halls.

Their most recent album is called "We Are the Night." Last month, it won a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album. And from that album, we leave you with the Chemical Brothers and "Do It Again."

I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written and produced by Dana Demange. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com.

Send your questions about American life to mosaic@voanews.com.  And please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.


"American Mosaic" in VOA Special English
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