Bilal Qureshi

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Filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic was a 17-year-old student living in Sarajevo with her family when the Bosnian war began in April 1992. As clashes over Bosnia's referendum for independence first started, she says nobody imagined there could ever be a full war. "It started like [the] riots on Congress in January in [the] U.S. ... I was happy when this happened because I thought what a cool thing not to go to school and have [the] whole city stop," she says.

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Three years ago, a small film crew drove into the Austrian Alps in search of a remote valley. It would serve as one of the settings for Terrence Malick's vision of paradise.

"We'd taken a big, big risk when we decided to go," says the film's producer Grant Hill. "We had next to no funds. [We] felt, for some reason, we'd work that out as we went along — which, I wouldn't advise doing it again that way, but it worked. And this combination of the mountain background, the faces on the people, the weather really did — I mean, it was otherworldly."

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"Rapturous," "Soaring," "Masterful!" It's that time of year again when critics use their hyperbolic best to preview the fall's most anticipated films. Starting at the end of August, studios show their Oscar hopefuls to accredited press across a trinity of prestigious film festivals – Venice, Telluride, and Toronto – the last of which concluded on Sunday night.

Padmaavat, India's first 3-D IMAX spectacle, is a lavish, operatic Bollywood musical set in the 14th-century palaces and deserts of Rajasthan. It has elephant processions, kaleidoscopic tableaus of Indian palaces and gorgeous actors in bejeweled costumes. It was directed by one of India's most celebrated filmmakers, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and stars one of the country's most popular actresses, Deepika Padukone.

At the height of the Cold War, the United States was also fighting a culture war. To counter Soviet propaganda, the U.S. State Department launched a public relations campaign called the Jazz Ambassadors program, sending Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Dave Brubeck and other leading jazz musicians on tours around the world.

Shahzia Sikander is one of the contemporary art world's most celebrated stars. She's projecting her hypnotic video installations onto Times Square billboards; she's led exhibitions at major art museums across the world; and she was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as a "genius" fellow in 2006.

Here's a phrase you don't hear a lot in the US: "Pakistani pop music." In fact, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a thriving music industry — and singer Zebunissa Bangash, or Zeb for short, is one of its stars.

There has been violence and threat to Pakistani culture since the country was founded 68 years ago, both for political and religious reasons. Zeb was never subjected to that scrutiny: She studied art history at college in the US before returning home to form a band with her cousin, Haniya. Their accessible pop songs found a devoted following.

Last night was Empire's season finale, and at one of D.C.'s biggest Empire watch parties, a sharply dressed crowd of hundreds is huddled around every flat-screen in The Stone Fish Grill Lounge downtown.

"Here we go! Here we go! Here we go, come on everyone! Round of applause!" shouts one of the hosts for the night. "It's Empire time!"

Three years ago, when Islamist rebels seized the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako began planning a film about Islamic extremism. As an African Muslim, he says he always was inspired by Timbuktu's history as a center of learning and tolerance, and wanted to explore how extremist ideology could survive in that setting.

But he didn't want to make another news documentary about Islamic extremism.