Bilal Qureshi

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.

For years Hollywood studios have been targeting movie audiences in India and China. In the past, they'd dub their films into local languages. Now, that strategy is shifting, and filmmakers are beginning to American stories with regional stars.

The new film xXx: Return of Xander Cage opened a week early in India — because it features one of that country's biggest movie stars, Deepika Padukone.

In the heady political maelstrom of the late 1960s, Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo released one of the most controversial and acclaimed films of modern cinema. The Battle of Algiers was a big-screen recreation of the bloody mid 1950s Algerian uprising against French rule. The film was made on a shoestring budget with non-actors recruited from the streets of Algiers. It told the story of an insurrection against colonialism from the rare vantage point of the colonized. That shift in perspective was provocative enough to lead France to ban the film on political grounds.

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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.

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!"

Bilal Qureshi has covered the Toronto International Film Festival for several years and, back in Washington, works for All Things Considered.