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Ellen DeGeneres and other stars are set to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honor.

The medal recognizes people who have made “especially meritorious contributions” to the United States, the White House said.

President Barack Obama will honor the 21 people at a ceremony on November 22.

Ellen DeGeneres is joining HGTV with a six-episode competition series

The president said the medal was a “tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better”.

“From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”

Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Diana Ross and Robert Redford are among the other honorees from the entertainment world.

Bill and Melinda Gates and SNL producer Lorne Michaels will also be recognized.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to people who have contributed to the security or national interests of the US, the White House said.

It also rewards people who have contributed to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Honorees from the sports world include basketball players Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, along with veteran sports broadcaster Vin Scully.

Architect Frank Gehry, attorney Newt Minow, designer Maya Lin, polymath physicist Richard Garwin, mathematician and computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton and Eduardo Padron, and president of Miami Dade College in Florida will also receive the medal.

Posthumous honors will go to Native American advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.


This year’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah has opened with a documentary about famed jazz singer Nina Simone.

What Happened, Miss Simone? traces the singer’s life from her early days as a classically trained pianist to her later jazz and blues career.

Nina Somone’s struggles with mental illness and her involvement in the civil rights movement are also covered in the documentary.

The premiere, in Park City, Utah, was followed by a short concert by singer-songwriter John Legend.

“I’m so grateful to be here today honouring the legacy of the wonderful, powerful, dynamic, super-talented Nina Simone,” John Legend told the audience at Thursday’s event.

John Legend, who received an Oscar nomination last week for a song he co-wrote for Martin Luther King biopic Selma, went on to perform three numbers made famous by Nina Simone, who died in 2003.

The latest edition of the annual independent film showcase, which runs until February 1, will feature 118 feature-length documentary and narrative films in its program.Sundance Film Festival 2015

Festival co-founder Robert Redford makes an on-screen appearance himself this year in A Walk in the Woods, an adaptation of the Bill Bryson memoir that will have its premiere later.

Other titles in the line-up include Slow West, a 19th Century western starring Michael Fassbender; True Story, a fact-based crime drama starring James Franco and Jonah Hill; and Grandma, a comedy starring Lily Tomlin that will close this year’s event.

Festival director John Cooper said there had been “a lift in the quality” in submissions, adding that “the wild ride of the festival is going to be felt by the audiences.”

The opening of this year’s event follows the announcement that Sundance London, an offshoot of the festival that ran from 2012 to 2014, will not take place in 2015.

It also comes in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris, something Robert Redford touched upon during a news conference on January 22.

“That was a sad event, it was a shocking event,” he told reporters.

“I also have a hunch it was a bit of a wake-up event.

“Freedom of expression seems to be in danger in a lot of areas,” Robert Redford continued.

“But as far as we’re concerned, we will do everything in our power to keep it alive here.”

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Robert Redford will receive Chaplin Award, a lifetime achievement award from New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Centre.

Robert Redford’s career highlights will be celebrated at a gala in New York in April 2015.

The society, which organizes the annual New York Film Festival, said that Robert Redford’s “impact is hard to measure in many ways”.

Recent Chaplin Award recipients include Barbra Streisand and Nicole Kidman.

Robert Redford’s career highlights will be celebrated at a gala in New York in April 2015

Robert Redford’s career highlights will be celebrated at a gala in New York in April 2015

The honor is given to the movie industry’s most notable talents, and has also lauded Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin, after whom the award is named.

Charlie Chaplin was the first recipient in 1972, while last year’s winner was director Rob Reiner.

Lesli Klainberg, the film society’s executive director, said that Robert Redford’s contribution as an actor has been significant, but also pinpointed his work as founder of the Sundance Film Festival.

“Without the Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival, we’d likely have a different industry. And they continue to have a huge impact,” she said.

“Obviously he’s a star that many of us have grown up watching from his films in the early ’60s to his current work.

“I happen to think he’s also had some of the greatest co-stars ever, from Natalie Wood to Faye Dunaway, Barbra Streisand, and, of course, his great bromance with Paul Newman,” added Lesli Klainberg.