Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mel Gibson
Produced by
Written by
Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Simon Duggan
Edited by John Gilbert
  • Pandemonium Films
  • Permut Productions
  • Vendian Entertainment
  • Kylin Pictures
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 4, 2016 (2016-09-04) (Venice)
  • November 3, 2016 (2016-11-03) (Australia)
  • November 4, 2016 (2016-11-04) (United States)
Running time
131 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • Australia
Language English
Budget $40 million[2][3]
Box office $75.4 million[1]

Hacksaw Ridge is a 2016 biographical war film about the World War II experiences of Desmond Doss, an American pacificist combat medic who was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, refusing to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. Doss became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty.

The film was directed by Mel Gibson, written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan and stars Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Vince Vaughn. It was released in the United States on November 4, 2016, received positive reviews and has grossed $75 million worldwide.


While growing up in Lynchburg, Virginia during the Great Depression, young Desmond Doss nearly kills his brother Hal, hitting him with a brick. This traumatizing experience, along with a talk from his religious mother, firmly reinforces his belief in the Sixth Commandment of the Old Testament. Years later, Doss saves a man who becomes injured by a car and while taking the man to hospital, is instantly smitten with a nurse, Dorothy Schutte. They soon begin dating and fall in love, and Doss begins to learn about medicine from her work.

With the majority of his town, including his brother, enlisting in the Army to fight in World War II, Doss is motivated to sign up as well. His father, a troubled veteran from the First World War, is deeply upset as he expects to lose his sons just as he lost his boyhood friends. Because of his beliefs as a conscientious objector, Doss intends to serve as a medic. Before he leaves for training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he asks for Dorothy's hand in marriage, and she accepts.

Doss is placed under the command of Sergeant Howell, and while he excels physically, he immediately becomes an outcast among his fellow soldiers when he refuses to handle his rifle nor train on Saturdays, as he is a Seventh-day Adventist. After Howell and Captain Glover fail to get Doss discharged for psychiatric reasons, Howell worsens Doss' conditions by putting him through grueling labor and turning his fellow soldiers against him by mistaking his beliefs for cowardice, intending to get Doss to leave of his own accord. Despite being beaten one night by his fellow soldiers, he refuses to disclose the identities of his attackers. He continues training.

Doss' squad is temporarily released from training, and Doss intends to marry Dorothy, but he is arrested for insubordination for his refusal to carry a firearm. Dorothy visits Doss in jail, and tries to convince him to declare a guilty plea in his upcoming trial so that he can be released without charges, but Doss is still unsure, not wanting to compromise his beliefs. At his trial, Doss pleads not guilty, and before he is to be sentenced, his father barges into the courtroom with a letter from his former commanding officer stating that his son's refusal to carry a firearm is protected by the US Constitution. The charges against Doss are dropped, and he and Dorothy are promptly married.

Doss' unit is assigned to the 77th Infantry Division and sent to the Pacific theater to participate in the Battle of Okinawa, where the Americans must climb the cliff face of the Maeda Escarpment, nicknamed "Hacksaw Ridge", to take on the Japanese forces stationed there. In the initial fight, losses are heavy on both sides, and Doss is successful in saving several soldiers, including ones whose injuries appear too severe for them to survive. The Americans bivouac for the night, and Doss spends the night in a foxhole with Smitty, a squad mate who was the first to call Doss a coward. Doss tells Smitty that he nearly shot his drunken father after he threatened his mother with a gun, revealing his aversion to holding a firearm. Smitty apologizes for doubting his courage and the two make amends.

The next morning, the Japanese launch a massive counter-attack and drive the Americans off Hacksaw. Smitty is killed and many Americans, including Howell and several of Doss' squadmates, are injured and left on the battlefield. Disheartened, Doss hears the cries of the dying soldiers and decides to run into the carnage instead of away from it. He spends the entire day and night carrying wounded soldiers to the cliff's edge and rappelling them down on rope, each time praying to save one more. The arrival of dozens of wounded who were presumed dead comes as a shock to several men stationed below. When day breaks, Doss rescues Howell and the two finally escape Hacksaw under enemy fire.

Captain Glover tells Doss that the men have been inspired by what they are calling his miracle, and that they will not launch the next attack without him. Despite the next day being the Sabbath day that was kept as a Holy day each week by Doss, he joins his fellow soldiers to care for the wounded. Along with extra reinforcements, they begin to win the battle. During an ambush set by a falsely surrendering group of Japanese, Doss manages to save Glover and others by knocking enemy grenades away with his bare hands. Doss is wounded by the blast of one grenade, but the battle is won. Doss is safely lowered down the cliff, clutching the Bible Dorothy left for him.

Pre-credit text reveals that Doss ended up rescuing over 75 soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S Truman, the first time in history it was given to a conscientious objector. Doss stayed married to Dorothy until her death in 1991. He died on March 23, 2006 at the age of 87.




The project was in development hell for 14 years.[4]

Numerous producers had tried for decades to film Doss' story, including decorated war hero Audie Murphy and Hal B. Wallis (producer of Casablanca).[5]

In 2001, after finally convincing Doss that making a movie on his remarkable life was the right thing to do, screenwriter/producer Gregory Crosby (grandson of Bing Crosby) wrote a treatment and brought the project to film producer David Permut through the efforts of Stan Jensen of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[4]

In 2004, director Terry Benedict won the rights to make a 2004 documentary about Doss and secured dramatic rights in the process. However, Doss died in 2006, after which producer Bill Mechanic acquired and then sold the rights to Walden Media, which developed the project along with producer David Permut of Permut Presentations.[6] Co-producers of the film are Gregory Crosby and Steve Longi.[7] Walden Media insisted on a PG-13 version of the battle, then Mechanic spent years working to buy the rights back.[5][8]

After acquiring the rights, Mechanic approached Mel Gibson and wanted him to blend the concoction of violence and faith as he did with The Passion of the Christ (2004). But Gibson turned down the offer twice as he previously did with Braveheart (1995).[9]

Then nearly a decade later, Gibson finally agreed to helm the film on November 2014. The same month Andrew Garfield was also confirmed to play the role of Desmond Doss.[6]

With a budget of $40 million, the team still faced many challenges. Hacksaw Ridge became an international co-production with key players and firms located in both the United States and Australia. When Australian tax incentives were taken off the table, they had to qualify the film as Australian to receive government subsidies. Fortunately for the production, despite being American-born, Gibson’s early years in Australia helped the film qualify along with other Aussie-born cast members such as Rachel Griffiths (Doss’s mother), Teresa Palmer (Doss’s girlfriend/wife) and Luke Bracey, one of Doss’s most antagonistic unit members. Rounding out the cast are unit leaders Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington, and Hugo Weaving as Doss’s father.[10]

On February 9, 2015, IM Global closed a deal to finance the film and also sold the film into the international markets.[11] On the same day, Lionsgate acquired the North American distribution rights to the film.[12] Chinese distribution rights were acquired by Bliss Media, a Shanghai-based film production and distribution company.[13]

Hacksaw Ridge is the first film directed by Gibson since Apocalypto in 2006,[14][15] and marks a departure from his previous films, such as Apocalypto and Braveheart, in which the protagonists acted violently.[16]


Robert Schenkkan and Randall Wallace wrote the script while Wallace was previously attached to direct the film. Andrew Knight polished the original script. Gibson's partner Bruce Davey would also produce the film along with Paul Currie.[17]


The cast – Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Pegler, Richard Pyros, Ben Mingay, Firass Dirani, Nico Cortez, Michael Sheasby, Goran Kleut, Jacob Warner, Harry Greenwood, Damien Thomlinson, Ben O’Toole, Benedict Hardie, Robert Morgan, Ori Pfeffer, Milo Gibson, and Nathaniel Buzolic, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Corr – were announced between November 2014 and October 2015.[17][18][19][20][21] The younger Doss was played by Darcy Bryce.[22]

Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a US Army medic awarded Medal of Honor by the President Harry S. Truman for saving lives during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II.[6] Garfield had high regards for Doss and venerated him for his act of bravery hailing him as a "wonderful symbol of embodying the idea of live and let live no matter what your ideology is, no matter what your value system is, just to allow other people to be who they are and allow yourself to be who you are." He found the idea of playing a real superhero (as compared to his past roles playing of Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel) much more inspiring.[23] Garfield admitted that he cried the first time he read the screenplay.[24] He visited Doss' hometown and touched his various tools.[25] Gibson was drawn to Garfield the first time he saw his performance in The Social Network.[16]

Teresa Palmer wanted to land a role in the film so badly that she auditioned via her iPhone and sent the recording to Gibson. She heard nothing back for three months, until Gibson called Palmer to tell her in a Skype chat that she landed the role of Dorothy, Doss' wife.[26]

Principal photography

Principal photography started on September 29, 2015,[15] and lasted for 59 days[27] ending in December of that year[4] and was filmed entirely in Australia.[9] The film was based at Fox Studios in Sydney after producers vigorously scouted for locations around the country.[28] Filming took place mostly in the state of New South Wales — where Gibson spent much of his early years — in and around Sydney such as in Richmond,[29] Bringelly,[30] and Oran Park.[31] He moved to the state in July 2015, two months before filming began.[32] The graveyard scene was shot at the Centennial Park Cemetery.[33] Filming in Bringelly required the team to clear over 500 hectares of land including deforesting 80 trees. This evoked the ire of certain environmentalists. However, producers had the full clearing and approval to take up such tasks after conditions were imposed to replant and rehabilitate part of the land after filming ceased.[34] According to Troy Grant, New South Wales' deputy premier and minister for the arts, the film brought in 720 jobs and US$19 million to regional and rural New South Wales.[35]

Altogether, three jeeps, two trucks and a tank were featured in the film.[9] Bulldozers and backhoes were used to transform a dairy pasture near Sydney to re-create the Okinawa battlefield. A berm had to be raised around the perimeter so cameras could turn 360 degrees without getting any eucalyptus trees in the background.[9] Gibson didn't want to rely heavily on computer visual effects, either on the screen or in pre-visualizing the battle scenes. Visual effects were only used during bloody scenes like napalm-burnt soldiers.[9] During filming the war scenes, Gibson incorporated his past war-movie experiences and would yell to the actors reminding them constantly of what they were fighting for.[9]


The film is described as an anti-war film[36] with a pacifist theme.[9] It also incorporates recurring religious themes and imagery such as eternal peace, baptism and ascension. Producer David Permut said it was very crucial that the team maintain the integrity of Doss' story as Doss was a very spiritual and very religious man.[2]

Historical accuracy

Doss on top of the Maeda Escarpment, May 4, 1945

After the war, Doss turned down many requests for books and films, because he was wary they would portray his life, his wartime experiences and his Seventh-day Adventist beliefs inaccurately or sensationally. Doss' only child, Desmond Doss Jr., stated: “The reason he declined is that none of them adhered to his one requirement: that it be accurate. And I find it remarkable, the level of accuracy in adhering to the principal of the story in this movie.”[37]

The makers of the film did change some of the details, notably the backstory about his father, the incident with the gun Doss took out of his alcoholic father's hands, and the circumstances of his first marriage.[37][38] The film also does not mention his prior combat service in the Battle of Guam and Battle of Leyte and leaves the impression that Doss' action on Okinawa took place over a period of a few days but his Medal of Honor citation covered his actions over a period of about three weeks.[37]


The film's score was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London.

The film's accompanying score was provided by Rupert Gregson-Williams and was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, with an orchestra of 70 musicians, and a 36-piece choir.[39]


The world premiere of Hacksaw Ridge occurred on September 4, 2016, at the 73rd Venice Film Festival, where it received a 10-minute standing ovation. The film was released in Australia on November 3, 2016, by Icon Film Distribution and in the United States on November 4, 2016, by Summit Entertainment. at the 73rd Venice Film Festival on September 4, 2016,[40] where it received a 10-minute standing ovation.[41] The film released by Icon Film Distribution in Australia on November 3, 2016,[42] and by Lionsgate/Summit in the United States on November 4, 2016.[43] It will be released by Bliss Media in China in November,[44][45] with IM Global handling international sales.[15] and in the United Kingdom in 2017.[46]


In August 2016, Gibson appeared in Pastor Greg Laurie's SoCal Harvest in Anaheim, California, to promote the film.[47]


Box office

As of December 4, 2016, Hacksaw Ridge has grossed $57.3 million in the United States and Canada and $18.1 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $75.4 million, against a budget of $40 million.[1]

The film opened alongside Doctor Strange and Trolls and was projected to gross around $12 million from 2,886 theaters, and was expected to play very well among the faith-based, Midwest and Southern audiences.[48][49] It made $5.2 million on its first day and $15.2 million in its opening weekend, finishing third at the box office. The debut was on par with the $15 million opening of Gibson's last directorial effort, Apocalypto, in 2006.[50] In its second weekend the film grossed $10.8 million (a drop of just 29.1%), finishing 5th at the box office.[51]

Critical response

Hacksaw Ridge received positive reviews from film critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 86%, based on 165 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Hacksaw Ridge uses a real-life pacifist's legacy to lay the groundwork for a gripping wartime tribute to faith, valor, and the courage of remaining true to one's convictions."[52] On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to reviews, the film has a score of 71 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[53] CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film an average "A" grade on an A+ to F scale.[54]

IGN critic Alex Welch gave the film a score of 8/10, and praising it as "one of the most successful war films of recent memory" and "at times horrifying, inspiring, and heart-wrenching."[55] Mike Ryan of Uproxx gave the film a positive review, praising Gibson's direction, and saying: "There are two moments during the second half of Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge when I literally jumped out of my seat in terror. The film’s depiction of war is the best I’ve seen since Saving Private Ryan."[56] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised the film as "the best war film since Saving Private Ryan and wrote "[I]t is violent, harrowing, heartbreaking and unforgettable. And yes, it was directed by Mel Gibson. He deserves a medal, too."[57]

Matt Zoller Seitz for RogerEbert.com gave 2.5 stars out of 4 and described it as "inept and beautiful, stupid and amazing."[58]


List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
AACTA Awards December 5, 2016 Best Film Bill Mechanic, David Permut, Paul Currie and Bruce Davey Pending [59][60]
Best Direction Mel Gibson Pending
Best Original Screenplay Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan Pending
Best Actor Andrew Garfield Pending
Best Actress Teresa Palmer Pending
Best Supporting Actor Hugo Weaving Pending
Best Supporting Actress Rachel Griffiths Pending
Best Cinematography Simon Duggan Pending
Best Editing John Gilbert Pending
Best Sound Andrew Wright, Robert Mackenzie, Kevin O'Connell, Mario Vaccaro, Tara Webb and Peter Grace Pending
Best Production Design Barry Robinson Pending
Best Costume Design Lizzy Gardiner Pending
Best Hair and Make-Up Shane Thomas and Larry Van Duynhoven Pending
Camerimage November 19, 2016 Golden Frog Award for Best Cinematography Simon Duggan Nominated [61]
Critics' Choice Awards December 11, 2016 Best Picture Hacksaw Ridge Pending [62]
Best Director Mel Gibson Pending
Best Actor Andrew Garfield Pending
Best Editing John Gilbert Pending
Best Hair and Makeup Hacksaw Ridge Pending
Best Action Movie Hacksaw Ridge Pending
Best Actor in an Action Movie Andrew Garfield Pending
Hollywood Film Awards November 6, 2016 Hollywood Director Award Mel Gibson Won [63]
Hollywood Editor Award John Gilbert Won
Hollywood Make Up & Hair Styling Award Shane Thomas, Angela Conte, Bec Taylor and Noriko Waztanabe Won
Hollywood Music in Media Awards November 17, 2016 Best Original Score – Feature Film Rupert Gregson-Williams Nominated [64][65]
National Board of Review January 4, 2017 Top 10 Films Hacksaw Ridge Won [66]
Satellite Awards February 19, 2017 Best Film Hacksaw Ridge Pending [67]
Best Director Mel Gibson Pending
Best Actor Andrew Garfield Pending
Best Adapted Screenplay Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan Pending
Best Cinematography Simon Duggan Pending
Best Original Score Rupert Gregson-Williams Pending
Best Art Direction and Production Design Barry Robinson Pending
Best Film Editing John Gilbert Pending
Best Sound Hacksaw Ridge Pending
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 5, 2016 Best Actor Andrew Garfield Pending [68]

See also


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  3. "'Doctor Strange' To Give Booster Shot To Sleepy Fall Box Office". Deadline.com.
  4. 1 2 3 Michael Peabody (February 3, 2016). "Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge" Enters Post-Production: Release Target in Time for Oscar?". Religious Liberty. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  5. 1 2 Don Steinberg (September 8, 2016). "'Hacksaw Ridge': An American War Hero Who Refused to Fight". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 Jaafar, Ali (November 20, 2014). "Mel Gibson In Talks To Direct 'Hacksaw Ridge' With Andrew Garfield Starring In War Hero Pic". deadline.com. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  7. http://emanuellevy.com/comment/hecksaw-ridge-preview-of-mel-gibsons-new-biopic-war-film-starring-andrew-garfield/
  8. http://variety.com/2015/film/spotlight/hacksaw-ridge-mel-gibson-1201633130/
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Don Steinberg (October 26, 2016). "How War-Movie Veteran Mel Gibson Approached Directing 'Hacksaw Ridge'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  10. "Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson's Comeback". October 27, 2016.
  11. Hopewell, John (February 9, 2015). "Berlin: IM Global Sells Much of the World on 'Hacksaw Ridge'". variety.com. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  12. McClintock, Pamela (February 9, 2015). "Berlin: Lionsgate in Final Talks for Mel Gibson's 'Hacksaw Ridge' (Exclusive)". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  13. "China's Bliss Media Takes Stake in Wild Bunch's Insiders". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  14. Pip Bulbeck (July 30, 2015). "Mel Gibson Ready to Honor Desmond T. Doss with 'Hacksaw Ridge'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  15. 1 2 3 Pip Bulbeck (September 29, 2015). "Mel Gibson's 'Hacksaw Ridge' Begins Filming". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  16. 1 2 Mike Fleming Jr (September 6, 2016). "Mel Gibson On His Venice Festival Comeback Picture 'Hacksaw Ridge' – Q&A". Deadline.com. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  17. 1 2 Bulbeck, Pip (July 30, 2015). "Mel Gibson Ready to Honor Desmond T. Doss with 'Hacksaw Ridge'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  18. Fleming Jr, Mike (July 29, 2015). "Vince Vaughn To Star In Mel Gibson-Directed 'Hacksaw Ridge'". deadline.com. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  19. Fleming, Mike, Jr. (August 25, 2015). "Luke Bracey Lands Lead in Mel Gibson's 'Hacksaw Ridge'". deadline.com. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
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  22. Anthony Lane (October 31, 2016). "THE MADNESS AND MAJESTY OF "HACKSAW RIDGE"". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  23. Ariston Anderson (September 9, 2016). "Venice: Mel Gibson, Andrew Garfield Discuss the "Strong Faith" Behind 'Hacksaw Ridge' Play Video". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  24. "Mel Gibson makes a comeback in war drama 'Hacksaw Ridge'". Gulf News. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  25. "Mel Gibson on Andrew Garfield in 'Hacksaw Ridge': He Was a 'Real Superhero'". Variety. October 25, 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  26. Monique Friedlander (October 18, 2016). "'I really wanted this role': Teresa Palmer auditioned for Hacksaw Ridge via IPHONE... and waited three months to hear back from director Mel Gibson". Daily Mail. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  27. Ethan Sacks (October 30, 2016). "Mel Gibson's war movie 'Hacksaw Ridge' may be his miracle". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  28. Garry Maddox (July 28, 2015). "Short Cuts: Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge has landed, emotional opening for Melbourne festival and more from Australian film". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  29. Bianca La Cioppa (December 1, 2015). "EXCLUSIVE: Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge takes semi-rural town back to 1940s as filming begins despite local shopkeepers' urgent meeting to protest AGAINST movie". Daily Mail. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  30. Luisa Cogno (August 3, 2016). "Mel Gibson's war movie Hacksaw Ridge filmed in Bringelly to open in cinemas in November". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  31. Amy Harris (August 27, 2016). "Sydney is the movie capital of Australia". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  32. Jason Chester (September 23, 2016). "Mel Gibson begins work on World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge as uniform-clad actors film assault course scene in Sydney". Daily Mail. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  33. Megan Pustetto (November 24, 2015). "He means business: Mel Gibson shoots WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge in eerie Sydney graveyard... and is seen for the first time with Vince Vaughn and Andrew Garfield". Daily Mail. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  34. Vera Bertol (October 30, 2015). "Movie set earmarked for residential development when filming done". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
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  37. 1 2 3 http://people.com/movies/the-true-story-of-hacksaw-ridge-and-desmond-doss-the-medal-of-honor-winner-who-never-fired-a-shot/
  38. http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/hacksaw-ridge/
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  60. Maddox, Garry (October 27, 2016). "Teresa Palmer celebrates as Hacksaw Ridge lead AACTA 2016 nominations". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  61. "Camerimage 2016 Main Competition Line-up!". Camerimage. October 24, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
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  63. "Mel Gibson to be Honored with Hollywood Director Award". Hollywood Film Awards. October 24, 2016. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
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  68. "The 2016 WAFCA Awards Nominations". December 3, 2016. Retrieved December 4, 2016.

External links

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