Our white Land Rover comes to a stop a few metres in front of the checkpoint, and a man approaches the window. He asks us what we are doing in the area, and we inform him that we’ve just had a meeting with the mayor of the town. To this he responds: “The mayor is a war criminal. You have to talk to Tony.” As we drive slowly away, we can hear him mutter: “There is no need for the UN here, we provide security.”
The lights come on in the training room, and the action on the screen is paused. “How do you think that went?” our instructor asks.
Military applications have long been at the vanguard of virtual reality (VR) technology, though the civilian commercial market is quickly catching up. While the prospect of fighting the enemy on a destroyer at sea or in a megacity skyscraper has consistently excited militaries and gamers alike, the use of VR to train soldiers in softer skills has flown under the radar.
But its importance shouldn’t be understated. These proficiencies are in serious demand today, as international military forces play an increasingly prominent role in crisis response and peace support operations the world over.
Whether deployed under the aegis of the UN, NATO, the EU or some other organisation, these forces are now routinely placed under civilian leadership in the field. They also have to be adept at interacting with their international civilian counterparts, as well as local populations in conflict zones.
Faced with the imperative to adapt to this new reality, the Swedish Armed Forces have taken a particularly innovative approach.
The “mixed reality” session I attended began in SWEDINT’s VR exercise room, where trainees embarked on a joint assessment mission in a fictional conflict zone. As part of the exercise, the UN vehicle travelled to the headquarters of a local NGO named HELP.
After the team encountered the representative for the NGO virtually, they were guided to a separate training room where a live actor awaited them. As someone who researches humanitarian-military relations in international missions (which I’ve discussed here and here), I was especially curious to see how the trainees engage with this local NGO.
In the simulated meeting, a UN civilian was put in charge of speaking for the mission. He joked to the NGO representative while pointing to his military colleagues: “I am with the civilian UN, so we can work together … but I know you are allergic to the uniforms beside me.” The NGO representative replied that she must indeed keep her independence, and that in her view the entire UN is actually “a military of sorts”. To reassure her, the UN civilian told her that next time, he would come to the meeting without the military and police.
This attracted the ire of one of his Finnish colleagues, who interjected: “Don’t apologise for the military, we are part of the team!” A Swedish soldier added: “If we continue to put up the boundaries between us, we are never going to function together.”
Similarly, the virtual checkpoint encounter exposed how different people can experience the same situation very differently. After the UN vehicle had driven away, the instructor asked us how many armed men were at the checkpoint.
As a civilian, I realised I hadn’t even tried to count the men – and it seemed none of my civilian counterparts had either. The military participants, though, made fairly accurate guesses; a policeman got it right, with seven.
As these two brief vignettes attest, these sorts of exercises might not resolve tensions or dispel stereotypes so much as bring them to light. Given the seriousness of the situations in which civilians and military forces find themselves, this is a vital priority.
As one of the course leaders explained to me, VR training is at its best when it holds up a mirror. It reveals to different actors how they are perceived, and alerts them to discrepancies between the way they see themselves and the impressions they make on others. This an opportunity to navigate, if not transcend, fraught territory together.
Harvey Weinstein ‘doesn’t recall pressuring Salma Hayek’ for an intimate scene in Frida, says statement
On Wednesday (13 December) Hollywood actress Salma Hayek wrote an op-ed on The New York Times detailing her harrowing experiences with the disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
She had alleged that her continuous rebuffing of Weinstein’s sexual advances had brought upon the wrath of the latter on to her, especially during the shoot of the 2002 film Frida. She said Weinstein forced her to do an intimate scene, which was not required at all, with co-actress Ashley Judd. Along with that, she was also subjected to physical assaults, death threats by him.
In a recent statement, Weinstein denied Hayek’s accusations saying all of them were not accurate. He especially refutes Hayek’s claims of having been pressurised by him into doing intimate scenes with Judd in Frida.
Vanity Fair carries a report which contains the whole statement issued by Weinstein’s spokesperson:
Mr Weinstein regards Salma Hayek as a first-class actress and cast her in several of his movies, among them Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Dogma, and Studio 54. He was very proud of her best-actress Academy Award nomination for Frida and continues to support her work.
While Jennifer Lopez was interested in playing Frida and at the time was a bigger star, Mr Weinstein overruled other investors to back Salma as the lead. Miramax put up half of the money and all of the P&A; the budget was over $12 million. As in most collaborative projects, there was creative friction on Frida, but it served to drive the project to perfection. The movie opened in multiple theaters and was supported by a huge advertising campaign and an enormous Academy Awards budget.
Mr Weinstein does not recall pressuring Salma to do a gratuitous sex scene with a female co-star and he was not there for the filming. However, that was part of the story, as Frida Kahlo was bisexual and the more significant sex scene in the movie was choreographed by Ms Hayek with Geoffrey Rush. The original unibrow used was an issue because it diverted attention from the performances. All of the sexual allegations as portrayed by Salma are not accurate and others who witnessed the events have a different account of what transpired.
Ed Norton, who was Ms Hayek’s boyfriend at the time, [worked with Mr Weinstein on the rewrite of the script in Mexico] did a brilliant job of rewriting the script and Mr Weinstein battled the WGA to get him a credit on the film. His effort was unsuccessful to everyone’s disappointment.
By Mr Weinstein’s own admission, his boorish behavior following a screening of Frida was prompted by his disappointment in the cut of the movie—and a reason he took a firm hand in the final edit, alongside the very skilled director Julie Taymor.
Hayek hasn’t yet responded to Weinstein’s denial of the accounts mentioned by her on The New York Times‘ op-ed.
Fukrey Returns box office: Richa Chadha, Ali Fazal starrer steadily inches towards 50 cr
The ground-breaking success Fukrey Returns proves that 2017 was a year of comedy sequels.
Starring Richa Chadha, Pulkit Samrat, Ali Fazal, Varun Sharma and Manjot Singh in leading roles, the cult comedy is steadily inching closer to the 50 crore mark. Its current box office collections stand at a neat Rs 46.65 crore.
#FukreyReturns is all set for a GLORIOUS Week 1… Biz is SUPER-STRONG on weekdays… Fri 8.10 cr, Sat 11.30 cr, Sun 12.80 cr, Mon 5.10 cr, Tue 5.05 cr, Wed 4.30 cr. Total: ₹ 46.65 cr. India biz.
— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) December 14, 2017
Backed by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment, the film had crossed the 40 crore mark in just five days — unusual for a film with a cult following. It also saw consistent growth in the opening weekend.
#FukreyReturns is simply UNSTOPPABLE… EXCELLENT hold on Tue [almost at par with Mon biz]… Fri 8.10 cr, Sat 11.30 cr, Sun 12.80 cr, Mon 5.10 cr, Tue 5.05 cr. Total: ₹ 42.35 cr. India biz. — taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) December 13, 2017
Internationally, too, the film has been doing great and has minted over Rs 5 crore, its key markets being the USA and the UAE.
#FukreyReturns – OVERSEAS – Total till 12 Dec 2017: $ 926,000 [₹ 5.97 cr]…
USA-Canada: $ 218,000
UAE-GCC: $ 338,000
ANZ: $ 78,000
— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) December 13, 2017
All the cast members reprise their roles in the second installment of the Fukrey Franchise, which revolves around two boys — Hunny and Chucha and their amusing encounters.
Rajinikanth sets aside six days to meet fans; thousands of people expected to attend
If you’re a superstar Rajinikanth fan, here’s your chance to get a photo clicked with your matinee idol. For the second time this year, the 67-year-old actor is all set to meet his fans later this month and it is expected that thousands of people are likely to grace the occasion.
In a statement released by All India Rajinikanth Fans Association on Thursday, it has been confirmed that Rajinikanth will meet his fans from December 26-31 at his Raghavendra hall. The statement added that over 1000 people per day are expected to attend the event and therefore police protection has been sought.
“He couldn’t meet most of his fans earlier this year in May. This time he hopes to meet as many as possible during the six days. A photo session from 8 am to 3 pm on all days has been planned just as last time. He will also address the gathering as and when possible,” a source close to Rajinikanth told Firstpost.
In May, addressing a large gathering of his fans, Rajinikanth clarified that he hasn’t completely ruled out a career in politics and that he will take the path if god willing. “At every phase, God decides what we have to do in life. As an actor I have a responsibility and I’m fulfilling it now. If god willing, I will enter politics. If I enter, I’ll be honest and won’t entertain those who see this as easy means to make money.”
Talking about his brief stint in politics when he supported DMK in 1996 Tamil Nadu assembly elections, he said it was a political accident. “Supporting a political alliance 21 years ago was a mistake on my part. My name was misused by a lot of politicians and some of them even earned money using my name. My support is for no party,” he added.
Rajinikanth also warned his fans to stay away from drinking and smoking. He said that not only does these habits affect someone’s health but also their decision making ability. “I always used to wonder how people can lose their whole wealth just by drinking. It took me a while to realise that drinking leads to bad decision making and some bad decisions and end someone’s life. I have been personally affected by drinking and smoking, please don’t fall prey to it.”
On the career front, Rajinikanth awaits the release of 2.0 and Kaala. Both these films – which are riding on high stakes – are expected to hit the screens in 2018. Shankar-directed magnum opus 2.0, with a budget of Rs. 450 cr, is set for release on April 27, 2018.
Pa. Ranjith’s Kaala, in which Rajinikanth plays a slum lord-turned-gangster, is most likely to release during summer of 2018. It is strongly believed that he will take his political plunge in 2019.
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