Disney announces new Star Wars film trilogy, TV series

Characters of Star Wars take part in an event held for the release of the film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallee, France on December 17, 2015. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 10 November 2017
0

Disney announces new Star Wars film trilogy, TV series

SAN FRANCISCO: Disney on Thursday announced plans for a new Star Wars film trilogy and a live-action TV series as it builds on the beloved and profitable science fiction franchise.
“We have big ambitions for the Star Wars franchise,” Disney chief executive Robert Iger said during a quarterly earnings call.
Disney just closed a deal with Rian Johnson, director of upcoming film “The Last Jedi,” to develop a brand new trilogy, according to Iger.
“We’re also planning to produce a number of original series for the new service and are already developing a Star Wars live-action series,” Iger said of a planned direct-to-consumer pay service offering television and film content.
While there have previously been animated Star Wars series, this will be the franchise’s first live-action show for the small screen.
The Star Wars franchise has been “exceeding expectations” since Disney acquired Lucasfilm five years ago, according to Iger.
Disney touted the box office success of two new Star Wars films and expressed confidence that “The Last Jedi,” set to debut in theaters next month, would be a hit.
“The excitement will only intensify as we get closer to the release date,” Iger said of the coming instalment.
Production recently wrapped on a film based on the story of Han Solo, who was played by actor Harrison Ford in the original trilogy as well as in 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” according to Disney executives.
“Solo” is the second movie of a saga that unfolds on the sidelines of the adventures of the Skywalker family, the primary protagonists of the Star Wars universe. The first was “Rogue One,” which came out in 2016 and raked in more than $1 billion at the box office.
“We’ve got more great Star Wars movies already planned for years to come in addition to the 2019 release of Episode IX,” Iger said, referring to the film that will follow “The Last Jedi.”
Star Wars has grown into the most lucrative and influential movie franchise of all time since the original film was released in 1977. It has become ingrained in a geek culture that gave rise to Silicon Valley and disruptive technologies.
Californian filmmaker George Lucas was 33 years old when he prepared to release his third feature — a far-fetched, slightly corny intergalactic saga of good and evil starring a sulky farm boy with daddy issues.
“I’m running out of hyperbolic adjectives to describe the power of Star Wars, but that’s because it is the ultimate standard-bearer,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst for BoxOffice.com, told AFP in an earlier interview marking the 40th anniversary of the original film.
“Four decades of record-breaking, genre-defining entertainment across film, television, video games, toys, books and everything else the brand has touched simply speaks for itself.”
Lucasfilm debuted its highly-anticipated second trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” last month, hinting at dark times ahead for the Resistance and possibly even the end of Leia Organa, one of the main characters in the first three films who returned along with Han Solo in “The Force Awakens.”
The clip for the eighth installment in the blockbuster space opera, due for release on December 15, followed a trailer released in April which teased Luke Skywalker, the star of the original trilogy, teaching newcomer Rey the ways of the Force.
This time around more plot was unveiled, with Luke telling Rey he’d only seen power like hers once before — and while it didn’t scare him enough then, it does now.
Fans speculated on social media that he could be talking about his nephew and Rey’s nemesis Kylo Ren, who is seen in a TIE fighter with his mother General Leia Organa in his sights, his eyes welling up as he prepares to open fire.
Carrie Fisher — who has played the character since she was known simply as Princess Leia in the original 1977-83 trilogy — died in December, having already wrapped her scenes for “The Last Jedi.”
“The Last Jedi” — filmed on the west coast of Ireland and at Pinewood Studios near London — sees the return of the characters introduced in 2015’s seventh installment.
Johnson will write and direct the first installment of the new Star Wars trilogy in a collaboration with Ram Bergman, who will produce the film, according to a release posted online.
“We had the time of our lives collaborating with Lucasfilm and Disney on ‘The Last Jedi’,” Johnson and Bergman said in a joint statement.
“Star Wars is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it. We can’t wait to continue with this new series of films.”


Free bus rides driving safer births for Nepali women

Updated 17 July 2018
0

Free bus rides driving safer births for Nepali women

  • The UN Population Fund says giving birth remains a leading killer of women of reproductive age in Nepal
  • A huge obstacle to safe deliveries is the Himalayan nation’s tough terrain, which often makes getting to a health facility a long and expensive journey

RAMECHHAP, Nepal: As a teenager Meera Nepali was terrified as she went into labor with her first child at home in a remote village, miles from a hospital with nobody but her mother-in-law to help.
“I was a scared, but that was the norm. We didn’t have doctors close by,” Nepali said of her three-day labor in Khadadevi village in Nepal’s hilly Ramechhap district.
This year however, she delivered her second child in a rural health center thanks to a small cash incentive that is getting pregnant women to hospital by paying their bus fares.
The Aama Surakshya, or “protection for mothers,” program has helped more than two million Nepali women access medical services in the impoverished country where dying in childbirth remains a very real risk.
The UN Population Fund says giving birth remains a leading killer of women of reproductive age in Nepal, where the risk of dying in childbirth is higher than anywhere else in South Asia except Afghanistan.
A huge obstacle to safe deliveries is the Himalayan nation’s tough terrain, which often makes getting to a health facility a long and expensive journey, as well as the paucity of clinics in many parts of the country.
“We found that one of the main reasons rural women did not go to a hospital during childbirth was because they did not have hard cash to pay for transportation,” said Suresh Tiwari, one of the original architects of the scheme.
The program was started in 2005 with British aid money but has since been taken over by the Nepal government.
Today, it covers not just transport but medical costs for mothers and babies and includes a cash bonus for attending antenatal check-ups.
2017 marked a milestone for the program: more Nepali women opted for hospital births over home deliveries for the first time on record, official figures show.
“The free service and transport incentive have been very effective in bringing women to health centers and hospitals where they can be saved in the case of complications,” said Tara Nath Pokharel, head of the government’s Family Health Division, which now runs the program.
Nepali, one of the beneficiaries, paid nothing for her three-day stay at a clinic in Ramechhap district, east of Katmandu, in January.
She was discharged with 1,000 rupees ($9) for transport plus a 400 rupee bonus for attending four antenatal appointments.
“I returned home in an ambulance. We hardly had to spend anything. I am really grateful for this facility,” Nepali said, cradling her young son in her arms.
The scheme is also saving lives outside the maternity wards, in part by tackling cultural obstacles.
Deeply patriarchal attitudes and traditional preferences for home births also see hospital visits dismissed as an unnecessary expense for poor families.
Sita Khatri went into labor weeks before her due date and, unable to walk the three hours to the nearest health center, gave birth to a healthy boy at home.
But the 27-year-old suffered a retained placenta, a painful and potential fatal complication of childbirth, and had to plead with her husband to take her to hospital.
“He said we don’t have money. I insisted, saying there are government facilities, we won’t have to spend too much,” Khatri said.
“It is better to go the hospital than to die at home.”
Eventually Khatri’s husband relented, and she was treated for free at a nearby clinic. The couple were also given 1,000 rupees to pay for transport.
But some women cannot be reached by road and must be carried, while others encounter poorly equipped facilities once they arrive, said Niliza Shakya, a doctor at a health center in Ramechhap.
“Some women still don’t have the decision-making power to say they want to go to a hospital, and health posts like ours are not equipped enough,” said Shakya.
Nepal managed to reduce maternal mortality by 71 percent between 1990 and 2015 — just missing out on an ambitious Millennium Development Goal to reduce the rate by three-quarters.
But it has a long way to go in improving the overall quality of its health care, said Binjwala Shrestha, a charity worker from the Safe Motherhood Network Federation of Nepal.
“Reaching the hospital alone is not enough,” she said.