Greater public assertiveness driving regional unrest: Author

The launch of the book took place at the Arab-British Centre in London on Thursday. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 February 2020

Greater public assertiveness driving regional unrest: Author

  • Vyvyan Kinross’ book tackles the information war in the region that has been at play since World War I, and that has been pivotal in shaping events across the Middle East

LONDON: The public’s increased willingness to express itself “has driven the uprisings of the Arab Spring,” and “is driving the current upheavals in Lebanon and Iraq,” said the author of a new book titled “Information Warriors: The Battle for Hearts and Minds in the Middle East.”

The launch of the book by Vyvyan Kinross, a former adviser to the Abu Dhabi government and to the Palestinian Authority, took place at the Arab-British Centre in London on Thursday, and was organized in association with the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

“The retreat of the West, and the ending of the age of large-scale interventions, are opening up spaces for new regional players, most prominently Russia, Turkey and Iran,” Kinross told Arab News.

His book tackles the information war in the region that has been at play since World War I, and that has been pivotal in shaping events across the Middle East.

The book aims to shed light on the major personalities, intellectual influences, propaganda campaigns, tactics and tools that have characterized this information war over the last century, said Kinross, a former senior advisor at the UN Office for Project Services.

“This more hidden, systematic war has often been passed over at the expense of a focus on the military and economic conflict,” he added.

“But it has used tools and techniques that should be more widely known about and understood if we’re to grasp the complexity with which ideas are packaged and sold in order to shape public opinion,” he said.

“Censorship and closed information cultures have stopped working in the traditional way, and command and control management is no longer as effective,” he added. 

“We’re beginning to hear voices that for too long have been hidden. I believe that the rising force of public opinion is the single greatest irreversible tide in the region’s history.”


Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

“Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story, but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

CHENNAI: Sooni Taraporevala gained immense fame by writing for Mira Nair’s films, such as “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala” and the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” In 2009, Taraporevala stepped behind the camera to helm a small movie called “Little Zizou” about the Parsi community. It was a hit, and three years ago, she took up the camera again to create a virtual reality short documentary about two boys from Mumbai’s slums who became renowned ballet dancers. 

Taraporevala converted her documentary into a full-length feature, “Yeh Ballet,” for Netflix, and the work, though with a somewhat documentary feel, is fascinating storytelling — a talent we have seen in her writings for Nair. 

Happily, “Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story (of the kind “Gully Boy” was), but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. The film begins with a breathtaking aerial shot of the Arabian Ocean on whose shores Mumbai stands — an element that points toward the director’s background as a photographer. 

The film chronicles the lives of Nishu and Asif Beg. (Supplied) 

A story inspired by true events, “Yeh Ballet” chronicles the lives of Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif Beg (newcomer Achintya Bose). The two lads are spotted by a ballet master, Saul Aaron (British actor Julian Sands) who, driven away from America because of his religion, lands in a Mumbai dance school.

Nishu and Asif, despite their nimble-footed ballet steps, find their paths paved with the hardest of obstacles. When foreign scholarships from famous ballet academies come calling, they cannot get a visa because they have no bank accounts. And while Asif’s father, dictated by his religion, is dead against the boy’s music and dancing, Nishu’s dad, a taxi driver, feels that his son’s passion is a waste of time and energy.

Well, all this ends well — as we could have guessed — but solid writing and imaginative editing along with Ankur Tewari’s curated music and the original score by Salvage Audio Collective turn “Yeh Ballet” into a gripping tale. It is not an easy task to transform a documentary into fiction, but Taraporevala does it with great ease. Or so it appears. Of course, the two protagonists add more than a silver lining to a movie that will be long remembered — the way we still mull over “Salaam Bombay” or “The Namesake.” But what I missed was a bit more ballet; the two guys are just wonderful to watch as they fly through the air.