Above: The team behind A Billion Lives, and Doc Edge organizers Dan Shannon and Alex Lee.
Those of us outside the vaping world have probably looked at e-cigarettes, wondering why on earth these could be better for your health. Or we may have thought they were a fad, since the only people I knew who vaped were tech hipsters, who enjoyed vaping as though it was a matter of course, and nothing to be curious about‚ÄĒthereby keeping their habit a closed shop. But then, perhaps they were tired of repeating themselves, and had settled into being comfortable with their e-cigs. A Billion Lives is a documentary that takes a look into this world, but it does so much more. The title refers to the number of people who can be saved if they give up smoking, but there are powerful forces at play to ensure that people don‚Äôt. And those forces have ensured that there is misinformation about vaping and the potential for the technology to save lives.
Filmmaker Aaron Biebert, who directed and narrated the film which had its world premi√®re in Wellington as part of the Doc Edge Festival, journeyed to 13 countries on four continents to find similar patterns worldwide: here is a life-saving technology of e-cigarettes, but governments were banning them or fining citizens over their use, ignoring the science and deciding to be complicit with the tobacco industry in keeping people addicted to a harmful product. Instead, governments spend money spreading lies about e-cigarettes, calling them a gateway to cigarettes, or that one could get formaldehyde poisoning, claims that the film demonstrably refutes. E-cigarettes are not completely safe, and the film acknowledges that, but they have proven to be a successful tool to help those giving up smoking, especially where mainstream solutions have failed.
In his own country, the US, Biebert points out that governments collect far more revenue from cigarette taxation than from several industries combined, and have no real incentive to cut off the flow of dollars. E-cigarettes, which were invented by pharmacist Hon Lik in China, were conceived as a way to give up smoking, and have been successful for 30 million people around the world. A Billion Lives points out that nicotine is not what causes lung cancer, and that the US Surgeon-General has said as much. What are harmful are the tar and 4,000 chemicals in modern cigarettes. It equates nicotine with coffee in terms of addictiveness, and the figure of 95 per cent less harmful than a typical cigarette featured prominently in the film. Vaping essentially allows one to get the pleasure of nicotine without the harm of the tar and toxins.
Yet as a society, we have come to equate nicotine as being the evil, addictive substance, and that‚Äôs no accident.
This point is made halfway into the film, with a good part of the first section looking into the history of cigarettes (Flintstones sponsor announcements for Winston cigarettes elicited laughs from the audience), and David Goerlitz, the Winston male model from the 1980s, being a particularly effective interviewee, discussing how he went from a smoking advocate earning millions to having a crisis of conscience when his brother developed lung cancer and died. Goerlitz went to the other side, and became a high-profile spokesman who was able to talk in plain language just what governments, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma (which sells patches and gum, and would like to continue doing so) were doing. Health professionals were being marketed to far more than the public, permitting Big Pharma to continue to sell its products, the film notes.
Biebert was able to get other interviewees at a very high level, including Dr Derek Yach, the former executive director of the World Health Organization, and Dr Delon Human, former president of the World Medical Association, among others, speaking plainly about how lives could be saved through vaping e-cigarettes, a tool which could get smokers to kick their habit.
Meanwhile, the pro-smoking side was represented through historical clips‚ÄĒyou get the feeling that we had only touched the surface of what was out there, with corporations spending thousands of millions to fund biased studies and get on to our airwaves.
Beautifully shot and scored, this independently funded feature tells a story about our times and just why so many citizens today are wary of their governments and multinational corporations. Those who oppose global trade agreements, for instance, do not do so in isolation‚ÄĒand while A Billion Lives takes no political side, it does tap into the Zeitgeist of our modern suspicion about what is on our airwaves and what are the motives behind it. Like Adam Curtis, whose documentaries seek to explain the complex in simple terms, Biebert has done the same, narrating and directing, although he appears on camera as well when narrative gaps need to be plugged. He is an honest, frank speaker, and gives the film a personal touch.
Young smokers who tried e-cigarettes were often people who already smoked and saw them as a way to give up their addiction, and most, Biebert pointed out in a post-screening Q&A, were not even using nicotine in their e-cigarettes.
Yet the state of California, where Biebert is based, spent $75 million telling us about the evils of e-cigarettes, said the director in his Q&A; while in the film, he points out that US federal funds were being illegally used for lobbying activities. The American Lung Association had deceived the public, too, notes Biebert, who told the audience, ‚ÄėIf you get powerful charities on side, you can do anything.‚Äô The increasing restrictions on e-cigarettes in the US, the subject of federal lawsuits, was equated to ‚ÄėProhibition II‚Äô.
Dr Marewa Glover of End Smoking NZ, who introduced the film at its premi√®re, said that young people were using e-cigarettes as a way round peer pressure, when people in their circle smoked.
However, Australia has already banned e-cigarettes, with one interviewee, Vince, who sold them, telling a story about being raided by authorities and now faces losing his home as he fought the government on principle. He believed firmly he was saving lives. There are massive fines for vaping in Brunei and Hong Kong. There were restrictions in New Zealand, too, noted Glover, although those who sought to misinform were technically in breach of the country‚Äôs health legislation.
Biebert says he is neither a smoker nor a vaper; but all good documentary-makers, he had a commitment to get the right information out there. He acknowledges that vapers have not given themselves the best image, either, and that A Billion Lives can only be one small part of getting the truth out.
‚ÄėWe need to cut the head off the monster,‚Äô said Biebert, ‚Äėand the monster is being funded by big business. We need more than the movie. People need to get the right information.‚Äô
He added, ‚ÄėThe truth ends up winning. Even condoms were illegal in the US at one time.‚Äô A Billion Lives will begin making its way to other countries. The website is at abillionlives.com, while the movie‚Äôs Instagram is at abillionlivesfilm.‚ÄĒJack Yan, Publisher
Above: The author (centre) joins Aaron Biebert, director (left) and Jesse Hieb, producer, for a photo.
September 29‚Äôs Ikea Fashion Show at Moda di Milano (hashtagged both #IKEAfashion and #IKEAtemporary) showcased work from two designers who collaborated with the Swedish-founded furniture conglomerate.
‚ÄėWith a number of new collections that have been developed in collaboration with fashion designers, Ikea is stepping into new territory‚ÄĒone from which we can learn a lot,‚Äô according to the company.
Giltig by Katie Eary and Sv√§rtan by Martin Bergstr√∂m will see their collections retailed in 2016, but they received a boost in profile thanks to their appearance at one of the top fashion weeks in the world.
For us, the first thing that came to mind when seeing Ikea fashion was Stefan Engeseth‚Äôs (below right) prediction, published in Lucire first last year, and later in Style.com, the Daily Mail, The Guardian and Flare, plus a number of newspapers and news websites: that fashion should be Ikea‚Äôs next industry.
At the time, Ikea had no such plans officially, but it isn‚Äôt surprising to see another one of Engeseth‚Äôs predictions come true. He came up with the idea of Coca-Cola being served through taps at home before Coke itself actually trialled that idea, plus another, over 15 years ago, on how cellphones could connect two strangers, albeit not through an app.
We wrote: ‚ÄėEngeseth says that Ikea‚Äôs expertise lends itself easily to the world of apparel ‚Ä¶
‚ÄėHe believes that fashion is in a repetitive cycle, stuck in history and needing renewal.
‚ÄėIkea could offer both complete apparel items and composite parts that customers could assemble themselves, says Mr Engeseth. The parts could be ‚Äútailored‚ÄĚ at home in inventive ways without the need for complex sewing.‚Äô
Last year, Lucire publisher Jack Yan added, ‚ÄėThis taps in to its existing fan base, and just as importantly, Ikea can make full use of its channels, outmanŇďuvring many existing fashion labels. Ikea has an international retail base and it has distribution down to a fine art.‚Äô
When we asked him about the Ikea show in Milano yesterday, he had his reservations about some of the designs, but stated, ‚ÄėIt‚Äôs good that Ikea takes its first step into fashion, and rewarding to see them developing the concept more now.‚Äô
He was also buoyed by seeing that, after the show, Ikea‚Äôs official Twitter account went back to his blog post late last year about Ikea fashion, and ‚Äúfavourited‚ÄĚ a Tweet about it. Engeseth even preempted the hashtag used back in 2014.
There‚Äôs no sign that Ikea fashion will be in a composite format, ready for its customers to assemble, but Engeseth appears to have been right that the brand would extend itself into the new segment.
A collaboration between big names Huawei, Vogue China and Fornasetti sparked the creation of the Fornasetti smart watch, the unveiling of which was done at Vogue China‚Äôs 10-year anniversary celebrations. Celebrated at the closure of Milan Fashion Week, the introduction of the special edition watch has allowed for it to be seen in the limelight of the fashion world.
Huawei, a global innovation company, works towards bettering and expanding on telecom networks. With a focus on consumer product, technical innovation and research and development, the company has expanded through Asia, Europe, the US and Russia. Huawei‚Äôs crowd-sourcing specialists have opened up a platform for outside artists and designers to contribute designs for appropriate accessories to complement the watch such as customized skins, or potential ideas for future technologies such as smart phones or smart watches.
The watch itself is a product of Huawei Business Group, but the design was customized by Fornasetti, the celebrated interior design and fashion label. The watch has all the traditional makings of a high-quality, sophisticated watch such as the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal class and stainless steel frame, as well as the traditional 42 mm diameter of the watch face itself. What makes this accessory stand out is its technical capabilities, inclusive of playing music downloads offline, Bluetooth connections and a heart rate and motion sensor. These make it the ideal companion for monitored physical activity without the bulk of other smart technologies.
Designer Barnaba Fornasetti said his design had a multi-dimensional inspiration to it which contributed to the final product. ‚ÄėThe Fornasetti brand is built upon the revival and reinvention of its classic designs and objects, giving them a new purpose and always keeping its artisan approach. The Lina face is a part of my father‚Äôs legacy and to reinforce its timeless design, I paradoxically decided to apply it on a cutting edge product that keeps time.’ The image on the watch face is a vintage-style depiction of a woman‚Äôs face, namely inspired by that of Lina Cavalieri, an Italian opera singer. This image is an established symbol of Fornasetti and has been used in a similar fashion in the label‚Äôs past designs.
The collaboration between the three large names has allowed space for future business endeavours, opening up each other‚Äôs company networks. Glory Zhang of Huawei said, ‚ÄėThis collaboration with Fornasetti is the start of an exciting journey for Huawei, delivering connections between innovative technology and art, design and culture. This is the first of many exciting cultural collaborations as we move to become an innovator within the arts‚Äô.
Notable attendees of the event included models Karlie Kloss and Sean O’Pry, AC Milan footballer Riccardo Montolivo and model Cristina de Pin, fashion photographer Mario Testino, Giorgio Armani, Vogue China editor-in-chief Angelica Cheung. Representing Huawei was Glory Zhang, its chief marketing officer. All attendees of the event were gifted with the smart watches and modelled them for the evening.‚ÄĒAlex Barrow
Top A scene from What About Bob?, by Jon Boam. CentreLost in Translation, by Grace Danico. AboveLost in Translation, by Henry Kaye.
On a briefer note, but still tied with film, Sugoi Books has released an A5 book called Cook Your Own Food: a Bill Murray Scratch and Sniff, retailing at ¬£6. There are 20 pp., with 10 smells, with some stunning illustrations, with artists reinterpreting key moments from Murray‚Äôs films, focusing on his culinary habits. ‚ÄėScratch the smelly pads at the top right and enter the world of Bill Murray,‚Äô the publisher asks, and you are spoiled with scenes from Lost in Translation, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, What About Bob?, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and others. For ¬£6, the illustrations are so good it doesn‚Äôt even matter if you have a poor sense of smell.‚ÄĒJack Yan, Publisher
After we experienced TMG‚Äôs 11th Annual Beauty & Style Destination Pre-Oscar Lounge it was no surprise that the polite, professional but exacting young ladies standing at various hotel check points wanted to be sure guests were on the list for this primp-and-prep focused suite. This hot invitation not only promised the select group of celebs and press a variety of wonderful services, interesting new beauty products and great views of Los Angeles, but also fantastic company. The people administering brow services, manicures, massages and hair styling were absolutely delightful. Skinny Girl provided the snacks and libations (loved the Thai-spiced tortilla chips!), while Shapes, a Southern California brown threading salon chain had the main stage. Their artistry with brow shaping and make-up touch ups were fantastic (we are regular paying customers at their Sherman Oaks branch and can attest to their consistently excellent work), but the roll-out of their new Reema make-up line really got our attention, not only with their lovely colours but easy-on-just-threaded-skin formulas. The collection includes eye shadows and liners (naturally!) along with lipsticks, blushes, glosses and other necessities. IT Hair Care‚Äôs rep, meanwhile, was distributing the multi-tasking twelve-in-one styling solution, while we had our tresses tamed with other products in the line.
On the new age-y end of things, guests could try a mini-stress reduction treatment with Miracle Wands. On the practical (and just plain cool) end, we were impressed with ExoFab, a protective case for Iphone 6 and Samsung smartphones that also sticks to mirrors and other surfaces, making selfies a breeze and more discreet to boot. Children lucky enough to attend with their A-list parents could be the first among their friends to receive the new 35th aAnniversary edition of Strawberry Shortcake and her friends, their cutesy ‚Äô80s rag doll √¶sthetic replaced with a more glamorous (but age-appropriate) face and fashion sense. Celebrity babies, meanwhile, could luxuriate in a crib bedecked with Horse & Dragon organic baby linens (as the founder’s son did in his compelling test drive of the products).
If you had the patience to keep moving from one suite to another, you would be treated to a marvellous display of Onirikka‚Äôs striking and stunning silver, gold and semi-precious stone laden fine jewellery crafted in New York with influences from El Salvador artists and a wonderfully fragrant spa offering treatments and takeaways from Matis Paris and Academie Paris Skin Care along with very conscientious practitioners providing thorough instructions on how to use those products correctly.
Celebrities on hand for this very ‚Äúsuite‚ÄĚ afternoon of beauty and friendly faces included Grace Gealey and Katie Doubleday from the Fox series Empire, Sherry Saum (The Fosters), Neil Jackson (Sleepy Hollow), Oscar nominee Dennis Liddiards (best hair and make-up, Foxcatcher), Steven Bauer (Scarface), Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story), Rosi Blasi, and Frances Hannon (Oscar nominee and winner for best hair and make-up in The Grand Budapest Hotel).‚ÄĒElyse Glickman, US West Coast Editor, and Leyla Messian, Correspondent