Saturday, February 27, 2016

Virtual reality/actual reality: NATO bombings in Belgrade

In general, I don't make much of an effort to stay up-to-date on technological advances (too many, too often). However, it's been next to impossible to ignore the mounting buzz about virtual reality, aka VR. Mark Zuckerburg even invested $2 billion in a VR headset last fall, and he has a solid track record for fulfilling needs people don't even know they have. While VR has many projected uses, I'm interested in it as a storytelling device. Milica Zec, a Serbian filmmaker living in New York, created a VR film/experience that transports viewers to Belgrade during the NATO bombings at the turn of the 21st century. Like most of my friends in Belgrade, Milica spent a year of her upbringing in a city ablaze. Milica's presented this VR project at the Sundance film festival last month, and this article includes trailers, photos, and descriptions of other VR-related projects at Sundance.

Serbs often bitterly bring up the bombings describing it as a time of great - and recent - suffering they endured. Last Saturday as I walked around the city, I noticed hundreds of people, possibly a couple thousand, gathered in the park across from Parliament. This was the largest protest I've seen in Belgrade this year. Organized by ultra-conservative, nationalist movements, they marched to express their disappointment with a new cooperation agreement between Serbia and NATO while holding "Putin for President" and "expel NATO ASAP" signs.

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