The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 25 January 2016

Image: Getty Images

New perspective

Sundance Film Festival promotes diversity across the field – and this extends to new technologies. The 2016 edition celebrates the 10th anniversary of New Frontier, an exhibition that blurs the lines between art and movies. This year it has its highest-ever number of virtual-reality (VR) films, whereby viewers – with the help of a headset – are immersed in the action. Highlights include The Guardian’s 6x9, set for release in April, which takes a CGI look at what it’s like to be in solitary confinement; Giant, the story of a family trapped in a makeshift bomb shelter that draws on director Milica Zec’s experiences in Serbia; and Notes on Blindness, a detailed study of what it’s like to lose one’s sight. It’s tough to say whether this new crop of films will sell people on VR: it’s a fledgling industry and film-makers have to contend with constant advances and shifting goalposts. We don’t know what the future will herald but it should make for fascinating viewing.

Image: Alamy

Sign language

Octagonal stop signs are a common sight across the globe. Not so in Japan, where a red inverted triangle with “Tomare” (“Stop”) in Japanese characters is the standard. Now Japan’s National Police Agency is considering modifying or replacing all 1.7 million of the country’s stop signs so they are easier to recognise for overseas visitors. The options include changing the signs to a red octagon or adding the word “Stop” in English. With tourist numbers surging in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics, Japan is actually rethinking many of its signs to make them easier to decipher for those unable to read Japanese. But replacing the stop signs wouldn’t be cheap: one estimate puts the cost at ¥25.5bn (€200m).

Image: Gallery 1957, Accra

Collective effort

There’s a belief in the art world that west Africa’s art scene has the talent but lacks the infrastructure to support it. In Accra, Ghana, a number of foundations and nonprofits are flying the flag but getting artists seen and into the right collections internationally requires a concerted and – let’s face it – commercial endeavour. Hoping to plug this gap is Gallery 1957, which opens in Kempinski Gold Coast City Hotel in March as part of Accra's glittering new mixed-use development. It’s a cut above the city’s art galleries, pledging a real commitment to promotion, archiving and storage. “There are a handful of real collectors here,” says the gallery’s founder Marwan Zakhem, himself a collector with regional clout. “But they haven’t really been given the opportunity to collect [the work of] many Ghanaian artists before they’ve attained success internationally.”

Image: Getty Images

Sound results

Germany’s got rhythm. Not only did music sales see a 3.9 per cent increase last year, reaching €1.5bn, but it seems the world’s third-largest music market also appreciates homegrown talent. Out of the top 10 best-selling albums in Germany last year eight were sung in German, including one from Hamburg-born singer Sarah Connor, who for the first time released an album in her first language. Also topping the charts were Germany’s most popular singer Helene Fischer and German DJ Felix Jaehn, who had hits not only in his home country but all over the world. Music purists who despise digital will be happy to hear that physical sales in Germany represent a 69 per cent share of the music market – compared to only 49 per cent in the UK.

From Monocle 24

'Kaboul Kitchen'

Marc Victor launched a restaurant in Kabul some years ago and some of his experiences have made it on to the TV series Kaboul Kitchen.

From Monocle Films

Market value, Helsinki

We travel to Helsinki to visit the city’s oldest waterside food market, Vanha kauppahalli, and meet the merchants serving up the very best in Nordic cuisine.

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