Conflict Zones, VR Documentary Storytelling and Confronting Censorship

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Video in TIB AV-Portal: Conflict Zones, VR Documentary Storytelling and Confronting Censorship

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Conflict Zones, VR Documentary Storytelling and Confronting Censorship
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How can VR be used to combat censorship in oppressive regimes and what are the challenges of VR documentary storytelling in the future
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and if we want to if the people want to
the and the the that would but
the uh I'm so thanks for coming out of a yeah so I'm going to talk about uh my film we who remain um to get a little little introductory about and so my background is I'm a documentary filmmaker and photographer and I recently about a year and a half ago started into looking a virtual reality as a tool for the storytelling specifically
journalistic a documentary storytelling um and I think 1st of all anyone who's excited about sort of
story telling worth thinking about new mediums kind of this incredible space to be and right now and instead that's a really unique moment where you get to play with the new language essentially like there's a mean you heard a little bit the get for talking about like you know a year ago I thought this and then another year ago this wasn't true I mean this this is like sort of a living breathing uh and the right now a lot of ways there's no rules and there's no there you know we have this history of film-making where people know how editing effects you in certain ways in right now virtual reality is in a lotta ways the wild west so I think it's a really exciting medium to be working in as as as a storyteller um yeah so I'm talking about my film uh we'll remain so uh this is a virtual reality
immersive documentary that takes place in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan and so this film was a partnership with the New York Times AJ + which is part of Al-Jazeera and there are take the new reports and emblematic of a lot of folks I so that the story takes
place in Sudan north north Sudan in this area called the Nuba Mountains uh which is basically right at the border of north and south Sudan so In 2011 South Sudan became the world's newest country and pretty much uh and so that the people of Nuba were fighting with south Sudan before that before the country splat but when they drew that borderline the people in the Nuba Mountains were left on the wrong side of the border essentially so while South
Sudan was celebrating a war pretty much as immediately broke out in the Nuba Mountains and so the people knew mountains have been sort of figuring out how to navigate life in a conflict zone for the last 6 years and the and
the government of Khartoum has banned humanitarian aid to this area they have uh bond over 4 thousand times and in civilian areas and in what's called using
Antonov cargo planes that word is basically sort this psychological fear
tactic where the bombing is really in discriminant and it's not very accurate but when you every single day are constantly having to think about getting bound you know it makes you wanna leave your home and leave where you live so they just push these Chesebrough-Ponds outside the back of the plane and people have to hide and holes in the ground basically and hide in caves and so the government has also banned journalism and information from coming out of this area so
basically it's this hidden war that nobody is supposed to know about and so it how many people in the room have actually heard of the Nuba Mountains in the
conflict so a couple hands and yeah so it's it's a war that essentially student doesn't want anybody to know about and it's and it's quite had so it kind of begs the question why tell the story of the are right this is this new medium
um hard to get out into the world what what is why take this important story and chatted tell in this in this way and so an answer that talk a
little bit about this organization called new reports so new reports basically started reporting in this area in 2011 right after this conflict started and they work with local new both journalists they train journalists and they basically find ways to and extract information out of this area and try to tell the story to the broader world in a larger context and and they've done a lot of really incredible things and to this day I mean you can go to the website you can actively see what's going on in new but as much as possible and the government has to suppress information but of yeah it's still very very hard I mean especially in this current media landscape where you know today Donald Trump you know dominates the news every single moment of our lives and I'm from the US to maybe just my life but uh so how you how you get stories like this out into the world right how do you connect people with these types of things and that's why virtual reality is this incredible tool in for multiple reasons right and so we can take you to the Nuba Mountains right as I mentioned earlier humanitarian aid is banned here journalism is banned here the UN can even go to this place but as journalists you know and it's a risky sort of sit down to do but weak with virtual reality we can take people from anywhere in the world and bring them to the Nuba Mountains to sit across from the people to understand not understand I think that's a Miss character isation of what virtual reality does but give you that in essence of what life was like for these people in a way that sit down and doesn't want the world to
see this is incredibly powerful tool and so I mean it's it's interesting because so I guess that new reports has been reporting about this conflict in multiple ways for 4 years right it's traditional documentary photography reporting traditional documentaries uh you know here's a photo from this area from the same cave that is in our film which you can see upstairs and you know it's just received this will play now will not play but it is
just such a different experience to instead of having this sort of like abstracted moment this this frame from time this thing standing still to be put inside a cave with you know 50 children who were hiding but while planes overhead you know trying to bomb I mean in you not forced to look anywhere you basically sitting in this place and you kind of make your own experience and the and I think it's an incredibly powerful tool to sort of allow people to be in this place or have the perception of being in this place and in that way the whole but the only when the 2 of you will have that I hope if you're lad if
you're curious about any of this you know you have a very
high how hard that
so but what about producing this stuff right so I mean you saw another if you're here for the talk earlier you saw a crazy looking contraption with all these big cameras in this kind of stuff but we used as a 7 camera GoPro Reagan justice for people who don't know basically in 360 degree video or any of these immersive virtual reality formats you're taking all 7 of these cameras and your stitching them together to create 1 single image so for every shot that you see in these films you're seeing a combination of several different cameras put together right and this is a totally new way of making films and and comes with a lot of new sort of questions and problems along the way right so 1 kind of strange thing about the process is you know the camera sees everything so you as a filmmaker have to go to these places to create these films but you have basically somebody is hiding in all of the shots at you're and which is kind of a strange thing it also and of people have seen the other 360 agree documentaries before something but often it feels like the world around it or in the film is kind of orchestrated for the camera and a lot of ways even a documentary stuff think this is a big issue right is a kind of gets it this question of authenticity and so 1 thing that we really worked really hard in this film to do drawing from traditional film-making have ideas of their TEI stuff is just putting the camera somewhere and letting it run so you get a whole bunch of footage and within that you you look through this footage and you find this kind of little diamonds these little moments of authenticity and then you use those to build the story so what you see in this world that were showing you is real it's not asking people to
sit for the camera it's not telling people how to walk around the cameras all based on on real life and reality of what's going on in this area the and so another kind of relevant issue around this is you know you hear you hear a lot of people talking in you know I'll talk about this is what is this idea of of empathy right people say virtual reality is this empathy machine and has incredible way of transit all cluster of all this language and this is important and I think it's it's interesting to think about you know what what does this medium do that's different than a traditional film or radio or whatever but at the same time it kind of the misses the point of a lot of that's right because if you don't have people coming to if people can access your films people can engage with what you're making you can get this out into the world you know if we if we if we made this this film about these people in Sudan and brought it just a film festivals for you know whatever 100 people to come watch them it's a totally sort of pointless you know uh exercise a lot of what's right so how do you get this film out into the world what you do with this stuff after you make it which is kind of a big hurdle in the virtual reality world but 1 that we thought a lot about what we're trying to create a so 1 of the partners other partners in the film was called emblematic group which if you're interested in all in virtual reality Storytelling immerser journalism and you need to check these guys out there definitely the leaders in in this
industry and I think someone in the last stop was asking about sort of volumetric capture and sort of story telling in that in that way and they actually just but permuted 1 of the 1st films from using volumetric capture select a space for you can actually walk around and um it's all real essentially and stilted storytelling in that way so anyways check them out there there were incredible and they were 1 of the early people who helped us and obviously throughout the entire process to creep make this a reality so and yes so beyond that OK so how do you get this out into the world right so and 1 way we're thinking about this was kind of segmenting audiences right so you have this mass consumer audience right you have film festivals you have all this sort of stuff so in 1 way so we partner with our taste so there's the German or French version of this coming out on the RT happen either this week or next week uh the New York Times you can go through their sort of access the film as well but but in some ways this is still there's still a lot of barriers to accessing the films and engaging with this content right after download an app you have to get on the phone you have to do all we can do all these steps right it's a big problem for virtual reality because you need people to be a little engage with this stuff all over the world and in different settings so the last partner that we worked with was AJ + who people might know from their Facebook videos of all the crazy text and you know uh yeah so and and what we did with a j + is we created something called web the are and and remove fissile and the click it or not it will of but if you go to this URL you can come check it out upstairs basically it's this idea that you can access the virtual reality films without the barrier of having to download an app right so you can go through and just the web browser on any phone or any computer and and just put this in and basically be able to access this film and and that's true for anywhere in the world right so you don't even you had said anymore you know you can put that into your phone browser and then pull up the experience and find ways to engage with this and you can even if you do have like a little card water something without an apple anything with these other ones you can still sort of access this content and so again this is 1 sort of segmented audience right and it's still in my view sort of like this passive audience right like a lot of people will look at the film but what does that really accomplish a lot of ways it's sort of this passive thing but so we're thinking about OK what are the other ways that we can sort of have this film have a meaningful impact in the world right so another way of thinking about that is 1st of all bringing it to policy makers and the politicians so basically you know it's an old idea of like targeting very small groups of people who can have a bigger impact right and you know when we can have a policy maker who will never or even people knew and whatever who will never go to the Nuba Mountains will never know what that have any sense of that experience outside reading that 4 thousand bombs dropped on a piece of paper and it's kind of it's kind of meaningless in some ways but when we can take those people and put them into these experiences it kind of brings them to a different sort of understanding of the impact of that right so that's another sort of audience that were thinking about the final audience for thinking about is bringing this back to see them right so bringing this back to the Nuba Mountains but on 1 side of it so for instance of this is 2 of the people from our film uh mosquitoes a journalist from the film who ended up getting bound while reporting on uh things happening in the Nuba Mountains and so here he is shaking up the film this is er Dania was a student who also went through a series of bombing experiences and uh also watching the film and so on and a new reports does this thing called the mobile cinema right and they've done it traditionally with some uh bringing films to people in incredibly rural areas in the Nuba Mountains and having them it's showing them films
about reporting about what's going on in their areas right and and now we're also doing this virtual reality so finding ways to bring these films to people all over this area so that's 1 side of it but then the other side of it is bringing this to Khartoum bringing this to the north bringing this to an area where people some are basically shielded from knowing anything you he even within the country from knowing anything about this conflict about what's going on but and you know this is something were actively trying to figure out that it's very complex thing to do but you know our hypothesis here is that if we can show people on both sides of this conflict of what the other side is sort of dealing with not that it's necessarily get totally change everyone's minds and everything's gonna stop but it's
it's something that someone in Khartoum will never have that experience of knowing what the government is doing to these people because this information is actively shielded from from the press so I mean and I think this idea of kind of bridging this gap between the 2 sides of a conflict through and story telling and through virtual reality experience is is something that could be a really compelling thing to bring to other sort of conflict zones and on in other places around the world so um finally here's my and so if anyone has any questions if you wanna know more about the film you
can check out our website we who remain that square space that can and I guess that that leave a few minutes for questions anyone have any questions yet where here hi mean is
Christian thank you for the interesting insights on how using the Yale my question is it appears to me that you are using the the young kind of to trigger a specific emotion in people like in order for them to kind of be 1 with what is happening there triggered a certain emotion which will then eventually lead them to and so take parts in finding ways Mitzi contributing in making it end on this conflict but then I'm wondering To what extent is that actually effective in the sense of by now we've been having emotions as the main so as the main reason for actions that simply implies that was the effect of the motions vanishes then those actions also people's people's interest on the uh conflict also stops so how do you make sure that 1 that risk is not present before using VR and people who are how do you also considered the use of VR in this case as a potential danger in actually creating it on January uh sense of interest in the conflict basically yeah the the the the complex question is I think so I think on the 1 hand the the you know this isn't that the ideas of what we're trying to do with this some I don't even think a really messily original to
virtual reality for creating virtual reality experiences right if we made a traditional film and a traditional documentary which you'd still probably be trying to engage people in an emotional sense um to make them think about this conflict more right and I think
of so I mean I think that question is more store a story telling questions some weights and whether or not this film is successful at making it more than sort of justice things pulling at your emotions is a more of a new what is it a more nuanced experience than sort of trying to be the sensational sort of exercise in showing you a far away place right yes I was the 2nd part of the question the it is say so how do you make sure that the use of the art is not kind of yeah no the leading people
to do a short her to have a short term interest in being engaged in this kind of conflicts because referring back to the what's side basically here I you know I think again I don't know this is necessarily just of your questions like in the in the the in the landscape where people you know scrolling through bloodied Syrian children in a photo and then looking a cat pictures 2 minutes later and I think what's really incredible about this is we can I take people and bring them to this place of it whether we answer this in a different right I think again I think it comes down to a story telling question right so in in our film for instance uh within the confines of dealing with publications to have you know want help frame the story we try to create scenes where it's not 1st of all the entire story is told through the voices of the people of 4 different people who were living on different sort of side of this conflict right so you have a student who had serve experiences with bombings the of a journalist has recently been bonds in the hospital you have a front-line soldier you have a mother whose home recently got of the destroyed because it became the front Nash's hiding in case right so we make we took can I think this is important and we took great pains to not have this voice of God narrators telling you like OK now feel sad now feel happy this is what's going on right we we wanted what's incredible let this is we wanted dutiable has experienced since across from these people hear them tell you the story but and I think that's as much as we can really do is can create the scenes where back create we kind of like presented the scenes where people can make their own sort of judgments about what's going on and presented people stories to people and you know I can't control what the outcome of that is that I can't control people's emotional and connection is to this whether they have for 5 minutes and it's in genuine or they find something genuine out of it you know I think that's serve as a creator that's you you sort of put your best foot forward in thinking about these things and tried to confront some of these in working in a medium that has no rules and is completely new and so on and try to do your best and so I mean that's like you can say about the stories of 1 reason why ISIS because as we all know sometimes you can see some assessed UNICEF's and fliers around saying all I lost my family lab last year added that connection when they and in case those same those same but let's say call for action for that being done by recognizing the People's yeah working away just that's was leisure I would I would encourage you can watch the film because I think that if you watch this film it's not a story about these poor people who were so
down trotted in this place I mean everybody 1st of all these are people who have chosen to stay in a war so they're not refugees they're not fleeing the South Sudan they're not flee in other countries there like this is my home I'm fighting for my culture and fighting for my way of life and fighting for representation in the government and that's what they're expressing to you you know but it's not about feeling really bad for these people at least I hope that's not that's not the take it's about showing the at their resilience and showing you know this the things that are at stake in what they're fighting for and you know it did these people probably fight sometimes to the detriment of their own well being I mean I had not on 1 of the characters who who has 2 living in caves because our home got destroyed he she could leave them and go to South Sudan and the refugee there live in refugee camps but she's choosing to stay in that place and wants to live a new goal was to be a Sudanese citizen once that life and that's you know I think a different narrative and you're going to hear about you know I UNICEF peace or other pieces that are sort of like look at this refugee camp and how sad everybody is here and how the lights to destroyed now give us some money you know this is not that narrative so I would encourage you to come come check out the film and that of your thoughts about it yeah came on so that
I understand how creating empathy with the ah as far as creating and displaying their experience and showcasing make why the reality of of their experiences that when you take that the R and back to the people who are in I and I'm I'm wondering if there is any sort of like emotional drama that that brings up a if AR would be like an easier way to I like artificial reality would be an easier way to pass a really background information so that's not solar cells from a traumatic experience right and I mean that's that's a great question so I mean right now a in the process of bringing this to the people out there but honestly I think I 1 thing to keep in mind with with this area in particular is this conflict has been going on for for the last 6 years right so it's not like people in some ways are just really excited that people are coming to tell the story right and to bring it up to the world so I think more than sort of a traumatic experience of this I think from my experience of showing people the they're sharing this stuff worked with them in its them feeling excited that maybe the world will start sort of taking an interest in in in what's going on there I'm as as for a are in this context I I don't know I mean I've had limited experience with that I don't I don't know exactly how I think it would be a different projects and I think a bit different sort of story project and I don't I don't know what that would look like yet as that is the question of a set of anything else animals yet yeah hi I'm I'm a filmmaker and I'm curious about your experience with this because as you know I'm assuming you you're going to continue to do standard films as well and the virtual reality is basically the Rajan everyone trying to do the New York Times people pumping money on it on but I've remained a bit skeptical you know over the years you know you watch 3 in movie theaters and it's been relegated to like the action films and never it's never a standard and I'm just 1 wondering have a son of the film about the same subject of the 1 done by hand into barons the front line is the I think it at home of it ended up on from mine but he knows it is a great film but of course it had a hard time getting you know the tension and and I think that's 1 of the issues of the arm some if AJ + can promote it maybe you have 10 times the viewership of you know the standard phone summers warning your experience where the where is we are affected you see a real future for this there's always going to be sort of yeah I mean so again I I think this whole idea that the hour is here to replace everything that exists and it's going I mean I think there always be traditional film-making there always be radio and you look here radio right now there's this huge resurgence of like podcasts and all these really old forms of of of story telling me to me you all of these are just are just tools right so you know as certain stories are converse conducive to to working with virtual reality not it's not a blanket thing where everything will be replaced by a so you need to find the CA like certain stories certain types of things are good for this experience I think people are still sort of toying with with what that is and I think yeah I think this is a virtual reality is going to be huge and I think it's going to change the way we think about media and think about storytelling but I don't again I don't think it's here to replace any other sort of thing I think it's a tool and people should look at it as as a tool and think about it think about it in that way and then put that answers the question particular from your experience do aparticular sense now of exactly the kind of stories that you would tell the virtual reality versus other of I mean I learned a lot in this process and I think that to me I I think it's really exciting when we stop thinking about this as an extension of traditional film-making and and stop sort of applying the same way is that we think about that you know even with like voiceover cutting and power editing in that way like i'd what excites me is thinking about this has its own language in its own medium and I think some of the moments in this film that work really well Our when you're not you know we do we did lean on some of those some of those techniques for telling the story but I think like a set of the most that work really well as when you basically are immersed in these environments and as of you your sort of creating your own user working your way around the space in your own way instead of being led around the space by by the filmmaker and I think that's sort of this uh elusive area right now with this sort of a storytelling but it's what kind of exciting most and that's really sort of uh opaque answer but yet and it also right thank you me and if
the left or right if you if you did