Over the last six days Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015 has been taking place all over the UK city. The event is a celebration of documentaries of all kinds, hosting rare screenings, exclusive talks and more. The first few days even saw an impressive virtual reality (VR) ‘Arcade’ put on display, with nine unique experiences for attendees to try out. The event concludes with an awards ceremony which this year has recognised one of the stand out VR experiences of that VR Arcade, Clouds Over Sidra.
The short documentary, created by Chris Milk and Gabo Arora, has been awarded the prize in the Interactive category of this year’s show. It follows Sidra, a twelve year old girl that has fled her home in Syria due to the ongoing crisis and found herself in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. It provides a brief glimpse at the day-to-day life that these refugees endure with narration from Sidra herself. Viewers are taken closer to the situation than a standard screen could ever convey, joining children at school and families as they gather round to eat.
The jury tasked with selecting a winner in this category included Mandy Chang of ABC, John Kingsbury of KTN, and technology critic Bill Thompson. Also judging was Oscar Raby, who developed Hola World for the VR Arcade, and app producer Catherine Allen. “Our winner was chosen because it really makes the most of the platform,” Allen said of the choice. “Its creators delivered a compelling, informative and emotional experience, bursting with potential for real world change. It’s advanced the medium, offering storytelling language to this emerging space.
“In our decision making we considered: the quality of storytelling; audience context; execution within the medium; and originality from our grizzled perspective,” she said.
“Clouds Over Sidra took us into the Za’Atari refugee camp and achieved a level of empathy that went beyond what’s possible in traditional film. It managed to make the technology disappear from view, and instead guided by powerful voice.”
Other projects in the Interactive category include 1979 Revolution, Do Not Track, Interactive Haikus, POETASTR, Priya’s Shakti, That Dragon Cancer, and Universe Within: Digital Lives in the Global Highrise.
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