It is one thing to be told of hardship, or effort, or a disaster but it is another to bear witness to it in person. So often such is difficult to convey, but through virtual reality (VR), where you are immersed in that going on around the camera (a.k.a you) it is easier to educate and generate feelings of empathy and understanding. The power of virtual reality to generate support, both vocal and financial was quickly realised by both UNICEF and the United Nations itself after it partnered with renowned virtual reality Vrse.works for a number of these documentary-style VR shorts, such as Clouds Over Sidra.
Now Here Be Dragons, the former and aforementioned VRSE.works have teamed up for another such outing. This time with the National Geographic Channel to go behind the scenes with the teams of rangers at Garamba National Park in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) who fight a daily battle against poachers on the hunt for elephants and their ivory.
In partnership with Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow and Annapurna Pictures (Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Foxcatcher, American Hustle), the eight minute VR short The Protectors charts the very real dangers of protecting the largest living land based mammals from the threat of other humans hunting them for their tusks. A task that still sees 30,000 die every year and the illegal trade and trafficking of the ivory continue.
Will the rangers succeed in protecting their charges or are the elephants doomed to be eventually hunted to extinction? Or will the rangers themselves be the ones hunted?
Speaking on their latest partnership, Patrick Milling-Smith, the Co-Founder and President of Here Be Dragons said: “The power of virtual reality gives us the chance to take our viewers to the breathtaking yet deadly interior of the Democratic Republic of Congo as we witness and walk in the shoes of these courageous rangers from the conservation NGO African Parks who manage Garamba . To have Kathryn Bigelow taking the helm of this project alongside Imraan Ismail is obviously an exciting and seminal moment for the medium and storytelling in VR. There are no stronger filmmakers to champion these rangers and viscerally show the world their humanity and bravery in the face or such horror.”
“We want to bring exceptional content that is emblematic of National Geographic to viewers everywhere and are proud to collaborate with the
talented Kathryn Bigelow and Imraan Ismail along with Here Be Dragons and Annapurna Pictures on our first foray into the doc short form space using VR technology.” Added the National Geographic Channel’s President of Original Programming and Production, Tim Pastore. “This film will take viewers to the front lines alongside Nat Geo storytellers in the hopes that we can change their perception on ivory through this powerful virtual experience.”
VRFocus will bring you more details on this project as it develops and will continue to keep you appraised of further VR shorts.