Contrast VR, Al Jazeera’s immersive media studio, released its first virtual reality documentary about the Rohingya refugee crisis today (28 September).
The publisher partnered with Amnesty International to produce I Am Rohingya, an immersive film which calls attention to the ethnic cleansing taking place in Myanmar.
It focuses on the life of a Rohingya Muslim, Jamalida Begum, and her two children in the slums of the Kutupalong refugee encampments in Bangladesh.
She's one of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who escaped atrocities in Myanmar and are now in limbo, unable to be resettled or return to their homes.
Director and producer Zahra Rasool, editorial lead at Contrast VR, said that telling the story in 360-degrees helped to explain the dire situation to audiences far removed from the crisis.
"Not all stories are justified in the 360 format, but with this one, we wanted people to not only understand the crisis, but to feel what it is like to be inside a refugee camp and experience the space.
"Our intention was to showcase the film at festivals before releasing it publicly, but in light of the escalating humanitarian crisis we decided to release this early."
Various interviews with Jamalida, where she describes her memories and life now, narrate the story in the background. They are supplemented with a mix of video, filmed on a Nokia OZO camera, and post-production animation that help depict her experiences.
"I didn't think doing an interview with her facing the camera and looking in one direction would be interesting enough, or a good use of the medium," she said.
"We used animation in the piece because such a big part of Jamalida's story is the persecution she faced in Myanmar, so we worked with an animator to depict and better illustrate it.
"A lot of 360-degree videos use animation only in one particular direction, but we wanted to do something new and use the whole space, along with spatial audio that helps viewers hear the sound where they are actually coming from."
Rasool explains that although the experience can be viewed on desktop, it is designed to be watched in a headset, so audiences can be truly immersed.
I Am Rohingya’s full-length film is available to view on AJ+ and Vimeo and shared across Al Jazeera English (AJE) online, Contrast VR, and Amnesty International.
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