In a bid to enable Syrian refugees to tell their own stories, journalists at Contrast VR, Al Jazeera's immersive media studio, have trained seven teenagers based in Jordan's Za’atari refugee camp to produce 360-degree videos.
Working in collaboration with aid and development agency World Vision, the team of reporters were able to spend ten days with the refugees, holding practical workshops that would result in the production of their own films, collectively named 7 Stories for 7 Years.
"We wanted to give them these skills, so they could use them later on in life," said Zahra Rasool, editorial lead at Contrast VR.
Ranging from what their lives were like back in Syria, to their love of football and theatre, each of the seven teenagers wrote and shot their own video about their life and aspirations.
"We spent the first few days workshopping – teaching them how to use the camera, going through manuals and showing them what storyboarding looks like in 360 degrees," Rasool said.
"Then we went out into the field to guide them on the best practices for filming."
She explained that the authenticity of the piece was strengthened by the fact that the seven teenagers produced their own work.
"These stories are much more powerful when they come straight from the people themselves," she said.
"If you want your editorial piece to be really strong, you have to make sure you're involving the community who has been through these challenges in the process of your storytelling."
Rasool's team at Contrast VR then went on to produce their own editorial film, Dreaming in Za'atari: Stories After Syria, which focused on the lives of three of the young people in camp.
"The aim of the piece was to show them with dreams and ambitions just like any other teenager around the world," she said.
As the reporters had already spent almost a week with them in their training, they built up such as close relationship that filming was easy and natural.
"It was authentic, and very similar in its tone and voice to the pieces they did themselves.
"Because the people became comfortable with us, we were able to understand their reality in a much better way."
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