VR Documentary Screening Event, UBC School of Journalism Collaboration

Kate Hennessy, Rachel Ward, and Justine Crawford have been collaborating with the UBC School of Journalism’s International Reporting Program and VICE News to curate a premiere documentary and VR experience screening event, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Migration and HIV in Chile”. It took place Tuesday, May 24th, at the Imperial Theatre in Vancouver.


Two Films: The Chilean Dream & The Silent Rise of HIV

Two Virtual Reality Experiences: Isolation & Journey South (to be posted soon).

These two intertwined stories are told through the eyes of VICE News host Daniel Hernandez in two documentaries and also using virtual reality. The project presented a unique opportunity to explore new forms of immersive storytelling. Using 3D and 360 degree cameras to capture interviews and scenes, the IRP fellows produced a virtual reality documentary, which will compliment and enhance the traditional 2D documentaries. The virtual reality documentary will take viewers beyond the numbers and invite them into intimate conversations with people living with HIV, as well as those who are dedicating their lives to preventing the continued spread of the disease. A second VR experience will follow the path south of a migrant worker from the camps of Arica to the industrial town of Antofagasta to the markets of Santiago. Guests will also have the opportunity to learn how the students captured footage for virtual reality in a special behind the scenes film. Watch the films, experience immersive VR and meet the creators.

About the Exhibition:
(Kate Hennessy and Rachel Ward, Lead Event Curators)

The experience of virtual reality (VR) is popularly viewed as solitary––a singular encounter in the sensory cloister of the VR headset. Yet the content of many documentaries being produced for VR, which have of late touched down in the charged centres of epidemics, war zones, and famines, require a collective engagement with the many questions and concerns opened up by the use of this new visual medium. Hidden in Plain Sight: Stories of Migration and HIV in Chile takes up the challenge of showing a series of non-linear documentary media elements as a public event. Following the screening of two traditional journalistic documentaries, the audience is invited into two immersive VR experiences that provide deeper engagements with each of the stories.

What does virtual reality bring to our understanding of the challenges facing those who are sharing their stories that traditional documentary can not? How can a public experience of these multimedia stories further our engagement with the potential of virtual reality, while inspiring collective action in the real world? The journalists who produced these works did not explicitly find connections between the spread of HIV and the troubled pursuit of the ‘Chilean Dream’. However, in the context of the exhibit, we invite viewers to consider the implications of the Chilean state’s inability to provide adequate care for these vulnerable populations. What is at stake when these stories, otherwise largely invisible to one another, are brought into plain sight?