Contrast VR, Al Jazeera Media Network’s immersive studio, is at it again with yet another VR documentary ready to dump some knowledge on lucky audiences. You may remember Contrast VR as the studio behind I Am Rohingya, another full-fledged Al Jazeera VR doc that highlighted the struggles of a woman living within a Bangladesh refugee camp.
This time the broadcaster is putting the spotlight on the damaging effects of the global oil trade within Nigeria. Oil In Our Creeks follows Lessi Philips, a villager in the Niger Delta who nearly 10 years ago witnessed a Shell pipeline burst in her village, unleashing massive amounts of oil into local swamps for over 77 days. The effects of the irrepressible leak were devastating, destroying nearby farms and fisheries and in turn killing the villages economy.
“For decades Shell and other multinational corporations have directly contributed to the devastation of the land and livelihoods of the people who live in the Niger Delta,” stated Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria. “Oil in Our Creeks allows viewers to grasp the havoc wrought by oil spills on Niger Delta communities. Our research indicates that Shell still takes far too long to respond to reports of spills. I urge the companies’ executives to watch this film to better understand the community’s plight.”
Lessi, now an adult, takes viewers on an emotional journey, detailing how the village looked before the spill and what her and a group of youth are doing to rectify the lingering problems. The manner how this is done is actually quite impressive:
“The environmental disaster in the Niger Delta has been reported on for the last 20 years,” stated Zahra Rasool, Contrast VR’s editorial lead. “We wanted to find a new way to retell this important story. We divided the 360-degree screen into 180 degrees of live action footage and juxtaposed the other 180-degree section with animated versions of Lessi’s recollections, detailing what the village looked like before the oil spill. We immersed audiences deeper in the story so they could powerfully experience the scale of devastation in the community.”
Beautiful paintings of lush greenery, ripe with food emerge from the ground as brown, dead land transforms into an oasis, dry river beds are revived as blue paint washes over, the list goes on. Sometimes you’re treated to art layered on top of live action footage, other times we’re immersed entirely in 360-degrees of fantastic illustrations. The colorful, stylized paintings of the past do an excellent job of contradicting the desolate, grey future portrayed in the live action footage of the current Niger Delta.
Oil In Our Creeks is available now on Al Jazeera English online, Contrast VR, Vimeo, and across Amnesty International social channels with releases on Viveport, Jaunt and Samsung coming February 2018.
You can also head over to Amnesty International to learn more about Shell’s history in the Niger Delta.