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Watch Virtual Reality Documentaries 'Tree' and 'Le Lac'


Virtual reality is opening a new dimension to entertainment, enabling video gamers and moviegoers an opportunity to enjoy a much more immersive storytelling experience. Multi-million dollar industries, it's easy to see how the interest in exploiting this technology will soon ensure that it becomes mainstream. While there are some challenges relating to the art of telling a story where the viewer has complete range of sight and more control over their environment, we are already seeing short form narrative productions underway. It's still quite early and experimental at this stage, but the demand will serve as a catalyst to turning this niche industry into much more than just a gimmick.

Another opportunity for virtual reality is in documentary film-making, a medium which has traditionally been more attuned to reality by virtue of its traditionally journalistic and low-budget cornerstones. This is the case with Tree and Le Lac, two VR documentaries that will be screened at the American Corner Cape Town at the Central Library, 1 Parade Street, Cape Town on 7 and 9 September 2019.

Tree is a multi-sensory VR project that transforms you into a rain forest tree, where your arms are its branches and your body its trunk. From the tree's growth into its fullest form, you will experience its fate firsthand. Le Lac is a short documentary that employs virtual reality to represent the plight of the oasis of Sahel, Lake Chad. Having lost 90% of her water, the region is now under threat. Farming, livestock, vegetation, fishing and basic human needs, climate change has shrunk the lake and brought about much insecurity. Having millions who depend on the oasis, the immersive documentary focuses on the lives of a pastoralist and fishermen.

Narrated by Saba Elbasha whose voice that could very well be the lady of the lake, Le Lac has a poetic and reflective quality. As the voice comes to personify the lake, which has now been reduced to ponds, the social documentary features a sequence of landscape scenarios depicting the crisis has relates to all that depend on her. "This is life, bad things can happen to anyone" is the attitude of the people whose futures remain uncertain.

Their livelihood has been directly impacted by a lack of natural resources and the area, which is home to a multitude of refugees, is more vulnerable to Boko Harem insurgents. This short documentary truly takes you there, adopting a subtle approach when it comes to representing the gravity of the situation. Director and writer Nyasha Kadandara opts to fully immerse her audience in an African dreamscape.

Winner of the best digital narrative at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019, this is an important social and nature documentary, which opts for a much more poetic approach before closing with some dream-shattering factoids and observations. The VR exhibition is in partnership with the US Consulate General Cape Town , Central Library and the American Corner Cape Town.