Al Jazeera Contrast, part of the Al Jazeera Media Network, announced that its VR and AR experience Still Here will premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the New Frontier program.
The visceral experiences of over 12 formerly incarcerated women who have re-entered society are at the core of Still Here, which was conceived as an interactive audio, VR and AR experience by Al Jazeera Contrast head and lead creator Zahra Rasool and journalist Sarah Springer along with a team of creatives from the New York area.
Told cinematically and through the lens of a fictional character named Jasmine Smith, who returns to Harlem after 15 years in prison, the narrative is crafted together with women who have spent time in prison and are part of Women's Prison Association (WPA).
"Providing direct access to personal stories and voices that matter is at the heart of our mission, and we are thrilled that the Sundance Film Festival recognizes the importance of inclusion and the necessity to democratize the creative process and push the boundaries of traditional narratives," said Rasool.
"As a digital news media organization, we are charged with a responsibility to bring the world's most pressing and crucial stories to life in compelling and impactful ways. This first-time selection by the Sundance Film Festival is an honor and signifies a new level of international recognition for the groundbreaking content the Al Jazeera Contrast team are creating," said Carlos Van Meek, director of digital innovation and programming, Al Jazeera Digital.
Al Jazeera Contrast's Still Here follows on the heels of multiple international awards received since the studio launched in 2017, including an Emmy nomination this year in the outstanding new approaches: current news category alongside The New York Times, Time Magazine and the Center for Investigative Reporting for Yemen's Skies of Terror. The nomination marked the first time Al Jazeera Digital has been recognized in the News and Documentary Emmy competition. Yemen's Skies of Terror was produced in collaboration with local talent, and tells the story of war from the perspectives of three children as they attempt to rebuild their lives amidst great personal loss. The six-and-a-half minute immersive documentary won the Online News Association's excellence in immersive storytelling award in 2018 and has been screened at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, Melbourne International Film Festival, and several other festivals worldwide.
Since 2007, the New Frontier exhibition at the Sundance Film Festival has curated the emerging field of immersive storytelling, incorporating fiction, non-fiction and hybrid projects to showcase emerging media storytelling, multi-media installations, performances and films.
Still Here will be on view from Friday, Jan. 24–Feb. 2, 2020 at New Frontier at The Ray.