National Geographic are further committing themselves to immersive film-making as they announce a new VR short, co-directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Director of The Hurt Locker, which aims to bring the terrible plight of the African Elephant to VR.

National Geographic are to embrace the field of virtual reality film-making as Annapurna Pictures (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “Her,” “Foxcatcher” and “American Hustle”) have announced they’ve been commissioned by them to produce a new VR documentary short which follows the troubling life of the African Elephant.

Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow

Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (“Last Days,” “The Hurt Locker”) and VR creator Imraan Ismail (“The Displaced,” “Valen’s Reef”) will direct the 8 minute documentary which explores the dangerous and grueling reality faced by rangers protecting African elephants from ivory poachers in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Currently, over 30,000 African elephants die each year as a result of this activity.

“The power of virtual reality gives us the chance to take our viewers to the breathtaking yet deadly interior of the Democratic Republic of Congo as we witness and walk in the shoes of these courageous rangers from the conservation NGO African Parks who manage Garamba. To have Kathryn Bigelow taking the helm of this project alongside Imraan Ismail is obviously an exciting and seminal moment for the medium and storytelling in VR,” said Patrick Milling-Smith, Co-founder and President, Here Be Dragons. “There are no stronger filmmakers to champion these rangers and viscerally show the world their humanity and bravery in the face or such horror.”

“We want to bring exceptional content that is emblematic of National Geographic to viewers everywhere and are proud to collaborate with the talented Kathryn Bigelow and Imraan Ismail along with Here Be Dragons and Annapurna Pictures on our first foray into the doc short form space using VR technology. This film will take viewers to the front lines alongside Nat Geo storytellers in the hopes that we can change their perception on ivory through this powerful virtual experience”, said Tim Pastore, President of Original Programming and Production, National Geographic Channel.

The film itself is certainly a worthy project on difficult subject matter and it’ll be interesting to see if the final results manages to leverage immersive media’s potential as an empathy generator to provoke action. “It is a moral imperative that we use all resources available to us in the fight against the devastating effects of the global illegal ivory trade. I made this film working with the African Parks NGO, to shine a light on the heroic park rangers who are on the front line in this battle”, said director Kathryn Bigelow. “The VR technology is a perfect way to take you into their day-to-day lives and highlight their passion and commitment to the vitally important work that they do.”

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