In November 2017 at the COP23 climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, the World Bank – in partnership with the Fijian Government – launched its biggest foray yet into the world of 360-degree Virtual Reality (VR).
Our Home, Our People is a storytelling project that takes viewers to the heart of climate change in Fiji.
Within six weeks of going live, film has been viewed by more than 3,500 people at the COP23 event, more than 200,000 people on YouTube, 170,000 people via VeerVR, and has garnered significant global interest.
Here, the team behind the film provides an insight into how the project came about, some of the challenges of making the film in VR, and what the project meant to those involved.
- Tom Perry, Executive Producer, The World Bank
- Tash Tash, Director, S1T2
- Arieta Tora Rika, Cultural advisor & Writer, Talanoa
- Alana Holmberg, Photographer, 1st Assistant Director
- Tunpitcha Ladapornvitaya, Sound Recordist, Video Editor, S1T2
- Ken Cokanasiga, Cultural & protocol advisor, Translator
What motivated the production of Our Home, Our People?
Tom: Everyone wanted to put human faces to the data and knowledge collected for the Fiji
Climate Vulnerability Assessment through personal stories. Our Home, Our People and the Climate Vulnerability Assessment can be seen as sibling projects; one appeals to the brain, the other to the heart.
Why produce it in VR?
Tom: VR is such a powerful storytelling medium, and it gives the opportunity for people across
the world to take themselves to Fiji and into the lives of Catalina, Rupeni, Rai and Asmita.
How did you find and choose the people who would feature in the film?
Tash: We were looking for a range of people that could best represent Fiji’s diversity. We’re proud that people from a variety of ages, genders, ethnicities and places are represented in the film – a lot of time was spent traversing Fiji to find them!
How did you approach the communities your work in?
Alana: Our Fijian team members were integral in our approach. They helped us understand and adhere to the traditional protocols when it came to entering villages, communicating our intentions, and (importantly) how to relax into the Fijian way of life. With the help of Ken, Arieta and George we formed
wonderful working relationships and lifetime friendships.
What are some of the challenges you had in VR filmmaking?
Tunpitcha: During the shoot, we didn’t think about technical limitations but about how to create
an immersive experience for the audience. The camera itself wasn’t important, what was important
was how the camera could make the audience feel. We had lots of help in the community to overcome
problems. Need something to make the camera more stable? A piece of wood would appear.
Hungry? Actually, we were never hungry in Fiji. The communities kept us well fed during long days
Tom: There are so many! There are practical challenges: how do you present text on screen and ensure your audience sees it (particularly if they’re looking in another direction), but then conversely; how do you ensure your audience isn’t spending their entire time reading? How long should shots last to ensure your audience has time to find/adjust to their surroundings? It’s about finding that balance: we want to
move people, but we don’t want people to be overcome by it all.
The Power of VR ‘Our Home, Our People’ at COP23
What was the experience like working on this project as a Fijian?
Arieta: It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I knew I would add depth to the project in terms of cultural knowledge, but with that came responsibility to ‘do this right’. The integrity and skills of the team meant that the people we worked with felt respected, understood and confident their stories could not only benefit their village, but the whole of Fiji. I loved seeing that process unfold.
What was it like working in Fiji compared with other countries you’ve worked in?
Tash: I’ve never been to a country where you feel so loved and cared for by people who don’t know you. That’s something that’s really special in Fiji – the sense of beauty and wonder of the place and warmth of the people. There’s this indescribable entity, a sense that something is just… right. I’ve never felt that anywhere else in the world.
What was the most memorable or rewarding experience you encountered in making this project?
Alana: Driving over the mountain to remote Namarai was spectacular in terms of scenery and completely harrowing at the same time. Imagining Cyclone Winston ripping through the area gave me shivers.
Ken: Going back to communities I’d known well a long time ago and listening to their stories about life pre- and post-Winston. The beautiful smiles of the interviewees were priceless, life goes on.
Tash: When everyone sang isa lei (a farewell song) when we were leaving Vunisavisavi. In Fiji you can develop a strong affection for people you didn’t even know 24 hours prior. You grow to love and want the best for each other. That song was a culmination of everything that we were feeling as a team and community.
What is your hope for people who experience Our Home, Our People?
Arieta: That people will feel empathy towards the people of Fiji and the Pacific. We are not just statistics, we are real people with real fears and vulnerabilities, and indescribable resilience and strength.
Tom: Beyond connecting people with what life in Fiji is really like, and showing the realities of climate change, and creating empathy, I just really hope we ensure the immersive experience of VR inspires genuine action.
Tunpitcha: That people will realise how minor actions around the world are causing climate change and creating a dramatic problem on the other side of the world.
Ken: For people to see the beauty in my country, my people, my land and my paradise, and that we
need things to stay as they are, not destroyed by climate change.
Watch the film, Our Home, Our People: www.youtube.com/watch?v=toOLqRJDV8k&feature=youtu.be
And explore the stories further:
- Fallen Kingdom: Rising tides for one of Fiji’s most sacred communities
- Resilience & love in action: Rebuilding after Cyclone Winston
- Shaping the next generation of climate defenders: Asmita’s story
- A change in the weather: 11-year Catalina takes on climate change
- Leading a family, and a community, through and beyond Tropical Cyclone Winston: Rai’s Story
- ‘Love in action’: Rupeni’s story
- Man on a mission: Luke Tuibua proactively combats climate change for his village
- A Mother, A Teacher, A Climate Change Fighter: Meredani’s Story