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Virtual Reality showcase at DFM 2017
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Mon, 05 Jun 2017 14:33

An exploration of the possibilities of Virtual Reality (VR) will be one of the highlights of the 8th Durban FilmMart (DFM).

The FilmMart is Africa’s premier film finance and co-production forum and will take place at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni Hotel from 14 July to 17 July 2017 during the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF).

VR is one of the most exciting emerging technologies on the digital landscape and there is little doubt that it will ultimately have a massive impact on the ways that we consume media and engage with each other and society. At the same time, VR is still such a wide open frontier that there is little consensus as to what the future of this embryonic technology will be. This year’s DFM programme features a number of events that explore the possibilities of VR, particularly in terms of filmmaking and digital storytelling.

For those unfamiliar with VR – or who may not have experienced it for themselves – a VR demo session will take place on Sunday, 16 July from 10h00 to 12h00, in the form of a Master Class presented by AFDA which will showcase the Pro VR 360 Headset. Then, on Monday, 17 July from 14h00 to 15h00, there will be a session entitled: VR: What’s Happening in Africa and What Can We Make Happen? presented by Electric South and AFDA and featuring VR experts, Ingrid Kopp and Shmerah Passchier.
The session will explore the possibilities for VR on the continent as well as present and discuss various projects that are currently underway in Africa.

Kopp, who is one of the leading authorities on interactive media and virtual reality in the context of digital narratives, will talk about her experience with African-produced VR and the challenges facing the industry, while Passchier will discuss the notion of the cyborg filmmaker, in which virtual reality and the notion of the digital-human collide.

“The cyborg filmmaker emerges from science fiction, specifically from afrofuturism, from Africa. It is the cinematic voice of the global south. The cyborg disrupts the boundary between human and machine because the tools of VR filmmaking are extensions of the cyborg self. The afrofuturist cyborg inserts itself into the global virtual reality narrative by splicing technology into the story-telling self. The virtual reality camera rig, with its multiple eyes, hybridises and multiplies the possibilities of new ways of seeing,” explains Passchier. “By harnessing the tools of the digital revolution, we transcend our race, our gender and our species. We splice the self with technology to form new identities, to tell new stories, to create new worlds of immersive story, to disrupt reality, to disrupt the human being, to become cyborg filmmakers,” she adds.

Talking about the African VR industry, Kopp is excited by the work that has emerged so far but also recognizes the financial challenges involved and warns that it’s vital that Africa, which has so much to offer the VR industry, does not get left behind because of a lack of funding and resources. “In many ways, the continent’s VR landscape is uncharted territory,” says Kopp. “While hubs of activity have emerged in places like Johannesburg, Cape Town, Nairobi and Accra, even those working in the industry struggle to get a clear sense of what works – and what doesn’t – in different cities and outside the urban hubs,” she adds.

Kopp also points out that everything, from how to get equipment in and out of countries to skill-building to camera setups that are rugged and don’t overheat, is part of a growing conversation about what form the African VR industry will take as it establishes itself. But even with the availability of accessible gear, other technological and economics constraints will make it difficult for widespread consumer adoption to take off in many African countries. For producers, though, an industry is emerging that might, in time, satisfy global demand for African content. “It is vital that African VR content is made by Africans,” Kopp concludes.

Electric South, together with the Goethe Institut, will also be showing VR films in the industry lounge for the duration of DFM. Films on show will include: The Other Dakar by Selly Raby Kane, Spirit Robot by Jonathan Dotse, Let This Be a Warning by The Nest Collective and Nairobi Berries by Ng’endo Mukii.



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