By Rozina Bhutto
How would you feel if you suddenly found yourself on a stage full of classical dancers or peeking down the Bhit Shah tomb in Jamshoro? Pretty surreal, right? That’s exactly how Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy describes the experience of working on her first ever virtual reality series titled Look But With Love.
“Shooting VR is completely different from filming a documentary film on a 2D camera,” the two-time Academy Award winner explains. “First of all, you capture video from four sides using four different cameras, which means, that those who are filming or asking questions from subjects have to hide from the cameras! They don’t want to be captured on film… it’s quite a surreal experience.”
It really seems so.
Chinoy’s film company, SOC Films, has partnered with Chris Milk’s company, WITHIN, to bring the Virtual Reality series which will premiere at the inaugural Tribeca TV Festival, upcoming 55th New York Film Festival, and the Future of Storytelling.
What kind of stories should we expect from series?
“VR is very immersive, so the subjects and situations we chose are deliberate. We wanted to throw the audiences right in the middle of different experiences,” says Chinoy making us look forward to the series even more. “So the viewer will go from the inside of a children’s emergency ward to a dance performance and so on. We want people to experience [quite literally] how diverse Pakistan is and to celebrate that diversity!”
According to a press release, Look But With Love is a virtual reality documentary series about the extraordinary people of Pakistan who are changing the socio-political landscape of their communities through causes they are deeply passionate about.
From a doctor in the slums of Karachi, who has dedicated his life to providing free emergency care to children, to a courageous community of women in Nowshera – the epicenter of the terrorist insurgency – the series explores the lives of Pakistan’s most fearless and passionate citizens, one story at a time.
The first installation is ready
The first two episodes of the series – A Story of Women and A Story of Dance – will be showcased at the Tribeca TV Festival from September 22 to 24, 2017.
“In this series we have filmed a dance performance in a unique way by putting cameras on a dolly and moving them with the dancers,” she says while talking about the series. “Then in Jamshoro, we have filmed at a shrine from a great height so when you watch the music film you feel like you are right inside the shrine.”
After Tribeca, the episodes will be shown during NYFF55 at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on September 29, 2017 from 3 pm to 6 pm and September 30 and October 1, 2017 from 12 pm to 6 pm.
Finally, the series will arrive at the FoST Fest on October 4 and 5, 2017.
What about the other three episodes?
Those will come in time and Chinoy hopes to make them even more exciting.
“The technology is new so it still has many limitations but we are hoping to experiment more in the other films we plan to make,” she tells us. “In Nowshera, we filmed women rappelling from a tall building and at one point you’ll feel like you are also jumping down the building.”
When will it come to Pakistan?
Okay, so we can’t wait to experience the VR series, but looking at the lineup of festivals, we don’t see it coming to Pakistan soon. The press release promises that it will be showcased in different schools and colleges, but what about the rest of Pakistan?
“Yes, it [Look But With Love] will come to various schools and colleges, but we will also create pop up VR spaces in public spaces of major cities [of Pakistan] starting from October!”