Narrative Virtual Reality and empathy

”I use VR to enable empathy”, says Gina Kim, creator of the narrative Virtual Reality (VR) film Bloodless. She’s speaking on Skype to us – an audience of about thirty-five people at Västsvenska Filmdagarna in Göteborg, Sweden.

(Läs inlägget på svenska)

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This is the location of the conference Västsvenska Filmdagarna

Västsvenska Filmdagarna is a conference for film creators, sponsored by the authorities of Region West in Sweden. The final day, the entire afternoon is dedicated to narrative Virtual Reality and Gina Kim as the last major speaker of the conference defines this medium’s potentials for narration.

”I wanted to show the room where she was murdered”, Gina Kim says. She speaks about the South Korean prostitute who was bestially mutilated and left to die of massive blood loss and whose last moments in life are the subject of Gina’s VR film.

Media exploited this woman’s case and her dead body, and what Gina wanted to do was tell about this death and show how the victim herself experienced it. This, Gina explains, is what VR makes possible. The viewer is not a passive viewer. VR allows people to experience without aesthetic distance. The horror, the loneliness, the sadness of the victim is actually felt.

Gina Kim found major obstacles in the way of this film project. The area and neighborhood of the crime scene where she shot her film was the lawless land of brothels and drugs. What she tried to do there was not actually criminal. But there was no help or protection from authorities or police to be had if there was any kind of conflict with locals. Because of such dangers, she had to be meticulous in her planning, not to draw unsolicited attention to her doings there.

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Screen picture of the main actress of the VR film Bloodless

”It was a dilemma”, says Gina, ”that it was not the actual room of the murder that we used for shooting the film. We had to make this clear to the viewer”, she says. The dilemma was solved by letting the dying woman walk out of her body, out of her room, roaming as a ghost, looking for someone to be with her at her last. ”And”, says Gina with some emphasis, that someone is YOU!”

One thing that she underscores at this point is the effect on the VR viewer of being thus chosen by the dying woman. ”Now you embody her”, says Gina. ”You don’t become her. You embody her, and then she takes you to her room”. ”The viewer”, says Gina, ”does not become the victim. That would be sadistic. I do not want to produce the violence”, she says.

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Neighborhood of the crime. Gina Kim on Skype inserted.

In Gina Kim’s view, narrative Virtual Reality is a powerful tool. It is a powerful tool that she uses to create empathy. As a tool for experiencing the pain of others. ”It is”, says Gina Kim, ”the sharpest tool of narration. The sharpest of a million years”. And the way she wants to use this, the sharpest narrative tool of all ages, is she says – ”to make a better world”.

And I? I say yes. That’s definitely the way she uses it.

Ellington

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Gina Kim Wikipedia

Västsvenska Filmdagarna 2017 (English)

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Författare: Arletta Ellington

Vi är två personer – Arletta och Ellington. Här presenterar vi oss var för sig. Arletta först:
ARLETTA kallar jag mig och jag gillar det namnet. Det låter skoj, lätt och lekande, levande och lite kvittrande – sån som jag gärna är. Jag gillar att leka, även med livets mest seriösa saker. När jag var yngre valde jag ett lekfullt yrke, som teaterregissör. Jag har dessutom mött den andra, mörka, sidan av livet, som jag har distanserat mig från. Nu lever jag med fokus på det som är det bästa i livet och ger mig själv chansen att hitta de skönaste ögonblicken i det vardagliga. De värsta dagarna har passerat och det bästa i livet är det som jag väljer. Det vill jag beskriva och dela med mig av, så njuter vi tillsammans …
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Jag kallar mig ELLINGTON, ett namn jag förknippar med musik och kreativitet. Duke Ellington, jazzlegenden representerar livsbejkande njutning och eftersom jag titulerade Arletta hertiginna i mitt första brev till henne, så tänker jag mig som hennes hertig ( = duke) på denna bloggen. Jag leker gärna seriöst – som till exempel litteraturforskning – vilket jag ägnade en del av mitt yrkesliv åt. För mig syns livets ljusa sidor tydligast i kontrast mot de mörka. Jag låter livets skönhet fånga mig när det far förbi. Och om jag lyckas när jag skriver – ja, då har jag kanske synliggjort det sköna.

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