Indian filmmakers take World’s First VR narrative Documentary ‘Right to Pray’ to TIFF!
Right to Pray, a documentary film by filmmaker Khushboo Ranka in the new medium of Virtual Reality (VR), will premiere at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival 2016 (TIFF). Produced by Memesys Culture Lab, a cinema and new media studio founded by filmmaker Anand Gandhi, the film is part of the first batch of VR documentaries made in India. The VR experience will premiere next month at what has been described as the most important and influential film festival in the world.
Right to Pray is one of the 5 Virtual Reality Film’s selected to be screened at TIFF. The other 4 enteries are from United States of America and Canada. The film also marks to be India’s first ever VR film and one of the first VR narrative documentaries in the world.
“We want to use VR to help collapse the barrier of ‘otherness’ between the viewer and the audiences,” says the Executive Producer of the VR film, Anand Gandhi, “because, afterall, in a deeply interconnected world, there is no ‘other’.”
Despite a High Court directive upholding women’s right to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Hindu temples, conservative forces were still obstructing women from entering the inner premises. A group of women activists decided to combat the regressive patriarchy and stormed into the inner chamber of the temple of Trimbakeshwar in Nashik, India, in April this year. Challenging the notion of the impurity of women, and an archaic 450-year-old tradition based on it, they were seeking to exercise their right to pray against the will of the system and the people.
“I felt certain that we just have to capture this historical moment in VR”, says director of Right to Pray,KhushbooRanka. “I am an atheist but I was drawn to this story,and I wondered why I cared if women were not being allowed in the sanctum sanctorum? I kept thinking about what was motivating these women. They wanted to touch, consecrate and author sacredness for themselves. And they were facing intense resistance from some very decent people. Is this where it all begins then? If “god” doesn’t want to be touched by women, and prefers the “purity of men”, it is only natural for people to follow suit and do the same in their own homes and families. Afterall, they are only human.”
Right to Pray is the first of a series that Memesys plans to release as a part of its mixed reality magazine ElseVR. To be published online as a quarterly, the magazine will feature essays and stories powered by Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, giving the viewers the ability to go inside the story. It will bring together the comprehensive quality of prose and the immediacy of film with the intimacy of VR. To this end, the magazine aims to bring together formidable filmmakers and writers.
“This was the first film we commissioned, and is part of our launch issue” says ShubhangiSwarup, the Executive Editor of ElseVR, and also the writer of the story. “Increasingly, we are seeing unlawful forces operating in the garb of guardians of culture and tradition, and this story exposes the hypocrisy. It needs a wider audience and exposure, now more so than ever.”
KhushbooRanka, who is also the Editor-in-chief of ElseVR, will have two of her films premiered at TIFF this year (a first for an Indian filmmaker) – Right to Pray and the long-awaited non-fiction political thriller An Insignificant Man. Directed by Ranka and VinayShukla, An Insignificant Man chronicles the spectacular rise of ArvindKejriwal from a social activist to a controversial politician.
Right to Pray
Director – KhushbooRanka
Producer – VinayShukla
Writer – Shubhangi Swarup
Executive Producer – Anand Gandhi
Creative Director – ZainMemon
Memesys Culture Lab is a cinema and new media studio at the intersection of science, philosophy and culture. We aim to interpret and demystify current breakthroughs in our understanding of the self and the universe, by actively participating in cinema, literature, pedagogy, technology, art, scientific and philosophical research, and actions of significant social impact.
A disruptive idea in narrative non fiction and journalism – granting the audience an entry “into” the story, collapsing the barrier between the viewer and the subject, and making the experience of the narrative simultaneously objective and subjective. ELSEVR, the VR documentary platform from Memesys, will tell extraordinary and urgent stories through virtual reality. There will be great focus on extremely relevant stories, ignored by the mainstream media. Virtual Reality will allow a translation of complex and abstract data into intuitive experiences. The VR narratives will very often end in calls to action, allowing the audiences an opportunity to become the news, themselves.