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June 21, 2018

Spotlight on Lupita as Samburu virtual reality film premieres in New York

Actress Lupita Nyong'o arrives at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles, California, April 13, 2014. /REUTERS
Actress Lupita Nyong'o arrives at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles, California, April 13, 2014. /REUTERS

A virtual reality film shot in Samburu county and narrated by actress Lupita Nyong'o will premiere on Friday at the prestigious annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

'My Africa" transports viewers to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, the first elephant orphanage in Africa owned and operated by the local community inside Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy,.

"[The people are seeking to] reignite the traditional bonds that have long enabled them to coexist harmoniously with wildlife," Conservation International said in a statement.

The film directed by four-time Emmy winner David Allen presents a gripping experience of the community’s work of caring for rescued baby elephants orphaned by poachers, left behind by their herds or injured in accidents such as falling into wells.

Read: Why Kenya’s new wildlife task force is a step in the right direction

Also read: Africa’s great migrations are failing but there is a solution

The animals are released back to the wild once they can survive on their own.

In the movie, young woman named Naltwasha Leripe also tells viewers about their lifestyle that includes herding and digging "singing" wells deep into dry riverbanks.

Conservation International said the screening is expected to shine the global spotlight on Kenya.

About three million people are expected to attend the festival between April 20 and 28, a marketing boost for Kenya.

Conservation International produced the film with nature documentary maker Passion Pictures and virtual reality creators Vision3, with funding from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation and distribution support from Glassybaby.

'My Africa' will be released worldwide in seven languages on April 30.

“This film shows a new way, one that unites rather than divides people from wildlife. Today, conservation is not about building fences but rather breaking down barriers, so that local communities benefit when nature thrives,” project Executive Producer CEO M Sanjayan.

Sanjayan said the virtual reality approach is bringing the nature documentary into the 21st century and is aimed at growing new levels of support for conservation.

"Virtual reality can give viewers that in-depth experience that is needed to build empathy and, we hope, inspire action," he said.

Senior Vice President for Conservation International, Michael Onyeka, said 'My Africa’ will help beam the light on the critical role that frontline indigenous communities play in protecting Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems.

The project comes at a critical time for East Africa's wildlife. Poaching, land degradation and climate change threaten the long-term survival of many of the region's most iconic species and strain the resources that people need to survive.

Related: [VIDEO] 'Mind-blowing, powerful': Exploring storytelling with the BBC through virtual reality

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