A virtual reality film "My Africa" showcasing community-led wildlife conservation in a remote area of Northern Kenya that was previously scarred by poaching, has emerged among the finalists in a global award.
The film narrated by Kenyan actress and Oscar award winner Lupita Nyong'o has been selected in the Jackson Hole Science Media Awards that celebrates the world’s most effective science storytellers and stories.
It is a finalist in the Virtual Reality/360° Storytelling category for “effectively using 360 technology to advance understanding of a scientific discipline, discovery or principle.”
More than 500 film entries from around the world competed in various categories.
At least 100 international judges screened an aggregated 1,250 hours of media before selecting the finalists.
The VR film was shot in Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya’s Samburu County, where the community has been rescuing and nurturing injured and orphaned baby elephants since 2016 before returning them to the wild.
The film provides an up-close experience of the life of a young Samburu woman Naltwasha Leripe who takes viewers through her community's daily life, tending livestock, digging "singing" wells deep into dry riverbanks and rescuing an orphaned baby elephant.
Reteti is the first community-owned elephant rescue centre in Africa.
It is part of the 394,000-hectare Namunyak Conservancy that is implementing a model of community-led conservation while reaping benefits from tourism.
The VR film was commissioned by the global non-profit Conservation International (CI) with the support of US-based Tiffany & Co. Foundation. CI is supporting community-led conservation in Northern Kenya in partnership with Northern Rangeland Trust.
Senior Vice President for Conservation International’s Africa Field Division Michael O’Brien-Onyeka said the film has successfully deployed the latest film-making technologies to tell the conservation story in a more compelling way.
“The film gives viewers an up-close and 3D experience of what community-led conservation of wildlife in a remote part of Kenya is all about. Hopefully, it’ll inspire a broader support for this model of conservation across Africa and the world,” he said.
The winners will be announced next month at a gala awards celebration in Boston, US, during the 2018 Science Media Awards & Summit in the Hub (SMASH18). It brings together science media stakeholders to celebrate exceptional media and explore new ways of communicating science to a global audience.
The 10-minute virtual reality film was released worldwide on April 30 in seven languages including English, French, Mandarin, Portuguese, Samburu, Spanish and Swahili after premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.