Ukrainian Lisa Weeda and Dutch Nienke Huitinga were at HFM to present their VR project Rozsypne, which combines the experience of war in Ukraine with the downing of Flight MH17.
During their presenation Weeda explained that, a little while after the airline crash, she was asked at a party in The Netherlands what the people in Ukraine thought of the tragedy. It seemed to her a stupid question as the Ukrainians were experiencing their own tragedy in the form of an ongoing war.
At NFF 2016 she met future collaborator Huitinga. “I told her about this story and how, as a writer, I really love to work with other media. I have done a photobook. I do some transmedia projects for festivals. And Nienke said to me, maybe we can make this story a little bit more about perspective.”
Huitinga takes up the tale, telling how they embarked on a VR together with two tech artists and two developers. The VR centres on an old lady called Nina, a resident of the town of Rozsypne who is living her daily life with a war going on, and with the wreckage of the plane at her doorstep. “We are doing it independently and it is basically growing on blood, sweat and tears and happiness”, as well as support from the Dutch Literary Foundation and the Utrecht City Council.
“The reason we chose to bring this to you in VR has to do with the fact that we felt there should be a different way of experiencing a piece of history that has really impacted us.”
Huitinga stresses. “On the one hand words can create a world in your head, and television and news visuals can of course give you reference of a country that feels far away, but is actually not that far away at all. Kiev is just as far away as Madrid, I discovered when starting this project.”
The Russian, English and Dutch-language VR experience is 10 minutes duration. In Utrecht the pair are looking for funding, sales and distribution and hopefully some connection in Eastern Europe.
“We are very near the finish line,” confirmed Huitinga. “We will use these last two months to finalise our very last version of Rozsypne. We are looking for help with funding our sound design, but also to adapt it for the Oculus Quest.”
Adds Weeda: “When we were doing research on the MH17 we discovered that the nose of the plane came down near Rozsypne. We also found out that, when translated, Rozsypne means scattered, and for me as a writer and for us as a team this was the best metaphor for this whole project. The plane was scattered and the lives of the people in the war zone in Ukraine are scattered, and this is what we are trying to bring together in this VR piece.”
Written by Nick Cunningham