- In 2015, the Goethe Institutes in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria invited me down south for a Virtual Reality (VR) workshop during the African Futures Festival.
- I had never worked with virtual reality but Steven Markowitz of Electric South whom we worked with on (the web series) Tuko Macho held my hand.
- The plan was that the workshop participants were to create films within a year and that’s how we came up with Let this Be A Warning.
The-Nairobi based The Nest Collective is a group invested in film, music, fashion, visual arts and literature. Some of their works include award winning projects like the movie Stories of Our Lives and the web series Tuko Macho. Their latest production is the virtual reality movie Let This Be A Warning, shot in Syokimau and Magadi, that features a futuristic world with only black people. JAMES MURUA spoke to Jim Chuchu after the film premiered in Nairobi.
BUZZ: Tell me about your new movie, Let This Be A Warning. How did it come about?
Jim Chuchu: In 2015, the Goethe Institutes in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria invited me down south for a Virtual Reality (VR) workshop during the African Futures Festival. I had never worked with virtual reality but Steven Markowitz of Electric South whom we worked with on (the web series) Tuko Macho held my hand. The plan was that the workshop participants were to create films within a year and that’s how we came up with Let this Be A Warning. We were thinking at the time about “Black Worlds” which was the theme of the Berlinale (film festival) where the movies were supposed to end up.
People use this term, “Black Worlds,” a lot in art and literature circles, but we felt like there wasn’t enough thinking about what exactly a black world means and all the political, historical things that were required to happen for it to exist. So we created this piece, in the future, where a black world exists and the viewer who wears this VR head piece is an intruder who has just landed. We wanted to explore the idea of what it felt like; it felt like a mirror of what might have happened when Vasco Da Gama landed on the East African coast or all these guys who are entering these black worlds. We however tell it from a contemporary place where it is a little uncomfortable as we all know that the Vasco Da Gama’s and Christopher Columbus’s came with many things that maybe were not so good.
It was shown in Kenya and South Africa. How has it been received?
It has also been shown in a VR festival in Germany and Italy. The piece plays differently depending on who you are when you wear the VR head piece. If you are a black person, you don’t feel confronted because it’s like the guys are speaking for you, almost doing it on your behalf. When white people wear the piece it is a little more uncomfortable for them because one of the characters in the piece directly attacks white bodies. It has been a conversation starter.
How are people reacting to the VR concept in general?
Some people are concerned about the environment because when it’s your first time, you are still aware that you exist in this other space which is the real world. So it’s like you are sitting on a chair and you are watching the film and you are also concerned about what is happening around you. Some people are shy about looking around or exploring the world inside, or really engaging, because they feel like they will take it off and find someone documenting them. It is disorienting.
I also noticed that when it was screening in Berlin, the very nature of film festivals and VR presentations clash. With films, you want to do a premiere, you want to have a red carpet and you want to have a ceremony. With VR you can’t have any of that because eventually everyone has to watch on their own in a little room and start the movie at different times. There is an odd kind of shift that is happening.