After teaming with Black Panther star Winston Duke to put people in a virtual reality police traffic stop scenario, former Obama special advisor Van Jones is teaming with Marvel movie star Brie Larson for a sexual harassment episode of his virtual reality film series, The Messy Truth.
Jones’ first VR project, starring Black Panther player Winston Duke, put viewers virtually in the place of a small boy sitting in the front seat of a car as his father (Duke) is pulled over, racially profiled, and harassed by a white police officer. The episode won the Advanced Imaging Society’s Social Justice Lumiere Award last year. It also won an Emmy award for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media. Jones also showcased the police profiling VR simulation at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference.
“Getting the Emmy nomination was a trip because we’re so scrappy,” Jones said of the small budget project. “For it to get that kind of acknowledgment is just amazing,” he added.
The next project will put viewers in a small restaurant as they watch Captain Marvel star Brie Larson portray a waitress who becomes a victim of sexual harassment.
The Messy Truth director, Elijah Allan-Blitz, insisted that the film experience “could just change the world” because it puts viewers in the film via the VR headsets they wear to watch it. Allan-Blitz and Jones call the system an “empathy machine” because it can make the experience more intimate.
“When Elijah and I first spoke, it was, I think our first ever conversation was about empathy. And I realized that I could take what I was already doing a step further with this project,” Larson said of her role in Jones’ VR film. “I make movies to be an empathy machine. I believe that when you’re sitting in a theater, it doesn’t matter how many friends or family members you’re with, you are alone, and you become one with whoever it is you’re watching, and I’ve found it to be a true marker when films are getting watched, when they’re successful when they’re being talked about.”
Despite the ideologically charged topics, Jones insists that his VR film series is not propaganda.
As Yahoo rationalized this way, “The goal of this particular project and this specific use of media, says Jones, is not to tell someone how to feel or think, or to sensationalize an event, but instead to allow an individual to experience a scenario themselves in order to reveal an authentic and empathetic response.”
“The truth has a way of uniting people,” Jones said.
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