In April 2014, 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram from their school in Chibok, Borno. Although the world has begun to forget, a Nigerian filmmaker and videographer, Joel Kachi Benson, tells a part of the story via the immersive technique of virtual reality to remind us of this event. Two days ago, his innovative 360° virtual reality documentary film, Daughters of Chibok, won the Lion Award for Best Virtual Reality Story at the closing ceremony of the 76th Venice Film Festival.
In a recent interview with CNN Africa, Joel explained that he was motivated to find out for himself what happened and is still happening in Chibok. When he arrived in the Chibok community, Borno, he was shocked to find that many of the mothers whose daughters had been kidnapped had received no psychosocial support since the incident in 2014. His story in the documentary film Daughters of Chibok focuses on the day to day anguish of the mothers who have been left behind. 107 girls made it back home to their families in the years following the kidnapping, but 112 of those girls are still missing. The story of one mother in particular, Yana Galang, is at the centre of Joel’s film. Yana Galang is a woman leader in her community among the mothers of missing girls. Her daughter is still missing. Every month she washes and folds her daughters clothes, sustaining the hope that her daughter will come back.
Joel Kachi Benson is the founder and Creative Director of independent production studio JB Multimedia, a Lagos-based company that creates and presents Nigerian stories from unique perspectives. He is drawn to the documentary style of filmmaking and is passionate about telling real stories. In recent years, he has spent time traveling within the northeastern states of Nigeria, documenting the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on the lives of Nigerians in those communities. His previous documentary film, In Bakassi, debuted at the Cairo International Film Festival in November 2018. In Bakassi is a film about the realities of struggle and survival that children in Maiduguri IDP camps are forced to live through. Joel believes that the biggest victims of Boko Haram insurgency are children.
Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create artificial situations that can feel very real to a viewer. When a viewer puts on a VR headset, they are able to interact with technologically enhanced moments, characters and locations that feel almost life-like. Through virtual reality films, Joel is able to give an audience the ‘experience’ of the people and places he documents. His latest film, the awarded Daughters of Chibok, was screened publicly in April this year at Falomo Under Bridge, Ikoyi; Muri Okunola Park, Victoria Island; and JJ Tinubu Park, Alausa. The film was also screened at the British Council, Lagos, in June.
For Joel and his team, sharing the story of Yana Danang and the mothers in Chibok goes beyond the art of storytelling. They intend to raise money and attract help to the arid Chibok communities where most of these mothers are farmers struggling to cope with primitive tools. In a moving acceptance speech at the 76th Venice Film Festival, Joel Kachi Benson said:
“I stand here today representing my country Nigeria and my continent Africa as proof that all you need to get up there is faith and courage to go out there and tell the stories that matter.”
Featured Image Source: The Eagle Online