Startup Hack the Planet is getting ready to launch its latest project, Meet the Soldier. It’s a 3D and virtual reality film with a humanitarian cause – the first of its kind in the world. At ImpactCity, we are staunch supporters of Hack the Planet and have been convinced of their versatility since long. Their film Meet the Soldier goes to prove just how multi-talented they are. We checked in with founder Tim Van Deursen to hear their latest.
Meet the Soldier is a 3D and virtual reality documentary film that aims to encourage empathy between long-time enemies. Northeast Uganda takes center stage in the film. Scarcity of food and water in the region results in tensions between the different tribes that inhabit it. Violence is a fact of life here and hostilities can resurge at any time.
Virtual reality film does the unthinkable
The film focuses on two conflicted tribes and zooms in on two specific warriors. The film has been shot entirely in 3D and 360-degree. In real life, it is unthinkable that these two enemies would meet. Due to this film, they will now get acquainted virtually.
This makes Meet the Soldier an altogether new initiative. “The reason we have chosen to make a virtual reality film is because we are eager to put people in an environment that is entirely foreign to them,” Hack the Planet founder Tim Van Deursen says. “When watching, people will feel like they are actually there. It will enhance their experience tremendously.”
Last August, the team flew to Entebbe, a town near the Ugandan capital of Kampala, and got to work. They travelled to Moroto District, a twelve-hour drive from Kampala. There, they set up a studio to collect footage of the warriors. “The warriors that ended up in the virtual reality film turned out to love the camera we put up in our improvised studio,” Tim says.
“Despite the long days, starting early in the morning and continuing until late in the evening, the warriors kept going and told us all their stories. They were stories about their lives in general, and specifically, about the conflicts they were a part of in their life time,” Tim shares.
“We had been in touch with Mensen met een Missie for a while, when we eventually started brainstorming about the Meet the Soldier concept,” Tim explains. “Mensen met een Missie has an enormous network, as it supports local initiatives around the world. We were excited to tap into it.”
“What’s more, Mensen met een Missie went above and beyond to turn our envisioned project into a reality. We travelled to Uganda with a Dutch team of Mensen met een Missie. Without them and their networks, making this movie wouldn’t have been possible,” he adds.
Creative agency Wolfstreet, and director Teddy Cherim in particular, added their own unique competencies to the mix. “They took our project to another level,” Tim says. “Prior to leaving for Uganda, we talked extensively about what we wanted the movie to convey, how we wanted it to make people feel. It’s been a great journey to see how this type of collaboration can propel a project like ours. There’s been many moments where I had goosebumps, realizing our project was just getting better and better as we moved along.”
How it all started
The seed that was to become Meet the Soldier was planted years ago. “When I was a young boy there were many things I didn’t understand about society,” Tim elaborates, “but the one thing that really stuck with me was why people would hurt and destroy each other.”
“If people could love their own children and do anything for them, how could it be that so many conflicts and wars were being fought and so many lives were being lost? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. What would happen if two warriors could just sit down together and listen to each other?” he adds.
And then it struck him. “During a meeting at Leiden University about two years ago, a woman called Ines told me about her research on virtual empathy. She said studies demonstrate that using virtual reality is an effective way for a person to relate to and develop empathy for someone else,” Tim says.
“It struck me like lighting,” he adds. “I always viewed virtual reality as something that was merely cool to toy around with, but never thought it could actually change another person. Now I realized that immersing a person in a situation through virtual reality could make them truly gain insight into someone or something in a very real way. This is huge.”
Interested to stay-up-to-date on Hack the Planet’s virtual reality film Meet the Soldier? Will it encourage real reconciliation in an altogether new way? Keep an eye on their progress by checking into their website or by following them on Facebook.