Storytelling and innovation studio Al Jazeera Contrast, part of the digital division of Al Jazeera Media Network, announced on 13 December that Still Here – an immersive multimedia installation in which formerly imprisoned women collaborate to explore urgent issues surrounding incarceration, erasure and gentrification – will premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the New Frontier program.
The visceral experiences of over twelve formerly incarcerated women who have re-entered society are at the core of Still Here, which was conceived as an interactive audio, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experience by Al Jazeera Contrast head and lead creator Zahra Rasool and journalist Sarah Springer, along with a team of creatives from the New York City community.
Told cinematically, and through the lens of a fictional character named Jasmine Smith, who returns to Harlem after 15 years in prison, the narrative is crafted together with women who have spent time in prison and are part of Women’s Prison Association (WPA).
According to Al Jazeera, Still Here represents “a pioneering transmedia approach to storytelling and signifies a new direction in collaborative and community-centered, immersive journalism”.
“Providing direct access to personal stories and voices that matter is at the heart of our mission, and we are thrilled that the Sundance Film Festival recognizes the importance of inclusion and the necessity to democratize the creative process and push the boundaries of traditional narratives,” Rasool said in a statement.
“As a digital news media organization, we are charged with a responsibility to bring the world’s most pressing and crucial stories to life in compelling and impactful ways,” added Carlos Van Meek, Director of Digital Innovation and Programming for Al Jazeera Digital.
“This first-time selection by the Sundance Film Festival is an honor and signifies a new level of international recognition for the groundbreaking content the Al Jazeera Contrast team are creating,” he said.
Since launching in 2017, Al Jazeera Contrast has received multiple international awards, including an Emmy nomination in the “Outstanding New Approaches: Current News” category, alongside the New York Times, Time Magazine, and the Center for Investigative Reporting for Yemen’s Skies of Terror.
Rasool’s team is the only all-female news team specializing in immersive technology and the nomination marked the first time Al Jazeera Digital has been recognized in the News and Documentary Emmy competition.