On 14 April 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a sleepy, northeastern Nigerian town called Chibok. While it made news around the world, some of the incumbant Nigerian politicians declared it fake news by the opposition party designed for embarrassment. The region wasn’t a safe place for local Nigerians to independently verify, and so it was a story that make Nigerian documentary filmmaker Joel Kachi Benson curious about what the truth actually was.
After being encouraged to learn how to produce cinamatic VR experiences by a client, Benson traveled to Chicago, Illinois in the United States to learn how to produce 360 video. Benson found himself near Chibok, and dropped in to start investigating and building trust with the community.
Benson ended up creating the cinematic VR piece Daughters of Chibok, which followed the story of a mother who lost her daughter to the Boko Haram kidnapping in 2014. His incredibly moving piece ended up winning the Best VR Immersive Story for Linear Content at the 2019 Venice Film Festival.
I had a chance to catch up with Benson in Venice to unpack his journey into VR, the larger geopolitical context of Boko Haram, the fake news dynamics, and his journey of building trust with the Chibok community, and the process of capturing the grief and loss of the parents of Chibok.
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