The UNCCD’s Virtual Reality (VR) film, Growing a World Wonder, has been awarded ‘Best Documentary’ at the Screen4All 360 Film Festival in Paris. An international Jury, headed by the actress Julie Gayet, selected the film from a final shortlist of 18 other submissions and hundreds of original entries.
The film, which first premiered to world leaders at COP21 in Paris last year, focuses on the Great Green Wall – an African-led initiative which aims to restore vast swathes of degraded land across the Sahel and drastically improve the living conditions of millions of people. The initiative, which was launched in 2007 by the African Union, now boasts the involvement of more than 20 African countries supported by an array of international development partners including the UNCCD.
Told through the eyes of an 8 year-old girl called Binta, the VR Film follows the progress of a community in Senegal – one of many thousands of villages across the Sahel who are implementing the project. It explores the challenges they face and shows how the Wall is already transforming their lives for the better – growing a lasting response to the encroaching threats of climate change, migration, food security and mass unemployment.
'We are delighted to win this award, which we hope will boost publicity and help gain new activists in advancing the fight against deadly desertification,’ said Ms Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary. ‘Our ambition was to find a radical new way of transporting people from across the globe to the frontline of one of this century’s most urgent challenges. Through the 'Growing a world wonder' VR experience, people everywhere can witness first hand Africa’s Great Green Wall – an extraordinary movement that is changing millions of lives, helping to turn desperation and despair into the hope of a brighter future'.
Director, Richard Nockles, further explained, ‘We travelled to Koyli Alpha village in Senegal, home of the Fulani people, to hear their stories and share them with the world. To tell the story, we used drones, zip wires and steadicam shots that had never been tried before in documentary VR format. The technology puts you at ground level, exploring this unique environment, with sights and sounds wherever you look.’
The award comes at a time when public awareness about the Great Green Wall is soaring. Earlier this summer, footage from the VR film was shown at the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics, as part of the Dame Judi Dench narrated film on environmental conservation to a televised audience of 1 billion people. In early October, the global media giant, Sky, selected the film for the high-profile launch of their new app catapulting the Great Green Wall into the public mainstream alongside other content by major brands on topics ranging from Formula One, Star Wars, David Beckham, Disney's The Jungle Book and the Tour Du France.
The growing public momentum promises to attract new investment opportunities that benefit communities across the Sahel. It also raises the prospect that one day the Great Green Wall will stand as the largest living structure on Earth – an enduring legacy for future generations.
Watch the film and learn more about the initiative