In recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’re launching The Hidden, a powerful new documentary taking viewers on a daring raid to free a family enslaved in a rock quarry in India. Shot in collaboration with filmmaker Lindsay Branham and International Justice Mission, The Hidden is the latest 360° film project from the Oculus VR for Good Creators Lab and is available today as a free download on the Oculus Video app for Rift, Oculus Go, and Gear VR.
There are more people living in slavery today than at any other time in human history. “Over 20 million people are trapped in bonded or forced labor,” explains Branham. “I wanted to use VR to make these statistics real and personal by following one case: a family of nine trapped in slavery for 10 years—for the ludicrous sum of $70 USD.”
Through Creators Lab, an Oculus VR for Good program that pairs filmmakers with nonprofits, Branham collaborated with nonprofit International Justice Mission's Creative Director Vera Leung to create the new film. “As the Creative Director at IJM, it’s my role to define how best to communicate impactful stories that will drive people to take action on behalf of the vulnerable,” says Leung. “As part of the Creators Lab program, my hope is to raise awareness of the issues IJM is fighting through unique solutions.”
Together, Branham and IJM decided the most effective way to shift perception on the prevalence of slavery in the modern world was to draw people as close to the issue as possible—in this case, by inviting viewers to experience a rescue operation firsthand.
“I knew the unique experience IJM could provide was going on a rescue operation with our partners to free a family from slavery,” says Leung. “It was important to draw people closer to the issue through the experience of real families, dispelling the myth that slavery no longer exists. It was equally important for viewers to experience the hope and freedom that is possible.”
International Justice Mission is the largest international anti-slavery organization in the world, with offices in 11 countries across the developing world, all working together to fight slavery and human trafficking. Filming an actual raid proved challenging, but with extra sensitivity and a little patience, Branham and her partners at IJM were able to capture powerfully moving scenes to create the film.
“Filming a rescue operation is difficult for obvious reasons, like accidentally tipping off the mission or disrupting it entirely,” Branham explains. “We coordinated how the shoot would unfold down to the second—who to shadow and when, where the important investigative moments would take place, and how to blend into the background, even in VR.”
The result is an investigative VR documentary taking viewers through two active sites of slavery in southern India to free a family forced to work in a rock quarry. The youngest member of the family, a six-year-old girl named Ammu, was born into slavery.
“You get to witness as a family becomes free,” says Branham, “and that is not easily forgotten. Shifts of consciousness start with new vision, and I hope this film can amend the myth that slavery does not exist by showing you that it does, and that, yes, it can also end.”
— The Oculus Team