Eline Jongsma & Kel O'Neill win inaugural VISIONARY AWARD

For virtual reality project The Ark

Dutch-American filmmaking team ELINE JONGSMA and KEL O’NEILL have been named winners of the inaugural Visionary Award from the Tim Hetherington Trust.  Jongsma and O’Neill were selected from 64 artists nominated for the award by a team of international leaders in filmmaking, multimedia and the arts across five continents.  Their project The Ark caught the imagination of the jury for its embrace of innovative media that is both accessible and effective in communicating a complex but important story.

The Ark is a virtual reality documentary that immerses viewers in parallel stories of the African and American teams of rangers and scientists fighting to conserve the world’s last five remaining northern white rhinoceros.  The documentary explores how their conservation tactics harness different technologies and reflect diverse cultural perspectives that reveal contradictions and connections between two seemingly unrelated cultures engaged in a shared mission.

The project is created for mobile virtual reality platforms (Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR) and is designed to test the narrative and immersive capabilities of this emerging medium. At the core of The Ark are the stories of two groups of people on opposite sides of the world. VR gives audiences the opportunity to stand alongside both of these two groups, and to explore their environments.

Speaking about The Ark, Kel O’Neill said, “This is a human story and it’s our interest to build bridges, by virtue of the technology we’re using, between cultures that wouldn’t otherwise meet.”  Stephen Mayes, Executive Director of the Tim Hetherington Trust, points to a quotation from his last conversation with Tim that demonstrates how closely this project fulfills Tim’s ambition as a communicator: “I want to record world events, big History told in the form of a small history, the personal perspective that gives my life meaning and significance. My work is all about building bridges between myself and the audience.” 

Daniel Meadows, one of the five judges, commented, “This is very strong work at the cutting edge of technology, a thoroughly contemporary version of the Victorian stereoscope, that will do the Tim Hetherington Trust proud.  Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill will be terrific ambassadors for what the Trust is trying to achieve with the Visionary Award.”

As part of the award, the Tim Hetherington Trust will sponsor a mentor to work with the artists to expand their abilities and to help develop the project to even higher levels.  The Trust is proud to announce that NONNY DE LA PENA has accepted this role and will work with Jongsma & O’Neill over the next 18 months to create the dynamic project that delivers everything The Ark proposal promises.  Known by some as “the godmother of virtual reality” Nonny de la Peña is a pioneer of immersive journalism with a number of groundbreaking projects to her name and more in process with the new company The Emblematic Group where she serves as CEO.  

The Tim Hetherington Trust thanks THE MAGNUM FOUNDATION for their energy and advice in managing the award.

IMAGE: Frozen Cells From Endangered Species, San Diego Zoo, 2014 (Scout image from The Ark)

Eline Jongsma & Kel O'Neill win inaugural VISIONARY AWARD