May 27

New Experience, Reframe Iran Documents Artists In Exile

A particularly intriguing question regarding virtual reality is how the medium might transform visual journalism. While while so many experiences explore the visual boundaries of what is possible, a small cadre of (then) journalism students at Columbia have inadvertently made a virtual reality documentary that’s very existence explores this concept.

Scene from Reframe Iran

Reframe Iran is an experience that takes place in the studios of eight Iranian artists. The audience is allowed to drop in on some of the artists’ most intimate moments– while they are working – or engaged in conversation, as a cohesive story emerges about Iranian identity and the heavy burden these artists carry to represent Iran while living in exile from their country.

The creators, including director João Inada, writer Matteo Lonardi and producer Alexandra Glorioso, were graduate students at the Columbia School of Journalism when they began searching for a story. Lonardi, who had a BFA in photography, had previously been doing artist portraits and it was from there that they expanded the project into Reframe Iran.

“We kind of zeroed in and decided we wanted to do a media narrative on Iran because it seemed like it was the most misconstrued place in the media,” explains producer Alexandra Glorioso.

Behind the scenes of Reframe Iran

Soon after they were awarded a grant from the Brown Institute,  a joint venture between Columbia and Stanford designed to fund innovative media projects that will disrupt the journalism field. Next they were approached by VR camera company, Jaunt, asking if they would be interested in doing their project as virtual reality.

“We had never actually thought about that,”  Glorioso says, “We didn’t know how the virtual reality would turn out. So we decided to do simple things where a lot of VR projects get kind of out there quickly. We thought, lets strip this back to really interesting studios and interviews. What you end up with is being with us while we are with the artists. The whole thing really feels like an ongoing conversation.  And then you have a voice over that ties it all together. I think it works really well for what it is.”

Scene from Reframe Iran
Scene from Reframe Iran

They initially presented the experience at  Columbia on several occasions. Since then, Reframe Iran has been showcased as part of  Kaleidoscope’s 2015 North American Tour and their 2016 World Tour through Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

“People seem to have two different reactions, “  Glorioso says. “Some just love it and they think it’s incredibly beautiful and moving. The other reaction tends to come from other filmmakers who hate it. One guy yelled at me because we didn’t do anything cool with the VR.”

Glorioso says she wants to work in virtual reality again and tell more nonlinear stories using data visualization in multiple dimensions. “ I think it would translate well and look really beautiful,” she says.

Download Transport and watch Reframe Iran today on Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive!