by Andra Moldav
Meeting A Monster is a short film directed by Gabriela Arp that tells the story of a girl named Angela King who lived in, and came out the other side of, the American white power movement. The film uses audio recordings, dramatic re-enactments and present-day footage to take us through the eight years Angela spent in the white power movement, and the path she took to get out. “Meeting A Monster” premiered at Tribeca Film Festival this year as part of its Cinema 360: VR For Good Creators Lab. It is more than a short film, it is an experience.
“Meeting A Monster” was shot in 360, so we don’t just watch the story passively but we are immersed in it from start to finish. Although as a viewer we don’t experience the story from the protagonist (Angela’s) point of view, we do occupy the same space. We watch Angela go through her life experiences from the same room, seeing and hearing the people around her as if they were around you too. As a viewer we are both spectator and spacial participant in Angela’s story.
In the trailer, we see her story starts out with an experience that can be that of any adolescent, anywhere: the need to belong. Angela narrates her thoughts, feeling, memories from a place that is both “off screen” and all around. We hear Angela say she feels ugly, worthless, unlovable, and all around us we see her classmates walk by her as she sits alone at her desk. We are seeing the room from right next to Angela and feeling left out from the conversations of her classmates along with her.
We are also in the room with Angela when she practices fighting moves, with a shaved head in front of a confederate flag. We can look around the room and see the objects she has collected. Things are dark for her and they are dark for us as well. We stand next to her as she looks in the mirror, her inner monologue filling the space. This isn’t just a story, we are not watching Angela’s journey, we are her shadow travel companions. You can see the full trailer here, and experience it for yourself.
“Meeting A Monster” was made in collaboration with Life After Hate, a non-profit organization founded and staffed by former extremists committed to helping others like them disengage from cycles of violence and hatred. Founded in 2011, the organization has been at the forefront of of the national strategy to interrupt violence committed in the name of ideological and religious beliefs. You can learn more about them or how to get involved by going to their website.
Life After Hate tackles radicalization, and the violence and hatred it involves, through interventions, academic research, outreach and education. A film like “Meeting A Monster” perhaps gets in there before the cycle of violence and hatred even begins. By immersing its audience in a story like Angela King’s, VR/360 is in the position to connect someone who is feeling alone, unwanted and angry to an experience that takes them through and outside of a destructive cycle. Have you had heart-opening, mind bending experiences with VR/360, where your perspective was changed from having participated? Let us know!