First Ever Holocaust Survivor Testimony in Room-Scale Virtual Reality to World Premiere at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 9:00am

Virtual reality lab LightShed, in partnership with USC Shoah Foundation, MPC VR, OTOY, Inc., and HERE BE DRAGONS, proudly announce the world premiere of the first-ever Holocaust survivor testimony in room-scale VR, THE LAST GOODBYE, at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T. The experience will premiere within the Festival’s cutting edge new media program, Tribeca Immersive, in the Storyscapes section, running April 21st through April 29th, 2017.

In The Last Goodbye, powerful testimony of the tragedy of the Holocaust is preserved for the first time in poignant, room-scale VR, as survivor Pinchas Gutter takes audiences with him on his final visit to Majdanek Concentration Camp where his parents and sister were murdered during World War II.

"It has been an honor to be able to help share and preserve Pinchas' testimony in virtual reality for future generations," said co-creative director Gabo Arora. "With intolerance and xenophobia on the rise again, and the worst refugee crisis since WW2, his story, and those of countless victims has never been more important or relevant."

"Today when I see suffering of genocide victims and refugees, I feel their pain. I want my testimony to speak to the world to help avoid that pain. If my interactive (VR) testimony can be a warning to the world, it would make my sharing of my own pain worthwhile." - Pinchas Gutter

The team traveled with Gutter to Poland this summer to capture tens of thousands of photos and hours of 3D video on site, to create an experience that enables viewers to virtually walk with Gutter as he tours the railway car, gas chamber, shower room and barracks of Majdanek. The groundbreaking collaboration of the industry’s top talent integrated a capture pipeline created by OTOY with HERE BE DRAGONS’ 3D video testimony and brought to life with dozens of photogrammetry artists and engineers from MPC.

Tim Dillon, Head of VR & Immersive Content at MPC said, “Our ambition is to push the needle on what’s possible within a narrative and room scale mix, in a documentary format. We’re faithfully recreating the rooms of the Majdanek camp so you can inhabit them with Pinchas, you can feel his story by being there with him, eye to eye.”

“The power of VR is transportive and immersive. To achieve true presence in a place such as the Majdanek Concentration Camp, the senses must be fully engaged so one feels fully engrossed within the space they’re inhabiting,” said Patrick Milling Smith, president and co-founder, HERE BE DRAGONS. “It was important that we go beyond spherical 360 video for this particular piece to allow the viewer to physically walk around and experience the camp with real agency. This freedom of movement contributes to an even more powerful sense of presence while heightening the emotional impact.”

The photoreal experience presents a new way of capturing truth for the future, encouraging viewers to explore the spaces it brings to life. Gutter stands inside each vivid environment recounting his heartbreaking story of suffering and loss, which ends as a testament to the strength of the human heart and the enduring twin powers of hope and perseverance.

“Just as USC Shoah Foundation forged new frontiers by amassing the world’s largest searchable archive of video testimony from genocide survivors, so too are we proud to be a part of this pioneering project,” said Smith, executive director of USC Shoah Foundation. “But as technologically different as the two formats are, the goal is the same: to use one person’s story to inspire compassion and warn against the perils of intolerance. At its core ‘The Last Goodbye’ is a message in a bottle, placed in the long stream of time for future generations. The message is simple: Don’t let this happen.”

THE LAST GOODBYE was co-created by award-winning filmmaker Gabo Arora and Ari Palitz, produced by Arora and Stephen Smith, the executive director of USC Shoah Foundation, and co-produced by HERE BE DRAGONS, MPC VR and OTOY, in partnership with LightShed and USC Shoah Foundation. An original soundtrack is being helmed by audio director Dražen Bošnjak of Q Department. Spatial sound powered by Mach1. 3D stereo stitching by 3D paint\FX.

Go to press release

Photo by Kate Wurzbacher; Courtesy of The Last Goodbye. Pinchas Gutter at Majdanek Concentration Camp-during the filming of The Last Goodbye