What: NEWF2020 Congress When: October 25-30, 2020 Where: Online Platform: www.newf.co.za  Programme: Talks, networking, films Info: info@newf.co.za or WhatsApp 064 294 0669  Intro video: https://vimeo.com/440947963     

Did you watch My Octopus Teacher on Netflix- the South African blockbuster documentary about a man who has a mid-life crisis and bonds with an octopus. (It is directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed and stars Craig Foster, who produced the film.) The film captivated audiences. If you are a filmmaker with an interest nature/environment , don’t miss the NEWF congress-  the Nature, Environment & Wildlife Filmmakers Congress which is online, because you know why. Let’s not mention the C-19 word. NEWF2002 is streaming from Durban and the invitation is for participants to inhabit their avatars and attend the congress, in real-time, represented by their avatars. Headsets on and off you go. Registered delegates will be loaned a VR headset or provided access to a desktop app which facilitates avatar entry into the NEWF Congress.  Yup, you need to reel into an avatar in order to participate. If you don’t have one, get cracking.

The organisers want NEWF2020 to be an exciting experience.  We must embrace virtual reality and inhabit it. NEWF has gone all out to bring innovative ways of interfacing and engaging, through VR. Pragna Parsotam-Kok, executive director, NEWF Congress, says: “NEWF is known for the sense of community felt at the Congress and so we chose not to offer an online platform and decided to host NEWF2020 in a virtual world. “We are using Social VR which allows the avatars of delegates to literally attend in various locations – for example, networking will take place at a watering hole; the panel discussions will be at an outdoor amphitheatre in a forest, film screenings will be held in a cinema, with glass windows through which you can see the starry night sky and we are honoured to host the National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition in an underground cave. We have been working with great developers at Habitat XR who have designed and created an array of lifelike “worlds” for our avatars to inhabit.” 

One of the highlights of NEWF2020, will be the pitching session, where five film-makers will each win R50 000 to produce a short film around Nature, Environment & Wildlife.

Here is the info, supplied by NEWF2020:

Through an integrated slate of programmes NEWF is inspiring and incubating emerging science, nature, wildlife and conservation storytellers in digital media in Africa.  Dedicated to discovering the next generation of filmmakers, the N.E.W Pitch Competition will once again be held at NEWF2020 where five young film-makers will each win R50 000 to produce a short film.

An exciting component of this year’s Congress is Virtual Meets Reality where our broadcast partners will air selected films from the NEWF Congress programme, creating an additional daily platform for strategic audience development – reaching, impacting and activating public audiences around Africa. SABC 2’s 50|50 have been airing films since August and a NEWF Film Festival with broadcast on People’sWeather (DSTV channel 108), Africa’s first and only free 24/7 weather, environmental news and lifestyle channel during the week of #NEWF2020. 

“We are looking forward to sharing stories of hope during these uncertain times and whilst a partial physical event is possible we have taken the decision to proritise the safety of our delegates from around the globe and rather connect in a re-imagined virtual NEWF world. We will announce the full programme and speakers soon.”

NEWF2020 is supported by the National Film and Video Foundation, National Geographic Society, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, Gauteng Film Commission, PBS, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, Habitat, People’sWeather and Jackson Wild and the SABC.

Image credit: NEWF’s management team’s Marcia Buwa tries on the headset for size. Image supplied.