A hard-hitting virtual reality (VR) experience exploring the impact of sexual violence is being screened at the world’s largest documentary film festival.

With These Hands, by University of the West of Scotland (UWS) PhD researcher Tessa Ratuszynska, has been commissioned by International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).

Viewers don a VR headset, and are invited to listen to the first-hand perspectives of people who have experiences around sexual violence. Seated at a virtual table, the viewer listens to their stories; which include two original pieces of writing from survivors.

The film was created in close consultation with survivor’s group SLEEC, and was produced in part thanks to funding from the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) and Scottish Funding Council emerging researcher scheme. This allowed Tessa to spend time at the University of Malmo, and to work with the VR studio Khora in Copenhagen. 

Tessa, who is part of the UWS Immersive research group, said: “In With These Hands, viewers embody the hands of the people they are hearing talk – they represent that individual in the VR environment. I am truly honoured to share this work at such a well-known festival.”

A still from the VR film Kindred

ABOVE: Kindred was screened at the Venice Biennale Film Festival

It comes just weeks after a separate VR project produced by Tessa, Kindred, was screened at another prestigious international event – the Venice Biennale Film Festival.

Kindred tells the story of on aspirational parent’s journey as they navigate the various stages of adoption.

Both films deploy videogame technology to tell immersive, interactive stories.

Professor Nick Higgins, Director of the highly-regarded Creative Media Academy and Research Lead at UWS Immersive, added: “Tessa’s work tells complex and challenging stories in a nuanced and thoughtful way – and the use of VR here is a great example of the innovative approach to filmmaking and the creative industries adopted by many UWS researchers and staff”.

“I am delighted that audiences at two festivals of real magnitude has had the opportunity to experience these projects.”

Professor Higgins is executive producer of With These Hands.

Meanwhile, UWS MA Filmmaking tutors Paul Wright and Sam Firth will also see their work featured at this year’s IDFA.

Paul Wright’s Arcadia will be performed live for the first time, by musicians Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp). Sam Firth’s first person documentary, The Wolf Suit will screen in the documentary market for international distributors to view.