Sundance Film Festival Selects Across the Line, A Virtual Reality Film About Accessing Abortion
For Immediate Release: Dec. 4, 2015
Los Angeles, CA-- The Sundance Film Festival announced today that the virtual reality film Across the Line, an experience made in collaboration with Planned Parenthood Federation of America to help viewers understand what some women go through to access abortion services, will premiere at the world-renowned event held in Park City, Utah in January.
Co-created by Nonny de la Peña of Emblematic Group and Brad Lichtenstein and Jeff Fitzsimmons from 371 Productions/Custom Reality Services, Across the Line is a five-minute immersive virtual reality experience that places viewers in the shoes of a patient entering a health center for a safe and legal abortion. Using real audio gathered at protests, scripted scenes, and documentary footage, the film is a powerful hybrid documentary-fiction depiction of the toxic environment that many health care providers, health center staff, and patients must walk through to provide or access health care on a typical day. Planned Parenthood served as an executive producer and consulted on the film’s script.
"We’re proud to partner with the Emblematic Group and 371 Productions/Custom Reality Services on Across the Line. There’s never been a more important time to raise awareness about the very real experiences that some women face to access abortion services in this country,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president and chief experience officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Unfortunately, one of the lessons we learned from the awful tragedy in Colorado last week is that words matter, and hateful rhetoric fuels violence. This film is the first project of its kind, using the newest technology to bring people inside the experience of navigating vicious protests in order to access a legal medical procedure. At Planned Parenthood, our top priority is the safety and well-being of our patients and staff. Nobody should have to face harassment or threats in order to get health care services.”
This experience comes during a critical moment of attacks on women’s reproductive health and rights. In the past five years, states have enacted 282 abortion restrictions, and Congress has voted 18 times in 2015 to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care. More than half of American women of reproductive age now live in states where access to abortion is being restricted by their state legislatures.
Across the Line is part of ongoing efforts by Planned Parenthood and other sexual and reproductive health organizations to reduce stigma and change the conversation around safe and legal abortion. Nearly a third of women in America decide to end a pregnancy, and a woman's decision about her pregnancy should be respected and valued.
“Once we began to research and compile nonfiction footage and audio for this piece, we saw a consistent pattern of intimidation and provocation by protesters,” said Nonny de la Peña. “By putting the audience on scene, it offers an intimate and visceral understanding of what thousands of women face when they seek care at a Planned Parenthood. This virtual reality piece allows viewers the harrowing experience of trying to make it ‘across the line.’”
“My entire career has been devoted to putting the truth of people’s lives in front of audiences to spur them into action,” Brad Lichtenstein said. “This is my first foray into VR, a perfect medium to deliver a true sense of what it feels like to contend with judgment, harassment and attempts at manipulation just to access a health center. I think it’s important for men, too, to have this experience. It’s a glimpse into the conditions that can produce the kind of violence we saw in Colorado.”
Nonny de la Peña has been called “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” and Fast Company named her “One of the People Who Made the World More Creative” for her pioneering work in immersive journalism. As CEO of Emblematic Group, she uses cutting edge technologies to tell important stories—both fictional and news-based—that creates intense, empathic engagement on the part of viewers.
Brad Lichtenstein is president of 371 Productions, a company he founded in 2003 to make film, radio and technology projects that contribute to the common good. From the Emmy-nominated feature documentary As Goes Janesville to the Dupont award-winning film Ghosts of Attica, dubbed “a political thriller” by the New York Times, Brad is known for intimate, engaging documentary storytelling.
Jeff Fitzsimmons is an author, artist, technologist, entrepreneur and co-founder of the VR company Custom Reality Services. His work life has gone from pioneering video maker in Seattle's grunge scene to founder of HarQen, a next-generation voice technology company.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
December 03, 2015