7 Days, 7 Docs, 360 Degrees: It’s VR Week at FRONTLINE


July 24, 2017

Over the past two years, FRONTLINE has produced a series of 360-degree and virtual reality (VR) documentaries transporting you to places you might never otherwise experience – from Greenland’s melting glaciers, to the eerie ruins of Chernobyl, to the inside of a solitary confinement cell.

Every day this week, we’re spotlighting one of these docs and sharing related, behind-the-scenes insights on our social channels (including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter), as well as right here in this post.

So, check back daily from July 24 to July 30, and join us where immersive video meets investigative journalism — no headset required.

Sunday, July 30: On the Brink of Famine

In February of this year, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of South Sudan. But the northeast African country has vast stretches of fertile land, and plentiful water. So why are millions of people going hungry? As On the Brink of Famine explores, South Sudan’s hunger crisis is man-made. Over the past three-plus years, a devastating civil war has forced hundreds of thousands of people to abandon their farmland and villages to escape the violence. In this immersive documentary released in partnership with the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, travel on a critical mission to drop food by plane to people trapped in swamplands, go inside a U.N. camp where thousands have fled in search of safety, and visit a clinic where Doctors Without Borders cares for children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Saturday, July 29: The Cost of College Debt

Americans hold approximately $1.3 trillion in student debt, and many people feel like they’re drowning in student loan payments. But some experts argue that the idea of a “crisis” is overblown. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal takes a 360-degree look at the student debt landscape, in this September 2016 video from FRONTLINE’s “How the Deck Is Stacked” collaboration with Marketplace and PBS NewsHour.

Friday, July 28: Hunt for the Inca Ruins & The Mercury Crisis

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon lies the ancestral home of an indigenous tribe known as the Harakmbut. The land is lush. It’s verdant. And it’s thought to contain a massive amount of natural gas. The fate of that land — and the people who have called it home for centuries — is the subject of Hunt for the Inca Ruins and The Mercury Crisis.

First, in Hunt for the Inca Ruins, cross rising rivers and scale dense and dangerous terrain with a member of the Harakmbut tribe as he searches for historical artifacts that could help make the case that the land should be off-limits to oil and gas companies.

Then, in The Mercury Crisis, go inside the battle over gold mining in the same region. Mercury — used by miners to bind gold flecks together — has caused a health crisis in the Harakmbut community. But in just one lucky day, miners can make half of Peru’s monthly minimum wage — and despite the risks, many in the Harakmbut community see the practice as their only financial opportunity.

Thursday, July 27: Battle for Mosul

Earlier this month, the Iraqi government claimed victory over ISIS in Mosul. But for the previous three years, the city — Iraq’s second-largest — had been under ISIS’s control. Last year, Iraqi-born reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad went inside Mosul to witness the grueling and deadly fight firsthand. In this immersive short documentary from FRONTLINE and The Guardian, see a panoramic view of vast oil fields that were set on fire by ISIS, journey inside a network of tunnels built by the terror group to shield its fighters from airstrikes, and visit a camp that’s become home to thousands of displaced civilians.

Wednesday, July 26: Why Is Greenland Melting?

Greenland’s glaciers are melting faster and faster. Why and what might it mean for the rest of the world? With support from The Knight Foundation, FRONTLINE, NOVA PBS, Emblematic Group and X-Rez teamed up to bring this story to life as never before, gaining unique access to NASA scientists as they embarked on an ambitious mission to the heart of the Arctic to seek answers. The warm air that comes into contact with the glaciers is one factor at play, but the NASA team has found a troubling development underwater as well. Step into — and fly over — the disappearing icy landscape in this 360° video. PLUS: If you’re in the Boston area, visit the Boston Public Library Café today between noon and 4 p.m. for an in-person demo of the full, walkaround VR experience.

Tuesday, July 25: Ebola Outbreak

Immerse yourself in the world of doctors and patients who fought the worst Ebola outbreak on record in this 360° video, filmed on the ground in West Africa at the height of the recent epidemic. You’ll visit the hollow tree in Guinea once home to hundreds of bats where villagers believe the epidemic began, and travel to Sierra Leone as the outbreak spreads. This 2015 documentary — FRONTLINE’s very first foray into VR — was a collaborative project with the content studio Secret Location and Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Monday, July 24: Return to Chernobyl 


The catastrophe at the Chernobyl power plant on April 26, 1986 remains the worst nuclear accident on record. Three decades later, a survivor of the Chernobyl disaster takes you on a tour of the haunting ruins in 360° in this immersive documentary by FRONTLINE and the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. It’s a rare, firsthand journey inside “the exclusion zone” – the area surrounding the reactor, deserted long ago due to fears of radiation.


Thanks for joining us during VR Week! Plus: Explore FRONTLINE’s VR documentaries any time on Oculus.

Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



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