Asian-American Filmmakers from Form Follows Function, will be debuting their first VR film, Walking with Grace at the end of April during the LA Asian Pacific Film Festival.
The beautifully filmed documentary takes you on a journey in the day of the life of a blind woman named Grace Chikui as she walks through her hometown, Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. Grace lost her eye sight when she was 14 and is now 58 years old. As a result, every shopkeeper in Little Tokyo knows Grace and plays a part in taking care of her. She is well known and loved in the community.
Director Maya Santos and her team came together with a shared interest in shining a light on the people and their local neighborhoods, revealing the fabric of cultural identity in each community.
“The idea is to play with the senses,” shared Santos. She explained how the film lets you experience the back roads, alley ways, local spots, and historic icons within Little Tokyo, narrated from a woman who understands the city with a heightened level of awareness.
Using 360° video and spatial audio, this 7-minute documentary invites the viewer to better understand what it’s like to navigate the physical environment of Little Tokyo through Grace’s particular perspective. With select audio interviews, the piece reveals the common places of the neighborhood through her memories as a child growing up in the area, revisiting her daily walk at different times in her life.
Grace is a part of the strong karaoke community in Little Tokyo and one of my favorite scenes in the film shows her singing in the Japanese Village plaza at the heart of the neighborhood where it is not uncommon to see cultural events and kids dressed in Cosplay roaming about in full regalia.
“When we met Grace, it was evident that we wanted to find this unique women’s perspective,” said producer Sharon Lee who is a long time supporter and active member of Visual Communications, the organization that puts together the AP Film Festival.
The teams connection to Visual Communications and the festival brought them all together including Eseel Borlasa, and Vicki Huang. Huang, the VR director of programming and stitching, used her technical experience to bring immersive tech into the film allowing viewers to focus in on points of interest and learn about their historical significance, similar to a live museum kiosk tour.
There will be a historic walking tour of Little Tokyo to fundraise for the film on Saturday, April 16th. If you would like, donations can be made on their fundraising page.