EPIPHANY INTERVIEW: Epiphanies of Empathy and Storytelling at the Sundance Film Festival

“We are all much more connected than we think. We have so many shared experiences, division is ultimately an illusion. Stories help us empathize. They help us reconnect.” ~Brittany Neff

The Sundance Film Festival happens every January so as we approach its start date this year on January 18, I want to highlight my interview with filmmakers Ben Ross and Brittany Neff and about the epiphanies they had about empathy and storytelling while filming an award-winning short documentary in 360 (degrees) for virtual reality (VR) about a teen’s recovery from sexual abuse. While sexual abuse is always a subject that needs to be talked about, it’s an exceptionally timely topic right now.

“Rise Above” is about 17 year-old Brittany’s (not the director) journey of empowerment as she confronts and overcomes the trauma of sexual violence. The film brings awareness not only to abuse but to the healing process and how to triumph over it. The 6-minute film was produced by Oculus’ VR for Good initiative in association with the non-profit, Womankind.

My short interview with the filmmakers is below and you can also watch the 360 trailer below. (Yes, there’s a whole section of YouTube dedicated to VR and 360 video now. Just drag your cursor around to see the video in 360.) If you want to know even more, check out the interview I did for PostPerspective.com where I talk with Brittany and Ben about the film, empathy and Virtual Reality.

Sexual abuse, especially by a superior or teacher, is sadly way too prevalent. However, because so many courageous women like Brittany have been willing to tell their stories along with exciting movements charging forward like #MeToo and Time’s Up, it’s possible that sexual harassment and abuse will become much more of a thing of the past and a rare occurrence for our next generation of girls and women.

With enough of us working toward telling our stories and highlighting them, holding people accountable, and striving to heal both women and men, eventually we’ll be able to eradicate sexual abuse and harassment from our societies forever. And it all starts (and has started!) with people like Brittany stepping forward and being willing to share their stories. Sharing your story can change the world–literally. What story do you need to tell?


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