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‘Amma’ – Gentle, revelatory and experimental VR film is a way of preserving the past dynamically for the future… (review)

‘Amma’ – Gentle, revelatory and experimental VR film is a way of preserving the past dynamically for the future… (review)

New production tells immersive story and has many very fine moments…

By Suman Bhuchar

TARA THEATRE has been celebrating big historical anniversaries of South Asian history and now present ‘Amma’, an immersive virtual reality piece to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of Bangladesh and its struggle for independence.

This is experimental storytelling, which brings together archive film, audio extracts, film and virtual reality and is written by Kamal Kaan (who also wrote the film, ‘Ali and Ava’) and drawn from interviews with real people.

‘Amma’ being shown at Tara Theatre ©ManuelHarlan

Directed by Tara Theatre’s artistic director, Abdul Shayek, you enter Tara Theatre which has been turned into a living room complete with comfy chairs, a dining table (later you realise some of the furniture & adornments were part of the family home of the 360* film you are watching on the headset).

On hand are some virtual reality hosts to guide you through the learning of how to use the headsets.

Set in Bangladesh/UK, Chandra (Liz Yadav, seen on the film) is mourning her dead mother whose voice you hear as they bicker about the ordinary things of life.

Mum, Nessa (voiced by Sakuntala Ramanee) then recalls her childhood in a rural bucolic idyll which is depicted on the headset as a 360 degree experience thanks to the beautiful filmmaking by Project Dastaan, (see ‘Child of Empire’ video interview) filmmakers in Bangladesh and Ajay Singh in London, who was also responsible for the editing.

Told mostly through voiceover, Chandra learns about her mother’s childhood in Bangladesh and her life before coming to the UK.

Nessa fell in love with a boy called Bulbul and how she ran with her mother to escape the fighting and then her mother is shot.

Liz is reading these letters and her mum does appear but sometimes the technology is a bit ropey and doesn’t allow for the poignancy of the final revelation to hit home. (I won’t spoil it for this review).

At the end of the film we hear some audio testimonies in Bengali by people and we are given translations.

Gentle, revelatory and experimental and overall, ‘Amma’ is a brief introduction to a painful moment in history.

ACV rating: *** (out of five)

(*360 degree film is where you see the view in every direction at the same time, so when you are watching through the headset you need to look all around you to get the full effect).

‘Amma’ by Kamal Kaan, Tara Theatre until Saturday (December 17), 7.30pm (4pm Saturday), Tara Theatre, 356 Garratt Lane Earlsfield, London SW18 4ES
50 minutes
Age guidance: 13+
Touch Tour & audio described – Saturday 4pm

December theatre listings –

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture