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The New Yorker débuted “Reeducated,” an immersive V.R. documentary, directed by Sam Wolson, with reporting by Ben Mauk and illustrations by Matt Huynh and animation by Nicholas Rubin and Dirt Empire, that takes viewers inside the secret world of a “reëducation” camp in Xinjiang, China. In the spring of 2017, authorities in Xinjiang began detaining thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other predominantly Muslim minorities in secret extrajudicial detention camps. By 2018, as many as a million people were held in a vast network of “reëducation centers.” Guided by the eyewitness accounts of three men—Erbaqyt Otarbai, Orynbek Koksebek, and Amanzhan Seituly, all ethnically Kazakh—who were imprisoned at a facility in Tacheng in 2017, the film illuminates what is likely the largest mass internment of ethnic and religious minorities since the Second World War.“Reeducated” premièred at SXSW on Tuesday, in the Virtual Cinema category, and received the film festival’s Special Jury Recognition for Immersive Journalism. Drawn from hours of firsthand testimony, survivor sketches, and satellite photos, the V.R. film uses Huynh’s hand-drawn pen-and-brush illustrations, brought to life by the animator Nicholas Rubin, and spatial audio, composed by Jon Bernson, to reconstruct the men’s experiences in a stereoscopic, three-hundred-and-sixty-degree space. Viewers can watch the film on desktop on or on mobile via YouTube. Use a cardboard viewer, or a headset such as an Oculus, for the full V.R. experience. See detailed viewing instructions here

“Reeducated” was supported by the Pulitzer Center, the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism, and the Online News Association, and accompanies the interactive New Yorker feature “Inside Xinjiang’s Prison State.”

Dirt Empire supervised all of the animation production of the project with a core team of visual effects artists to bring the project into stereoscopic virtual reality over the course of 1 year. Their goal in executing the highly technical animation was to make a hand painted world in keeping with Matt Huynh’s visual style, Sam Wolson’s directorial vision and Ben Mauk’s deep reporting — all in service to the gravity of the story while leveraging the immersive power of VR storytelling.


“Special Jury Prize for Immersive Journalism” at SXSW 2021 in the Virtual Cinema Category. 

“VRHAMMY” at VRHAM! VR festival in Hamburg

“Special Jury Prize VR” VR festival NewImages in Paris

Film credits

Erbaqyt Otarbai
Orynbek Koksebek
Amanzhan Seituly

Project Developed by
Ben Mauk
Sam Wolson

Sam Wolson

Matt Huynh

Research and Reporting
Ben Mauk

Executive Producers
Soo-Jeong Kang
Monica Racic

Lead Animator and Technical Supervisor
Nicholas Rubin

Senior Editor
Brian Redondo

Ben Mauk
Sam Wolson
Nicholas Rubin
Matt Huynh

Sound Designer/Composer
Jon Bernson

Animation Studio
Dirt Empire

Press Links

Painting Xinjiang’s Brutal Camps in 3D – Foreign Policy – Christina Lu – March 16, 2021

A Deeper Look into the Latest ECFJ-Supported Piece with the New Yorker – Eyebeam – Marisa Mazria Katz – March 16th, 2021

Xinjiang ‘Re-Education’ Camps Brought to Life in New Yorker VR Doc at SXSW – Variety – Rebecca Davis – March 23rd 2021

Decoding XR: REEDUCATED, Jon Bernson, Matt Huynh & Nicholas Rubin XR Must – Agnes Pietrobon – April 26th 2021

Sam Wolson – Reeducated – XR Must – Agnes Pietrobon – March 18th, 2021

Documentary on Internment in Xinjiang Wins Award at SXSW Pulitzer Center – March 22nd, 2021

REEDUCATED – Making of  The Fugitive World – Ben Mauk – May 21 2021

NewImages Festival Awards – Variety – Ben Croll – Jun 12th, 2021

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