Immersive Storytelling: Humanizing History and Inspiring Action

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Victoria Bousis, a former prosecutor turned immersive storyteller, has found her professional worlds intersecting in unexpected ways through her recent project, “Stay Alive, My Son.” Utilizing Cineplay—a blend of cinema with gameplay mechanics—the immersive experience adapts the memoirs of human rights activist Pin Yathay, allowing participants to embody Yathay’s narrative of tragedy and hope during the Cambodian genocide.

Premiering at South by Southwest and Venice Immersive, “Stay Alive, My Son” has garnered attention at the NewImages Festival in Paris and is slated for Annecy’s VR competition in June. Beyond the XR festival circuit, the project has been recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who invited it to screen for diplomats, NGO leaders, and heads of state, aiming to influence global policy.

Bousis, drawing from her legal background, emphasizes the need to humanize refugee cases to combat desensitization. She sees storytelling as a means to engage policymakers and inspire action, hoping to foster discussions that lead to tangible solutions.

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Rejecting the notion of mere empathy, Bousis advocates for compassion, which implies active engagement rather than passive sentiment. She believes that storytelling should prompt action, not just evoke emotions.

The NewImages showcase elicited profound emotions, particularly from Yathay himself, who initially misunderstood the nature of the immersive experience but ultimately embraced its potential to educate and prevent history from repeating itself.

As Bousis continues to develop new projects, including a biographical experience on Peter Dundas, she envisions expanding “Stay Alive, My Son” to reach wider audiences through shared viewing experiences and museum showcases. For her, the essence of storytelling lies in sparking dialogue and connecting with audiences across various platforms and spaces.