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The Waiting Room Film and VR to premiere in London

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The Waiting Room Film and VR to premiere in London

  • Date06 December 2019

When Professor Victoria Mapplebeck was diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to create a film and Virtual Reality (VR) project to explore each step of her journey which will premiere on December 6 and 7 at the The 2019 Global Health Film Festival, The Wellcome Collection in Bloomsbury.


Victoria decided to film a smartphone short, shot entirely on an iPhone X. ‘The Waiting Room’ shows Victoria spending time in waiting rooms, surgery, consultations, CT scans and chemotherapy and is an unflinching portrait of the blood, sweat and tears of cancer treatment.

She makes visible the often invisible parts of cancer treatment, the sickness, the fatigue, the tears and the hair loss.  At home she filmed with her teenage son, as they came to terms with how family life was transformed by a year of living with cancer.

Victoria documents cancer from a patient’s point of view, exploring what we can and what we can’t control when our bodies fail us.

BAFTA Award winner, Professor Victoria Mapplebeck, said: “We have made cancer our enemy - a dark force to be fought by a relentlessly upbeat attitude.“The Waiting Room is the antidote to the ‘tyranny of positive thinking’. It challenges the cultural myths that surround this disease, putting under the microscope the language of illness.

“The film begins with a personal journey, but as cancer affects one in two of us over the course of a lifetime, it also tells a very universal story.”

The 2019 Global Health Film Festival will bring together 500 health advocates, filmmakers, journalists and the public for discussion and debate in all areas of global health.

The Waiting Room: VR explores the cultural myths and language of chronic illness, asking us to confront what we can and what we can’t control when our bodies fail us.

The smartphone short was broadcast on The Guardian as part of their documentaries strand with The Waiting Room VR project, receiving its premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival .

Recently, it was selected for IDFA Doc Lab in 2019 where it won The IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling.

The judging panel wrote of the piece, ‘The Waiting Room VR was able to address the complexity and simplicity of one of the most dramatic human experiences….It provoked us to breathe and feel, and left us with a sense that we just experienced something new and poignant and unforgettable’.

The lynchpin of this VR piece is a nine-min durational 360 degree take, a reconstruction of Victoria’s last session of radiotherapy, which marked the end of nine months of breast cancer treatment.  

This experience is counter balanced by a CGI journey inside Victoria’s body. Working with 3D artists, Victoria has bought to life the medical imaging she’s collected through out treatment. Cancer cells, CT scans, mammograms and ultrasound provide a 3D portrait of her body from the inside, out.

The Waiting Room: VR was made with East City Films. It is written and directed by Victoria Mapplebeck, produced by Shehani Fernando and Darren Emerson with creative technology by Luca Biada from Fenyce and sound design by John Wakefield and Henrik Oppermann. It is executive produced by Darren Emerson and Catherine Allen.

The Waiting Room: VR is commissioned by the Virtual Realities Immersive Documentaries Encounters project; a collaboration between Watershed, the University of Bristol, UWE Bristol (University of the West of England) and University of Bath, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The multi-disciplinary research led by Prof. Kirsten Cater, Prof. Danaë Stanton Fraser and Prof. Mandy Rose brings together computer science, psychology and documentary studies to investigate and support the unexpected adoption of Virtual Reality within Documentary and Journalism. The Waiting Room film and VR project will tour festivals, exhibitions and hospitals throughout 2019/20.

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