SYNOPSIS: ANOUSCHKA is an animated mixed reality (XR) experience inspired by the Black Girl Magic ethos and all Black girls around the world. In this interactive story, we follow Amara, a Black teenager from Amsterdam’s Bijlmermeer (Bijlmer) neighborhood, as she embarks on a magical journey of self-discovery through time and space. Amara must travel back in time and connect with generations of women that preceded her in order to save her grandmother and twin brother from a multi-generational family curse. She discovers her family’s ancestry and magical powers along the way and reconnects with her roots while also learning more about her present.
The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade featured a lot of talented women filmmakers, but one Black woman director stood out the most…Tamara Shogalu. The international award-winning director gained attention with her successful hybrid animated documentary and VR game, Another Life. Now she has started production on her new project ANOUSCHKA. A project that promises to be more than a virtual reality medium, it will be a Black Girl Magic experience. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the skilled filmmaker and get more details ahead of her Kickstarter launch.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): Can you please explain what XR reality is and how effective it is at bringing the project to life?
Tamara Shogaolu (TS): We define Anouschka as an XR experience that utilizes virtual and sensory technology to promote a more engaging and immersive experience for the user. We do not classify this experience as VR since our goal with this project was to create immersion without the need for VR headsets, consequently allowing for a more sensory-rich, collective adventure. We do not use holograms, but instead, the audience will interact with wall projections, motion sensors, and voice recognition. We developed the Bemmbé Interactive™ platform for new ways of interactivity and engagement in a highly stylized space. We like to describe this form of experience as a story room or a magic box. The most important aspect of the technology is the use of immersive, 3D audio, that will create a tangible yet magical aural landscape. We want users to live the story, rather than just observe it.
DDF: What are some of the short term and long term goals for the project?
TS: First and foremost, one of our main goals is to create content that tells Black stories, about Black girls, written by Black women, and directed by Black women.
Following four generations of women of color across time and space, this project will serve to increase visibility and representation of women of color in general. The migration and diaspora stories of people of color continue to be unjustly sidelined. ANOUSCHKA celebrates and encourages engagement with this culturally rich heritage while bringing the positive message of Black Girl Magic to the forefront.
As well, we are telling this story through our Bemmbé Interactive™ platform.
The Bemmbé Interactive™ platform harnesses the power of multi-sensory technology to create powerful and immersive experiences. In Bemmbé Interactive™, bulky gadgets are discarded for the story to take center stage. The audience will experience the story in the room while wearing headphones. The technology also allows for custom audiovisual interactions, with projected visuals through infrared motion tracking and 3D spatial audio. By allowing full story immersion, the platform grants audiences the power to collaboratively explore, interact with, and participate in the narrative and deeply bond with the characters of the world of Anouschka or of other stories.
Since the beginning of time, humans have been fascinated by the magical power of narratives and storytelling. Exploring the endless possibilities of the imaginary has always been of special interest to us. This passion for storytelling drove us to create Bemmbé Interactive™—an audio-driven story room platform that uses multi-sensory technology to create powerful and immersive experiences.
ANOUSCHKA will utilize the Bemmbé Interactive™ platform to allow its users to live the story and its world without the gadgets traditionally required by VR technology. However, the platform can be adapted for different narratives, providing unique and meaningful experiences. It is also scalable and flexible, allowing for different audience sizes and the use of different physical spaces.
“Since I was a child, I have been yearning and dreaming to see and create a story like ANOUSCHKA, a story about a smart young Black girl raised in a world of magical Black women like those in my world. I am even more thrilled that I get the opportunity to make a story that is written by talented Black women, produced by Black women and directed by a Black woman. “ – Tamara Shogaolu
DDF: Are there any Black female directors in animation who inspire you?
TS: Currently, and heartbreakingly, there are no Black female directors in animation. But on this note:
Years ago, as a student in film school, I was told by a writing professor that a studio would never greenlight a film about a little Black girl. The professor asked me to change my script to incorporate white leads or else I would fail the class. I was forced to write a story that wasn’t mine and swallow a pill that said, “stories about people like me don’t matter.” This experience lit a fire in me. I refused to believe that stories about Black girls didn’t matter and made it my mission to dedicate my life and career to sharing stories of and lifting the voices of marginalized people and communities around the world.
As I grew professionally and expanded into working with new and immersive technology like virtual reality and augmented reality, I saw many of these same tropes being used to shape the new medium. Until today, there has been no major studio animated feature film directed by a Black woman and there continues to be a glass ceiling and barriers to entry for Black women in tech, among many other fields. As a Black and Latinx woman working at the intersection of film, animation, and technology, I want to believe that I can contribute to shattering those ceilings by allowing Black girls like me to see themselves and their magic come to life while re-imagining how technology can help us tell stories.
Since I was a child I have been yearning and dreaming to see and create a story like ANOUSCHKA, a story about a smart young Black girl raised in a world of magical Black women like those in my world. I am even more thrilled that I get the opportunity to make a story that is written by talented Black women, produced by Black women and directed by a Black woman. I hope that you will join us in bringing ANOUSCHKA to life so that there is a space and a place for stories like ours.
Tamara is collaborating with spoken word artist Sandy Bosmans and playwright Elle Vanderburg. With all these Black women coming together and the rest of the Ados Pictures crew, Anouschka will be another award-winning project that may propel Black female filmmakers in animation to new heights! Check out the Kickstarter and join in the Black Girl Magic animation experience.
ADO ATO Pictures is an award-winning media studio based in Amsterdam and Los Angeles. Following an ambition to produce the unexpected, their international team approaches creation with a pioneering spirit, always pushing to compose the most diverse and engaging experiences for audiences who crave fresh, boundary-pushing, and meaningful storytelling.