On April 14, 2016, in Washington, D.C. our Virtual Reality film FRANCIS premiered to over 500 health and finance ministers from around the world. As part of the 2016 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization, the focus was to move global mental health awareness from the outskirts to the mainstream. We answered this creative challenge with an impactful and immersive experience of one man’s story to shine a light on the needs of so many more.
Francis Pii Kugbila, the subject of the film, is a husband, father, and teacher in northern Ghana. When he began showing signs of his mental illness, there was a lack of awareness and understanding of the disease by him and his community. As a result, he was locked in isolation and bound by chains for two years.
The film takes us to the small hut that kept Francis in isolation for so long, where food sometimes never came. In 360°, viewers experience Francis’ transformation from the darkness as a sensory catharsis and return to normal life.
This collaborative endeavor allowed us the opportunity to push the boundaries of visual storytelling. From stitching together footage from 14 cameras to working with artists to rotoscope and composite in 360°, replacing skies and even people, we met every challenge with the same level of commitment to storytelling that defines all of our work.

This project was supported by a grant from Stories of Change, a project of Sundance Institute supported by the Skoll Foundation.