When Al Jazeera set out to document the influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh in May, it seemed like the crisis had reached its peak.
Within four months, the numbers had tripled. Since August 25, security forces and mobs have set more than 80 villages in northern Rakhine state ablaze in Myanmar’s scorched-earth campaign.
More than 500,000 Rohingya refugees - mostly women and children – fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in recent weeks, settling in makeshift settlements and encampments in and around the border town of Cox’s Bazar.
The situation is a “heartbreaking story to experience”, said Zahra Rasool, editorial lead for Contrast VR, Al Jazeera’s virtual reality team.
On Thursday, Contrast VR released “I am Rohingya”, the world’s first 360° documentary about the Rohingya crisis.
“Hearing about it or seeing pictures of it was not enough. It just felt it was the right fit for the medium of virtual reality, to be able to take the viewers out into the refugee camp, to be able to take them to these people and give them a glimpse of what their challenges are,” said Rasool.
Even months ago, the camps and informal settlements in Cox’s Bazar were already overcrowded, with insufficient resources.
“I Am Rohingya” follows the story of a young woman, Jamalida, as she tells the persecution she faced in Myanmar and shows us her daily life now in a refugee camp in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya are a majority-Muslim ethnic group who have been living in the Buddhist-majority nation of Myanmar in Southeast Asia for centuries.
“I Am Rohingya” will premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) on 5-6 October, then showcase at the Rio International Film Festival on 5-15 October.