AJ Close Up, Start Here, Fork The System, Newsfeed, and AJ Contrast honoured for video content across 14 categories.
AJ Contrast’s immersive multimedia experience Still Here won two top prizes at the 5th annual Shorty Social Good Awards.
The virtual reality (VR) meets augmented reality (AR) interactive won in the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality categories, announced during a live virtual webcast on November 19 and bringing to 13 the total number of award wins for AJ Contrast so far this year.
Still Here got off to an auspicious start, premiering in the New Frontier programme at the Sundance Film Festival in February. The immersive journey explores the effect of imprisonment and gentrification on Black women in the United States – one of the segments of the population most affected by disproportionate rates of imprisonment and marginalisation.
Crafted in close collaboration with nine formerly imprisoned women from the Women’s Prison Association (WPA), the story is told from the perspective of Jasmine Smith, a composite character struggling to reintegrate into her gentrified Harlem neighbourhood after 15 years in the New York correctional system.
Still Here brings into relief the steep challenges facing these women – everything from reuniting with their families to landing work and finding a place for themselves on the growing number of city blocks where young affluent white people have displaced Black residents who had lived there for generations.
AJ Contrast began their work on Still Here by running workshops on immersive storytelling with formerly jailed WPA members. Together, they storyboarded the VR and AR scripts and included the women’s feedback throughout post-production.
Still Here’s Shorty Social Good wins marked its 11th award since it premiered at Sundance.
“We’re incredibly honoured to accept this award on behalf of our hardworking AJ Contrast team and in collaboration with the Women’s Prison Association,” said Zahra Rasool, head of AJ Contrast.
“At a time of heightened racial tensions in the US, we’re lucky not only to carry out Al Jazeera’s mission of telling stories about and with the underrepresented but to do it using the most innovative and cutting edge storytelling techniques and formats. I’m grateful to the jurors for recognising Still Here.”
As Al Jazeera Digital’s Emmy-nominated immersive storytelling and media innovation studio, AJ Contrast has been pushing boundaries and setting new standards since its launch in 2017.
“One of our greatest challenges in digital storytelling is striking a balance between the latest technologies and the people at the centre of our stories,” said Director of Digital Innovation and Programming Carlos van Meek.
“AJ Contrast has found a way forward in this very unique space. We’re grateful to the team and congratulate them on this win.”
In the coming months, AJ Contrast plans to recreate the Still Here installation that premiered at Sundance, bringing it to churches, schools, museums and low-income communities.