Director Gabo Arora has spent the past few years promoting virtual reality as the ideal medium for evoking empathy. He spearheaded the UN's VR app, which featured two of his films, Clouds Over Sidra and My Mother's Wing. Now, with Zikr: A Sufi Revival, his new VR experience debuting at the New Frontier exhibition at Sundance today, he's also hoping to help people work through their own ingrained biases against Muslims -- just as he did.
Having grown up in a Hindu family that was forced to flee Pakistan when it gained independence, Arora admits that he picked up plenty of negative ideas about Islam and its followers. But after visiting Sufi shrines in India and learning about that Islamic sect's inclusive musical rituals, he was able to outgrow his intolerance. With this VR film, Arora says, he's also aiming to give viewers a sense of the transcendental nature of Sufi practices.