JFK Memento Offers An Intriguing Approach To VR Documentaries

JFK Memento uses VR to deliver an intriguing approach to documentary filmmaking. Read on for our full impressions:

Last year saw the 60th anniversary of a defining moment in America’s modern history. I doubt you’ll find many people who aren’t familiar with President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s (JFK) assassination, how Lee Harvey Oswald shot him in Dealey Plaza and the conspiracy theories surrounding it. Countless documentaries, films, and other depictions have covered this story; I myself was taught this subject during school history lessons in the UK.

I recently went hands-on during the NewImages Festival at the event’s XR Market. Developed by Targo, JFK Memento recognizes this is a well-covered subject and revisits the assassination using a different approach. Instead of recounting the same stories we’ve heard a thousand times before, JFK Memento takes a more exciting approach by focusing on lesser-known stories surrounding the president’s death.

Split between five chapters, this documentary focuses on some of the last living witnesses to JFK’s assassination. Between a local journalist, a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald’s wife, a Dallas Police Department officer and more, JFK Memento places live-action interviews in these virtual environments. These stories offer some interesting insights I was unaware of, like how Oswald’s wife, Marina, lived separately with Ruth Paine when the shooting occurred.

Crucially, VR feels like an integral part of JFK Memento and it’s not treated like a gimmick that unnecessarily requires a headset. That’s particularly evident through its use of remastered archival video footage and photos. It projects these images onto virtual recreations of key locations to the crime, including Ruth Paine’s home, the Texas School Book Depository, the streets of Dealey Plaza and more. This approach offers a much better sense of presence that keeps you invested, you almost feel like part of the crowd.

The black-and-white footage provides a nice contrast and while that isn’t necessarily the most immersive approach, JFK Memento still feels like you’re witnessing history happening before you. Though it only lasts 40 minutes, there’s an informative look at this pivotal historical moment worth viewing. It’s an impressive showcase of what VR documentaries can offer and I’d love to see more VR experiences adopt this strategy.

JFK Memento is available now on the Meta Quest platform.

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