It's one thing to hear about a third-world slum, but it's something different to experience it.
And then ... it's something entirely different to be fully immersed in it. That's what Vitaly Nechaev's Happyland360 virtual-reality documentary accomplishes, telling the story of the Philippines' Happyland slum through the eyes of five people who know the area well.
The fact that Nechaev got access to the toxic landfill — which is usually off limits to photographers and was named Happyland by locals hoping for change — makes this documentary all the more special.
Nechaev told CNET that he was inspired to film the documentary after seeing footage of Syrian refugees and a video of a Russian girl singing a song called "Anak" in the Filipino language tagalog.
"When I watched the video of 'Anak,' I saw more than just the slums, more than a dump site, I saw a lot of beautiful smiling faces," Nechaev, a Russian living in Singapore, told CNET. "I was surprised, and something changed inside of me. I wanted to bring this experience from flat 2D to 360 VR."
The website additionally reports that Nechaev used six GoPro Black action cameras rigged together to film the slums in 360-degree virtual reality. He also tracked down the young lady, Anna Rabtsun, singing "Anak" in the video that inspired him and arranged for her to perform for the people of Happyland.
The footage is enthralling, showing the harsh realities of life with dozens of children in the slums, some of which have smiles on their faces despite their stark environment.
Viewers will need to wear a virtual reality headset to be fully immersed in the documentary.