BAFTA award-winning director Victoria Mapplebeck unveils The Waiting Room – a new documentary and virtual reality project tracing her breast cancer journey from diagnosis to recovery

When Victoria Mapplebeck was diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to record each step of her journey from diagnosis to recovery. Shot entirely on an iPhone X, Victoria filmed her time in waiting rooms, surgery, consultations, CT scans and chemotherapy. The Waiting Room is an unflinching portrait of the blood, sweat and tears of cancer treatment. Victoria makes visible the often invisible parts of cancer treatment, the sickness, the fatigue, the tears and the hair loss. At home she filmed with her teenage son, as they came to terms with how family life was transformed by a year of living with cancer. 

Victoria documents cancer from a patient’s point of view, exploring what we can and what we can’t control when our bodies fail us. “We have made cancer our enemy,” says Victoria, “a dark force to be fought by a relentlessly upbeat attitude. The Waiting Room is the antidote to the ‘tyranny of positive thinking’. It challenges the cultural myths that surround this disease, putting under the microscope the language of illness. The Waiting Room begins with a personal journey but as cancer affects one in two of us over the course of a lifetime, it also tells a very universal story.”

The film will be broadcast on The Guardian as part of their documentaries strand with the second part, Victoria’s first foray into Virtual Reality, being showcased at festivals, exhibitions and hospitals later in the year. The Waiting Room VR explores the cultural myths and language of chronic illness, asking us to confront what we can and what we can’t control when our bodies fail us. The lynchpin of this VR piece is a 9 min durational 360 take, a reconstruction of Victoria’s last session of radiotherapy, which marked the end of nine months of breast cancer treatment. 

This experience is counter balanced by a CGI journey inside Victoria’s body. Working with 3D artists, Victoria has bought to life the medical imaging she’s collected through out treatment. Cancer cells, CT scans, mammograms and ultrasound provide a 3D portrait of her body from the inside, out.

The Waiting Room VR has been commissioned as part of the Virtual Realities – Immersive Documentary Encounters EPSRC funded research project. The multi-disciplinary research led by Dr. Kirsten Cater, Prof. Danaë Stanton Fraser and Mandy Rose brings together computer science, psychology and documentary studies to investigate and support the unexpected adoption of Virtual Reality within Documentary and Journalism funded by The University of Bristol, University of Bath and the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), in partnership with Watershed.

  • The Waiting Room VR will be showcased as part of the Virtual Realities: Documentary Encounters Project showcase on Tuesday 25th June 2019
  • The Waiting Room will be available on The Guardian from Friday 28th June 2019

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