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Yuanhao Du honors American history and freedom in VR experience
Storytelling is a fundamental aspect of humanity; a form of entertainment, education, and tradition. From cave drawings, to books, movies, social media, virtual reality, and video games, the way we have told stories has drastically evolved over time, and the term 'storyteller' has become overused. It takes an artistic mind and dedicated talent to be able to properly tell a captivating story and China's Yuanhao Du is one of those people. A celebrated producer and director, Du's films have enchanted worldwide audiences for years, and he recognized that every time he begins a new project, his primary goal is to tell a good story.

"Being a filmmaker allows me to have the chance to use my voice to tell stories. People always say that you can find out what kind of person the director is when you watch their films. I find this to be true, because there are many different points of view in the world, so every director can let audiences have a different feeling, even if they are telling the same stories. I was so curious about what people would say about me when they watch my films, I knew I had to spend my life making movies," said Du.

Du has dedicated his life to making impactful and entertaining films for the masses, including his family drama Patrick, the heartbreaking love story Off to Care and the compelling drama A Mother's Love, all of which have gone on to recently receive several awards at many film festivals.

One of Du's most notable projects, however, was not a film at all, but rather a series of educational virtual reality videos. Commissioned by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Speeches of Freedom shows 23 speeches about freedom for the museum's international tour. Featuring over 50 actors, Speeches of Freedom is an exclusive feature for the museum in VR, showing the enduring ideals of Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms.

"Many of the historical speeches are advocating for the rights of the weak and disenfranchised—slaves, women before they got the vote, victims of torture and oppression, holocaust survivors. This project was a significant contribution to bringing foundational principles of American Democracy to the attention of a younger generation, as well as celebrating the achievement of generations who fought for our constitutional rights and the enduring expectations of human rights in a democracy," said Du.

Du has always been a history buff and has a passion for technology, so this project felt like a dream come true for the filmmaker. He was able to learn so much about American history while experimenting with this innovative tech of VR.  

He was asked to come on board as co-director and co-producer by Melissa Sydeman, who was a fan of Du's. Du had previously worked on a project for NASA on the Mars Rover vehicle that was a tremendous success, so Sydeman knew he was the man for the job.

"Yuanhao is one of a kind. He is always positive, wise beyond his years, open to innovation, works all hours, never quits, never gets discouraged. Everyone he works with, he inspires—you leave the set feeling good when you work with Yuanhao. He is trustworthy and he does not stop until he gets the level of quality he needs," said Sydeman.

This exhibit is a director's very particular vision, and no one else would have seen the material the way Du did. These were not just historical words to the Chinese native, they are a message that the world needs reminding of. He brought fresh eyes and a passion for defending human freedom and all that is best in human beings, no matter their background nationality.

"It was a very exciting and exhausting project. We didn't have time to fully prepare, which usually does not happen to me, but it was a lovely experiment. Everyone in this project really liked what we were trying to do, and the heavy task pushed us to work harder. It was remarkable when I saw everyone put 110 percent into their work. Our team was even smaller than a small video production, but what we have done was equivalent to shooting a feature film. We made the impossible possible," said Du.

The VR experience is currently being shown as an exhibition in the International Tour. Showing at renowned museums, including the Henry Ford Museum, The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Denver Art Museum, and the series will end at the Norman Rockwell Museum in the fall of next year. It was also shown to the United States Congress on Capitol Hill, and is scheduled to show at the Memorial de Caen in Normandy, France from June to October 2019, as part of the celebration of the 75thAnniversary of D-Day. Thousands of people from all over the world will be coming to mark this historic event.

"It's fascinating and amazing that I can make some contributions to museums. I'm so glad people love it. It's my great honor to spread the voice of freedom. The success of this project is powerful proof that people need to remember those voices and defend their messages. Going to the museum is not that popular to people like it used to be. I love history, and I think as a filmmaker, I need to help people to remember history so we avoid those mistakes humans have made before," he concluded.

Be sure to check out the Speeches of Freedom Tour at a museum near you.

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