Baobab Studios Launches VR Fellowship for Native American Youth

Courtesy of Baobab Studios

The news comes on the same day as the release of its star-studded short film 'Crow: The Legend.'

Today, to mark the launch of its VR short film Crow: The Legend, Baobab Studios is also unveiling its #GenIndigenous Youth Fellowship, a yearlong program that has named Raven Two Feathers as its first fellow.

Crow: The Legend is based on the mythical Native American origin story of the crow and features a stunningly star-studded cast led by John Legend, who voices the title character and also executive produced and contributed original music for the short. He's joined by Tye Sheridan, YouTube star Liza Koshy, Constance Wu, Diego Luna and none other than Oprah Winfrey.

Crow had its world premiere at the Gathering of Nations, North America's largest powwow, in New Mexico in April. It later screened at the Annecy, Venice, Cannes and Busan film festivals, as well as the annual conference of Native Americans in Philanthropy, which served as an executive producer.

NAP CEO Sarah Eagle Heart was an adviser on the film and also voiced a character. "Often our teachings come through an experiential learning process," Eagle Heart wrote in a statement. "The way VR technology has been used in Crow: The Legend is the perfect medium for this type of transformational teaching. It's an exciting possibility for a new way of oral storytelling."

Baobab, founded by Madagascar director Eric Darnell and led by CEO Maureen Fan, is continuing its investment in Native American storytelling with the #GenIndigenous Youth Fellowship, launched in partnership with NAP, Native American organization Vision Maker Media and Longhouse Media (the nonprofit behind the Native Lens program).

The inaugural fellow, Raven Two Feathers, won a 2015 Regional Emmy in high school for the documentary short GeoFORCE: A Journey to Understanding. Two Feathers hails from the Cherokee, Comanchee, Seneca and Cayuga tribes and identifies as Two Spirit, which is the third gender in Native culture, using the pronoun "they." The recent Santa Fe University of Art & Design alum, who graduated magna cum laude with a BFA in film production, will spend a year in fellowship, culminating in a monthlong residency at Baobab.

"We are looking forward to launching this exciting fellowship and the possibilities it will create for Native youth development, something to which Baobab and our organization are both passionately committed," Eagle Heart said in a statement. "Baobab Studios has shown its commitment to inclusivity and authentic storytelling in its approach to both producing Crow: The Legend and developing this fellowship. This is a model that we expect Hollywood to follow increasingly as the industry recognizes the value of authentic cultural storytelling."

The interactive Crow: The Legend is available in the Oculus Store, while the 2D version can be seen for free on YouTube and Facebook, a decision that Fan tells THR was unanimous among the cast and the advisers, who wanted to give as many people as possible exposure to the classic Native American tale.

The 2D trailer can be seen below.