James’ Story: A story of hope lost and found
More than 19 000 children in South Sudan are being used by armed groups and armed forces to fight a war they are too young to understand. 19 000 children torn away from their families, abused, violated, brainwashed, forced to pick up arms and fight.
How do you begin to process this information? How do you get audiences to connect and care without turning away and shutting down because it’s too hard to process?
At Rooftop we started with the story. The incredible story of young James who had recently been reunited with his mother after three years apart.
We listened to hours of interviews, sifted through hundreds of photos, and read through pages of documents and reports. At first it felt depressing. But as we sifted, and read, and listened, and processed, we began to realise this was a story of hope.
The story of a young boy who never gave up.A mother who never stopped believing.A story of the power of love and the connection of family.
When we realised this, we realised we had everything we needed to connect with audiences. Because we all understand hope, love and family.
We developed our script using transcripts from interviews done with James and his mother, keeping things simple because we wanted the voice over to be as authentic as possible.
We couldn’t travel to South Sudan, so we turned to our animation team to bring the story to life. Working with UNICEF we developed a look and feel that was true to the country and its environment, and used a colour palette that would add emotion and layers to the storytelling. We played with symbolism and transitions and sound design to add more layers, and take audiences on a journey that would connect you with James, his mother and their story.
The video was released on Red Hand Day 2019, a day set aside as the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers. To date it has connected with governments, policy makers, and social media audiences around the world, spreading the message that children should be children. Not soldiers.