Jennifer Abbott, Suzanne Simard, Jai Djwa / Canada / 2023

A virtual reality experience from filmmaker Jennifer Abbott with ground-breaking forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, The Forest That Breathes Us transports participants into a perspective of unfathomable interconnection by taking them inside the complex communication networks, familial relationships, memories and agency of a forest.

The Forest That Breathes Us in its final form will be a 20-minute virtual reality immersive experience made collaboratively with ground-breaking forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, that transports participants into a perspective of unfathomable interconnection. By taking viewers inside the complex communication networks, familial relationships, memories, and agency of a forest – our journey lifts you out of your human body and gives you the ability to traverse time and space omnipotently within one of the last remaining Pacific Northwest Coastal Rainforests in the traditional territory of the Ma’amtagila First Nation – currently threatened by old growth logging.

One moment you are a chlorophyll molecule moving within a leaf, the next you’re part of an underground mycorrhizal communication network sending a warning message to a distant part of the forest; the next you peer out upon a panoramic vista witnessing the clearcut scars left on a mountainside. Participants enter a world that’s more interconnected and more like us than we could ever have imagined, leaving the experience in an altered and activated state infused with awe, reverence and humility for the Earth we are all part of.

We know that Virtual Reality (VR) is a ground-breaking technology that allows participants to immerse in computer-generated environments. As such, it holds the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with not only digital media and computers but also with each other and the world we are part of. One of the most relevant qualities of VR for this project is its ability to create a sense of presence; the feeling that you are part of the virtual world. For this project, VR will facilitate our mission to create a perspective-shifting experience that breaks free of our habitual human-centered perspective by opening a portal to the more-than-human world. Using specialized headsets that provide visual, auditory and potentially other stimuli, as well as haptic feedback (touch sensations), participants who enter The Forest That Breathes Us will experience the virtual forest environment they momentarily become part of, feeling emotional and physical belonging to a place that’s larger than themselves and to which they belong. As such, The Forest That Breathes Us will qualify as one of the few existing experiences that utilize VR to embody the mysteries of nature, placing it in league with other remarkable, ecological and award-winning global XR artworks such as Kudsk Steensen’s The Tree; Marshmallow Laserfeat’s In The Eyes of the Animals, and Pierre Zandrowicz’s Dawn of Art.

Jennifer Abbott

Director / Sound Design


Jennifer Abbott is a Sundance award winning filmmaker dedicated to media as art, philosophy and activism. She is best known as the Co-Director & Editor of THE CORPORATION, the top grossing and most awarded documentary in Canadian history and credited as one of the top 10 films to inspire Occupy Wall Street. In 2020 she released THE MAGNITUDE OF ALL THINGS which premiered at IDFA and is the recipient of 9 awards and THE NEW CORPORATION which continues to screen internationally including at CPH:DOX. While her primary interests lie in writing and directing media that upends the status quo, Abbott frequently edits and sound designs her own work.

Suzanne Simard

Collaborator / Scientific Consultant & Researcher


Suzanne Simard is Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia and author of Finding the Mother Tree. She is known for her work on belowground networks that connect the creatures of the forest, and how these are fundamental to the complex adaptive nature of ecosystems. Her insights were featured in the 2009 film Avatar and she was a driving force behind the 2015 best-seller The Hidden Life of Trees. She also served as the model for a character in Richard Powers 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Overstory. A feature film starring Amy Adams based on Suzanne’s life and scientific breakthroughs is currently in the works.

Jai Djwa

Producer / Consulting Creative Technologist


Jai Djwa is an artist, creative technologist and digital strategist. He is the principal of Agentic Digital Media. Djwa’s work involves interaction design, user experience and digital media, including VR and 360 video. He works with arts organizations on digital projects, but clients also include First Nations, progressive non-profits, and social ventures. Djwa brings an understanding of the world as a person of colour.