The advancements in Virtual Reality over the past few years has fueled new and creative ways for filmmakers and storytellers to highlight important causes, and the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival will showcase these creative endeavors with the Tribeca Immersive program. The program will present new experiences and installations from top creators and emerging artists, including 20 world premieres. This year, Storyscapes and Virtual Arcade exhibits will run concurrently throughout the Festival at the Tribeca Festival Hub, located at 50 Varick Street. The 16th annual Tribeca Film Festival is scheduled to run from April 19 through April 30.
Within this year’s Immersive program, the Storyscapes and Virtual Arcade exhibits will feature a diverse array of projects that are rooted in documentary, narrative and music, providing an intense program of experiential storytelling for audiences to explore. Established VR creators and studios debuting new pieces include: Marshmallow Laser Feast, Gabo Arora, Baobab Studios, Oculus Story Studios, Penrose Studios, and Within. Both Storyscapes and Virtual Arcade open to the public on Friday, April 21.
Storyscapes, which celebrates its fifth year this spring, was created in 2013 to bridge filmmaking, technology, and storytelling. At the 2017 Festival, the Storyscapes juried showcase will continue to present new trends and innovative work across mediums that integrate various forms of audience participation with six VR and interactive installations focusing on emotion and the human experience. The projects tackle topics including an exploration of autobiography in VR, a hunger to connect with the world around us, recounting life in a concentration camp, perception and identity, and the secret lives of strangers.
“Artists allow us to see the world differently. They peel back layers of reality to show us new ways of thinking, using story, and technology to reveal truths and possibilities,” said Ingrid Kopp, curator of Storyscapes. “It is thrilling to be exhibiting such a dynamic range of projects in the fifth year of Storyscapes and at a time when there is so much creativity and energy in the interactive space. It has been wonderful to witness audience interest in immersive work grow over the past few years and to see how artists have responded to this excitement.”
The Virtual Arcade, which debuted at the 2016 Festival, returns for 2017 to entertain, inspire and transport participants with a range of experiences from animated epics to post-apocalyptic landscapes.
“As VR has continued to evolve technologically, so has the storytelling. Our mission is to shine a light on those creators pushing the boundaries of the medium to move beyond the demo phase and deliver on the promise of fully realized stories and truly transformative experiences,” said Loren Hammonds, Programmer, Film & Experiential at Tribeca Film Festival.
STORYSCAPES (as detailed by the TFF)
Blackout (World Premiere)
Project Creators: Scatter: Alexander Porter, Yasmin Elayat, James George, Mei-Ling Wong
Key Collaborators: Hannah Jayanti
Blackout is an ongoing participatory, volumetric VR project gathering the reflections of real people living in today’s tense political climate through the lens of the New York subway. By creating a rotating, ‘crowd-sourced’ cast, Blackout addresses the impossible task of representing the extraordinary breadth of human experience in New York City. Each viewing of Blackout is different, surrounding you with a unique group of straphangers taking you to the places their minds go between destinations.
Draw Me Close (World Premiere)
Project Creator: Jordan Tannahill
Canadian playwright-director Jordan Tannahill partners with the National Theatre and the National Film Board of Canada to create Draw Me Close, a vivid memoir about his relationship with his mother in the wake of her terminal cancer diagnosis. Collapsing the worlds of live performance and animation to create an unforgettable encounter between a mother and her son, Draw Me Close tells the story of their past and what is to be their future. This special presentation is a world premiere of the first chapter of Draw Me Close.
The Island of the Colorblind (International Premiere)
Project Creator: Sanne de Wilde
Key Collaborators: IDFA DocLab, de Brakke Grond
What does color mean to those who can’t see it? In the late eighteenth century a catastrophic typhoon swept over Pingelap, a tiny atoll in the Pacific Ocean. One of the few survivors carried a rare gene that causes achromatopsia, a condition that includes the inability to distinguish colors. Over generations, the islanders ended up perceiving their world in black and white. The Island of the Colorblind invites the audience to explore this shift in perception through de Wilde’s photography and an interactive installation
The Last Goodbye (World Premiere)
Project Creators: Gabo Arora, Ari Palitz
Key Collaborators: Stephen Smith, Here Be Dragons, MPC, Otoy, LightShed and USC Shoah Foundation
In July of 2016, Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter toured the Majdanek Concentration Camp in what he vowed would be his final visit. By marrying a stereo video capture of Pinchas within a photoreal roomscale experience, The Last Goodbye reaches profound levels of immersion in service of the first ever VR testimony that will be archived and preserved. The importance of listening to Pinchas’ story is more important now than ever and this is also a beautiful testament to love, compassion and the human spirit.
NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism (New York Premiere)
Project Creators: Hyphen-Labs – Ashley Baccus-Clark, Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Ece Tankal, Nitzan Bartov
Imagined futures and contemporary realities come together in NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism, a multidisciplinary exploration of women of color’s experience through the lens of technology, society and culture. The project includes speculative products, immersive experiences and neuroscientific research. In the VR experience, discover the neurocosmetology lab, a kind of beauty salon, where instead of ordinary braids, customers are fitted with transcranial electrodes that allow access to a surreal alternate world.
TREEHUGGER: WAWONA (North American Premiere)
Project Creator: Marshmallow Laser Feast
Key Collaborators: Natan Sinigaglia, Mileece I’Anson, Cinekid Foundation, STRP, Southbank Centre and Migrations
TREEHUGGER : WAWONA is an interactive installation that combines today’s cultural hunger for beautiful immersive experiences with art, science, data, environmentalism and technology. Centered on a vast sculpture of a giant redwood tree, the viewer dons a VR headset, places their head into the tree’s knot and is transported into its secret inner world. The longer someone hugs the tree, the deeper they drift into treetime: a hidden dimension that lies just beyond the limit of our senses.
VIRTUAL ARCADE (as detailed by the TFF)
Alteration (World Premiere) – France
Project Creator: Jérôme Blanquet
Key Collaborators: James Sénade, Yann Apéry, Antoine Cayrol, Baptiste Chesnais, Pierre Zandrowicz, Jean-françois Blanquet
This is a poetic trip into the future: Alexandro volunteers for an experiment carried out to study dreams. He can’t imagine that he will be subjected to the intrusion of Elsa, a form of Artificial Intelligence who aims to digitize his subconscious in order to feed off it. She’s a vampire…bit by megabit.
Apex (World Premiere) – The Netherlands/USA
Project Creator: Arjan van Meerten
Key Collaborator: Wevr
The stunning new experience from the brilliant imagination of 3D artist and musician Arjan van Meerten, APEX is the highly anticipated follow up to the creator’s acclaimed and award-winning experience, Surge. Step into a surrealistic and darkly beautiful vision of a fiery urban apocalypse; one populated by skeletal ghost animals, abstract shapes, maniacal smiling giants and, of course, you.
Arden’s Wake (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Eugene Chung
Key Collaborators: Jimmy Maidens
The sea levels have risen, and a young woman and her father live in a lighthouse perched atop the ocean’s surface. When he goes missing, she descends deep into the post-apocalyptic waters previously forbidden to her, embarking on a thrilling journey of family history and self-discovery. From the creators of the magnificent Allumette (Tribeca 2016), Arden’s Wake continues the elegant evolution of storytelling from Penrose Studios.
Auto (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: J. Steven Schardt
In the near future, self-driving taxi services employ “safety drivers,” a transitional measure of comfort for passengers. On his first day, Musay, an Ethiopian immigrant with 40 years of driving experience, picks up a couple habituated to the service. Not content — not comfortable — with merely sitting, Musay insists on driving, instigating a series of events with substantial consequences.
Bebylon – Battle Royale (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Cory Strassburger, Ikrima Elhassan
Key Collaborators: Alex Underhill, Giray Ozil, Jennifer Chavarria
From the minds at Kite + Lightning, this comedic arena battle experience blends a satirical narrative with revolutionary head-to-head VR gaming. Set in a futuristic status conscious society, players compete as crude, narcissistic, immortal babies for fame and fortune. Wielding weaponized status symbols such as gold-plated selfie sticks and big-fisted battle buggies, you can be the “beby” of your most shameless rock star fantasy.
Becoming Homeless: A Human Experience (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Stanford University
Key Collaborators: Elise Ogle, Tobin Asher, Jeremy Bailenson
Everyone’s story is unique, but the human experience is collective. In this interactive first-person VR experience, you will face the adversity of living without a home. From Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Becoming Homeless aims to change the way some may think and act about the epidemic of homelessness that exists globally.
Broken Night (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Alon Benari, Tal Zubalsky, Alex Vlack
Key Collaborators: Eko, Hidden Content, Real Motion VFX
Broken Night explores a woman’s (Emily Mortimer) unreliable narrative of an intense trauma. Speaking to a detective, her confused memories unfold: returning home in the midst of a fight with her husband (Alessandro Nivola), they encounter an intruder. The viewer is placed in a position of choosing which memories to follow, sharing her confusion before coming to the startling truth.
Extravaganza (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Ethan Shaftel
Extravaganza mixes 3D animation and live-action footage in a bitingly funny satire. You are a puppet trapped in a stunningly offensive puppet show, performing for a clueless executive (Paul Scheer). Confronted with his glaringly obvious blind spots and prejudices, Extravaganza asks: can technology change society for the better, or does it just magnify our worst traits in new ways?
Hallelujah (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Zach Richter, Bobby Halvorson, Eames Kolar
Key Collaborators: Chrissy Szczupak, Orin Green, Jess Engel, ECCO VR, International Orange Chorale of SF, Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin
Hallelujah is a revolutionary virtual reality music performance that reimagines Leonard Cohen’s most well-known song. It is the world’s first VR music experience to provide an uncompromised
sense of presence with six degrees of freedom using Lytro Immerge technology. A Within Original.
Life of Us (New York Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin, Pharrell Williams
Life of Us is a shared VR journey from Within that tells the complete story of the evolution of life on earth. Created by Chris Milk & Aaron Koblin, with original music by Pharrell Williams.
The Other Dakar (World Premiere) – Senegal
Project Creator: Selly Raby Kane
Key Collaborators: Electric South, Goethe Institut
A little girl receives a message and discovers the hidden face of Dakar. An homage to Senegalese mythology and a stunningly visual debut from Dakar-based artist and designer Selly Raby Kane, this magical 360 film transports viewers to a place where past and future meet and where artists are the beating heart of the city.
The People’s House (World Premiere) – Canada
Project Creators: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël (Felix & Paul Studios)
The People’s House takes you on a historic visit of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House. Through the transportive power of VR, The Obamas take you on an intimate journey inside the West Wing, Executive and Private Residences, reflecting on their time there, and recounting the building’s profound history since its creation over two centuries ago.
The Possible: Hoverboard (Season Finale) – USA
Project Creator: David Gelb
If you could have just one superpower, what would it be? For Alexandru Duru, the answer is obvious: the ability to fly. That’s why he founded Omni Hoverboards, which has transformed hoverboard technology from dream to reality. In “Hoverboard,” you’ll follow his team as they build and test a prototype—then experience the freedom of flight for yourself.
The Protectors: Walk in The Ranger’s Shoes (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Kathryn Bigelow, Imraan Ismail
From Academy Award-winning director Katheryn Bigelow and acclaimed VR creator Imraan Ismail, The Protectors chronicles a day in the life of the rangers in Garamba National Park. These rangers are often the last line of defense in a race against the poachers intent on slaughtering elephants for their ivory tusks. The rangers face constant danger and even death, at the service of these sentient, noble creatures.
Rainbow Crow (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Eric Darnell, Maureen Fan, Larry Cutler, Claudia Southmartin, Kane Lee
Key Collaborators: Michael Hutchinson, Nathaniel Dawson
From the Director of Madagascar, Invasion! (Tribeca 2016), and Asteroids! comes Baobab Studio’s latest visionary VR animation. The carefree forest animals imagine spring will last forever. However, winter comes and the animals soon realize that their lives are in danger. What they need is a hero; what they need is Rainbow Crow. Step inside a moving, soon-to-be classic, musical experience for all ages.
Remember: Remember (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Kevin Cornish
If our minds are a map of every memory we’ve had, what do we become if those memories are stripped away? In this cinematic, room-scale VR experience set against the backdrop of an alien invasion, you are a prisoner being brainwashed by a lost love. As you cycle through your memories, the two of you begin to question what is real and what is imagined.
Sergeant James (North American Premiere) – France
Project Creator: Alexandre Perez
Key Collaborators: Avi Amar
It’s Leo’s bedtime, but he thinks there is something under his bed. Is it just the harmless imagination of a young boy, or something more sinister? Is it…you? From director Alexandre Perez, Sergeant James recaptures the innocence of youth, the wonder of the unknown, and the folly of fear, while hinting at a far creepier possibility.
Step to the Line (New York Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Ricardo Laganaro
Key Collaborators: Defy Ventures/ Oculus VR for Good
Shot entirely on location in a California maximum security prison,
Step to the Line is a documentary that aims to provoke a transformation in the spectator’s eyes about prisoners, the prison system, and even themselves. In this project, we see how release from incarceration can be just as jarring as intake and how parallel lives diverge when someone serves time.
Sword of Baahubali (New York Premiere) – India
Project Creator: SS Rajamouli, Arka Mediaworks
Key Collaborators: Radeon Technologies Group & CNCPT LA
Two friends find themselves on a battlefield, as the armies of Bhalladeva and Shivudu are set to charge into battle. As they watch the action unfold, they are unexpectedly asked to participate. Their mission – to find a legendary warrior’s sword and deliver it to him, ensuring victory. Based on S.S. Rajamouli’s World of Baahubali, India’s biggest movie franchise.
Talking With Ghosts (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Ric Carrasquillo, Roman Muradov, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Maria Yi
Key Collaborators: Wesley Allsbrook, Matthew Chadwick, Sebastien Chevrel, Tauni Oxborrow, Saschka Unseld.
Talking With Ghosts is the next wave of emerging art in the field of Illustrative VR. Following the success of Dear Angelica, Oculus Story Studio decided to enhance its painting app Quill with comic-like storytelling functionality, enabling anyone to tell their own illustrative stories in VR. The resulting works are called Quill Stories and Talking With Ghosts is a compilation of the very first of their kind, entirely painted and told in VR by four remarkable artists. Made in collaboration with Oculus Story Studios.
Testimony (World Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Zohar Kfir
Key Collaborators: Selena Pinnell
Recent events have dramatically shifted the conversation around sexual abuse in the United States. Despite persistent victim-shaming and the discounting of their experiences, abuse survivors are increasingly coming forward, empowering one another to become agents of change.
Testimony is an interactive documentary presenting the narrative accounts of sexual abuse survivors, using virtual reality to engage viewers with an intimate, motion-driven interface.
Tree (New York Premiere) – USA
Project Creator: Milica Zec, Winslow Porter
Key Collaborators: Aleksandar Protic, Jakob Kudsk Steensen
See and feel what it is like to become a tree in this haptically enhanced VR experience. With your arms as the branches and your body as the trunk, you experience the growth from a seedling to its fullest form, taking on its role in the majestic rain forest and witnessing its fate firsthand.
Unrest (World Premiere) – France/USA
Project Creator: Arnaud Colinart, Jennifer Brea, Amaury La Burthe
Key Collaborators: Diana Barrett (Fledgling Fund), Lindsey Dryden (Little By Little Films)
From the award-winning team behind Notes On Blindness, Unrest allows audiences to access the world of chronic illness and disability in an exploratory, user-led experience. Based on the documentary film of the same name, the project draws upon sensory meditations on pain, fatigue and neurosensory symptoms, and allows the public a visceral personal experience of a hard-to-understand condition.