Tribeca Film Festival 2016 hosted it’s first Virtual Arcade, highlighting VR shorts and interactive media. I was thrilled to play with the latest gadgets that are transforming the way we experience cinema. Clearly, a lot of other people were too. Only a couple of the interactive experiences had wait-lists and they filled very quickly. The installations without them had very long lines which meant deciding between seeing many short films or waiting for an interactive experience. I went with a good buddy of mine and we abandoned the Crystal Reef line after realizing if we stayed in it we would miss everything else. If they have the arcade next year, I plan to get there when doors open and prepare to just spend the day there. The crowd was festive and friendly. But with poor differentiation of where the lines began for each booth a fair amount of organized chaos ensued and constant friendly reminders that newcomers were unwittingly cutting the line.
But, it was a small price to pay for the joy of exploring new technology. Here’s what I was able to slip into:
Project Creator: Lynette Wallworth
Key Collaborators: Nyarri Morgan (featured); Nicole Newnham (producer); Curtis Taylor (narrator); Karryn de Cinque (editor); Patrick Meegan (director of photography); Jaunt VR. From acclaimed Australian artist/filmmaker Lynette Wallworth, Collisions is a virtual reality journey to the homeland of indigenous elder Nyarri Morgan and the Martu tribe in the Western Australian desert
How does an indigenous tribe interpret nuclear testing without the context? This VR short takes the viewer inside the Australian desert to sit with the tribe as they sort out this terrifying reality. This is another film where the story-telling is so beautiful that it took me deeper into the scenes. It’s especially jarring to feel I’m only a few feet away from Kangaroos dying of radiation burns. It did a great job of creating an emotional connection with the nuclear weapons conversation.
Holidays Christmas VR
Project Creators: Distant Corners/John Hegerman, Scott Stewart, Amanda Mortimer, Gabriela Revilla Lugo, Wevr
CHRISTMAS is part of Distant Corners’ HOLIDAYS anthology feature created by John Hegeman and produced in association with XYZ Films. From writer/director Scott Stewart (LEGION, PRIEST) and starring Emmy Award-winning actor Seth Green and Clare Grant. www.tribecafilmfestival.com
This has a fun, guilty pleasure vibe where VR glasses show you people’s true identities and the heinous things they do in secret. A man steals a VR machine from a dying man in a parking lot in desperation on Christmas Eve. But, this VR shows secret everyone’s secret digressions. He gets to know his wife much better than he ever wanted to.
My Mother’s Wing
Project Creators: Gabo Arora, Ari Palitz/Vrse.works
Key Collaborators: Chris Milk, Patrick Milling Smith, Samantha Storr
In Gaza, a woman looses her two children in the 2014 war and must move forward through the devastating wreckage. This was the film that light up the possibilities for empathy with Virtual Reality for me. I was completely immersed in this mother’s world. She brushed past me, I sat at dinnertime with her family, and viewed the 360 view of the burned out city. She wasn’t a news story. I was traveling thru these harsh realities with her. It made me think about with the dehumanization of prejudice, people often keep their distance from the feared other. In Virtual Reality, the viewer’s body registers as being safe, sitting comfortably in a cozy environment. But, consciousness feels like it’s registering VR as a real experience. Because the immersion feels complete, familiar, and inclusive, the physical sensation of feeling a people that close who may never be allowed to be that close in real life, could change the perception of them as “other”. Once the body feels safe and comfortable with the experience of being near, perhaps that comfort and realization will translate into real life.
Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart
Project Creator: New York Times Key Collaborators: Lunar Planetary Institute, Universities Space Research Association
This is a full spectrum exploration of Pluto. This film is beautifully written which was a vital part of the experience. The compelling narrative brought to life the world I was immersed in. Special effects in film have had a negative affect on great story-telling. But, I found in this VR film, great writing was essential. Hearing this gorgeous story in my earphones while going on the journey it was describing opened up new possibilities for returning to great story telling thru VR.
As much as I was excited about VR, I was uneasy about it. But, my experience of it reminded me of when I got into electronic book devices. The Nook and Kindle made reading novel again (Ha!) and the short pages seemed to retrain the way I read to make it more enjoyable. Now, I read more than ever and it’s mostly paperbacks. I think Virtual Reality has the potential to renew a curiosity with an analog world; to reach out and want engage for ourselves things that we get a taste of in this VR playground. Maybe because the body feels safe and comfortable while experiencing something completely different, VR could work with bypassing the mind trips we play on ourselves about why we can’t do something. The pleasurable association with things that before felt completely out of reach makes it feel like a more comfortable choice in real life. It has the possibility to expand what we believe we are capable of in our actual lives instead of shrinking it.