“We thought there was no way we wouldn’t be back on the island this year, but here we are again mainly virtual,” lamented Michel Reilhac, programmer of the virtual reality selection of the Venice International Film Festival, on the opening day. His co-curator, Liz Rosenthal, sits alongside him in Venice, Italy, where a much smaller version of their program is underway. Last year, the team piloted the organization of a quarantined festival with great success. The series of events hosted over 100,000 guests, whom the Floating City never could, and perhaps never wanted, to physically welcome. The festival repeated its model this year, adding to its network of satellite venues where attendees can access the equipment free of charge.
The prohibitive costs of VR equipment often define a select audience; So do the historic elitism of celebrity glamor and the Venetian film festival venue. However, Reilhac and Rosenthal have a vision of a global audience, a goal recently accelerated by the invention of VRchat, a tool that allows participants from all over the world to commune in the same virtual space.
âMuch of what the biennale produces, finances and organizes is much more discreet than the surface of the red carpet,â explains Reilhac. The curators find the tension between the exclusivity of the delivery mode and their desire for a successful open event to draw attention to the diversity program, but also find that the program is just as much of a behind-the-scenes incubator. âThere are parts of the Biennale that focus on scouting for development, new talent, which of course the media doesn’t talk about because there isn’t really any glamor attached to it. He gives the example of the 12 international projects that they fund annually with a grant of 60,000 euros and accompany them until their premiere at the following festival.
In its fifth annual edition, the VR wing of the Venice International Film Festival is still defining its foundations, a work taken very seriously by its shepherds. âEach year, we question the very principles on which we have built our selection. And one of the best examples is VR chats, a celebration we’re having this year for people who don’t see themselves as artists who build these amazing worlds, âsays Rosenthal. âWe added this section because we thought it was relevant, but who knows what we’ll do next year, depending on what happens. We truly see ourselves as providing a window into the new frontier of this nascent art form.
In practice, this means that Rosenthal and Reilhac hunt everywhere for commissions. They don’t have time to wait for submissions. They remain actively engaged online and offline. It plays into their program. Here are three highlights from this year’s edition that you are invited to try at home.
Don’t sleep anymore fans might consider tapping into the festival to participate in Blanca Li’s Blanca Li’s Paris Ballâ (2021), a festive and narrative game, which immerses its users in an alternative but opulent reality where they are the guests of a love story. There will also be a physical iteration in Venice for locals where 10 or more participants can walk into the same room together and take an active part in Li’s romantic intrigue.
The Grief Continues with Benjamin Cleary and Michael O’Connors Overview, an immersive cinematic experience, which takes place from the perspective of Herbie, a panda and illustrator who recently broke up with Rice, his musician girlfriend. The film emerges BoJack Cavalier and Tuca and Bertie reality in its touching portrayal of lost love and its place in art.
If the voice of David Attenborough brings you to this special place then you can’t miss Micro-Monsters, a VR documentary that throws the viewer into the skin of a bug. From this point of view, the world of aphids is focused in all their glory and live violence. Hybrid between documentary and thrills, this non-competing piece by Elliot Graves shows the potential of the educational side of virtual reality in vivid colors.
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