Immersive movies meant for SXSW Film Fest head to Oculus TV

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The seven works for SXSW 2020 Virtual Cinema on Oculus TV are billed as showcase content for the potential of VR as a storytelling medium, particularly at a time when much of the world remains under lockdown and immersive tech users are hungry for new experiences

In brief

➨ What? SXSW 2020 Virtual Cinema on Oculus TV
➨ Where? Oculus TV
➨ When? 22 to 31 May 2020
➨ How much? Free

In full

SXSW has teamed up with Oculus TV to show a line-up of 360 projects entered into a competition for the now-cancelled 2020 SXSW Film Festival.

The seven works are billed as showcase content for the potential of VR as a storytelling medium, particularly at a time when much of the world remains under lockdown and immersive tech users are hungry for new experiences.

Commenting on the projects being made available globally on Oculus TV for free on 22 May, Blake Kammerdeiner, virtual cinema programmer for SXSW, said: “We are so excited to offer global audiences an opportunity to experience these phenomenal 360 projects on Oculus TV.”

“This sampling of what would have been a robust XR programme is sure to delight audiences, and we are thankful to Oculus TV for helping us showcase these artists and projects.”

These kinds of partnerships are integral in the current environment, for users under lockdown in need of new experiences and content creators who would usually be touring the world to attend their own premieres.

It will be absolutely essential for the future of immersive content that the likes of SXSW and Oculus TV continue to engage in partnerships such as these, so that everyone who wants to enjoy these experiences can, and that the content creators behind them get the opportunity to put their work in front of as many people as possible.

Here is the line-up:

After the Fallout (Switzerland, US)

Directors: Sam Wolson and Dominic Nahr

“This unforgettable 360-degree experience pushes past traditional documentary tropes to evoke the reality and emotional gravity of life in Fukushima, 10 years after the 2011 nuclear disaster. After the Fallout is an immersive mosaic that takes us through surreal environments in the exclusion zone, and explores the lives of families as they navigate a new world which they have had to adapt to.”

The Curious Life of Bill Mont / World Premiere

Directors: Andrea Patiño Contreras and Katrina Sorrentino

“While preparing for a winter formal at Northwood, a senior living centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Bill Mont, an 89-year-old self-made entrepreneur, reminisces about his life, including his most recent venture—sending people’s ashes to the moon. As he ruminates on love and loss, as well as his entrepreneurial projects and acquisitions, in a nine minute 360 virtual cinema film, we experience what it’s like to have fun while aging!”

Ferenj: A Graphic Memoir in VR

Director/Screenwriter: Ainslee Alem Robson

“How is identity conceived? What does it mean for your home to be constructed immaterially via fragments of culture and oral history distorted by the filter of time and migration? This afrosurreal portrait of home traverses crosswalks, continents and consciousness, moments of cultural alienation, and the director’s childhood memories from Empress Taytu Ethiopian Restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, to the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—her mother’s home country. Ferenj reclaims Ethiopian-American mixed-race identity, redefines boundaries between memory and digital imaginary, and challenges reductive narratives of Africa.”

Gr8ness (Kenya) / World Premiere

Directors: Michael Ilako and Isa Paul Mohamed

“Seventy percent of 20 million youth in South Africa have been victims or perpetrators of crime. Of every 100,000 youth, 37% have dropped out of school before matriculation. The documentary explores how these statistics can be changed by exposing youth to the opportunities of creative industries, which are sadly not known by most at-risk youth of South Africa. Ethan grew up in Muizenberg with his parents and siblings. Due to tough economic times, Ethan had to move to Grassy Park and live with his grandmother. Through Ethan’s lens, we want to take the user on a journey to experience the growth of the relationship between the child and mentor as they explore art and creativity together in Cape Town.”

Look at Me (Taiwan) / North American Premiere

Director/Screenwriter: HE Wei-Ting

“Zhang, like everyone in the near future, is addicted to the virtual world. A failed rendezvous with his girlfriend makes Zhang wander the city at night, where he discovers a club where everyone gives up the virtual world for physical fighting, to engage in ‘real interactions’, and where everyone actually looks at each other during conversation.”

Notre-Dame de Paris: A Unique Journey Back in Time (France) / North American Premiere

Director: Mélanie de Riberolles

“On 15 April 2019, the world witnessed as Notre-Dame Cathedral was nearly destroyed in a devastating fire. As the tragedy unfolded, people began sharing memories of the cathedral with photos and videos reliving those moments. Others were able to relive their memories virtually through Assassin’s Creed Unity, the video game. Ubisoft has been collaborating with historians for years, meticulously collecting data and testimonials to build Notre-Dame in-game. Based on this 3D model, Ubisoft created a VR tour of Notre-Dame so people can get back to the cathedral and discover point-of-views that were inaccessible to the public, or elements of architecture that were destroyed by the fire, including the famous spire!”

A Song Within Us (Taiwan, France) / North American Premiere

Director/Screenwriter: Fangas Nayaw

A Song Within Us is a sound-interactive experience, with Ambisonic audio. During the experience, audience members will mimic the tribal leader, who will teach them to sing together. Viewers can receive visual feedback for the efforts. There are two versions of the project, both with spatial audio. One version is an individual, immersive sound experience, but we also designed an ambisonic dome for a physical installation. In the ambisonic dome, viewers will experience the project without wearing earphones and five audience members can discover the piece together.

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Images: Courtesy of 2020 SXSW Virtual Cinema Project, Notre-Dame de Paris: A Unique Journey Back in Time