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Why Tribeca Is XR’s Most Important Festival

New York’s Tribeca Film Festival announced its Immersive Arcade line-up this afternoon. The Arcade is the XR (meaning VR, AR and everything else) companion to the film festival founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. The Festival added interactive programming in 2012. Under the guidance of curators Loren Hammonds and Ingrid Kopp, the Immersive Arcade is one of the four big International XR Festivals along with Sundance, The Venice Film Festival and South-by-Southwest (SXSW). Many of the experiences offered in the Arcade, such as the highly anticipated debut of Fable Studios’, “Wolves In The Walls: It’s All Over” and “ AYHUASCA,” from producers Atlas V and director Jan Kounen, are world premieres. Many of the exhibitions are location specific, created just for Tribeca, and may never be seen again.

The competitive category, Storyscapes, includes four world premieres and one North American premiere. Hammonds told me his goal is to reveal “where we are in the development of storytelling with new technology. The broad diversity of experiences here suggests it’s not just technology. It’s storytelling, it’s creativity, it’s the biggest toolset artist have ever had. There’s performance. There are sets. There’s physical action. You do things.” Indeed, the competitive category innovative work across immersive mediums that combine various forms of the technology with audience participation. The five projects come from Australia, Egypt, Iraq, Netherlands, UK, and USA. This year, four of the five experiences up for the award were made by female creators.

Collider is a location specific VR experience that will never be duplicated anywhere else. Nichon Gleron

The Collider (North American Premiere) from UK’s Anagram, is a blend of mixed reality and immersive theater in which two participants, one in a headset, and one with controllers, have to work together. It explores the notions of memory and dependency. Future Dreaming (World Premiere) from renowned Australian XR artist Sutu was created in collaboration with native Aboriginal youth, who learned VR content creation tools in order to express their aspirations for the future. Hammonds described it as both “beautiful and funny.” Traitor (World Premiere) also uses mixed reality elements, including actors from the UK’s Pilot Theatre Company, to create an escape room experience whose goal is to find a missing teen.

Starring Lucy, the first AI character to star on a VR experience. She remembers what you’ve told her.CARLOS LEON

Out of competition, some of the best-known creators of VR content are also featured in the Tribeca Immersive Arcade, many returning for a second and third time. This is the fourth year Baobab Studios has been part of the festival. Director Eric Darnell is expanding interactivity in Bonfire, a semi-comic predicament of lost spacefarers on an alien planet.

Baobab studios (“Invasion,” “Jack”) is back again with “Bonfire.” Baobab Studios

Clyde Henry and Felix & Paul Studios present their stop-motion animation Gymnasia which takes place in a decrepit school gymnasium populated by abandoned puppets. Edward Saachi’s Fable Studios is presenting the much-anticipated Wolves In The Walls: It’s All Over (World Premiere), which features the first AI character to star in a VR experience, Lucy, who needs to talk to you.

You’ll see the World War One trench battle from the air and underground in this VR experience. War Remains

The Festival will present a one-of-a-kind collaboration with popular historian/podcaster Dan Carlin and MWM Immersive that transports attendees to a WWI battlefield with stunning realism in War Remains. Using free roam (untethered) VR, haptics, and sensations like heat and wind, users will experience World War I from above in a balloon, and below, in the trenches. A similar wartime sensory experience, HERO, won the Storyscapes prize last year. Jessica Brillhart, formerly Principal Filmmaker for VR at Google, is having the world premiere of her Vrai Pictures production Into the Light at the Festival. It’s a one-of-a-kind geolocated immersive audio experience that will move participants throughout the building to hear pieces by Yo-yo Ma. Conservation International is returning to the Festival, following their powerful debut last year with the dual 360 (My Africa) and free roam VR (Elephant Keeper) experiences. This year they’re presenting A Drop In the Ocean, which shrinks the user down to the size of a microbe on the back of a jellyfish (apparently you feel like you are indeed standing on a jellyfish) to experience pollution on a molecular, and persona, level.

“A Drop In The Ocean” from Conservation International, shrinks the participant down to the size of a microbe. They then ride atop a jellyfish. Only in VR.Conservation International

“It has been a wild ride seeing how artists and filmmakers have responded to new technologies over the years, constantly pushing and prodding and exploring the edges of things in order to make beautiful and vital work,” said Kopp, co-curator of Tribeca Immersive, in the Festival’s press release.

Here’s the full Virtual Arcade line up:


2nd Civil War (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Kevin Cornish

Key Collaborators: Moth + Flame, Conversive, Pollution Studios, Denis Sharabari

2nd Civil War has broken out in America. In this voice-activated VR experience, you will drop into an Insurgent Hot Zone, interrogate the inner circle of the insurgency and decide: which side are you on?

7 Lives (World Premiere) — Luxembourg, France, Belgium

Project Creator: Charles Ayats, Sabrina Calvo, Jan Kounen

Key Collaborators: Franck Weber, Céline Tricart, Marie Blondiaux, Adrien Oumhani

An afternoon in June. Tokyo. 5 p.m. A girl jumps in front of the subway. Her soul rises from the rails. On the platform, the six people who witnessed the scene are in shock. It revived a trauma in them, painful memories they never overcame…

Ayahuasca (World Premiere) — France, Luxembourg, Belgium

Project Creator: Jan Kounen

Key Collaborators: Guillermo Arévalo Valera — Shaman

Participants are immersed in visions triggered by a dose of ayahuasca. The spectator lives this through director Jan Kounen’s eyes as he travels on a spiritual voyage.

Bonfire (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Eric Darnell, Baobab Studios

Key Collaborators: Maureen Fan, Larry Cutler, Kane Lee, Shannon Ryan, Ali Wong

Nice job. You’ve crashed your spaceship into an alien jungle. Your instincts, nourishment cylinders, and a wary robot sidekick are all you have for survival… or so you think. With Ali Wong.

Cave (US Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Ken Perlin, Kris Layng, Sebastian Herscher

Key Collaborators: Jess Bass

Cave is a coming-of-age story told through cutting edge Parallux technology, featuring a fully immersive holographic VR experience that can be shared by many audience members at once.

Children Do Not Play War (World Premiere) — Uganda, Brazil, USA

Project Creator: Fabiano Mixo

Children Do Not Play War is a cinematic VR tale of the war in Uganda told through the eyes of a young girl. Also playing in the program Cinema360: Her Truth, Her Power

Common Ground (World Premiere) — UK

Project Creator: Darren Emerson

Key Collaborators: Ashley Cowan, Conan Roberts

Explore the notorious Aylesbury Estate, concrete monument to the history and legacy of social housing in the UK, and home to a community affected by forces beyond their control.

Doctor Who: The Runaway (World Premiere) — UK

Project Creator: BBC / Passion Animation Studios

Key Collaborators: Mathias Chelebourg

Step inside the TARDIS with the Doctor in this beautiful, animated, interactive story from the Doctor Who team. With Jodie Whittaker, Richard Elfyn.

A Drop in the Ocean (World Premiere) — UK, France, USA

Project Creator: Adam May, Chris Campkin, Chris Parks

Key Collaborators: Philippe Cousteau, Ashlan Cousteau, Vision3, Conservation International

Discover a miniature universe at the heart of our survival. Become part of a Social VR adventure through the ocean food chain, to reveal a crisis of our making.

Ello (World Premiere) — China

Project Creator: Haodan Su

Key Collaborators: Zhiyuan Ma, Hao Luo

Ello is a sweet story about loneliness and friendship. When people expect friendship or love, proactively pursuing rather than passively waiting might lead to a surprising end.

Gymnasia (World Premiere) — Canada

Project Creator: Clyde Henry Productions

Key Collaborators: Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël

Step into a dream, where the ghostly ephemera of a lost childhood await you.

Into the Light (New York Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Jessica Brillhart, Igal Nassima

Key Collaborator: Yo-Yo Ma

Ascend Spring Studios and move through the movements of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Unaccompanied Cello Suite №2 in D Minor,” performed by the legendary Yo-Yo Ma.

Stealing Ur Feelings (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Noah Levenson

Key Collaborators: Brett Gaylor

Stealing Ur Feelings is an AR experience about the power of facial emotion recognition AI that exploits your reaction to its own content in horrifying ways.

Unceded Territories (World Premiere) — Canada/USA

Project Creator: Paisley Smith and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

Key Collaborators: Ketsia Vedrine, Peter Denny, Patrick Weekes, Jason Legge

Through infectious interaction, build a natural world made up of the colorful, surrealist art of acclaimed First Nations painter Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, until you are confronted by Colonialist Snake who forces you to see the truth behind your actions.

War Remains (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Dan Carlin, MWM Immersive

Key Collaborators: Brandon Oldenburg, Ethan Stearns, Flight School Studio, Skywalker Sound

Podcast legend Dan Carlin employs the unique power of virtual reality to transport audiences into the most extreme battlefield in history — the Western Front of The First World War.

Where There’s Smoke (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Lance Weiler

Key Collaborators: Peter English, Julia Pontecorvo, Dale Worstall

Where There’s Smoke mixes documentary, immersive theater, and an escape room to explore memory and loss. Set within the aftermath of a blaze, participants race to determine the cause of a tragic fire by sifting through the charred remains.

Wolves in the Walls: It’s All Over (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Pete Billington, Jessica Yaffa Shamash

Key Collaborators: Fable, Facebook Sound+Design, Third Rail Projects, Oculus Studios, Edward Saatchi, Chris Hanson

Transport into the magic of VR cinema, where only you can help Lucy discover what’s truly hiding inside the walls of her house. With Jeffrey Wright, Noah Schnapp, Elizabeth Carena, Cadence Goblirsch


Sponsored by AT&T

Another Dream (حلم آخر) (World Premiere) — Netherlands, USA, Egypt

Project Creator: Tamara Shogaolu, Ado Ato Pictures

Key Collaborators: Lauren Dubowski, Natalya Sarch, Nada El-Kouny, Anastasia Semenoff (alpha_rats), Martijn Zandvliet, Gata Mahardika, Ytje Veenstra,

Another Dream brings to life the gripping, true story of an Egyptian lesbian couple. Faced with a post-Revolution backlash against their community, they must choose between love and home.

The Collider (North American Premiere) — UK

Project Creator: Anagram

Enter The Collider, a machine built to decipher the mysteries of human relationships. The Collider is an immersive virtual and theatrical experience exploring power, dependency, and the space between people.

Future Dreaming (World Premiere) — Australia

Project Creator: Sutu

Key Collaborators: Charles Henden, Alison Lockyer, Maverick Eaton, Maxie Coppin, Nelson Coppin

Step into a time-warping dream bubble as four young Aboriginal Australians approach their futures. Be ready for an intergalactic adventure. Look out for the space emus!

The Key (World Premiere) — USA, Iraq

Project Creator: Celine Tricart

Key Collaborators: Gloria Bradbury

An interactive VR experience taking the viewer on a journey through memories. Will they be able to unlock the mystery behind the mysterious Key without sacrificing too much?

Traitor (World Premiere) — UK

Project Creator: Pilot Theatre, Lucy Hammond

Key Collaborators: Matt Stuttard Parker, Richard Hurford, Rebecca Saw, Lydia Denno, Jonathan Eato

Eight hours ago, teenager Emma McCoy vanished. All she left behind was a game. Now it’s the viewer’s job to find her.


Change is Gonna Come

12 Seconds of Gunfire: The True Story of a School Shooting (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Suzette Moyer, Seth Blanchard

Key Collaborators: John Woodrow Cox

After a gunman shoots her best friend on the playground, a first-grade girl confronts a journey of trauma and loss after the Townville, South Carolina, school shooting.

Ashe ’68 (New York Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Brad Lichtenstein

Key Collaborators: Beth Hubbard, Rex Miller, Jeff Fitzsimmons

Arthur Ashe emerged as an elite athlete who parlayed his fame as the first black man to win the US Open tennis championship into a lifetime devoted to fighting injustice.

Accused №2: Walter Sisalu (North American Premiere) — France

Project Creator: Nicolas Champeaux & Gilles Porte

Key Collaborators: Oerd Van Cuijlenborg

A trove of 256 hours of sound archives of the Rivonia trial bring back to life the political battle waged by Nelson Mandela and his seven co-defendants against apartheid. This film looks at one of them in particular: Accused №2, Walter Sisulu.

Go Team!

11.11.18 (World Premiere) — Belgium, France

Project Creator: Sébastien Tixador et Django Schreven

Key Collaborators: Boris Baum, Sébastien Plazeneix, Antoine Sauwen

A few minutes before the suspension of fighting in World War on November 11, 1918, soldiers have to face a series of decisions.

Space Buddies (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Matt Jenkins, Ethan Shaftel

Key Collaborators: Piotr Karwas

It takes a special team of astronauts to survive the voyage to Mars without going insane. This crew will be lucky to make it past launch.

Mr. Buddha (董仔的人) (International Premiere) — Taiwan R.O.C.

Project Creator: HTC Corporation, Lee Chung

Key Collaborators: HTC VIVE, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee

The short crime story takes place in a car, following Dong-Tzu, Ching-Tsai, and Ni-Sang, who get their hands on a valuable antique only to have the fruits of their labor shared with the newcomer, A-Che.

Her Truth, Her Power

Mercy (New York Premiere) — USA, Cameroon

Project Creator: Armando Kirwin

Key Collaborators: Sutu, Ruben Plomp, Emma Debany, AMK LTD, Oculus VR for Good

Edith, a 14-year-old from Cameroon, journeys through the jungle seeking life-transforming surgery to remove a tumor on her jaw.

Girl Icon (New York Premiere) — USA, India

Project Creator: Sadah Espii Proctor

Key Collaborators: Amy Seidenwurm, Skye Von, Paula Cuneo, Lauren Burmaster, Espii Studios, little GIANT Wolf, Oculus VR for Good

Globally, over 130 million girls do not go to school. Step into the life of one girl from India who is inspired by Malala Yousafzai to change her course.

Children Do Not Play War (World Premiere) — Uganda, Brazil, USA

Project Creator: Fabiano Mixo

Key Collaborators: Amy Seidenwurm, VILD Studio, Oculus VR for Good

Children Do Not Play War is a cinematic VR tale of the war in Uganda told through the eyes of a young girl. Also playing in the Virtual Arcade.

Such Sweet Sorrow

Armonia (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Bracey Smith

Key Collaborators: Anja Moreno-Smith, Neil Dvorak, Sara K White, Josh Bernhard, Jacques Lalo, Daniel Coletta

Armonia takes the ride of the dynamic original piano concerto “Armonia Degli Uccelli,” and marries it to a universally accessible animation, to produce a uniquely layered spectacle of spatial storytelling.

Dreams of The Jaguar’s Daughter (World Premiere) — USA, Mexico

Project Creator: Alfredo Salazar-Caro

Key Collaborators: Genesis Mancheren Abaj, Prashast Thapan, Tarek Turkey

Dreams Of The Jaguar’s Daughter is a surreal VR documentary where Achik’, the spirit of a young Maya immigrant, guides the viewer through her memories of an arduous journey north.

Water Melts (World Premiere) — USA

Project Creator: Lilian Mehrel, Mary Evangelista

Key Collaborators: Ting Liu, Maya Edelman. Ariel Marx

A blue-hearted rom-com about people who are going to lose someone they love. Nobody knows what to say, so they bicker, laugh/cry, get married. It’s a romantic comedy, after all.

Tribeca Immersive takes place in the Tribeca Festival Hub located at Spring Studios — 50 Varick Street. Admission to presentations of the Virtual Arcade featuring Storyscapes is $40. Screening tickets for Tribeca Cinema360 screenings are $15. Tickets can be purchased online at beginning March 26 or by telephone at (646) 502–5296 or toll-free at (866) 941-FEST (3378).

Originally published at on March 6, 2019.

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