This year’s VR pavilion will be located at Neimënster for the first time. “The space at Casino became too small,” explained Guy Daleiden, Film Fund Luxembourg director, during a Thursday press conference. This year’s pavilion is “bigger, with more films and experiences” compared to previous years. Last year’s pavilion welcomed over 3,000 visits, more than double the year prior.
Ainhoa Achutegui, Neimënster director, said it was a good thing Daleiden reached out to her well in advance, allowing her team to determine what would be possible in terms of installations. “VR is totally new to us,” she added.
Nevertheless, the team received plenty of help: while PHI (Montreal) provided much of the VR creative input and expertise, Cargolux helped fly in many of the installation pieces from Canada.
This year’s lineup includes international films and Luxembourg co-productions, plus XR- and AI-based installations. One of the spaces will be dedicated to Atlas V, French pioneers in immersive AR/VR experiences.
The lineup includes Jan Kounen’s prize-winning “7 Lives”, part of the official selection at Tribeca Film Festival 2019. The VR experience follows the soul of a teenage girl after she jump onto subway tracks in Tokyo. Her soul, in an effort to end its wandering, passes into the tormented minds of those who witnessed the tragedy. (Kounen’s “Ayahuasca (Kosmik Journey)”, co-produced with Luxembourg’s a_Bahnand France’s Small and Atlas V, is currently running at Neimënster.)
“Algorithmic Perfumery” is an interactive, AI-powered olfactory installation by Frederik Duerinck which requires visitors to take a brief questionnaire, after which the installation provides them with a unique scent.
Some of the other highlights include Tupac Martir’s “Cosmos Within Us”, a story about a man struggling to maintain his memory as Alzheimer’s leaves it more fragmented. The experience combines a live performance, as participants experience how others experience VR.
Other Luxembourg highlights include the magical scenery of a Beaufort forest as it changes seasons in "Forest Lounge", by Benigno Perez, and "Sublimination" by Karolina Markiewicz and Pascal Piron, which teachers the visitor Butoh-Japanese dance after which the participant's performance helps create fractals in the environment.
“A Linha” (The Line) by Ricardo Laganaro, a full-body immersion based on 1940s São Paulo, left Daleiden nearly in tears, he says, because of its intense beauty. “The Key” by Céline Tricard should be another festival favourite--Daleiden said he couldn’t reveal much more because it would give away the ending. This one has already won prizes at Tribeca and Venice and takes users on a journey about dreams.
Documentary-lovers can also take their pick from several VR cinema selections, ranging from, among others, “Daughters of Chibok” on the Boko Haram kidnapping aftermath; “Traveling While Black”, about race relations in the US; and “Everest VR”, which takes viewers into a Himalayan avalanche.
This year, a jury comprised of Toby Coffey (National Theatre, UK); Paola Gazzani Marinelli (Geneva International Film Festival); and Caroline Monnet (Montreal-based filmmaker and artist) will also be charged with selecting their top VR film or experience, awarding a €4,000 prize to the winner.
A professional VR day workshop also takes place on 6 March, 10am-4pm, providing international directors, experts and local professionals with a chance to exchange insights on issues ranging from AI-based installations to licensing, festival strategies and more.
The VR pavilion at Neimënster is part of the Luxembourg City Film Festival, which runs 5-15 March at various cinemas and venues in the capital city. For a complete list of VR films and experiences, visit the festival website.