By: Jenna Wigman
Virtual reality has gained prevalence and esteem in the programming of some of the film industry’s most time-honored festivals and events. NYC’s beloved homegrown fest, the Tribeca Film Festival, supported the industry as one of its earliest adopters, first launching their virtual reality lineup as early as 2010.
After making the rookie mistake of showing up halfway through my ticket window last year and finding all of the best experiences boasting a digital queue well into the next day, I snagged a spot in line 30 minutes prior to my start time, armed with a running list of the top buzzed-about experiences for the 2018 event.
And boy, was I in for an eclectic experience.
While I initially passed “Lambchild Superstar: Making Music in the Menagerie of the Holy Cow,” thinking it seemed a bit too child-oriented, I realized that it was the project helmed by VR god Chris Milk and OK GO Frontman and Park Pictures director Damian Kulash. I lucked out by finding a cancellation and entered immediately. I can’t fully explain the joy inherent in this gaming experience. As someone who never really adapted to challenge-driven gaming, the explorative nature of the colorful interface was delightful, and the music-making aspect kept me moving the entire time. It was as transformative as the first time I tried “Tilt Brush,” and it blasted me into a euphoric world of color that I only wish I could experience in the real world. If you see Lambchild Superstar pop up later on the festival circuit, don’t miss it!
When I saw that “Dinner Party” was a part of Tribeca Immersive, I immediately cursed myself on the number of times I passed by its installation in the JW Marriott at SXSW, knowing that now I’d inevitably encounter a longer wait time. Luckily, after making a beeline for the queue, I was able to get in fairly quickly. The emotional piece has the viewer sit at an actual dinner table, which I realized was constructed in the same 1960s style as the home in the experience. The film is a prime example of storytelling that could only be executed in virtual reality, both taking advantage of the full 360 space with constant action for the live action scenes, and portraying otherworldly experiences in the CG scenes. The story envisions the true tale of a couple’s alien encounter, representing their out-of-body experiences through both magical and horrific reenactments of their nearly indescribable extraterrestrial encounter. Both the depiction of the events and the interaction of all of the actors in the scene kept me completely engaged the entire time–I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat. I was in awe that the piece actually ran for the described 13 minutes, which passed in a flash of excitement, intrigue and deep pain.
Other experiences I had the chance to check out included the Lupita Nyongo-narrated “My Africa,” which showed the daily threats to the wildlife and animals that keep the Africa thriving; a powerful immersive look at personal stories from the aftermath of the atomic bomb drop in Japan, in “The Day the World Changed;” an artistic exploration of words, drawings and stories in “Chalkroom;” and an emotional backseat look at two parents in the throes of grief and regret upon the death of their estranged son from AIDs in the ‘90s, in “Queerskins: A Love Story.”
While the content was stellar, the volume of virtual reality certainly left my equilibrium a bit off. It turns out 2 hours in a headset is my maximum, which is fair. If you missed out on Tribeca Immersive this year, make sure you take the journey in 2019!
Read more about the entire Tribeca Immersive lineup HERE.