April 13, 2021
Sundance Film Festival will let you hang out in space next to the ISS (apparently)

Sundance Film Festival will let you hang out in space next to the ISS (apparently)


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Sundance typically takes place in Park City, Utah. 


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The Sundance Film Festival is going more virtual than ever, which is saying something for the fest that helped put virtual reality on Hollywood’s radar. 

Running for eight days starting Jan. 28, Sundance will take place both on custom online platforms and through in-person events, including satellite screenings across the US as permitted by COVID-19 public-health protocols. But no part is going more virtual than New Frontier, the fest’s branch focused on cutting-edge storytelling. In recent years, New Frontier’s emphasis on tech-driven film and art has made it an epicenter for showing off some of the best and most progressive virtual and mixed reality projects. Tuesday, Sundance unveiled its full program of films, pieces and events. 

That includes, apparently, hanging out virtually while orbiting the planet next to the International Space Station. 

New Frontier “has built three spatialized digital venues that orbit the Earth right alongside the [ISS],” New Frontier’s chief curator, Shari Frilot, said in a release. (OK then.) These spacey gathering places coexist with a filmed VR project called Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, the largest production ever filmed in space. (Some episodes of Space Explorers, which is a four-part series that joins eight astronauts over two years, are already available on Oculus headsets.)

Festivalgoers will also have the chance to  go virtual “bar-hopping in Amsterdam” through IDFA DocLab’s do {not} play, an experimental social exhibition. (OK then.)

New Frontier said its virtual gallery will host the complete slate of live performances, augmented reality, VR and other emerging-media works. Cinema House will be the Festival’s social, fully immersive cinema, and Film Party is an interactive bar with six screens and more-intimate rooms available to the all festivalgoers, where they can gather and interact with avatars and with proximity audio and video chat.

Overall, Sundance will have 72 feature films, 50 short films, four series and 14 New Frontier projects. Tickets and passes to the fest go on sale Jan. 7. 

The New Frontier program next month includes: 

  • 4 Feet High VR / Argentina, France. (Lead artists: María Belén Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Damian Turkieh, Ezequiel Lenardón; key collaborators: Marie Blondiaux, Marcos Rostagno, Eugenia Foguel, Matias Benedetti, Manuel Yeri, Martin Lopez Funes, Guillermo Mena) — Juana, a 17-year-old wheelchair user, aims to explore her sexuality but is ashamed of her body. Trying to find her place in a new high school, she will go through failure, friendship, fear and politics until she builds her own pride. Cast: Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera, Marcio Ramses, Natalia Di Cienzo, Francisca Spinotti.
  • 7 Sounds / U.S.A. (Lead artist: Sam Green; key collaborator: JD Samson) — An immersive live-streamed audio-video work exploring the universal influence of sound, weaving seven specific audio recordings into a meditation on the power of sound to bend time, cross borders and profoundly shape our perception.
  • Beyond the Breakdown / U.S.A. (Lead artists: Tony Patrick, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Grace Lee; key collaborators: Jesse Cahn Thompson, Aldo Velasco) — Imagining alternate narratives for our near-future reality, inside a browser designed to hack our normal online behaviors and cultivate collaborative spaces for self-reflection and renewal.
  • The Changing Same: Episode 1 / U.S.A. (Lead artists: Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster, Yasmin Elayat; key collaborators: James George, Alexander Porter, Rad Mora, Elliott Mitchell) — An immersive, episodic virtual reality experience where the participant travels through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial injustice in America. A respectful, haunting story infused with magical realism and Afrofuturism about the uninterrupted cycle of the 400-year history of racial terror — past and present.
  • Fortune! / France, Canada (Lead artists: Brett Gaylor, Nicolas Bourniquel, Arnaud Colinart; key collaborators: Marianne Lévy-Leblond, Rob McLaughlin, Dash Spielgeman, Rolito, Clement Chériot) — Money, from bills to coins, has no intrinsic value beyond what we’ve collectively agreed to grant it. However, there’s no denying that money governs our lives. This series of animated documentary shorts in AR for smartphones, tablets and social media platforms, explores that relationship. Cast: Frank Bourassa.
  • Namoo / U.S.A. (Lead artist: Erick Oh; key collaborators: Maureen Fan, Larry Cutler, Eric Darnell, Kane Lee, David Kahn) — A narrative poem brought to life as an animated VR film, and an ode to a grandfather’s passing, this story follows the journey of a budding artist — and his tree of life — from beginning to end.
  • Nightsss / Poland (Lead artists: Weronika Lewandowska, Sandra Frydrysiak; key collaborators: Marcin Macuk, Piotr Apostel, Kaya Kołodziejczyk, Marek Straszak, Arek Zub, Przemek Danowski) — A virtual erotic poem created in artistic animation with ASMR and interactive elements, immersing the viewer in the sensual experience of poetry and dance.
  • Prison X – Chapter 1 : The Devil and the Sun / Australia, Bolivia, India (Lead artists: Violeta Ayala, Alap Parikh, Maria Corvera Vargas, Roly Elias; key collaborators: Daniel Fallshaw, Rilda Paco Alvarado, Alberto Santiago) — Heavy doors open and you’re swept into an infamous Bolivian jail, where you live among devils, saints, wicked characters, corrupt prison guards and even a Western filmmaker. In Prison X, inhabit the dreams and nightmares of the Neo-Andean underworld. Cast: Violeta Ayala, Genesis Owusu, Celina Debassey, Anamaria Gómez Jaramillo, Jesse Odom, Nicole Ukelele.
  • Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran / United Kingdom, Iran (Lead artists: Javaad Alipoor, Kirsty Housley; key collaborator: Nick Sweeting) — A darkly comedic, urgent new play about entitlement, consumption and digital technology, exploring the ubiquitous feeling that our societies are falling apart through the story of two young members of the Iranian elite, asking what their deaths tell us about climate change, social collapse and Instagram. Cast: Javaad Alipoor, Peyvand Sadeghian.
  • Secret Garden / U.S.A. (Lead artist: Stephanie Dinkins; key collaborators: Ethan Edwards, John Fitzgerald, Matthew Niederhauser, Danielle McPhatter, Sidney San Martín, Kate Stevenson, Adaora Udoji, Chris White) — An immersive web experience and installation, illuminating the power and resilience in Black women’s stories. Interactive audio vignettes generate a multigenerational narrative that collapses past, present and future. Cast: Dayne Board, Erlene Curry, Tianna Mendez, Melissa Moore, Brandi Porter, Lisa Sainville.
  • Tinker / U.S.A. (Lead artist: Lou Ward; key collaborators: Shimon Alkon, Lara Bucarey, Avril Martinez, Aileen Paron, Anthony Alan Garcia, Roberto Tan, Cristopher David, Neil Realubit, Anton Arcega, David Conklin, Evan Chavez) — What happens when the memories we spend a lifetime creating begin to disappear? Step inside the Grandfather’s workshop to discover this answer for yourself. In this live, bespoke unscripted performance, reimagine what it means to play, to connect and to hold fast to the memories we create. Cast: Randy Dixon.
  • To Miss the Ending / United Kingdom (Lead artists: Anna West, David Callanan; key collaborators: Jamie Finlay, Steph Clarke, Dan Tucker) — A VR cubicle of cardboard boxes begins to glitch, revealing an empty dark space in front of you — until something glimmers in the distance, a wave of blue flooding toward you. A chorus of real memories and imagined futures expands, until only the largest memories are left. Cast: Charlotte Berry, Michael Dodds, Houmi Miura, Ben Kulvichit, Anna West.
  • Traveling the Interstitium with Octavia Butler / U.S.A. (Lead artists: Sophia Nahli Allison, idris brewster, Stephanie Dinkins, Ari Melenciano, Terence Nance; key collaborators: Yance Ford, Sharon Chang, Kamal Sinclair) — Inspired by the ideas of Octavia Butler, voyaging into the interstitium: a liminal space, a cultural memory, containing the remnants of our ancestors, a place of refuge, a place of recentering, a portal into an alternate dimension.
  • Weirdo Night / U.S.A. (Lead artists: Jibz Cameron, Mariah Garnett) — A filmed edition, hosted by Dynasty Handbag, of the wildly popular, underground, eponymous live performance and comedy event that, until COVID-19, was held monthly in Los Angeles. Cast: Patti Harrison, Smiling Beth, Morgan Bassichis, Sarah Squirm, Hedia Maron, Blasia Discoteca.


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