New York's Tribeca Film Festival has announced its slate of virtual reality films and interactive art, revealing a combination of documentaries, fiction, social commentary, and general weirdness. Like the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca has intensified its focus on virtual reality this year, bringing 23 experiences to the show. While there's some crossover between the two, the organizers have largely pushed for new material. Sixteen of the titles are premiering at the festival, where they'll be shown off between April 14th and 20th.
There's a lot we don't know about the individual experiences. We've been told they'll run on some combination of Gear VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive, and they're mostly under 10 minutes, although at least one — Allumette — runs up to 20. That said, here are a few of the things we're most excited to see.
I'm not familiar with Marc-Antoine Mathieu, the French comics artist whose work Sens is apparently adapting into a virtual reality experience. But two-dimensional animated VR is a novel and promising space, and the trailer — featuring what the creators describe as a maze of arrows directing you to an unknown destination — is enough to pique our interest.
Sundance gave us some of the first VR from people better known in the film world, and Tribeca looks to be continuing along that path. In this case, we're talking about a VR experience directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, otherwise known as one of the minds behind campy B-movie Sharknado and its sequels. The piece "follows a struggling machete salesman who runs into trouble when his discount hotel room comes with an unwelcome guest," it's importing actor Ian Ziering from the Sharknado series, and it implicitly promises about as much over-the-top gore as that premise suggests. We're down.
"A man stoops to dangerous new lows to get his son the ultimate VR headset for Christmas."
Holidays: Christmas VR
A more direct tie between Hollywood and the VR world comes in the form of another horror piece, this one from writer/director Scott Stewart (Priest, Legion). Christmas is part of a horror anthology film that also includes works by Kevin Smith (Clerks, Tusk) and Matt Johnson (Operation Avalanche), and the VR experience is supposedly an "enhancement" to the flatscreen film segment. All we know beyond that is that it stars actors Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Italian Job) and Clare Grant (Walk the Line), it's produced in partnership with well-known virtual reality studio Wevr, and it's about a man who "stoops to dangerous new lows to get his son the ultimate VR headset for Christmas."
Based on its trailer, Invasion! falls squarely into the familiar world of Pixar-esque VR shorts. But it's the first film from Baobab Studios, a group led by veterans of Zynga and DreamWorks that's positioning itself as a major player in VR animation. This is our chance to see if Baobab can deliver — and watch a cute story about rabbits repelling an alien invasion.
Did we mention Wevr really gets around? Besides Christmas VR, it's also co-producing a VR music video — sorry, "vibrant psychedelic dance party" — for the catchy Future Islands song "Old Friend." Waves, Wevr's collaboration with musician Reggie Watts at Sundance, was a pretty good piece of pop psychedelia too, so our expectations are set high.
My Mother's Wing
No virtual reality lineup would be complete without something from Vrse.works, the high-profile studio behind The New York Times' documentary The Displaced and many other pieces of VR journalism. My Mother's Wing "follows the struggle and strength of a mother coping with the death of her two children" in Gaza, and we have no reason to believe it will be anything but excellent.
Allumette isn't totally new, but it's getting its official world premiere at Tribeca, where we'll hopefully get to see more than the preview that animation studio Penrose showed a few people last month. It was one of the best experiences (technically not at) Sundance, so we're looking forward to another taste.