Carne y Arena (Virtually present, Physically invisible), the virtual reality installation from Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, is receiving a special award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. According to Variety, the award is being presented “in recognition of a visionary and powerful experience in storytelling,” making Carne y Arena the first project to merit such an honor since Pixar’s Toy Story in 1996.
AMPAS president John Bailey says that Carne y Arena “opened for us new doors of cinematic perception,” and that “more than even a creative breakthrough in the still emerging form of virtual reality, it viscerally connects us to the hot-button political and social realities of the US-Mexico border.” The short piece premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and it’s currently being showcased at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Carne y Arena combines a virtual reality landscape with a physical environment, scattered with sand and articles of clothing left behind by people who attempted to cross the US-Mexico border. It places participants amid a group of immigrants as they’re set upon by the US Border Patrol, emphasizing feelings of disorientation, uncertainty, and fear, before ending with a video installation where undocumented immigrants tell their stories. In Iñárritu’s own words, it’s supposed to “allow the visitor to go through a direct experience walking in the immigrants’ feet, under their skin, and into their hearts.”