Tribeca Film Festival 2017 Promises Powerful Virtual Journeys

It’s been quite a year for virtual and augmented reality. While creators explore new formats and voices, consumers have ridden a rollercoaster of enthusiasm and then early adopter disappointment.

Last year the Tribeca Film Festival launched the The Virtual Arcade, which offered a dramatic array of VR experiences for festival goers. I wrote about it HERE.

This year, the Virtual Arcade continues, along with Tribeca’s earlier immersive storytelling program Storyscapes, which is celebrating it’s 5th year of programing.

As with all VR events, planning ahead the experiences you want to see is essential since there are a limited number of headsets, and often a waiting list that fills up quickly.

“Artists allow us to see the world differently. They peel back layers of reality to show us new ways of thinking, using story, and technology to reveal truths and possibilities,” said Ingrid Kopp, curator of Storyscapes. “It has been wonderful to witness audience interest in immersive work grow over the past few years and to see how artists have responded to this excitement.”


The 2017 Storyscapes selections include six projects from four countries, three of the projects are world premieres. Three of the most intriguing descriptions include these projects:

TREEHUGGER : WAWONA. (North American Premiere) Centered on a vast sculpture of a giant redwood tree, the viewer dons a VR headset, places their head into the tree’s knot and is transported into its secret inner world. The longer someone hugs the tree, the deeper they drift into treetime: a hidden dimension that lies just beyond the limit of our senses.

The Last Goodbye (World Premiere) In July of 2016, Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter toured the Majdanek Concentration Camp in what he vowed would be his final visit. By marrying a stereo video capture of Pinchas within a photoreal roomscale experience, The Last Goodbye reaches profound levels of immersion in service of the first ever VR testimony that will be archived and preserved

Draw Me Close (World Premiere) Canadian playwright-director Jordan Tannahill partners with the National Theatre and the National Film Board of Canada to create Draw Me Close, a vivid memoir about his relationship with his mother in the wake of her terminal cancer diagnosis.


The Virtual Arcade selections include 23 projects from six countries, 17 of which are world premieres. Here are three projects that caught my eye, as described by the folks at Tribeca.

Becoming Homeless: A Human Experience (World Premiere) Everyone's story is unique, but the human experience is collective. In this interactive first-person VR experience, you will face the adversity of living without a home. From Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Becoming Homeless aims to change the way some may think and act about the epidemic of homelessness that exists globally.

Extravaganza (World Premiere) Extravaganza mixes 3D animation and live-action footage in a bitingly funny satire. You are a puppet trapped in a stunningly offensive puppet show, performing for a clueless executive (Paul Scheer). Confronted with his glaringly obvious blind spots and prejudices, Extravaganza asks: can technology change society for the better, or does it just magnify our worst traits in new ways?

Step to the Line (New York Premiere) Shot entirely on location in a California maximum security prison, Step to the Line is a documentary that aims to provoke a transformation in the spectator’s eyes about prisoners, the prison system, and even themselves. In this project, we see how release from incarceration can be just as jarring as intake and how parallel lives diverge when someone serves time.

Both Storyscapes and Virtual Arcade exhibitions will be at the Tribeca Festival Hub, located at 50 Varick Street, throughout the festival.

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