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Must-See French VR at Tribeca Film Festival

Image: "Tribeca Immersive"

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, New York City residents were preoccupied with all but cinema. But a group of determined cinephiles who loved New York––Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff––brought back a spark of new creative energy to the Triangle Below Canal: Tribeca Film Festival

Today, the festival continues to develop and inspire, but not in response to hard realities. Instead, it’s adapting to the digital age. 

In recent years, the immersive/VR scene has transitioned from a niche market to a major part of the global film industry. Darren Aronofsky’s the three-part virtual reality series Spheres, on outer space, was recently purchased for an unprecedented seven-figure sum. And world-renowned cinema festivals from the Festival de Cannes to Berlinale and Sundance have implemented segments that highlight it.  Directors including Wes Anderson, Steven Soderbergh, and Alejandro Iñárritu have all created immersive projects that step away from the simple moving image and into the interactive domain.

Image: "Spheres" directed by Eliza McNitt

French directors and studios are no exception. They continue to churn out creative and socially impactful works, like The Enemy, a French co-production, lauded as a “virtual revolution in war reporting” (RTL), which brings viewers into face-to-face contact with fighters from major global conflict zones. And the French-produced Notes on Blindness, which replicates the experience of blindness for viewers, premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and went on to win the Storyscapes Award the same year. (It was also screened at A Night of Philosophy and Ideas—the annual all-night marathon of talks, concerts, and performances at Brooklyn Public Library—where Momoko Seto’s Planet was also subsequently presented in 2018.)

The Cultural Services is taking steps to augment the French VR experience even further—by helping to bring the real humans behind French and Francophone VR films and experiences across the Atlantic to accompany screenings or presentations of their work. The new grant program, French Immersion, co-presented with Unifrance, CNC and Institut français, will support the travel of these artists and professionals to the United States on the occasion of several upcoming festivals. The first beneficiaries will have their works screened at Tribeca this spring.

Image: "Notes on Blindness" directed by James Spinney and Peter Middleton

Taking place between April 18 and 28, Tribeca Film Festival will screen a handful of works by French directors. Find our top 3 picks in French VR below:


2018 Tribeca Virtual Arcade selection
New York Premiere

Project Creators: Nico Casavecchia, Martin Allais
Produced by: Atlas V in coproduction with 1STAveMachine, Fauns and Arte France
Key Collaborators: Arnaud Colinart, Andrew Geller, Raphael Penasa, Rene Pinnell
Cast: Rosario Dawson (narrator)

After Lupe, a Puerto Rican runaway, meets Debbie in the cell of a juvenile detention center, she is introduced to the punk scene of the Lower East Side and the secret world of Alphabet City. BattleScar is a coming of age drama set in 1978 New York that explores identity and empowerment through stunning animation and immersive environments.

Image: "Battlescar" directed by Nico Casavecchia and Martin Allais

Firebird: The Unfinished

2018 Tribeca Virtual Arcade selection
World Premiere

Project Creators: Balthazar Auxietre
Produced by: Innerspace VR
Key Collaborators: Hadrien Lanvin
Cast: Tarek Aitmeddour, Raphaelle Boitel, Augustin Jacob

The curator of a museum dedicated to the famous sculptor Auguste is making a last inspection the night before the grand opening when a storm breaks out. Suddenly, the statues populating the grounds are not quite as still as one might expect—but it’s not clear whether the storm outside is playing mind games, or whether, perhaps, the ghost of Auguste has appeared to ask for help finishing his masterpiece.

Image: "Firebird: The Unfinished" directed by Balthazar Auxietre


2018 Tribeca Virtual Arcade selection
World Premiere

Project Creators: Aaron Bradbury
Produced by: Atlas V in co-production with NSC Creative
Key Collaborators: Paul Mowbray, Antoine Cayrol, Jill Klekas Basmajian
Cast: Lisa Elin

This creative nonfiction experience uses multi-narrative and volumetric capture to journey through the mind of Lisa as she remembers her lost love, Erik. Fragments of memories of their life together appear inside a void and, over time, become entangled with a haunting vision, culminating in the shocking moment of Erik's death.

Image: " Vestige" directed by Aaron Bradbury