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LA Film Festival Wed 8.29.2018

The Portal: Showcasing the Best VR & Immersive Storytelling at the LA Film Festival

If modern pop culture depictions of early cinema are to be believed, moviegoing at the dawn of the 20th century was approximately 99% screaming and jumping out of the way of black-and-white locomotives as they barreled headlong toward you onscreen. A century later, it’s easy to laugh at these old timey audiences for their apparent lack of cognitive sophistication in processing the moving image. Never mind the fact that we’re currently experiencing an equally jarring—and thrilling—leap forward in visual storytelling.

Virtual reality. Augmented reality. Mixed reality. The immersive storytelling landscape has virtually (and virtually) exploded in recent years, opening up a whole new world of opportunity for adventurous, tech-friendly consumers and content creators. For the first time, at the 2018 LA Film Festival we’ll be showcasing the best work that these nascent mediums have to offer with The Portal, presented in partnership with Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television—our inaugural VR and immersive storytelling showcase.

It runs September 22-23 at Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television at the brand-new LMU campuses in Playa Vista, CA. The best part: it’s all free to the general public.

A mix of cutting-edge AR, VR and MR pieces from top creators, The Portal—curated by the Festival’s Guest Director of VR & Immersive Storytelling Jacqueline Lyanga—features a mix of narrative, nonfiction and non-narrative experiences in 360, room-scale VR, interactive works and installations incorporating touch and user motion into the experience.

“It’s a testament to the storytelling that VR is now attracting talent like Rosario Dawson, Brie Larson, Diego Luna, Ian McShane, Alicia Vikander and Oprah Winfrey,” said Lyanga, “venturing into new territory with adventurous mixed reality, social interactivity, guided motion and haptics—all of which LA audiences will be able to experience for free at The Portal.”

Says Peggy Rajski, new Dean of LMU’s School of Film and Television: “Jacqueline’s thoughtful program provides audiences with ample opportunities to immerse themselves into the experiences of others, including many whose voices are typically unheard.”

Free tickets are available online for 90-minute time slots for Saturday and Sunday. LA Film Festival pass holders do not need a ticket to attend, and no RSVP is required. Festival Passes are on sale now. Individual tickets for the Festival are now available too. Questions? Contact the Festival Box Office at 866.FILM.FEST (866.345.6337) or visit lafilmfestival.com.



Age of Sail

1000 Cut Journey – USA (DIRECTORS Courtney Cogburn, Elise Ogle) – In this immersive virtual reality experience, to foster a greater understanding of the social realities of racism, you become “Michael Sterling,” a Black male, and encounter racism as a young child, adolescent and young adult.                             

Age of Sail – USA (DIRECTOR John Kahrs) – Set on the open ocean in 1900, this animated film tells the story of William Avery (voiced by Ian McShane), an old sailor adrift and alone in the North Atlantic who finds redemption and hope in his darkest hours. North American Premiere

Arden’s Wake: Expanded – USA (DIRECTOR Eugene Chung) – The animated story of young woman who lives in a post-apocalyptic world with her father in a lighthouse perched atop an endless sea. Academy Award-winner Alicia Vikander stars as the voice of Meena. US Premiere

Awavena – USA/Brazil/Australia (DIRECTOR Lynette Wallworth) – Using technology that the Amazonian Yawanawa feel enables them to share their story and their visions, this immersive work presents point cloud renditions and fluorescent specimens from the forest world to create a vivid, luminous vision.

BattleScar – USA/France (DIRECTORS Martín Allais, Nico Casavecchia) – An animated coming of age story that follows a year in the life of Lupe (played by Rosario Dawson) living in late 1970s New York City as she discovers the Punk scene of the Bowery and the secret underworld of the Lower East Side.

Biidaaban: First Light – CANADA (DIRECTOR Lisa Jackson) – Set in a highly realistic future Toronto reclaimed by nature, users engage with the written text of the Wendat, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and gain insight into the complex thought systems of this land’s first peoples.

Crow: The Legend – USA (DIRECTOR Eric Darnell) – This animated story of a bird with a beautiful voice is inspired by Native American legend is executive produced by John Legend, featuring the voices of Sarah Eagle Heart, Diego Luna Tye Sheridan, Oprah Winfrey and Constance Wu. North American Premiere

Zikr: A Sufi Revival

Dinner Party – USA (DIRECTOR Angel Manuel Soto) – A short virtual reality thriller dramatizing the incredible story of Betty and Barney Hill, who in the 1960s reported the first nationally known UFO abduction case in the United States.

Geomancer – UK (DIRECTOR Lawrence Lek) – A computer-generated animation about the creative awakening of artificial intelligence set in Singapore 2065, telling the story of an environmental satellite that wishes to become an artist. North American Premiere

Queerskins – USA (DIRECTORS Illya Szilak, Cyril Tsiboulski) – A diary and a box of belongings offers a devoutly Catholic mother living in rural Missouri in 1990 a second chance to know Sebastian, the estranged son she has lost to AIDS as they take a magic realist journey down a country road.

Space Explorers: A New Dawn (Ep.1) and Taking Flight (Ep. 2) – Canada/USA (DIRECTORS Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël) – A cinematic VR series narrated by Brie Larson about the new age of space exploration. Witness the lives of NASA astronauts as they navigate the trials and sacrifices of their training and missions.

Terminal 3 – USA (DIRECTOR Asad J. Malik) – An interactive, augmented-reality documentary that explores contemporary Muslim identities in the U.S. through the lens of an airport interrogation using Microsoft’s Hololens technology to interrogate the holograms of passengers.

Vestige – USA/UK/France (DIRECTOR Aaron Bradbury) – Journey into the mind of Lisa as she remembers her lost love, Erik, through a series of fragmented memories that become entangled with a haunting vision triggering new memories and pathways as we navigate through the story.

Zikr: A Sufi Revival – USA (CREATORS Gabo Arora, John Fitzgerald, Matthew Niederhauser) – Zikr: A Sufi Revival takes four participants on an interactive, virtual reality journey into a world of ritual, music and dance by opening up an experience to the Sufi practice of inclusion, acceptance, art, joy and understanding.



Into the Now

Free Solo – USA (DIRECTORS Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin) –Experience Alex Honnold’s free solo climb up Yosemite’s 3,000-foot high El Capitan wall with no ropes or safety gear in 360 VR. The full-length documentary film version of Free Solo is playing in LA Film Festival’s Galas section. World Premiere

Into the Now ­– USA (DIRECTOR Michael Muller) – An exploration of marine life and ocean conservation that follows director Michael Muller as he tackles his lifelong fear of sharks by learning to dive without protection and cage-free with great white sharks.

Sun Ladies – USA (DIRECTORS Christian Stephen, Celine Tricart) – The story of a group of Yazidi women in Sinjar, Iraq who started a female-only fighting unit called the Sun Ladies to protect the honor and dignity of their people. This documentary features animation created by artist Wesley Allsbrook (Dear Angelica) and was produced and narrated by Maria Bello.

This is Climate Change: Fire – USA (DIRECTORS Danfung Dennis, Eric Strauss) – In just the last three decades, changes in climate have doubled the amount of land burned by wildfires in the western United States. Follow the dedicated fighters—by air and on the ground—whose jobs have turned into year-round battles against these catastrophic blazes.



Enjoying the VR tasting menu at a 2017 Film Independent conference

The Portal also features panels about Women’s Voices in VR, Animation and immersive documentary on Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23. To see the full panel schedule and get your free (!!!) ticket today, click here.

  • Saturday, September 22 – 2pm, Women’s Voices in VR
  • Saturday, September 22 – 4:30, Animation in VR
  • Sunday, September 23 – 2pm, Immersive Documentary

Festival Passes (skip the RSVPS!) are currently on sale to Film Independent Members as well as the general public. If you didn’t know, we have a variety of passes available this year. See which option might be right for you below…

See ya inside the headset!

The 2018 LA Film Festival takes place September 20-28. Venues include the ArcLight Cinemas in Culver City, Hollywood and Santa Monica, as well as the new Loyola Marymount Playa Vista campus, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Writers Guild Theater in Los Angeles.

Visit tickets.lafilmfestival.com and be sure to follow the 2018 LA Film Festival on TwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTube. Visit our official Festival Store by clicking here.

Presenting Media Sponsor is Los Angeles Times. Official Host Venue is ArcLight Cinemas. Platinum Sponsors are American Airlines, EFILM | Deluxe and HBO. The University Sponsor is Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television. Venue Partner is Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Festival Supporters are Directors Guild of America, eTech Rentals, Kona Productions, TREETI and Visit Seattle. Festival Affiliates are 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion, ATK Audiotek, Konsonant Music, SAGindie and Writers Guild of America West. Additional support provided by National Endowment for the Arts. Stella Artois is the Official Beer. IMDbPro is the Official Industry Resource. CITI is the Official Credit Card. The LINE, NoMad Los Angeles and Freehand LA are the Official Hotel Partner. Essentia Water is the Official Water. Hillersden Estate Wines is the Official Wine. Getty Images is the Official Photographer.

(Header: Free Solo)

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