Last year’s 10th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program saw an explosion of virtual reality at the Robert Redford founded gathering with strong offerings from Fox’s The Martian and more. Now, with the future of storytelling as its theme, New Frontier 2017 looks to see even greater breadth and scope to the technology and its artistic application in Park City (see the full list of New Frontier projects below).
Featuring former Vice-President and An Inconvenient Truth star Al Gore, Melting Ice aims to take winter coat wearing SFF attendees up close to the consequences of climate change while Zero Days VR goes into the heart of America and Israel’s Stuxnet-led cyberwar with Iran. Those two very different projects will join 20 other VR and augmented reality experiences, 11 installations and a trio of live performances at the January 19 – 29 festival.
“In an era that has recalibrated economies, redefined social realms and rewired the connection between the individual and the world, we must also reimagine what it is to be human,” said NF Senior Programmer and Chief Curator Shari Frilot today. “Through Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and various crafted immersive experiences, New Frontier this year challenges the very nature of perception and what we consider to be ‘reality.’”
With several projects taking an environmental angle in the New Climate vein, the 2017 New Frontier slate also include performances by Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum and works by VR innovators Chris Milk and Nonny de la Pena. Additionally, NF2017 features a look at the role of African-American women in cultural and technological life, the stigma still faced by LGBTQ youth and the hope they find, race relations, and the animated Asteroids from Madagascar co-director Eric Darnell.
After today’s New Frontier announcement and yesterday’s details of the U.S. and World Cinema competition and NEXT categories, next week will see the Premieres, Midnight, Sundance Kids and Shorts slates unveiled by the fest. Like we have in past years, Deadline co-Editor-in-Chief, Film Mike Fleming Jr. and myself will lead our team’s SFF coverage with breaking news of the deals, the films, the scene and the panels.
So, get your goggles ready, and we’re not just talking about the kind for the slopes, and check out the New Frontier line-up here:
FILMS AND PERFORMANCE
18 Black Girls / Boys Ages 1-18 Who Have Arrived at the Singularity and are Thus Spiritual Machines: $X in an edition of $97 Quadrillion / U.S.A. (Artist: Terence Nance) — In this pair of performances, the artist Googles the phrase “one-year-old black boy” and “one-year-old black girl,” ascending in age to 18, allowing Google’s “popular searches” algorithm to populate what words will follow.
Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? / U.S.A. (Artist: Travis Wilkerson) — This documentary murder mystery about the artist’s own family is a Southern Gothic torn apart and reassembled. Journeying straight into the black heart of a family and country, this multimedia performance explores a forgotten killing by the artist’s great-grandfather—a white Southern racist—of a black man in lower Alabama. Cast: Travis Wilkerson.
World Without End (No Reported Incidents) / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Artist: Jem Cohen) — Close observations around Southend-on-Sea, a small English town along the Thames estuary, reveal not only everyday streets, everyday birds, unflagging tides, mud and sky, but also prize-winning Indian curries, an encyclopedic universe of hats and a nearly lost world of proto-punk music.
Full Turn / Switzerland (Artist: Benjamin Muzzin) — This installation explores the notion of the third dimension with the desire to get out of the usual frame of a flat screen. The rotation of two tablets creates a three-dimensional, animated sequence that can be seen at 360 degrees, unlike any other type of display.
Heartcorps: Riders of the Storyboard / U.S.A. (Artist: dandypunk, Key Collaborators: Darin Basile, Jo Cattell) — Follow the story of Particle, a two-dimensional light being, as you walk through the pages of a giant, immersive comic book. Hand-drawn illustrations come to life around you using projection-mapping technology, while high-level Cirque du Soleil performers interact with animated characters in this “digital light poem.” Cast: Ekenah Claudin, Elon Höglund, Youssef El Toufali, Jenni Gamas.
Heroes / U.S.A. (Artist: Melissa Painter, Key Collaborators: Tim Dillon, Thomas Wester, Jason Schugardt, Laura Gorenstein Miller) — The setting: An extravagant movie palace where silent films were shown. One dance—fiercely athletic and romantic—invites you inside. The story comes off the screen, putting you into your body and challenging you to move, navigate heroic shifts in perspective and scale and reach out to touch the experience. Cast: Helios Dance Theater, Stephanie Maxim, Chris Stanley, Melissa Sandvig.
The Holographic Brain: The Next Stage In Human Evolution / U.S.A. (Artist: Daniella Segal) Evolution of the human brain began with the development of stone tools, which allowed early humans to manipulate their environment. From stone axe to supercomputer, the brain’s evolution has been guided by tools and evolved into the most complicated object in the known universe.
NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism / U.S.A. (Artists: Carmen Aguilar y Wedge, Ashley Baccus-Clark, Ece Tankal, Nitzan Bartov) — A three-part exploration of black women and the roles they play in technology, society and culture — including speculative products, immersive experiences and neurocognitive impact research. Using fashion, cosmetics and the economy of beauty as entry points the project illuminates issues of privacy, transparency, identity and perception.
Pleasant Places / United Kingdom (Artist: Davide Quayola) — A return to, and a modern elaboration upon, Vincent Van Gogh’s Provence landscapes, this series of digital paintings interrogates and reframes concepts of representation and perception through image manipulation and augmented reality. Using bucolic and contemplative images, juxtaposed with raw data visualization, this project suggests alternate modes of visual synthesis.
Synesthesia Suit: Rez Infinite and Crystal Vibes / Japan (Artists: Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Ayahiko Sato, Kouta Minamizawa) — Experience a multisensory climax with pounding beats and stringed instruments in acclaimed PlayStation 4/PS VR game Rez Infinite, or feel vibrations of candy-colored psychedelic sound rippling through the Crystal Vibes universe.
ASTEROIDS! / U.S.A. (Artist: Eric Darnell) — From the director of Madagascar comes Baobab’s VR animation. Journey the cosmos aboard the spaceship of Mac and Cheez, an alien duo so mission-focused they forget what’s important in life. It’s up to you to show them what really matters. Cast: Eric Darnell.
Chasing Coral: The VR Experience / U.S.A. (Artist: Jeff Orlowski) Zackary Rago, a passionate scuba diver and researcher, documented the unprecedented 2016 coral bleaching event at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef with this exclusive underwater VR experience. NEW CLIMATE
Chocolate / U.S.A. (Artist: Tyler Hurd) — This VR music video experience for the song “Chocolate” by Giraffage sets you in a cat-centric world of sparkling, colorful chrome with a tribe of people doing a ritualistic dance just for you, their robot god, to provide them with their precious resource, cute lil’ chrome kitties.
Dear Angelica / U.S.A. (Artist: Saschka Unseld, Screenwriters: Saschka Unseld, Angela Petrella, Wesley Allsbrook, Max Planck, Ryan Thomas) — This project is a journey through the magical and dreamlike ways we remember lost ones and, even though they are gone, what remains of the ones we loved. Cast: Geena Davis, Mae Whitman.
Out of Exile: Daniel’s Story / U.S.A. (Artist: Nonny de la Peña) — In August 2014, Daniel Ashley Pierce’s family verbally and physically accosted him before kicking him out of the house because they disapproved of his sexuality. Built directly around audio Daniel recorded from that encounter, this project includes thoughts of hope and triumph from Daniel and three other LGBTQ youth. Cast: Daniel Ashley Pierce, Kyle Wills, Julene Renee, Cyntia Domenzain, Angel VanStark, Phoebe VanCleefe.
Hue / U.S.A. (Artist: Nicole McDonald, Key Collaborators: Nicole McDonald, Rob Auten, Jessica Hundley) — This is an immersive and visually driven interactive film about a man who has lost the ability to see color. Participants reawaken the protagonist’s sense of wonder and imagination through empathetic action as color and connection return to his world view. Cast: Benedikt Negro.
If Not Love / U.S.A. (Artist: Rosemarie Troche) — A conflicted Christian man carries out a mass shooting. In his past: a same-sex hookup and self-loathing. What if events had unfolded differently? What if his partner had convinced him to face himself? Could that simple act change the course of history? Cast: Zachary Booth, Mitchell Winter.
Life of Us / U.S.A. (Artists: Chris Milk, Aaron Koblin, Key Collaborators: Megan Ellison, McKenzie Stubbert, Jona Dinges) — A shared VR journey from Within that tells the complete story of the evolution of life on Earth.
Melting Ice / U.S.A. (Artist: Danfung Dennis) — Al Gore takes viewers on a transcendent exploration into the devastating consequences of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet. Stand under collapsing glaciers, next to raging rivers of ice melt and witness rising sea levels—all visceral warnings of our planet’s future. Cast: Al Gore, Dr. Konrad Steffen. NEW CLIMATE
Mindshow / U.S.A. (Artists: Gil Baron, Jonnie Ross, Adam Levin, Key Collaborators: Jonnie Ross, Gil Baron) — Make VR cartoons with your body and voice. Teleport into different characters, and act out all the parts. Create with your friends by passing scenes back and forth, then share your shows in VR and on social media. Cast: Dana Gould.
Miyubi / Canada (Artists: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël, Key Collaborator: Owen Burke) — Experience love and obsolescence as a Japanese toy robot, gifted to a child in the home of a fractured family in 1982 suburban America. Cast: Jeff Goldblum, P.J. Byrne, Emily Bergl, Owen Vaccaro, Richard Riehle, Ted Sutherland.
Orbital Vanitas / Australia (Artist: Shaun Gladwell) This virtual reality experience presents a surreal sci-fi mystery and meditation on death. Initially placed in Earth’s orbit, participants soon notice an enigmatic form floating toward them. What takes place next makes perfect use of the VR format.
The Sky is a Gap / U.S.A. (Artist: Rachel Rossin) — The viewer is allowed to precisely move time with space by the use of a positionally tracked headset. Existing in the physical and virtual realms, the installation depicts a pyroclastic explosion inspired by Zabriskie Point, where the scene’s progress is physically mapped to the participant’s forward and backward movement.
Through You / U.S.A. (Artists: Saschka Unseld, Lily Baldwin) — Dance is used to inhabit a common mortal story of love born, lived, lost, burned and seemingly gone forever—only to be found again. Cast: Joanna Kotze, Amari Cheatom, Marni Thomas Wood.
Tree / U.S.A. (Artists: Milica Zec, Winslow Porter) — This virtual experience transforms you into a rainforest tree. With your arms as the branches and body as the trunk, you experience the tree’s growth from a seedling to its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand. NEW CLIMATE
Zero Days VR / U.S.A. (Artists: Scatter, Yasmin Elayat, Elie Zananiri, Key Collaborators: Yasmin Elayat, Alexander Porter) — A clandestine mission hatched by the U.S. and Israel to sabotage an underground Iranian nuclear facility is told from the perspective of Stuxnet, the world’s first cyberweapon, and a key NSA informant. Audiences experience the high stakes of cyber warfare inside the invisible world of computer viruses. Cast: Joanne Tucker, Eric Chien, Liam O’Murchu, Ralph Langner, Olli Heinonen, David Sanger.