Multi-Oscar winning filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu spoke at the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday saying that before turning in earnest to the big screen, he had been a “frustrated musician.” He still wishes he could have succeeded.

“I think it’s the highest expression of human beings by far,” said Iñárritu during an hour-long free-flowing conversation moderated by artist Marina Abramović. “I tried it, but I quit.”

Music was one of several quick reveals the director gave at the packed event, which took place in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Iñárritu gave an emotional shout out to the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. When asked if he writes parts with actors already in mind, he said that he had only done so once. It didn’t work out, and for the most part he only writes roles and then finds actors who will fit.

“I try to finish the [writing] and then find who will serve the story,” said Iñárritu. “There was one time I had someone in mind at first and that was a traumatic experience. Though, I would have loved to work with Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was one of my favorite actors in the world.”

Yugoslavian-born Abramović, who has been described as ‘the grandmother of performance art,” took the cue and made her pitch to be in a future Iñárritu film.

Born in Mexico in 1963, Iñárritu won the Best Director Oscar for his 2016 film The Revenant. He also won the prize the previous year for Birdman, which also won Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. His latest project, Carne y Arena (Flesh and Sand) is a virtual reality installation he created with Emmanuel Lubezki, which will play at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, exploring the human experience of immigrants and refugees. An official description says it is based on true accounts in which “the superficial lines between subject and bystander are blurred and bound together, allowing individuals to walk in a vast space and throughly live a fragment of the refugees’ personal journeys.”

Brian Brooks

“One of the biggest mistakes [relating] to VR is that it has been interpreted as an extension of cinema,” said Iñárritu. But VR is everything that cinema is not. Cinema is a ‘hole’ which we look through and everything else is created in our minds. VR is multidimensional. I think we are still in the baby steps stage of VR. It’s an experimental period, but the possibilities are amazing — and the dangers are also huge. Science has proven that our brains are unable to distinguish between reality and fiction. That is why religion has been able to survive for thousands of years. When you are in a VR world, your wires are completely misled.”

Abramović playfully would read from the script provided to her by the Tribeca Film Festival, pointing out when she was asking a question provided to her by the festival, one of which was the topic of Trump. Iñárritu did not go for the jugular, but made his opinion plain.

“I think it’s [a problem] when you break things down to a deal or winners and losers,” he said. “I think we have an opportunity of using a platform of ideas and human stories to [combat] ignorance and fear which are the enemies. From a humanistic debate, we can elevate the conversation and address this.”