The Board Of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted a special honorary Oscar (statuette) to director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s extraordinary virtual reality installation Carne y Arena. It will be presented at the upcoming Governors Awards on November 11 to be held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. This joins previously announced Governors Award honorees this year including actor Donald Sutherland, director Agnes Varda, cinematographer Owen Roizman and filmmaker Charles Burnett.
In making the announcement of the Oscar to this unique achievement — full name: Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible) — the Academy said it was in recognition of a visionary and powerful experience in storytelling. It was first unveiled at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in May in a nearby airport hangar where I was among the lucky ones to experience it. And experience is the word.
“The Governors of the Academy are proud to present a special Oscar to Carne y Arena, in which Alejandro Iñárritu and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have opened for us new doors of cinematic perception,” said Academy president John Bailey. “Carne y Arena, Iñárritu’s multimedia art and cinema experience, is a deeply emotional and physically immersive venture into the world of migrants crossing the desert of the American southwest in early dawn light. More than even a creative breakthrough in the still emerging form of virtual reality, it viscerally connects us to the hot-button political and social realities of the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Los Angeles residents currently have the opportunity to see “Carne y Arena” as it is on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as at Fondazione Prada in Milan, and Tlatelolco Cultural Center in Mexico City. It is a collaboration between Iñárritu, Lubezki, producer Mary Parent, Legendary Entertainment, Fondazione Prada, ILMxLAB, and Emerson Collective. Katie Calhoon executive produced.
The Oscar will be Inarritu’s fifth Academy Award. He won three for Birdman including Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay as well as becoming only the second helmer in 65 years to win back-to-back awards when he won Director again for 2015’s The Revenant.
Here’s what I wrote about Carne y Arena in my Cannes wrap-up in May:
Finally, perhaps the single most impressive movie experience I had at this year’s Cannes won’t even be eligible for an Oscar, but was an official selection here from a four-time Oscar winning director, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, and three-time winning cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki. Only one person at a time can see Carne y Arena, a magnificent six-minute VR take on the plight of immigrants trying to cross the border to a better life in America. This immersive virtual reality experience puts you right in the middle of the desert with these people and their lives as they are assaulted by border patrol in helicopters and on land. It’s extraordinary and was very much worth the trip to the Cannes Airport hangar where it is playing until Cannes closes this weekend. If all the Academy voters somehow could see it, one by one, it would be a cinch for Live Action Short. This is literally live action. Bravo.
VR and the future of movies aside, will Cannes live up to its reputation as a starting gun for the Oscars, or will it all just stay here on the Cote d’Azur this time around? We shall see.