While virtual reality filmmaking has been getting much attention at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, other groundbreaking content from the New Frontier films and installations division reimagines storytelling in equally compelling, immersive ways. In speaking with Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer and curator of the New Frontier exhibition, Shari Frilot, we were able to gain insight on the greater thematic connection of this year’s programming—and experience four works impacting film with just as much potency.
“I called the show ‘Ocular Evolution’ because there is something about all traditional storytelling, and cinematic storytelling, that appeals to our ocular sense. You can kind of say that about most forms of storytelling: literature, dance, performance. It’s all these conscious languages that are developed to present stories to engage with,” Frilot explains. “In terms of our response, there are emotional reactions. The works in this year’s show go beyond the conscious experience. You get a primal brain level of awe.” The following selections all address experiential storytelling across different media. Summed up best by Frilot, “This is what Sundance is all about. We follow the artists. They play a role in our society. They say the things the populous has a hard time thinking about and saying and digesting. They integrate them in a way that connects inside of us individually and reminds us how complicated we are.”
An immersive offshoot of the critically acclaimed video game “1979 Revolution”—based on the uprising in Iran that year—this exhibition features digital, analogue and real-world components blended together. On site, there are authentic 1970s audio tapes of personal testimonials from those who lived through the revolution. iPads embedded throughout the space allow for gameplay and more, and a projected website includes a protest that one can participate in. Rounding out the full experience, not-yet-released content from the 1979 Revolution Game: Black Friday also debuted. While the subject matter is weighty and comprehensive, the interactive nature invites participation—while also lending a voice to real individuals.
When it comes to relationships, there might not be anything as challenging as initiating and executing a break-up. With “Possibilia,” directed by filmmaking duo The Daniels, a traditional break-up narrative is divided up into decision-making points, manipulated by way of a controller, for the viewer. According to Frilot and mirrored by our own experience, “You get to choose from 16 parallel, different ways on how a scene might play out in a break-up. You are an active part of it. You can explore the possibilities of the story, both finite and completely limitless.” As the two lovers fight, the lead being Girls’ star Alex Karpovsky, the decisions made early on manifest in exponential ways.
Station to Station
From the New Frontier film selections, director Doug Aitken crafts one feature-length film from 61 individual minute-long entries. Each features an array of perspectives and locations, as told from various personalities while Aitken traveled 4,000 miles by train from the Atlantic to the Pacific. “Station to Station” addresses modern creativity through the voices of established and emerging creators who participated in site-specific events across art, music, food, literature and film.
The Forbidden Room
Through uncompromising vision, writer and director Guy Maddin has contributed an array of important, experimental and expansive works to the world of cinema. Now, with co-creator Evan Johnson, Maddin has unveiled “The Forbidden Room,” a feature-length, surrealistic cinematic exploration with narrative diversions of great beauty. It’s beyond difficult to describe, with flourishes like a volcano’s own dream, and it crosses many genres—but the lingering impression is that of a beautifully designed art piece.
Images courtesy of New Frontier