Dispatches from the Venice Film Festival: Taking Virtual Reality Seriously

The 75th edition of Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia, marked the second edition of the VR competition. So far Venice is the only festival to include an actual contest between the different projects, attesting it is taking this discipline seriously, acting as a springboard for Virtual Reality artists.

This year, the members of the international Jury of the Venice Virtual Reality are the Danish director and screenwriter Susanne Bier (President of the Jury); the Italian writer Alessandro Baricco; and the French actress Clémence Poésy. They will hand over the awards for Best VR Immersive Story, Best VR Experience for interactive content, VR Story for linear content.

But before the winners are announced, so far these three VR Projects have captured the  heart, mind and senses of visitors:


X Ray Fashion portrays how the clothing business is responsible for 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions. The World Bank Group’s Connect4Climate program and Vulcan Productions have supported this inspirational VR experience conceived by MANND, a Danish immersive media company. Director Francesco Carrozzini, son of the late Franca Sozzani, was the ideal storyteller to scrutinize and unveil the shady sides of fashion. Besides the environmental hazards, this industry is also detrimental on a social level, through the exploitation of artisans and people involved in the manufacturing process. Human rights violations include the perilous working conditions and the long hours of toil of workers in developing countries. As you explore the runway with a headset and a backpack, your senses will perceive water, heat and a variety of situations that characterize the life of an item of clothing, from catwalk to consumer.


VR_I is a contemporary dance piece in Immersive Virtual Reality, born from the whimsical creativity of choreographer Giles Jobin, — who is the recipient of the 2015 Swiss Grand Award for Dance, given by the Office Fédéral de la Culture (OFC). Five participants are immersed in a virtual space and get their avatar to live an experience out of this world. Users-viewers are equipped with a virtual reality system comprising a backpack, an on-board computer and a virtual reality headset, with markers being placed on their hands and feet, enabling them to see their limbs virtually. Thanks to motion capture technology, the boundaries between dancer and viewer are removed and both move on the same plane, revealing the circularity and interconnectedness of existence amongst all beings.


During the year of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements a female empowering VR experience goes down memory lane, when women were fighting to win the right to vote. Make Noise, created by BBC VR Hub with Anagram, includes original archive interviews with suffragettes and encourages both genders to speak up, depicting a series of polychrome worlds that represent the stages of female strife, frustration, resilience and final victory. Participants get to hum, sing and shout with Nikki Asuka-Bird, to show how the power of each voice can smash prejudices and cultural barriers.