Home Entertainment Paris Immersive Showcase NewImages Builds Bridges With Empathy, Engagement

Paris Immersive Showcase NewImages Builds Bridges With Empathy, Engagement

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Running April 24 – 28 at Paris’ Forum des Images, this year’s NewImages Festival will focus on bridge building, looking to foster connection and bolster partnerships between new media creators and legacy institutions.

“We really want to bring the XR industry closer to the cultural sector of museums and theaters, really anything that could be a future showcase for immersive works,” festival director Michele Ziegler tells Variety. “While a few distributors now specialize in this, there is still much work to do convincing cultural decision makers to invest in new media. We have much to mediate and explore.”

To that end, Ziegler and her team took a dual track, curating a 15-project competition with an eye toward audience accessibility and a seven-title out-of-competition showcase united around a shared theme of cultural transmission.

Spanning five continents, eight countries and a wealth of immersive approaches, many competition titles traverse memories and dreamscapes, accenting historical weight in the Holocaust doc “Letters From Drancy,” intimate connection in the multi-user experience “Traversing the Mist,” and personal disability in the ash-tinged exploration of aphasia “Emperor.” Meanwhile, titles like “YUKI MRcade Mode,” “The Tent” and “Gargoyle Doyle” find AR/VR experiences imbued with the rogue spirit of independent gaming.

When curating this 15-project competition from 140 submissions, Ziegler and her team focused above all on ease of use – testing out each experience with a selection committee that included several immersive neophytes. “We needed the non-expert point of view,” Ziegler explains. “It was essential have input from people who don’t go to Venice Immersive or to SXSW, because our mission is to make this culture accessible for all.”

Exploring the civil rights struggle, the Cambodian genocide and the experience of Bedouin communities in Palestine, the seven projects selected for out-of-competition slots all needed to reflect new forms of embodiment and empathy.

“We wanted to use the out-of-competition section to show different ways of transmitting heritage,” says Ziegler. “As a medium, XR can have a massive impact on education in the same way that film and video did many years ago. Audience habits change, and today’s youths are so used to digital content and images at all times. You have to go a bit further in order to reach them, to get them to learn and have fun and be moved, and we show these completely different ways of valuing our human memory.”

“Becoming part of a work can be very impactful,” she adds. “It can spur activism and can motivate someone to defend human rights – and always in a very creative way.”

NewImages will emphasize that point throughout its industry program, hosting museum focused panels that will bring together delegates from the Sorbonne, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Barbican and the Musée d’Orsay, among others. But at the same time, the festival also wants more casual visitors to walk away sharing that same zeal.

“We still have to be there for the general public,” Ziegler says. “That’s why we don’t charge admissions. Right now, you can pay $48 to [experience several of our pieces in other international exhibition spaces] but at NewImages we’re showing them for free. Our mission is to bring these works to the new audiences – as many of them as possible.”