12 juin 2023

Audacity and Emotions: A Look at Virtual Reality at the Annecy Animation Film Festival 2023

  •  The Annecy Animation Film Festival celebrates animation in all its forms, including in Virtual Reality (VR), in a dedicated and optimized space. 
  • This year's selections stand out for their more experimental and daring approach, tackling sociopolitical subjects such as abortion in the United States. 
  • While VR holds significant potential for creators and audiences alike, there are still challenges to overcome, including investment in hardware, broadcasting rights, and content availability. 

I met with Yves Nougarède and Gala Frécon, the selectors of the competing works. 

Pascal Montjovent (PM): VR experienced a surge a few years ago, before becoming less prominent to the public. Have you felt a slump in VR film production recently?
Gala Frécon (GF): Not really. We always receive a constant stream of about ninety works since the beginning. However, this year is characterized by a more experimental and bold approach to subject treatment. We are less in a logic of large productions using famous voice-overs than in the past.

PM: Could we conclude that budgets have decreased?
GF: It’s not so much a question of resources, but rather an evolution in form and scriptwriting. For example, we have a film named "I Took a Lethal Dose of Herbs" which discusses abortion in the United States. The audience is immersed in the conflict between an anti-abortion group and a woman going through a difficult post-partum.

PM: These subjects weren't often addressed in VR before. Is this a sign of the medium's maturity?
GF: We believe so, and we are very proud of this selection.

PM: What is your reaction to Apple's proposal?
GF: I believe it’s more about augmented reality than VR. But all these media are complementary. Personally, I hope that VR will never replace cinema, but I believe it has a lot to offer, especially to young creators. It's essential to open spaces to broadcast these films to the general audience.

PM: How long has the Annecy Festival been following the evolution of VR production alongside that of animation cinema?
GF: It's been seven years. I have been a co-selector for the third year, with Yves Nougarède who has held this position since the beginning.
YN: I was selecting short films for the Festival, which suddenly offered me to switch to VR.

PM: Who are the main VR distributors in France?
GF: They are mainly Astrea Immersive, Diversion Cinema, and Lucid Realities.

PM: Do you have films this year that combine gaming and cinema?
GF: No, we only present films.

"Red Tail" directed by Fish Wang (Taiwan)

PM: Do you have the opportunity to circulate these films in France?
GF: For the Annecy Festival, best-ofs circulate worldwide (young audiences, award-winning films). In VR, it's more complicated because of the necessary equipment and broadcasting rights, which are often high.

PM: Can we see a selection of Annecy's VR films at home with a PC and a headset?
GF: No, our catalog is designed for collective experiences. Even though each viewer has their own headset, the experience remains collective and human, with mediation on our part. 

PM: So these are primarily individual experiences, where you don't perceive other viewers as avatars?
GF: Exactly, these are VR short films. We try to prioritize short films because VR tends to produce long works, which can become tiring. But the audience is very receptive, and many discover VR for the first time.

We truly defend the idea that the immersive aspect of VR can convey plenty of powerful emotions.


XR Space, Bonlieu Palace, from June 12 to 16, 2023

Insider tip: If you're short on time to see everything, prioritize "Red Tail," a Taiwanese tale reminiscent of Tim Burton and David Lynch.

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