Robert Redford Sundance Founder

Interactive Storytelling Via Sundance

The long time printed voice of show business, Variety magazine and now asked Peter Debruge to take a look at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. In an article dated December 6, 2017 he shines a light on a new addition to the New Frontier section of the festival, including AI-driven virtual reality story telling.

New Frontier typically showcases the most cutting edge of films, along with avant-garde experimental theater and other artistic performances.

This year, audiences with an interest in projects that either embrace new technologies or challenge traditional storytelling forms can find innovative uses of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, dance, and site-specific installations at three venues around town: the The New Frontier Exhibition at Kimball Art Center, the VR Bar at Music Cafe and New Frontier at The Ray (which hosts a 40-seat mobile VR cinema known as “The Box”).

Though starry movie premieres so often shape the public’s idea of America’s leading independent film festival, New Frontier is a vital part of the Sundance Institute’s mission. Past years have created a platform for boundary-pushing, technology-stretching artists such as Terence Nance and Doug Aitken, while giving established names like James Franco and Joseph Gordon-Levitt a chance to upset their image and indulge more outside-the-box impulse.

Ava Duvernay’s 13th-from Sundance 2017

If you went to the festival this year, here are a few items of interest you might have been able to seek out between screening new films:

Frankenstein AI: A Monster Made by Many (Lead Artists: Lance Weiler, Nick Fortugno, Rachel Ginsberg, Key Collaborators: Nick Childs, Hunter Owens, Brandon Powers) — By challenging dystopian perspectives around Artificial Intelligence, this immersive experience reimagined Shelley‘s seminal work to examine the cultural ramifications of pervasive, ubiquitous technology. Participants interact with an artificial intelligence, co-creating a shared narrative around the implications of unleashing this naive, intelligent “monster,‖ both mythical and imminent, into the world.

TendAR (Lead Artists: Samantha Gorman, Danny Cannizzaro) — A humorous and provocative installation that combines interactive storytelling, AR and emotion/face recognition technology to promote discussion about current topics in biometric data and artificial intelligence. Your guide: a fish-like creature who amusingly analyzes the partners collaborating in the experience, their emotions and the world around them.

There will also be virtual/mixed reality installations. Two of them are:

Wolves in the Walls (Chapter 1) (Lead Artists: Pete Billington, Jessica Shamash, Key Collaborators: Edward Saatchi, Saschka Unseld, Jennine Willett, Zach Morris) — All is not as it seems when 8-year-old Lucy‘s imagination proves to be reality. Help her discover what’s hiding inside the walls of her house in this immersive fable, based on the work by Neil Gaiman, and choreographed by New York‘s critically acclaimed immersive theater company, Third Rail. Cast: Elisa Davis, Elizabeth Carena, Cadence Goblirsch

Zikr: A Sufi Revival (Lead Artists: Gabo Arora, John Fitzgerald, Matthew Niederhauser, Key Collaborators: Selim Bensedrine, Igal Nassima, Jennifer Tiexiera, Wilson Brown) — This interactive social VR experience uses song and dance to transport four participants into ecstatic Sufi rituals, while also exploring the motivations behind followers of this mystical Islamic tradition, still observed by millions around the world.

The Sundance Film Festival ran from January 18 to January 28th in 2018