NewImages: More Than a Film Festival, Focusing on Connection Instead of Competition

In 2020, director Hsin-Chien Huang was awarded the top prize at the NewImages Festival for his film “Bodyless,” a mesmerizing journey into his personal experiences growing up during Taiwanese martial law. Leading the jury that year was renowned French music producer and composer Jean-Michel Jarre, and it was during the festival that the two men formed a connection.

Games for Change, a prominent organization in the field of using games for social impact, has been keeping track of the global reach and impact of the virtual reality (VR) documentary “On the Morning You Wake.” This captivating VR experience, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Nonny de la Peña, explores the story of a family affected by gun violence.

This year, the fast friends are coming back as creative partners and co-directors of “The Eye and I,” a visual and musical collaboration. The project will be screening in NewImages’ competition and is a result of the festival’s efforts to develop the immersive ecosystem and encourage such collaborations.

“Our goal is to bring people together,” explains festival director Michele Ziegler. “We are constantly seeking opportunities to broaden our network and strengthen our community. We invite and encourage more individuals to become a part of our growing circle.”

Jury duty has proven to be a powerful motivator, as Jarre is not the only creative to take the leap. Choreographer Blanca Li, who served on the NewImages jury two years ago, won Venice’s 2021 prize for best VR experience with her immersive dance piece “Le Bal de Paris.” Actor, filmmaker, and 2022 NewImages juror Stéphane Foenkinos will also be returning to Paris’ Forum des Images this year to showcase his augmented reality installation “Noire,” which had its world premiere at the Centre Pompidou last year.

The jury for this year, including author and activist Amandine Gay, tech pioneer Molécule, and Sundance New Frontier curator Shari Frilot, will soon determine if they are similarly inspired. However, the festival is not sitting idle while waiting to find out. NewImages has already identified its next project, working with Gotan Project co-founder Philippe Cohen Solal on a transmedia piece for next year’s event.

After the success of the immersive virtual reality experience “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” the BFI Network is actively seeking more narrative VR projects. According to the BFI Network representative, there is a strong demand and enthusiasm for this medium. They believe that virtual reality has the power to captivate audiences and offer a unique storytelling experience.

The media landscape is constantly evolving, with the upcoming launch of the first immersive cinema competition at the Cannes Film Festival next month. In light of these changes, Ziegler believes it is crucial to move beyond existing models.

According to her, NewImages is considered a top-tier festival in comparison to the film industry. She emphasizes that this is especially significant for their market, which has become the world’s largest immersive market. Creators are provided subsidies to participate, particularly at a European level where government funding is available.

“We need to move away from the traditional approach of chasing after world premieres in the programming aspect,” Ziegler emphasizes. “Following the rules and paradigms of the audiovisual sector will only hinder creativity and collaboration. Our focus is to support our industry, our people, and facilitate the connection between creators and audiences. This is why our hashtag is #NotAnotherFilmFestival.”

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MBS Staff
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