Tribeca Film Festival brings back in-person VR and free outdoor events

The annual film and interactive-storytelling festival will return with in-person events, both indoor and outdoor, for its Immersive program.

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Joan E. Solsman
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The Tribeca Film Festival is set to kick off in June.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Tribeca Film Festival in New York will bring back in-person immersive events when it kicks off in June, organizers said Tuesday. The festival -- which has grown into one of the biggest US events for interactive storytelling in virtual reality and other formats -- had to quickly pivot last year's program to an all-virtual affair after the COVID-19 pandemic first delayed the festival originally planned for April 2020. 

But 2021's festival, postponed a bit from its usual start in early spring, will feature an Immersive program that includes projects that fest-goers experience in person indoors in small, timed groups; outdoor interactive installations scattered around downtown New York; and online projects and interactions that people can experience from their own homes. 

In addition to adding in-person events, hope and resilience emerged as themes throughout the festival's slate of selections this year, Loren Hammonds, vice president of Immersive programming, said in an interview Friday.

"Programming the festival this year overall, we know people have been in the depths of darkness, alone," he said. "They're ready to get out and and connect to people and connect to themes that will maybe lift your spirits a bit."

For people who can't physically come to Tribeca, VR experiences will be accessible through the Museum of Other Realities, a social virtual-reality platform for showcasing art, available to ticket- and pass-holders around the world who have their own desktop-connected VR headset. 

But for those who can attend in person, the Tribeca Immersive program encompasses a Storyscapes curation of indoor projects that you join in small groups with timed tickets, as well as free, outdoor experiences anyone can check out, including sculpture, immersive audio, augmented reality and live performance. 

Festival passes are on sale now, and tickets go on sale Monday. Tickets for the Storyscapes indoor immerse experiences, which will be at the Tribeca Film Festival's traditional hub, go on sale May 24. 

The Tribeca Immersive program includes: 

Outdoor interactive experiences 

  • Breonna's Garden (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Lady PheOnix Ruach Shaddai
    Key Collaborator: Stuart "Sutu" Campbell
    She who plants a garden plants hope. Breonna's Garden is an AR experience created in collaboration with Ju'Niyah Palmer to honor the life of her sister, Breonna Taylor. **Part of Juneteenth programming.
    Outdoor location to be announced.
  • Current (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Annie Saunders
    Key Collaborators: Andrew Schneider, Jackie Zhou
    Created by interdisciplinary artist Annie Saunders and her collaborators, Current is an immersive sound walk set in Lower Manhattan, conceived to invite both locals and visitors back to our public spaces.
    Outdoor location to be announced.
  • Discriminator (world premiere) – Canada
    Project Creator: Brett Gaylor
    Key Collaborators: Darren Pasemko, Kent Hugo, Jae Perris, Hang Do Thi Duc, David Drury, Adam Harvey
    An interactive documentary exploring facial recognition databases. A tale of how internet culture's early instinct to overshare helped to create technologies that are proliferating faster than the law can control. Discriminator brings audiences' faces into the frame in a combination of AI, AR and animation.
  • The Group - Part One (world premiere) – Netherlands
    Project Creator: The Smartphone Orchestra
    Being part of bigger groups again can be intimidating after the pandemic. This virtual reality experience takes the viewer on a crash course in social interaction.
    Outdoor location to be announced. June 16 at 5 p.m. ET.
  • Kinfolk (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creators: Idris Brewster, Glenn Cantave, Micah Milner
    Key Collaborators: Erica Buddhington, Langston League, Angela Fan, Keenyn Omari, Joe Gordon, The Light Clinic
    Kinfolk is an augmented reality app that highlights Black and brown figures. The viewer can use Kinfolk to bring digital monuments to life through a phone/tablet, hear voice overs for each icon, see generative art emanating from every sculpture, and listen to an original afrofuturist jazz composition. **Part of Juneteenth programming.
    Outdoor location to be announced.
  • Jupiter Invincible (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Ram Devineni
    Key Collaborator: Yusef Komunyakaa
    An augmented reality comic book about an African-American slave, Jupiter, who is suddenly given the power of immortality. **Part of Juneteenth programming.
  • Knot: A Trilogy (world premiere) – UK, United States
    Project Creator: David Rosenberg, Glen Neath
    Key Collaborators: Darkfield
    Knot is a trilogy taking place in three different locations simultaneously. A cyclical story, tied up like a knot with no ends, is conjured into existence by a collective effort.
    Outdoor location to be announced.
  • Polæ (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Steven Schardt
    Key Collaborators: Rob Auten, Lia Coleman, Devon Dolan, Emiko Inskeep, Ben James, Trevor Kerr, Rory McLean, Maya Pruitt, C. Andrew Rohrmann, Michael Taylor, Mei-Ling Wong
    Polæ is an interactive science-fiction series for mobile devices depicting the future history of Adelaide Engelsen and her company. What begins with a cryptic series of articles and social media posts leads to a multimedia breaking news experience. The viewer's decisions will determine their chances for survival when they come into direct communication with the artificial intelligence deciding the future.
    Outdoor location to be announced.
  • Procession (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creators: Dustin Yellin, Elie Zananiri, Justin Durazzo, Callum Cooper, Dražen Bošnjak
    Key Collaborators: Holly Houghton, Alyssa Cashman, Jacqueline Bošnjak, Jessica Brillhart
    Procession is an interactive augmented reality artwork by Dustin Yellin set in a utopian world where human-created climate change wreaks havoc as the viewer watches and is implicated.
    Outdoor location to be announced.
  • Republique, The Interactive Movie (world premiere) – France
    Project Creators: Simon Bouisson, Olivier Demangel
    Key Collaborators: David Bigiaoui, Sara Brucker
    Republique is an interactive film that plunges the participant into the emotions felt during an attack in the Paris Metro through three parallel storylines, letting you switch from one to another.
  • The Severance Theory: Welcome to Respite (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Lyndsie Scoggin
    Key Collaborators: Deirdre V. Lyons, Stephen Butchko, Braden Roy, Christopher Lane Davis, Whitton Frank, Brian Tull, Andy Aloisio
    The Severance Theory: Welcome to Respite is a scripted, live-action experience performed in virtual reality. The project is inspired by the real stories of people suffering from dissociative identity disorder.
  • Un(re)solved (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Tamara Shogaolu
    Key Collaborators: Michelle Mizner, Collyn Stephens, James Edwards, Ben Greenberg, Ko Bragg, Shantal, Zoe Todd, Katie Worth|
    Un(re)solved tells a story of lives cut short and examines a federal effort to investigate more than 150 cold case murders that date back to the civil rights era. Un(re)solved has an accompanying WebXR experience for at-home audiences that will be available on the Tribeca Festival website. **Part of Juneteenth programming.
    Outdoor location to be announced.
  • WarpSound Music Experience (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Chris McGarry
    Key Collaborator: Authentic Artists
    WarpSound is a first-of-its-kind, audience-interactive live music experience featuring virtual artists Nayomi, a lo-fi loving cyborg, and Dragoon, an energy drink-addled, half-iguana DJ, plus special guests including world champion turntablist A-Trak. **Part of Juneteenth programming.
    Outdoor location to be announced. June 16 at 5 p.m. ET.

Indoor Storyscapes selections

  • Critical Distance (world premiere) – United States, UK
    Project Creator: Adam May
    Key Collaborator: Chris Campkin
    Critical Distance takes audiences into the world of the endangered Southern Resident orcas.
    Audiences experience echolocation, connecting with an orca named Kiki and her family as their future is threatened.
  • Inside Goliath (world premiere) – France, UK
    Project Creators: May Abdalla, Barry G. Murphy
    Key Collaborators: Dr. Michael Golembewski, Xandi Adderley, Armando Sepulveda, Leon Denise, Oliver Bancroft
    A visual installation and VR experience, Inside Goliath is an intimate and visually compelling narrative of one man's experience of living with schizophrenia and psychosis.
  • Kusunda (world premiere) – Germany
    Project Creator: Gayatri Parmesewan
    Key Collaborator: Felix Gaedtke
    How does a language fall asleep, and what does it take to awaken one? Kusunda shaman Lil Bahadur has forgotten his indigenous mother tongue. His granddaughter, Hema, wants to revive it.
  • Lovebirds of the Twin Towers (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Ari Palitz
    Key Collaborator: Tim Dillon, Michael Frazier, Jake Black
    An immersive experience telling the story of Carmen and Arturo Griffith, two elevator operators who fell in love, shared their first kiss and would ultimately be saved by their co-workers at the Twin Towers. Through their memories we will see the best of us, then and now.
  • We Are At Home (world premiere) – Denmark, France and Canada
    Project Creators: Michelle Kranot, Uri Kranot
    Key Collaborator: Morten Andersen
    "What does the hangman think about when he goes home at night from work?" We Are At Home is a VR installation based on the poem The Hangman at Home by Carl Sandburg.

Virtual Arcade available remotely

  • Bystanding: The Feingold Syndrome (world premiere) – Israel, Canada, Germany
    Project Creators: Nim Shapiro, Roi Lev
    Key Collaborators: AnotherWorld, KNGFU
    Bystanding is an immersive docufiction sharing the confessions of people who witnessed a kayak rower drown for four-and-a-half minutes and did not jump in.
  • The Changing Same: Episode 1 (New York premiere) – United States
    Project Creators: Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster, Yasmin Elayat
    Key Collaborators: James George, Alexander Porter, Rad Mora, Elliott Mitchell
    The Changing Same is a magical realist, immersive, episodic virtual reality experience where the participant travels through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial injustice in America. **Part of Juneteenth programming.
  • Jailbirds (world premiere) – Belgium, France
    Project Creator: Thomas Villepoux
    Key Collaborators: Fred Resmusat, Jef Dehouse
    The Bwa-Kayiman prison is a modern hell. Yet, one inmate, Félix (Barry Johnson), is always happy. Chief Warden (Tómas Lemarquis) can't stand it.
  • A Life in Pieces: The Diary and Letters of Stanley Hayami (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Nonny de la Peña
    Key Collaborator: Sharon Yamato
    This immersive media project brings to life the wartime diary of Stanley Hayami, a Japanese-American teenager imprisoned with his family during WWII at the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming.
  • Madrid Noir (world premiere) – France
    Project Creator: James A. Castillo
    Key Collaborators: Antoine Cayrol, Luke Gibbard, Arnaud Colinart, Lawrence Bennett, Corentin Lambot, Craig Skerry, Dash Spiegelman, Yelena Rachistky, Albyon
    With her uncle (Fernando Guillén Cuervo) declared dead, a disenchanted young woman (Godeliv Van Der Brandt) must delve into her memories to pick up his shadowy trail. Solving mysteries ain't easy in a city lost to time.
  • Marco & Polo Go Round (world premiere) – Canada, Belgium
    Project Creator: Benjamin Steiger Levine
    Key Collaborator: Item 7, Belga Productions, DPT
    It is the morning of Marco's 32nd birthday, and he is confronted by his girlfriend, Polo, who has questions about the future of their relationship. By the end of the day, gravity itself will have turned their world upside down.
  • Mine (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Rise-Home Stories Project
    Key Collaborators: Randall Dottin, Luisa Danta
    When the sudden disappearance of water, their main life source, threatens to upend a vibrant utopia, Blaze, an intrepid teen must save their community before it's too late. Created through a unique collaboration of artists, land and housing activists, Mine is an animated web series that explores the difficult and worthwhile fight for the community you love. **Part of Juneteenth programming.
  • Missing Pictures Episode 2: Tsai Ming-liang (world premiere) – France, Luxembourg, Taiwan R.O.C., UK
    Project Creator: Clément Deneux
    Key Collaborator: Kuan-Yuan LAI
    Missing Pictures is an immersive documentary series that delves into the stories that were never able to make it on the screen. In this episode, viewers meet Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang.
  • Paper Birds Pt. 1 & 2 (world premiere) – Argentina, United States
    Project Creator: German Heller
    Key Collaborators: Federico Carlini, 3dar, Baobab, and Oculus.
    Paper Birds is the story of a short sighted child with an exceptional talent for music. He must find his way through the world of darkness to bring back his sister, taken away by the shadows. He'll use the depth of music to open portals to the invisible world. He'll confront the shadows, and they'll reveal their purpose.
  • The Passengers: The Kid (world premiere) – Canada, France
    Project Creators: Ziad Touma, Nicolas Peufaillit, Robert Hospyan, Coralie Majouga, yako (Jean-Christophe Yacono), Camille Duvelleroy
    Key Collaborators: Oriane Hurard, Karen Vanderborght, Dpt, Mocaplab, Post-Moderne, Novelab, Maxim Roy, Sébastien Chassagne, Évelyne Istria, Ethann Bergua-Isidore
    The Passengers is the story of strangers on a train who all have one thing in common: they are all facing a pivotal moment in their lives. Their real journey is internal, and it is you who will embark on it, taking their place to help them make a crucial decision.
  • POV: Points of View (world premiere) – United States
    Project Creator: Alton Glass
    Key Collaborators: Donovan DeBoer
    Los Angeles 2025: After serving two years in prison for biometric hacking. Cassius Moore, a 21-year-old black male, qualifies for early release under a new federal drone program. He is assigned to an artificially intelligent weaponized drone to follow him around and record his every move. **Part of Juneteenth programming.

Additional programming may be announced in the coming weeks.

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