RiFF19: the 9 films in competition for the new Virtual Reality section

RiFF19 official competition starts today with a new section dedicated to Virtual Reality. Here’s a recap of the 9 films we’re going to see.

Leggi questo articolo in italiano

Virtual Reality at the River Film Festival, #RiFF19

Today in Padua (Italy), the River Film Festival, an event dedicated to independent filmmaking and short movies, opens its official competition, and it does it starting with the new Virtual Reality section.

agnesepietrobon river college vr

The River Film Festival opens its doors to Virtual Reality, the most innovative and engaging film technology of the moment. The selected works, created by authors able to explore the possibilities offered by this new expressive medium, will lead us on a journey to the border between
virtual reality and real virtuality. By joining the three-year River College Virtual Reality project, created by the Association Researching Movie, the VR category represents one of the rare examples of competition for Virtual Reality films in an international film festival

From RiFF19 Catalogue

The choice to have a virtual reality section at RiFF19 came from the collateral project River College VR (RCVR) created by the association Researching Movie. A three-year educational course on VR for those who want to know more about this media, with the final aim of creating a VR installation ispired by the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.

The RCVR opened with the study days held in March at the Museo of Emeritani, that we discussed in this previous post. To know more about them, please visit the Youtube page or follow the official Facebook page)

Virtual Reality: what awaits us at RiFF19?

agnesepietrobon river film festival portello

RiFF19 will present nine shorts in VR; it is possible to experience them every day, starting today and till June 22, from 6pm to 10pm

For those among you who have never tried VR before, an interesting chance to do it in the beautiful location Propileo of Ognissanti Door at Padua.

Here’s the nine films selected for the competition.

SENEGAL DETOUR Stefano Sburlati | Italy 2019 | 10 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19 senegal detour


If climate change is a global phenomenon, its effects vary widely throughout the world, depending on the ecosystems and economies. In Senegal it causes great problems for environment, agriculture and people.

Director’s comment

“Senegal Detour refers to the duplex natura of the world ‘detour’. To me it is both the disorientation in the face of climate change and their effects – because the first instinct is that of impotence – and detour as deviation, waste: phonus could be a first step into facing the impact of an environment that is quickly changing our eyes.

I chose virtual reality to talk about this because I believe it be a very powerful media; with its immersive charge it puts things and spaces in a different light. Moreover, in my work I mixed the VR environment with traditional videomaking, superimposing people and situations in a game of references that helps storytelling and narration.

RONE – Lester Francois | Australia 2018 | 8 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19 rone


RONE is a distinctive portrait of the titular street artist, whose stunning large-scale portraits of women’s faces can be found adorning soon to be forgotten spaces, acting as a commentary on gentrification and the masculine realm of street art. The 360′ film and interactive VR art gallery takes the viewer inside Rone’s world: we follow him into the rarely-explored spaces in which he works (an abandoned paper mill, a house set for demolition, a crumbling theatre), and learn about his unique philosophy on art and life. The VR experience also takes the viewer into a Rone exhibition and inside his studio, giving them a front-row seat to the artistic process behind Rone’s epic murals.

Director’s comment

“I was a fan of the street artist Rone. I would see his beautiful portraits throughout Melbourne and loved them. The artist was always an enigma to me and one day thought he could make for a good documentary. I reached out to him and he immediately replied. Coincidently his studio was very close to my house!

From the start Rone was supportive of the project and I initially conceived it as a factual TV series about street artists. I pitched the TV show but it was not picked up. I was committed to the story and continued filming and soon after realised that this story would be best told through VR. The abandoned buildings Rone was painting in were characters in themselves. Filming in 360′ would capture the spaces in a way that would immerse the viewer and place them in these abandoned buildings that would have been impossible otherwise”

RAIN OR SHINE – Felix Massie | UK 2018 | 5 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19  rain or shine


It’s a perfect summer day in London; the sun is shining, the birds are singing, there’s a spring in everybody’s step, and Ella is determined to wear her new sunglasses. What could possibly go wrong?

OVERLOOKED – Carlos Oceguera | Canada 2018 | 9 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19 overlooked


Overlooked is an animated vr film about the relationship between a city and its homeless population. Through five vignettes, you become a witness to stories of death and tragedy lurking in the alleys of Downtown Vancouver.

At its core, Overlooked asks you to stop and acknowledge that in 2018, more than 2000 people live their life on the streets of Vancouver. These are people you may not notice on your daily commute. Will you notice when there’s a killer on the loose?

Director’s comment

“The film is a dramatic retelling of personal experiences and encounters we have had on the streets of Vancouver. We wanted to tell a story that we would care about regardless of the medium we used to tell it. We wanted to tell a story about our community and the way we relate to each other in this city.

We were given the chance and investment to tell a story through VR and even though we had other ideas in mind at the time, we agreed that the film needed to be grounded in something personal. We felt this would draw people into the story, not only to watch an animation, but to explore and consider a situation that is otherwise ignored in the real world.

Linear filmmaking chooses the best windows to tell you a story, but VR brings you into a world and allows you to decide what to pay attention to. VR replicates reality in the sense that the witness can choose to acknowledge homelessness or not and ponder the implications of their choice through the progression of the vignettes as the perspective narrows.  Even if only for an instant, VR allows us to have the perspective of what the world potentially looks and feels like for a person who has no choice but to live and sleep on the streets”

FLUCHTPUNKT – Béla Baptiste | Austria 2018 | 6 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19 fluchtpunkt


Carlotta is late for her show but her violent exboyfriend Raul is waiting outside the door. While the guests are becoming more impatient at the gallery, some robbers running away from police find themselves stuck on a dead end…  

Director’s comment

Fluchtpunkt is a 360 degree cinematic experience. With VR glasses we find ourselves at the vanishing point of four rooms in an urban environment and can choose when to look into which of the rooms. The sound changes with the field of view as we turn our head, so we hear what we see and perceive the sound – like in real life – in 360 degrees as well. This spatial audio experience became possible only weeks before finishing our project, so Fluchtpunkt is one of the first fictional projects worldwide using this new technique. The viewers of Fluchtpunkt experience a new form of cinematic narration, in which they themselves determine the film they see. The story is the same to each viewer, but the film he or she sees is unique to the individual.

PARIS TERROR THE HOSTAGES FROM HYPER CACHER – Ricarda Saleh | Germany 2018 | 11 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19 paris terror


The VR documentary Paris Terror – The Hostages from the Hyper Cacher tells the story of three survivors of the anti-semitic attack of 9th January 2015, two days after the Charlie Hebdo attack. At Hyper Cacher, a Jewish supermarket chain, a terrorist related to the Charlie Hebdo terrorists took several customers hostage and killed four Jews during the course of the day.

Director’s comment

Paris Terror works with an abstract black and white 2D/3D animation mix which re-enacts the experience in a respectful manner. This allows the viewer to understand how much a terrorist attack can influence and traumatize victims even three years after the event.

“VR is a unique medium to create emotional experience and tackle complex stories. From my point of view it is enriching to work with this medium and get challenged by its form and limitation. The rules of storytelling in 360° video and VR are not defined yet – so it´s a great time to challenge its limits and work with it”

THE SUN LADIES – Christian Stephen & Celine Tricart | United States 2018 | 6 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19 the sun ladies


The Sun Ladies VR takes the viewer on an intimate journey to the lives of a group of Yazidi women fighting ISIS in Iraq. Narrated from the point of view of Xate Shingali, the captain of the Sun Ladies troop, the VR experience follows the dramatic changes in her life. 

Director’s comment

“When I met the Sun Ladies, I was blown away by their incredible strength and beauty, but what touched me the most was how similar we were. If it weren’t for the uniform and the machine guns, they were like any other women in the world, braiding each other’s hair and sharing photos on their phones. That’s why I think our film make people so emotional: It’s not about victims of war we should pity, and it’s not about some unattainable super-heroines as we see in movies. It’s about you and me. The Sun Ladies and us are the same, it’s just the world around us that is different.

The most important thing for us was to bring our audience close to these women and VR is about “being there” and empathy. It is about abandoning the utter and total control we love as filmmakers and let each viewer see a slightly different film than we one we’ve designed. When watching a 360° film, the audience has agency, not us, and this is one of the many things that fascinated me and excites me the most in this medium”

OF THE TOTALITY OF SPACE – Elisa Zurlo | Italy 2019 | 5 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19 elisa zurlo


Artistic and perceptual exploration into the concept of thought, space and infinity without borders, which is constantly mutation. There is no longer a spatial reference but a fluctuation of elements: the brain-thought identifies with space, explodes, alternates and overlaps with the immortal jellyfish.

Director’s comment

“VR is one of those technologies that have changed our perspective and our visual perception. I have never felt comfortable with classical storytelling, and VR allows me to create situations, “non-places”, where perception times expand and the dimension in which we live with all our senses expand because the experience is no longer tied to a physical space.

Freedom from a classical narrative form and the possibility of choosing a point of view to watch a scene gives life to new potentials: in the mind of the user other forms of imagination are generated, a virtual space that goes beyond thoughts.

The public lives an immersive experience, no longer a passive observer, and is projected into a world made up of space, depth, life, and dream

HERMITAGE – Mikhail Antikov | Russia 2018 | 18 min.

agnesepietrobon riff19 hermitage


Based on the key events in the history of the State Hermitage Museum, the story spans from the era of Catherine The Great until the modern day. The filming took place at the Palace Square, in the halls of the museum, the Hanging Garden and on the roof of the Winter Palace. The project was made in collaboration with Super8, Artecom studios.

Director’s comment

The Hermitage is an art gallery nowadays but a century ago it was the house of the king: we used virtual reality to turn the audience into invisible persons who could witness what happened there. We did not only want to shoot a video, but we wanted to do it together with people from the museum so to be correct in the words we said, to be correct in the clothes we used, to be correct in history and in storytelling.

I always try to implement this technology in positive ways: the museum is the place where we meet history so we decided to use the virtual headset like a time machine.

See you later today at RiFF to enjoy some stories together, some art and – definitely – some exciting discoveries.

One thought on “RiFF19: the 9 films in competition for the new Virtual Reality section

Comments are closed.