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Film Independent Lineup for VR and Immersive Storytelling Showcase: The Portal 2019

by: Melanie Bates
Posted: September 9, 2019


LOS ANGELES...Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, announced today the lineup for The Portal 2019. Now in its second year, the VR and Immersive Storytelling showcase will once again be held at LMU’s Playa Vista Campus as part of Film Independent’s partnership with Loyola Marymount University.

“Immersive storytelling is evolving at an extraordinary pace and this year we’re seeing some of the most innovative and exciting collaborations between filmmakers, writers and visionary XR creators yet," said Jacqueline Lyanga, Film Independent’s Artistic Director. "The storytellers in The Portal are visionary interdisciplinary artists. They are creating VR work that is pushing the boundaries and creating new ways to experience fiction, documentary and animated stories. In addition, augmented reality visual art and theater are bringing these traditional art forms into the future.”

"We’re delighted to be partnering for a second year with Film Independent on The Portal, at our tech-forward Playa Vista campus,” said Peggy Rajski, dean of LMU’s School of Film and Television. “The AR/VR/immersive space is expanding the field of media and entertainment, and we’re committed to making sure our students are learning both the art and the craft of storytelling using these cutting-edge technologies.”


The Portal features some of the most exciting new animated, documentary and fictional narratives from virtual reality exhibitions at film festivals around the world this past year, including Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca and Venice.

The Portal will be located at the LMU Playa Vista Campus 12105 W. Waterfront Drive, in the heart of Silicon Beach, and is free to the public.

The following pieces will be on display on September 20 – 22, 2019:





DIRECTOR: Tamara Shogaolu

KEY COLLABORATORS:  Lauren Dubowski, Natalya Sarch, Nada El-Kouny, Anastasia Semenoff (alpha_rats), Martijn Zandvliet, Gata Mahardika, Ytje Veenstra,

PRODUCERS: Lauren Dubowski, Natalya Sarch, Nada El-Kouny, Anastasia Semenoff (alpha_rats), Martijn Zandvliet, Gata Mahardika, Ytje Veenstra,

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Netherlands/USA/Egypt

RUN TIME: 30 minutes

Another Dream, a hybrid animated documentary and VR game, brings the gripping, true love story of an Egyptian lesbian couple to life. Faced with a post-revolution backlash against the LGBTQ community, they escape Cairo to seek asylum and acceptance in the Netherlands. An accompanying installation allows audiences to reflect on what they have seen, heard, and felt in VR.

 Another Dream is the second installment of Queer In A Time Of Forced Migration, an animated transmedia series that follows the stories of LGBTQ refugees from Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia, and from the 2011 revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa region.



PROJECT CREATORS: Nico Casavecchia, Martin Allais

KEY COLLABORATORS: Arnaud Colinart, Andrew Geller, Raphael Penasa, Rene Pinnell

PRODUCERS: Arnaud Colinart, Andrew Geller

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Rene Pinnell, Marianne Levy-Leblond,

Jill Klekas

CAST: Rosario Dawson


RUN TIME: 8 minutes

BattleScar follows a year in the life of Lupe, a Puerto Rican-American living in late 1970’s New York City. The film utilises Lupe’s handwritten journal to guide us through her experiences spanning across the year 1978 as she meets Debbie, another runaway kid living in the city. Debbie will introduce Lupe to the Punk scene of the Bowery and expose her to the secret worlds co-existing in the Lower East Side in the late 70’s.  BattleScar is a coming of age drama that explores the theme of identity through the use of animation and immersive environments in virtual reality.



PROJECT CREATORS: Eric Darnell, Baobab Studios

DIRECTOR: Eric Darnell

KEY COLLABORATORS: Maureen Fan, Larry Cutler, Kane Lee, Shannon Ryan, Ali Wong

PRODUCERS:  Shannon Ryan, Jeremiah Graves

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Larry Cutler, Maureen Fan, Kane Lee


RUN TIME: 15 minutes

In Bonfire, the latest interactive VR experience from the award-winning Baobab Studios, you play the leading role. As Space Scout 817, you are on a mission to discover a new home for the human race after it has made a mess of Earth. The stakes are high. Too bad your piloting skills lack... precision. In fact, you crash-land at night in a mysterious clearing of an unknown planet three hundred light-years from Earth. Your only source of light is your makeshift bonfire. Beyond its glow everything falls to darkness. And what are those strange noises coming from the alien jungle?




KEY COLLABORATORS: Jean Bartlett, John Boughton, Kevin Holland, Aysen Dennis, Judi Bos, Anthony Badu

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Ashley Cowan, Darren Emerson


RUN TIME: 30 minutes

‘Common Ground’ is a multi-layered immersive journey into the history, politics and human face of the current crisis in the UK housing system. Through the monolithic concrete blocks of the notorious Aylesbury Estate, the biggest social housing estate in Europe, audiences will enter the world of the estate from its birth in the 1960's to its controversial redevelopment today. Stereoscopic 360 video, photogrammetry, 3D modelling, archive and interactivity allow this multifaceted VR documentary to question notions of community, examine the dis-enfranchisement and demonization of the working class, and capture the sense of betrayal that residents feel when they are forced to move on.



DIRECTOR: Sutu (Stuart Campbell)


PRODUCER: Ali Lucker

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Sutu (Stuart Campbell)


RUN TIME: 13 minutes

In this immersive Virtual Reality Film you will step into a time warping dream bubble as four young Aboriginal Australians guide you through their futures. Their stories evolve from the present day to 20 years into the future where Nelson’s driving space trains, Maverick’s hanging out with robots, Ali’s a world-famous performer and Maxie’s the Governor of an off-world colony powered by emus on treadmills. Be ready for an intergalactic adventure. Look out for the space emus!



DIRECTORS: Jorge Tereso, Fernando Maldonado

KEY COLLABORATORS: Antoine Cayrol, German Heller, Santiago Amigorena

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: France/Argentina

RUN TIME: 8 minutes

It’s 1983 on a cold night in Woodland City. Being a zombie is against the law. The undead have been around for almost a decade now, but peaceful coexistence with the “normal” people continues to fail. They hide in the forest, away from the dangerous zombie hunters. Nights are calm and quiet, but Gloomy still tries to stay out of sight. Hunters are a real threat, but this zombie is hiding from something else as well...Truth is, he doesn’t feel too comfortable around others of his kind. But really, Gloomy not completely like other zombies. He has access to things we don’t see or understand. Nature knows he’s special. 



CREATORS: Reggie Watts, Kiira Benzing

DIRECTOR: Kiira Benzing

KEY COLLABORATORS: John Tejada, Amy O'Neal, Ani Taj, Adam Rogers

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Reggie Watts, Kiira Benzing, Sarah Vick, Dave Smiddy, Diego Prilusky, Adam Rogers

PRODUCERS: Adam Rogers, Ana Miren Achaval


RUN TIME: 10 minutes

Runnin’ pushes the boundaries of what is possible to bring you on a journey of musical expression. Creative duo Reggie Watts and Kiira Benzing leverage state-of-the-art technology, inviting the user to engage, interact, and play! Get in the mood, drumming to your own beat in our record store before being transported to a retro-future dance party. Show off your moves alongside a troupe of dancers, Reggie and his musical collaborator, DJ John Tejada. The first VR experience to showcase Intel Studios’ volumetric video, don’t miss the chance to join the dance. Runnin’ takes “music video” to the next dimension.



DIRECTOR: Celine Tricart

KEY COLLABORATORS: Oculus VR for Good Creators Lab

PRODUCERS: Gloria Bradbury, Celine Tricart



RUN TIME: 15 minutes

The Key is an interactive experience mixing immersive theater and virtual reality. It has a strong narrative structure punctuated by moments of interactivity. The participant goes on a journey exploring dreams, and must face challenges and difficult decisions, while experiencing a metaphorical journey from danger to safety. Through this journey a hidden truth is uncovered, and a new beauty revealed. 



DIRECTORS: Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Paisley Smith


KEY COLLABORATORS: Paisley Smith (director, writer), Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (Director, artist), Patrick Weekes (Creative Technologist), ZeMind Studios

PRODUCERS: Jason Legge, Ketsia Vedrine, Peter Denny


RUN TIME: 6 minutes

Unceded Territories is an interactive VR experience where the

audience experiences the colorful natural world made up of acclaimed First Nations artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s iconic pop- surrealist art style. Through infectious interaction, the participant creates a beautiful, natural paradise, experiences freedom and joy and the satisfaction of control over the land. A Tribe Called Red provides the powerful music for the piece and as the pulse of this world beats faster, the participant is increasingly faced with their lack of control as the wheel of environmental destruction has been set in motion.



DIRECTOR(S): Pete Billington


PRODUCERS: Jessica Yaffa Shamash, Chris Hanson



RUN TIME: 20 minutes

Eight-year-old Lucy suspects that wolves live in the walls of her family’s home. She has no one to believe her ... but you. Forging a groundbreaking blend of film, theatre, audience agency, and sleight of hand, this exquisitely crafted animated experience casts you as an active performer in a narrative where you interact, have a relationship with, and go on a quest with the central character in ways that leave your mark on the experience




These pieces will be available to view at the VR Bar and in the theater at The Portal.


The screening schedule for this program of 360 Documentary Cinema will be posted online September 9 and on-site at The Portal. Screenings will run from 11:00 am to 6:30 pm on Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23. 


Tickets are not required to view this program at The Portal.


ASHE ‘68

PROJECT CREATOR: Brad Lichtenstein

KEY COLLABORATORS: Beth Hubbard, Rex Miller, Jeff Fitzsimmons

PRODUCER: Madeline Power



RUN TIME: 8 minutes

Before Colin Kaepernick, there was Arthur Ashe. In 1968, one of America’s most tumultuous years, Ashe emerged as an elite athlete who parlayed his fame as the first black man to win the US Open tennis championship into a lifetime devoted to fighting injustice. The ASHE ’68 Virtual Reality Experience brings viewers into the intimate moments right before Arthur Ashe’s historic 1968 US Open win, an event that changed his life and the course of sports history forever. From the internal pressures that he felt during this turbulent cultural shift, to walking down the halls of Forest Hills’ all white West Side Tennis Club, to his historic pre-match press conference and winning match point - the viewer is right there, immersed in that historic day witnessing Ashe’s defining moment as an athlete and emergence as an activist on the world stage. This unique VR experience weaves together 360° video re-creations, archival material, and evocative, never-before-seen 360° sand animation to tell the story.



DIRECTORS: Gilles Porte, Nicolas Champeaux

KEY CREATORS: Oerd (drawings)


RUNTIME: 15 minutes

The story of the struggle against Apartheid is symbolised by one man: Nelson Mandela. He came to public notice during a historic trial in 1964. Seven co-accused were sentenced with him to hard labor for life. Among them, Walter Sisulu, the grey eminence of the movement, was the first co-defendant to take on the formidable prosecutor Percy Yutar. Today, with 256 hours of audio recordings of the hearings, we can relive that battle and, through those remarkable resources, rediscover the story of the ANC’s fight against Apartheid.




KEY COLLABORATORS: Leonardo Petersen Lamha, Carlos Alves, Etienne Chambolle, Leonardo Souza



RUN TIME: 8 minutes

Aloyo, a twelve years-old girl living in Lira, Uganda, sits among other children around the fire to tell their story during war, what they saw, where they went. Mixing early oral storytelling tradition and contemporary Virtual Reality narrative, blending fiction and non-fiction elements, CHILDREN DO NOT PLAY WAR narrates the memories, dreams and daily lives of the children who returned from the war and about how they recovered their childhood.



PROJECT CREATOR: Sadah Espii Proctor

KEY COLLABORATORS: Espii Studios, Skye Von / little GIANT Wolf, Oculus VR For Good, Malala Fund, Milaan Foundation


RUN TIME: 8 minutes

Around the world 130 million girls are out of school. Meet Rani, a Girl Icon, who is part of a growing movement of fearless girls leading change in their communities. 

“I want girls to look at me and think they can achieve anything they want," says 17-year-old Rani, from Varanasi, India. Rani's community and the Hindu caste system limits her family to washing clothes and linen for a living. But Rani is determined to finish school and train to become an army officer. In Girl Icon, Rani gives us an intimate glimpse of her life, hopes, challenges and dreams — and how she's helping other girls in her community.



DIRECTOR: Armando Kirwin

KEY COLLABORATORS: Armando Kirwin, Ruben Plomp, Oculus for Good


RUN TIME: 10 minutes

Our story begins with Edith, a 14-year-old who lives in the village of Centre Lobo with her parents and eight siblings. At the age of seven, Edith started to feel a pain in the side of her face. The pain eventually grew into a tumor on her lower right jaw the size of a lemon. Edith is mocked and teased at school, and even accused of being the victim of witchcraft. Despite the hardships she faces, Edith is notably happy and playful.

We follow Edith as she travels by foot through the jungle for days in order to have a life-transforming surgery.



DIRECTOR: Roger Ross Williams

KEY COLLABORATORS: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël

PRODUCERS: Ayesha Nadarajah, Jihan Robinson, Lina Srivastava

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Joe Lovett, Bonnie Nelson Schwartz


RUN TIME: 18 minutes

Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams’ finely observed and crafted visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a famed DC restaurant, transforms a central community locale into a symbolic safe space. African American visitors, some of whom lived through segregation, sit and share a moment of honest discussion, reflecting on their experiences of restricted movement and race relations in the U.S. These stories strengthen bonds among communities by bringing hidden histories into our modern collective consciousness.

 Confronting the way we understand and talk about race in America, this virtual reality documentary immerses the viewer in the long history of restriction of movement for black Americans and the creation of safe spaces in our communities






PROJECT CREATORS: Robert Gilbert, Jessica Curry

KEY COLLABORATORS: Royal Shakespeare Company, Magic Leap

PRODUCERS: Pete Griffin, Rebecca Paris

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Sarah Ellis, Ant Williams


RUN TIME: 5 minutes


The Royal Shakespeare Company explores the future of theatre with Magic Leap headsets in this sublime production of the “Seven Ages of Man” speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Here they present a mixed reality experience using cutting-edge volumetric capture with Shakespearean actor Robert Gilbert and an original musical score by award-winning composer Jessica Curry. The line “all the world’s a stage” turns literal as users experience the play in multiple and simultaneous places.




Note that these pieces can be viewed onsite at The Portal without tickets using the 4th Wall app. Participants must download the 4th Wall, a free, augmented reality (AR) public art platform at or on Apple’s app store in order to view these pieces. The app is available for all iPads and iPhones with iOS11 or higher and Android devices with AR Core. The app must be downloaded using wifi in advance of viewing the geo-located AR.



DIRECTOR: Nancy Baker Cahill

The Margin of Error AR drawing/experience originally floated above the water at the site of the Salton Sea Recreation Area, a site marked by terminal, toxic environmental damage. Imagined as a “hyperobject,” a phenomenon whose scope and impact we can scarcely comprehend, the Salton Sea’s rate of evaporation must be constantly mediated to avoid tipping into a full-scale, airborne environmental catastrophe. With no stabilization outlets, the Salton Sea has already destroyed much of what was once a natural habitat for multiple species of birds and fish. The drawing refers to this razor-thin line which, if crossed, will have even more devastating biological, chemical, and geological impacts beyond our imagination.



DIRECTOR: Nancy Baker Cahill


The title of this piece is a nod to the first line of George Orwell’s 1984, in which the clocks were “striking thirteen” and refers to contemporary methods of surveillance. Viewers, using the devices that require GPS tracking to activate the artwork, can experience the piece by looking “through” their screens at the artwork in the air above, and listening to the accompanying sound. Sound collaboration with Lisle Leete.



DIRECTOR: Nancy Baker Cahill

The Revolutions AR drawing/experience was originally located at the Palm Springs wind farm as a monolithic, AI “garden,” which was “planted” to help harness energy from the natural wind corridor of the Valley. While clean energy is far preferable to fossil fuels, the wind farm underscores the inescapable human effects on the land. The turbines remind us of the degree to which we have crossed a rubicon for what we have done and will continue to do to the desert landscape in order to mitigate ongoing damage there and elsewhere.

Inspired by richly chromatic, natural desert blooms, a series of animated “blossoms” rise above the turbines. Over the course of roughly two minutes, they expand and shatter as if they had just been plucked, thrown up into the air, and buffeted against the sky. 

Revolutions asks viewers to imagine the fate of desert life and lives when (often sacred) land is razed in the interest of development. Some particulate fragments of the exploding blooms gesture southeast toward the Salton Sea, as if to call or respond to its AR partner hovering above the polluted water. As the blossoms float and dissipate, they nod to airborne pollutants in the Valley. These AR blossoms churn at their own pace in conversation with––but also in subtle defiance of––their revolving, man-made relatives below.




There will be panels at The Portal on both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets to the panels are free and the panel schedule will be posted on Monday, September 9, 2019.

Free tickets will be made available to Film Independent Members on Monday, September 9 and to the general public on September 10 for 90-minute time slots on both Saturday, September 21 and Sunday, September 22.

For more information go to


Film Independent is the nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff and constituents is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional or a film lover.

In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces Film Independent Presents, a year-round screening series for its members that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

Through annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.

For more information or to become a Member, visit


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