POP VR at Toronto International Film Festival

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For the first time in 41 years, the Toronto International Film Festival is including virtual reality in festival programming.

What are the possibilities for creating new worlds, warping people’s perceptions, and using technology to potentially change what we mean by "art" and "story"?

These are questions asked by POP - a summer initiative at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that was formed to explore virtual reality as a medium for art. The initiative has grown into a full-fledged VR festival event at TIFF, programmed by Michael Lerman. Today, POP VR opens with five selections that include the International Premiere of Ch'aak' S'aagi (Eagle Bone) from Seattle's own Tracy Rector!

 


 

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KÀ The Battle Within

Multiple Artists
Canada 13 minutes
English

Experience a mythical world of high-wire martial arts as you stand smack in the middle of Cirque du Soleil's first-ever linear narrative production, KÀ The Battle Within.

Enter the world of KÀ The Battle Within, a gravity-defying VR saga of heroism and martial arts. Two rival clans from an ancient and mythical world confront one another in a furious clash of vertiginous acrobatics and breathtaking combat. The very fabric of reality is transcended, as the physical world is broken into horizontal and vertical choreographies. KÀ The Battle Within pushes the narrative and experiential boundaries of the universe of KÀ, the colossal theatrical production by Cirque du Soleil, to epic new heights.

 


 

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Ch'aak' S'aagi

Eagle Bone

Tracy Rector, USA
5 minutes
International Premiere
2016

This point-of-view documentary experience takes Indigenous storytelling in a stunning new direction.

Unapologetically Indigenous in nature and theme, Ch'aak' S'aagi (Eagle Bone) represents a collective step in a new direction for visual storytelling. Through freestyle spoken word and lush Pacific Northwest scenery, this raw, point-of-view documentary experience brings the viewer into a VR journey of remembrance and reflection on the lessons of the old ones — teachings that remind us we are all individual vessels of spirit and change, yet inextricably connected.

 


 

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Jafri

Michael Beets, Australia
8 minutes
North American Premiere

This VR documentary follows the unique daily life of a Melbourne, Australia man as he finds his place in the world.

Every Friday afternoon, an African Australian man can be found in the middle of Melbourne's busiest intersection, standing silently yet challenging the beliefs of passersby. Jafri is a VR documentary that explores the man behind the signs as he guides us through his daily life and the intimate moments that have shaped his views on society and himself. This is not an activist piece, but rather an opportunity to observe a man who, like all of all us, is trying to find his place in the world.

 


 

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Right to Pray

Khushboo Ranka
India
7 minutes
World Premiere
2016

This observational documentary takes viewers to the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple in India, where women are demanding entry into one of Hinduism's holiest shrines.

In the western Indian city of Trimbak, home of the ancient Hindu temple of Trimbakeshwar, a group of female activists fight against the regressive institutional forces of patriarchy and tradition that bar their entry into the shrine's sanctum sanctorum and deny them the right to pray. This film documents one of many struggles as the women demand equality in the face of a 450-year-old tradition.

 


 

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INVASION!

Maureen Fan, Eric Darnell, Michael Hutchinson
USA
6 minutes
Canadian Premiere

Two unlikely Earthlings stand in the way of an alien menace — and you are one of them! — in this interactive animation from the director of Madagascar and Antz.

Directed by Eric Darnell (Madagascar, Antz), Invasion! is an interactive animation in which Earth is overrun by malevolent aliens hell-bent on destroying anything that stands in their way. Despite the aliens' superior technology and firepower, two brave citizens of Earth rise up to defend our planet. But these Earthlings aren't human. Rather, they are two of Earth's meekest creatures — two adorable little white bunnies — and you are one of them! This exciting VR adventure is narrated by Ethan Hawke.

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