Mediterrane Film Festival taps Michel Reilhac as Curator for Future Visions Programming Strand

13 International Projects Selected Across the Strand’s 360 Videos, VR Standalone and Immersive Installations Categories

Malta’s Mediterrane Film Festival – taking place from 22nd June to 30th June 2024 in the enchanting capital of the island, Valletta – has selected 13 immersive virtual reality projects for its Future Visions programme strand, which is headed up by the independent interactive story architect Michel Reilhac. The international projects will span 360 Videos, VR Standalone and Immersive Installation categories – sitting under the Mediterrane Film Festival’s overall theme for 2024: ‘Unity through Film’.  

Michel Reilhac is an immersive storyteller, making films in Virtual Reality, creating participatory experiences in real life and across media. He is the founding curator of Venice VR, the official competition of creative VR content for the Venice Biennale International Film Festival. He is Head of Studies for the Venice Biennale College Cinema and for the Venice Biennale College Cinema VR, alongside the curator of the VR section for Series Mania.

The Future Visions strand will award one prize from the works across different categories – which will be judged by a specialised jury, among them Allison Crank – a UX designer and researcher who specializes in crafting interactive and inclusive stories using new media as well as Alina Mikhaleva – founder of Less Media Group to drive change in the media industry and utilize technologies to create deep human connections.

Teresa Cavina, Artistic Director of Mediterrane Film Festival, said: “One of our goals is to honour the multi-faceted and dynamic nature of cinema, so we’re proud to be working with the formidable Michel Reilhac – who is a pioneer in this field – and to bring audiences a wide range of projects to truly immerse them in the world of storytelling. The selection of boundary-pushing projects Michael has curated showcases the global talent from the fast-growing world of virtual reality, in both an artistic and technological sense.”

Michel Reilhac, Future Visions Curator and also Head of Studies for the Venice Biennale College, said: “Complementing the prestigious line up of excellent international films in the festival with a new program of immersive narrative experiences is proof of how forward-looking the festival and the Malta Film Commission are. Immersive experiences engage us in a very powerful new way, expanding the cinema setting in new directions, and there is nothing more exciting than experiencing the birth of a new art form in the making – welcome to Future Visions!”

Malta Film Commissioner, Johann Grech, stated: “Through Future Visions we are aspiring to create a forward-looking platform that showcases extended reality, virtual reality and cinematic forms of the future – a platform which fosters dialogue and opportunities between both established and emerging filmmakers across the Mediterranean and beyond.”

Future Visions is one of the festival’s four programming strands, which also include Main Competition – featuring films from across the Mediterranean, Out of Competition – featuring films from the rest of the world, and Mare Nostrum, ‘Our Sea’, showcasing narrative and documentary films dedicated to sustainability and the environment. Alongside screenings, the festival will include an industry strand with a series of panels and masterclasses, including the previously announced masterclass with Palme d’Or and BAFTA-winning writer-director Mike Leigh (Vera Drake, Another Year, Happy-Go-Lucky), who is being recognised with the festival’s Career Achievement Golden Bee Award.

The Future Visions programme includes:

The Imaginary Friend
Dir. Steye Hallema

The Imaginary Friend invites you to take part in the vivid imagination of Daniel, a grieving eight-year-old struggling with the line between reality and fantasy.

Become Daniel’s imaginary friend and let him share his world with you. Discover his joys and anxieties, even help him fight his demons head-on. However, as you spend time together, you will need to help Daniel figure out his feelings before he disconnects from reality completely.

With its unique point of view in storytelling and the latest technical developments in VR, The Imaginary Friend presents an intimate experience unmatched in the VR landscape. Daniel sees, talks and interacts with you, allowing you to form a deeply personal bond with the boy.

Dir. Sjoerd van Acker

At times psychedelic at times meditative, ELELE is a sensory and intuitive VR experience featuring only your hands. With music from renowned electronic musician Max Cooper, it invites you(r hands) to take part in a dance performance and explore the beauty of your movements. Listen to the music and let your hands lead the way. Dance as big and loud as you want or as small and simple as you want. You’re only expected to bring an open mind. But beware … things may get a little out of hand.

An Institute of Time production, ELELE is the directorial debut of Dutch artist Sjoerd van Acker (aka No Fish).

Dir. Keisuke Itoh

Sen is based on the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The user is immersed in the traditional Japanese ritual, holding a black Raku tea bowl in the tea house called Tai-an, both national treasures of Japan. In the dimly lit room, the user encounters Sen, the spirit of tea born from the tea cup and unrevealing its relationship with the world as such. It is afraid to learn about the world but gradually finds joy in its existence through interacting with the environment and other similar beings. They find comfort in their connection and interaction and start to think about their relationship with others in a self-centred way. One day, their peaceful world is suddenly destroyed by an inferno. Having lost everything, Sen falls back into the tea bowl and dissolves into particles wandering in the universe. Like Sen, the users realise they are one with all beings in this world and are whisked back to the tea house Tai-an, where their nonchalant lives begin again.

Dir. German Heller

A mixed reality experience about a terrified little egg struggling to stay alive in a world full of enemies. Users engage in the irreverent universe of Eggscape by controlling their egg in a boxing ring playground, karate alley, and Vegas-like world of excess. Through the VR headset, you’ll be able to see through into the real world and interact with your surroundings and with other players in a never-before-seen way. Step into the revolutionary world of Eggscape and strategise on how to win against the enemies and your fellow opponents while trying to find a way to avoid the countless dangers presented to our scared and klutzy eggs. Easier said than done; the first user to escape wins. Players can build upon the game’s structures by interacting with their surroundings with the Oculus controllers. Creating paths connecting to different scenes and unique adventures that can be played alone or shared with their friends, possibly hiding a trick or two for them.

Main Competition – Immersive Standalone Exhibits

Tu vivras mon fils
Dir. Victoria Bousis

Based on the internationally celebrated memoirs of Pin Yathay, ‘Tu vivras mon fils’ – the immersive, mythical, and cinematic experience puts the player into the shoes of a Cambodian genocide survivor and father. The author’s enduring heart, metaphorically represented by the wondrous temple of Angkor Wat, searches for a missing son and personal salvation. The player uncovers hidden memories from Yathay’s story by completing various puzzles while learning about Cambodia’s troubled history and rich culture. As the player solves each puzzle, Yahtay’s heart experiences healing. A nation similarly heals from its tragic past. Transpiring over 45 years, this is an inspirational saga of a father’s relentless will to survive for his family’s love and bring justice to his country.

Tales from Soda Island
Dir. Simone Fougnier

Tales from Soda Island circles around a figure named Silence, who has been subtly stirring in the shadows of prior chapters. This concluding installment will reveal its purpose and intricate role in an ecosystem seemingly unaccommodating. The Island’s inhabitants must face severe repercussions following their dismissal of Silence, as its absence ushers in disruptive noise. Their only recourse is a desperate quest to retrieve Silence and restore tranquility. Throughout our VR series, a key focus has been exploring the intricate dance between Music and Silence. This quest reaches a profound resolution in Chapter 7 – The First Ingredient.

Wallace and Gromit
Dir. Finbar Hawkins/ Bram Ttwheam/ Lawrence Bennett

The Grand Getaway is an interactive, narrative-led VR experience for the Meta Quest which will take fans on a brand-new adventure with much- loved characters Wallace and Gromit. A series of mishaps send Wallace and Gromit’s holiday plans hurtling off course. Join the duo and their new contraptions Auto-Caddy and BERYL (beverage employee related logistics contraption) on a holiday adventure to remember!

Dir. Marion Burger/ Ilan Cohen

EMPEROR is an interactive and narrative experience in virtual reality, which invites the user to travel inside the brain of a father who is suffering from aphasia. Alongside his daughter, we journey into the father’s mental space—imagined as a hand-drawn, monochrome landscape—as she seeks to learn more about his inner self, now obscured by illness.

Main Competition – 360º Videos

Over the Rainbow
Dir. Craig Quintero

It is human nature to long for more or something different. At times, this aspirational dreaming leads to improvements—we end an unhealthy relationship, move to a different city, or start a new job. But more often than not, this attitude leads to a sense of discontent with our own lot, an unquenchable thirst for what is just beyond our reach. Over the Rainbow explores this precarious balance between desire and happiness, fantasy and the familiar. If we are always between one place and the next, when can we ever fully be here?

All that remains
Dir. Craig Quintero

We are comforted by facts, by the familiarity of things we know to be “true.” The sun rises in the east. There are twenty-four hours in a day. I exist. These truisms simplify our lives and enable us to get through the process of living. We are not afraid to leap into the air, because we know we will land on the ground. “All That Remains” is a meditation on the fluid boundary between dream and reality, fear and desire. It is an invitation to see and be seen.

Daughters of Chibok
Dir. Joel Benson

In 2014 the sleepy agrarian community of Chibok (Borno State, North East Nigeria) was thrust into the global spotlight when the dreaded, anti-women education, terrorist group Boko Haram stormed the town at night and abducted 276 teenage schoolgirls from their dormitories. The world watched in shock and horror as videos of the girls, surrounded by machine gun- wielding terrorists, surfaced all over the internet and satellite channels across the globe. The VR deals with the aftermath of the kidnappings, and explores topical global issues of gender rights and the right to education.

Space Explorers
Dir. Felix Lajeunesse

In spring 2021, Felix & Paul Studios sent the first-ever cinematic virtual reality camera designed to operate in the vacuum of space to the International Space Station. The result is a spectacular fully immersive 10-minute experience that will allow you to witness the world’s first spacewalk captured in cinematic VR as if you were actually there. The images were captured in low Earth orbit over several days

The Blu
Dir. Jake Rowell

The Blu is a deeply immersive experience designed as a series of beautiful underwater moments in passing, a collection of memories, that powerfully taps into the unique potential of VR.

The debut episode “Whale Encounter”, featuring an incredible close encounter with a blue whale, the largest creature on the planet.

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