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October 08th, 2018 | by Mathieu Gayet

”Looking forward to the day that we don’t name the medium anymore and just talk about the content” - Katayoun Dibamehr (FNC Explore)

Born in Iran, Katayoun Dibamenhr has been programming new media for the FNC eXPlore section at the Festival du nouveau cinéma for the last years.

FNC Explore: a selection

Katayoun Dibamehr - Well, we have various process, some of the selection is being done among the submissions we receive each ear. We are pretty lucky, each year we receive a great number of submissions with a high quality content ( I precise this mostly concerns FNC EXPLORE section), another part of our selection is throughout the year, the works we see/experience in other festivals, specially the ones that are performance related and haptic ones for which we cannot rely on a submission and we really have to experience the work as whole. For this I could confirm that festivals like, IDFA, Sundance, Tribeca and Venice are strong references for us to discover innovative works. 

K. D. - Part of our programming also comes from the creators and producers who have already exposed in FNC and we keep following their new works. We do sometimes take risks as well, we choose projects in development but then you evaluate with the whole artistic package behind the creators.

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K. D. - I should proudly say that this year is the BEST year in VR content. It’s not that I’m proud of us, non, it’s the fact that this year was a very good and exciting year for VR content quality. It’s promising and positive. This year we decided not to program any VR performances and multi-sensorial experiences. More and more we reflect on the fact if festivals are a good platform for this kind of works and then there is always the question of budget and logistics. Like our film selection in FNC EXPLORE section we will have fiction, documentary, animation and experimental content.. as a film festival we always try to pay attention to the cinematic and storytelling aspect of the VR works. 

K. D. - We have BATTLESCAR which is one of my favorite pieces, about a Puertorican - American girl in New York City. It’a powerful animation piece underlying a form of feminism and punk culture in NYC in 70’s. The music is brilliant. Altogether is a masterpiece. We have VIEW OF HARBOR from the one and only Jon Rafman. A famous contemporary Canadian artist who have also started using virtual reality in the recent years. The marriage of contemporary art and virtual reality is something that has been seen in the recent years, it’s exciting to see the evolution. The other work to discover is LA APPARIZIONE by Christian Lemmerz the multidisciplianiry artist, painter, photographe, sculpture who also dive in to VR and allow spectators to circle around a levitating, golden Jesus. This work was produced by Khora Contemporary a VR company based in Copenhagen whose main activity is to bring the contemporary artist into the VR. I can go on and on but this could summarise maybe our selection this year edgy, confronting and advocating feminism, gender equality and let’s say we tried to picked the best and fresh flowers in the VR garden. More and more we want to explore what artists in general has to offer in VR, from film directors, contemporary artists, animators, performers and etc.

K. D. - Well If I was asked this question a year ago, the answer was definitely YES but I’m having more and more doubts about the presentation of immersive performances in the structure of the festival. It’s a lot of things to consider, budget, logistics and technical aspect. We need a lot of expertise to be able to handle some of very technically complicated pieces. 

K. D. - Also my fear is always about the strict amount of time that these experiences have to be exposed during a festival. Maybe galleries are the best spaces to expose these kind of experiences. As for ou festival we need to get more technically armed to be able to present performances. Last year we shown VR_I by Gilles Jobin and Artanim for premiere international, I was very happy that we could make this happen. The work was chosen as part of a pitch session in Geneva International Film Festival and it was not yet completed so we took a risk and invited them. But then when you meet artists as creative and passionate as Gilles, there is no risk to take at all. We made it but technically it was very stressing for them and for us. That’s why I put a hold on performative VR pieces for now. 

Immersive cinema: a path to follow?

K. D. - ‘’nouveau cinéma’’ is part of FNC’s DNA and this section will continue with the advancement of new technology tendencies. FNC had always been very actif, we kind of follow up the new technologies evolution since 10 years ago. In 2007, the section that today is FNC EXPLORE, was named Cinema du futur. It is part of our mission to highlight the new practices in the industry. 

K. D. -I’m positive and negative at the same time. Positive because you see the evolution and since 5 years ago a lot of positif steps. Where I could be sometimes negative it’s about the ecosystem of VR in general. Where it's going? How to build a sustainable VR system? How to create a profitable business model? And I thrive for a moment that more and more artist and creators appropriates this medium and we could explore the possibilities in this medium. I think it is our job as well to democratize this medium and push it out of our small industry. Also the futur of VR depends on public as well if at last this does not become commun and public does not consume, well we can keep on producing … but this would not really get any further than our industry…. And well you produce to show to a large amount of public no?I should as well say that VR still very hard for the public, people don’t like to put a headset. They are still people that no matter what the content, they get headaches, experiencing VR works. I think we have a long run… Looking forward to the day that we don’t name the medium anymore and just talk about the content. 

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