The European debut of the virtual reality event developer has become one of the hottest tickets in town at this year’s Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF), with its planned nine days of shows that sell out within hours of the first audiences hitting the streets of the Swiss city.
Staged in a bespoke dark space within GIFF’s prestigious Maison Communale de PlainPalais, the immersive installation combines serious independent filmmaking with cutting-edge craft from UK-based VR pioneers Marshmallow Laser Feast, in keeping with GIFF’s focus on exploring the Development of stories and the innovations in the way they are told.
The 24 minute installation is produced by Edward. R. Pressman, a renowned supporter of innovative independent filmmaking, and his longtime collaborator Terrence Malick, along with Dirty Films and French studio Atlas V. It is co-sponsored by Nicole Shanahan’s Bia Echo Foundation, digital medicine giant Fraunhofer MEVIS and the French telecommunications supports Banner Orange.
developer takes the viewer on a journey through the human body, tracing the flow of oxygen from the first breath around a person’s inner ecosystem to its origin, a single ‘breathing’ cell. It unfolds with narration by Cate Blanchett and a score featuring music by Jon Hopkins, Jonny Greenwood, Meredith Monk and Hildur Guðnadótti, among others.
Ersin Han Ersin, one of the co-founders of Marshmallow Laser Feast (alongside Nell Whitley and Barnaby Steel), believes Evolver exemplifies how film and television can come together.developer comes from a cinematic world,” he says. “Movie producers, actresses, screenwriters who use their voice and then use music written for movies.”
Malick’s interest in the project was sparked at the Cannes Film Festival a few years ago, according to Ersin, when the cult US director saw an early Marshmallow film — “a baked-in animation,” as Ersin puts it, “where there was no interaction, narration or… meditation moment”.
Evolver’s inclusion in GIFF’s Territoires Virtuels, an out-of-competition sidebar featuring immersive works, follows its world debut at Tribeca Immersive, part of New York’s Tribeca Festival. “Geneva International Film Festival is highly regarded and not so big that you get lost in a mass of shows,” notes Ersin. “It allows us to take the project to Europe and to a festival with impact and interested audiences.”
Marshmallow Laser Feast is in Geneva to talk to potential partners about bringing the show to a larger audience post-GIFF in Europe and Asia. “This isn’t a cinema that we can show to hundreds, thousands of people in each session,” says Ersin. “For us [at Marshmallow]it will be very crucial to find a new home for the project.”
developer represents an interesting moment in the evolving relationship between cinema and all things VR and Extended Reality (XR). Ersin believes the possibilities that VR and XR offer filmmakers are sparking more interest than ever. “It’s a great opportunity for us to take certain techniques and methods known to cinema and explore them through a new lens as experimental pieces where a voiceover can take you through an actual space, or we can those spaces build with an architecture in mind, and not just the script.”
There could be a tipping point once the size, weight and cost of VR headsets decrease, he says, but until then, film festivals are helping to shape public opinion about new technologies and techniques.
“The film festivals embraced VR early on, brought it into their realm, and gave it legitimacy and a platform to engage with the public and the press at the same time,” says Ersin. “When the home user actually starts acquiring these VR technologies for their home entertainment, it will become a new realm where filmmakers will use their vision not for a theater or cinema but for 10 million people or 100 million people in their homes be able.”
“The very premise of VR is a lens for filmmaking. When home users actually start acquiring these technologies for their home entertainment, it will become a new realm where filmmakers can use their vision not in a theater or cinema but for 10 million people or 100 million people in their homes. “
GIFF runs until November 13th.