LA Film Festival Unveils Lineup for VR and Immersive Storytelling Showcase "The Portal"

Jacquline Lyanga

The new program will feature such talent as Oprah Winfrey, Rosario Dawson and Brie Larson.

The LA Film Festival’s lineup for "The Portal," its inaugural showcase for VR and immersive storytelling, which was announced today, will feature such talent as Oprah Winfrey, Rosario Dawson, Brie Larson, Diego Luna, Ian McShane and Alicia Vikander. 

A two-year partnership with Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television, The Portal will be located at the new LMU Playa Vista Campus, 12105 W. Waterfront Drive, and is free to the public.

“Immersive storytelling is venturing into exciting new territory with adventurous mixed reality, social interactivity, guided motion and haptics, all of which L.A. audiences will be able to experience for free at The Portal this fall as part of LA Film Festival,” said Jacqueline Lyanga, who is serving as guest director, in a statement. 

“It’s fitting that, as we open the doors to our new Playa Vista campus, we also welcome Film Independent’s first-ever VR and immersive storytelling showcase,” said Peggy Rajski, new dean of LMU’s School of Film and Television. “Jacqueline’s thoughtful program provides audiences with ample opportunities to immerse themselves into the experiences and stories of others, including many whose voices are typically unheard. At LMU SFTV we deeply value storytelling that shines a light into the places we rarely traverse, but which enrich us when given the opportunity to do so.”

Free tickets are available online at lafilmfestival.com for 90-minute time slots on both Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 23. LA Film Festival pass holders do not need a ticket to attend, and no RSVP is required for pass holders. LAFF itself, presented by Film Independent, runs from Sept. 20 to Sept. 28.

The full lineup is below.

THE PORTAL

1000 Cut Journeydirs. Courtney Cogburn and Elise Ogle, USA, LA Premiere

In this immersive virtual reality experience, in order to foster a greater understanding of the social realities of racism, you become Michael Sterling, a Black male, and encounter racism as a young child, an adolescent, and a young adult.

Age of Sail, dir. John Kahrs, USA, North American Premiere

Set on the open ocean in 1900, this animated film tells the story of William Avery (voiced by Ian McShane), an old sailor adrift and alone in the North Atlantic who finds redemption and hope in his darkest hours.

Arden’s Wake: Expandeddir. Eugene Chung, USA, US Premiere

The animated story of young woman who lives in a post-apocalyptic world with her father in a lighthouse perched atop an endless sea. Academy Award-winner Alicia Vikander stars as the voice of Meena.

Awavena, dir. Lynette Wallworth, USA/Brazil/Australia, LA Premiere 

This mixed-reality work is a tale of metamorphosis, and a collaboration between the Amazonian Yawanawa community and an artist that tells the story of a people ascending from the edge of extinction and the ascendance of their first female shaman.

BattleScardir. Martín Allais and Nico Casavecchia, USA/France, LA Premiere 

An animated coming of age story that follows a year in the life of Lupe, played by Rosario Dawson, living in late 1970’s New York City as she discovers the Punk scene of the Bowery and the secret underworld of the Lower East Side.  

Biidaaban: First Light, dir. Lisa Jackson, Canada, LA Premiere 

Set in a highly realistic future Toronto reclaimed by nature, where people commute by canoe, users engage with the written text of the Wendat, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and gain insight into the complex thought systems of this land’s first peoples.

Crow: The Legenddir. Eric Darnell, USA, North American Premiere

This animated story of a bird with a beautiful voice is inspired by Native American legend is executive produced by John Legend, and features the voices of Sarah Eagle Heart, Diego Luna Tye Sheridan, Oprah Winfrey and Constance Wu.

Dinner Partydir. Angel Manuel Soto, USA, LA Premiere 

Dinner Party is a short virtual reality thriller that dramatizes the incredible story of Betty and Barney Hill, who in the 1960s reported the first nationally known UFO abduction case in the United States. 

Geomancerdir. Lawrence Lek, UK, North American Premiere

A computer-generated animation about the creative awakening of artificial intelligence set in Singapore 2065, that tells the story of an environmental satellite that wishes to become an artist. 

Queerskinsdirs. Illya Szilak and Cyril Tsiboulski, USA, LA Premiere 

A diary and a box of belongings offers a devoutly Catholic mother living in rural Missouri, USA in 1990 a second chance to know Sebastian, the estranged son she has lost to AIDS as they take a magic realist journey down a country road.

Space Explorers: A New Dawn (Ep.1) and Taking Flight (Ep. 2),dirs. Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, Canada, USA

A cinematic VR series narrated by Brie Larson about the new age of space exploration. Witness the lives of NASA astronauts as they navigate the trials and sacrifices of their training and missions. 

Terminal 3dir. Asad J. Malik, USA, LA Premiere

An interactive, augmented-reality documentary that explores contemporary Muslim identities in the U.S. through the lens of an airport interrogation using Microsoft’s Hololens technology to interrogate the holograms of passengers.

Vestigedir. Aaron Bradbury, USA/UK/France, LA Premiere 

Journey into the mind of Lisa as she remembers her lost love, Erik, through a series of fragmented memories that become entangled with a haunting vision triggering new memories and pathways as we navigate through the story. 

Zikr: A Sufi Revivaldir. Gabo Arora, USA, LA Premiere 

Zikr: A Sufi Revival takes four participants on an interactive, virtual reality journey into a world of ritual, music and dance by opening up an experience to the Sufi practice of inclusion, acceptance, art, joy and understanding

360 DOCUMENTARY CINEMA 

Free Solodirs. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, USA, World Premiere

Experience Alex Honnold’s free solo climb up Yosemite’s 3,000-foot high El Capitan wall with no ropes or safety gear in 360 VR. The full-length documentary film version of Free Solo is playing in LA Film Festival’s Gala section.

Into the Nowdir. Michael Muller, USA, LA Premiere

An exploration of marine life and ocean conservation that follows director Michael Muller as he tackles his lifelong fear of sharks by learning to dive without protection and cage-free with great white sharks.

Sun Ladiesdirs. Christian Stephen and Celine Tricart, USA, LA Premiere

The story of a group of Yazidi women in Sinjar, Iraq who started a female-only fighting unit called the Sun Ladies to protect the honor and dignity of their people. This documentary features animation created by artist Wesley Allsbrook (Dear Angelica) and was produced and narrated by Maria Bello.

This is Climate Change: Firedirs. Danfung Dennis and Eric Strauss, USA 

In just the last three decades, changes in climate have doubled the amount of land burned by wildfires in the western United States. Follow the dedicated fighters - by air and on the ground - whose jobs have turned into year-round battles against these catastrophic blazes.

PANELS AT THE PORTAL

The showcase will also feature panels about Women’s Voices in VR, Animation and immersive Documentary on Saturday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Sept. 23. 

Saturday, Sept. 22 – 2 p.m., Women’s Voices in VR

Saturday, Sept. 22 – 4:30 p.m., Animation in VR

Sunday, Sept. 23 – 2 p.m., Social Immersive Documentary VR