Venice: 'The Night Manager' Director Susanne Bier Hoping for VR "Inspiration" at Festival

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Susanne Bier

The Danish director will head this year's Virtual Reality Jury at the 75th Venice Fest.

Danish director Susanne Bier had a very selfish reason for deciding to head this year's Virtual Reality jury at the Venice Film Festival.

An Oscar-winning filmmaker—for In A Better World in 2010—who has also enjoyed small screen success, including with the Emmy-winning miniseries The Night Manager, Bier said she was coming to Venice “looking for inspiration” from the 30 VR works that will have their world premieres in Venice.

“It's purely selfish,” Bier told The Hollywood Reporter. “I'm always looking for inspiration for my own work and I hope to find it in the VR films I see in Venice.”

Bier admits to having “very little” experience with VR but hopes to bring her seasoned director's eye to this year's lineup. Together with Italian writer Alessandro Baricco and French actress Clemence Poesy, the VR jury will award prizes in Venice for best VR immersive story, best VR experience for interactive content and best VR story for linear content.

Bier said she will be looking for VR experiences “that have some sort of story element, given that we are at a film festival,” but said she was coming to Venice with an open mind and with the hope she will be surprised.

The Venice VR lineup includes several linear works, ranging from Eric Darnell's Crow: The Legend, an animated piece inspired by Native American legend; to Assaf Machnes's Borderline, a story set on the Israeli border following a young Jewish black soldier who faces an impossible dilemma. But the competition also includes Irem Harnak and Elli Raynai's mixed-media documentary Made This Way: Refining Masculinity, which combines photographs and virtual reality testimonials to address the impact transgender men have on perceptions and signifiers of traditional masculinity.

Further away from traditional narrative cinema are the films in the interactive section, among them Umami from directors Landia Egal and Thomas Pons, which, intriguingly, immerses the user in a story of a man digesting his own life through tasting a series of Japanese dishes that trigger memories of his past. Or Awavena from Australian immersive artist Lynette Wallworth, which throws the viewer into the world of the Amazonian Yawanaw people and Hushahu, the tribe's first woman shaman-artist. Wallworth uses VR technology to make the Hushahu's transcendent visions visible to the viewer.

Out of competition, Venice will also be screening several titles under a “best of VR” section, including a Isle of Dogs work from Wes Anderson, which takes viewers inside the miniature world of his latest stop-motion animation film; and Battlescar, an immersive animation from directors Nico Casavecchia and Martin Allais, which tells a coming-of-age story set in the punk-rock scene of 1970s New York, and stars Rosario Dawson.