One of the VR experiences at MIFF this year. (Image: Neil Van Vuuren)

The Melbourne International Film Festival is set to further embrace extended reality in its 70th anniversary year, announcing an XR Commission for 2022.

A philanthropic grant of $80,000 from artist and filmmaker Ling Ang will go towards the creation of an immersive XR work that “celebrates, interrogates, and illuminates” Melbourne, as well as MIFF’s role in the city’s cultural sector.

The XR Commission will premiere on the MIFF XR platform, which was introduced to festival this year.

Encompassing augmented reality and virtual reality, the 2021 XR lineup featured a mix of emergent 360° and interactive filmmaking that required no headset or special tech to be viewed.

There was also an accompanying public online XR space, where audiences could meet, gather, mingle and discuss their experiences.

Ang, who supported the development of the platform, has been experimenting within the VR space for the past five years through gaming, installations, MIFF VR experiences.

She told IF the pandemic had sparked a new wave of interest in the techonology as people looked for alternate ways to travel, explore and connect.

“In addition to Melbourne being one of the most locked down cities in the world, Australia’s borders have also been closed, so filmmakers have had to find different ways of telling stories,” she said.

MIFF major supporter Ling Ang. (Image: Ying Ang)

“Obviously, the cost of virtual production is still a bit out of reach for some, as is the hardware to experience VR and AR.

“But I think the opportunities to find different stories and tell different stories through these platforms is an incredible extension of cinema, whereby it extends not just by the visuals and audio but can involve intimate haptics.”

She hoped the commission would encourage more artists to tell stories within the virtual space.

“I want to help artists build a new collective language of storytelling – to tell histories from a new perspective, and to explore the challenges of today’s world in new ways,” she said.

“I want Australian creators to be in dialogue with their international peers and I want audiences across the globe to be challenged in new and exciting ways.”

Submissions for XR Commission are open to Australian artists from all disciplines, with all applications to be be assessed by MIFF’s XR Programmers, who will generate a shortlist of projects.

From there, a panel comprising the MIFF artistic director, MIFF’s XR Programmers, and Ang will select the project that will premiere at MIFF’s 70th edition, to be held on August 4–21.

Submissions close on November 18. Find out more information on how to apply here.

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