Last week, at the Saint-Césaire covent, the VR Arles Festival jury announced the Best Film award, organised by the third edition of the festival dedicated to virtual reality. Marshmallow Laser Feast won the Best Film price with Treehugger: Wawona while Angel Manuel Soto received the jury’s favourite prize with Dinner Party.

5 :30 pm, after two hours of deliberation, the members of the jury showed their faces – James Thierrée, Marie Guillaumond, Christophe Miles, Marie Gillain, Charlotte Abramow, Renaud Grand-Clément et Vincent Pérez. All were struck by the diversity of the creations. Marie Gillain, the jury’s president underlined the physical experience of it all. “It was an amazing physical shock, forcing us to let go, to forget ourselves completely”. For this third edition, the VR Arles Festival presented 21 creations sorted into four categories (fiction, documentary, art film, and young public). “VR spread through the Rencontres d’Arles, and we are loving it“, Sam Stourzé, the Rencontres director tells us.

The news followed. The Best Film price 2018 was given to Mashmallow Laser Feast for their film Treehugger: Wawona. Angel Manuel Soto then received the jury’s favourite prize for Dinner Party, a virtual reality experience based on a true story – a couple convinced to have been taken by aliens.

© Angel Manuel Soto

Awareness through experience

What does the life of a tree looks like? A does a sequoia functions? And, how can be become a tree? For fifteen minutes, the visitor and the tree are all but one, as they spread out from the roots to the summit. Like a water particle, they move through the giant tree. The blow of the wind and the murmur of the leaves immerse them in one of the biggest trees of the world. The Marshmallow Laser Feast collective rose up to the challenge: to show the invisible. At the head of this unique project are eight passionate men and several conversations with scientists. “We had to study how a leaf, a tree functions – in a nutshell to investigate through science”, Barnaby Steel, Marshmallow Laser Feast’s director explains.

“I don’t intend to preach on anything. I am curious and I like looking at pretty things”. Yet, beyond this poetic production, Barney and his team rose existential issues. What is the meaning of life? And beauty? And furthermore, why are we so disconnected from the real world? “How many people forget that tuna is a wild animal before becoming canned food? We are happy to buy apples, but what do we know of the apple tree and its producer? The human being has created this stressed lifestyle and this dehumanised consumerism, where the relation with others and with nature is distant”. While Treehugger: Wawona pushes you to let go, it also invites you to reconnect with the world, with life. An awareness through experience underlining two things: that individuality is an old-fashioned concept and that time is not always money. Mashmallow Laser Feast signed here a life-size experience, where nature and beauty intertwine. “We didn’t do anything, we just copied a tree”, Barnaby Steel, however, concludes.

The VR Festival welcomes you until August 26th, from 10 am to 7 pm. More information on the website.

© Marshmallow Laser Feast