SEATTLE, WA – For the first time this year, the Seattle International Film Festival will include an unprecedented display of cutting-edge modes of storytelling using Virtual Reality, 360° video and Augmented Reality. Called SIFFX, the four-day festival-within-a-festival (June 2-5) takes place at venues across Seattle Center, including SIFF Film Center and Pacific Science Center’s Laser Dome.
The 2016 SIFFX program features artwork, panel discussions, and presentations from the Virtual Reality vanguard: local, national, and international leaders in this rapidly evolving field. LA-based content studio RYOT, recently acquired by The Huffington Post, will present a program of short documentary 360º films at SIFFX Opening Night on Thursday, June 2, for the first time projected on the 80-foot-tall Laser Dome at Pacific Science Center. RYOT CEO and Co-Founder Bryn Mooser will be in attendance. A second evening of immersive screenings at the Laser Dome on Friday, June 3 will feature the work of The New York Times and Vrse.
“Seattle is a technology-driven city and the convergence of cinema with new storytelling realities at the nation’s largest film festival provides a great opportunity to discuss, explore, and discover the future today,” says SIFF Festival Director and Chief Curator Carl Spence. “While the medium becomes more accessible, and even pocket-sized, we also celebrate its great cinematic possibilities as a communal event, something that is perfectly complemented by the burgeoning and progressive movements happening in our Emerald City.”
On Saturday, June 4, journalist Nonny de la Peña, known as the “Godmother of Virtual Reality,” will deliver the SIFFX keynote address, expounding upon the incredible potential of VR for its power as a device for empathy: conveying the sights, sounds, and visceral feelings of the news and bringing us inside experiences we have only observed from a distance. The first retrospective of De la Peña’s work will be on display in the X Gallery on Seattle Center campus and will include her first piece, Hunger in Los Angeles. (De la Peña’s young intern, Palmer Luckey, created a prototype headset for viewing Hunger in Los Angeles, which later became the Oculus Rift.) Immediately preceding SIFFX, De la Peña will have been honored at the White House for her work to create media that cultivates empathy.
“Seattle already plays a crucial role in the VR conversation,” says SIFFX Director Sandy Cioffi.“This city’s many creative technologists, artists and venture capitalists have the potential to define entirely new aspects of VR. Presenting this new medium through a Seattle lens, we hope to incubate risk-taking projects that are socially meaningful, artistically ground-breaking, and financially successful. SIFF is the perfect setting for this showcase: the longstanding cinematic festival of record, where cutting edge filmmaking has always been a top priority.”
SIFFX offers festivalgoers access to a full range of technology, from high-end headsets to cardboard viewers, and provides opportunities to experience both solitary headset viewing and collective immersion in 360º moving images in the Laser Dome. Instructional workshops for the maker community and panels and presentations about the technology and business of immersive storytelling round out the jam-packed four-day itinerary.
“SIFFX is a celebration of this transformational moment in moving images – one that parallels the moment in cinematic history when film went from recording plays to intercutting time,” says Cioffi. “We want to bring Seattle’s technology, art, and filmmaking communities together to join the conversation about where we go from here.”
SIFFX program highlights are below. As the festival approaches, get more details at siffx.net. SIFFX is presented in part by the Mayor’s Office of Film and Music
Opening Night Screening at Pacific Science Center Laser Dome (Thursday, June 2)
Experience eye-popping 360º films created by RYOT, the LA-based content studio recently acquired by The Huffington Post, which specializes in documentary-style Virtual Reality films. Among the videos premiering for the first time in 360º projection is The Crossing, Susan Sarandon’s immersive video diary about the Syrian refugee rescue effort in Lesbos. Films will be shown consecutively on cardboard headsets and on the majestic expanse of the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome. RYOT co-founder and Academy Award®-nominee Bryn Mooser will be in attendance.
Pluto in the Dome (Friday, June 3)
Built as the Spacearium for the 1962 World’s Fair, Pacific Science Center’s Laser Dome was originally a futuristic semi-sphere where Fair visitors could watch wide-angle movies about space. The historic structure returns to its roots on Friday night, with 360° screenings including Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart, a stereoscopic virtual reality experience that brings viewers to Pluto (The New York Times).
Keynote Speaker: Nonny de la Peña (Saturday, June 4)
Hear journalist and “Godmother of Virtual Reality” Nonny de la Peña speak on the astronomical potential of VR for immersive journalism and its power as an empathy device for conveying the sights, sounds, and visceral feelings of the news. In the X Gallery, view the first retrospective of De la Peña’s work, including her first piece, Hunger in Los Angeles, for which her young intern, Palmer Luckey, created the prototype headset that later became the Oculus Rift.
X Academy (June 3-5)
Engage with members of the local and national Virtual Reality vanguard as they explore current questions surrounding the advent of accessible VR technology, including VR 101, what VR means for the future of cinema and linear storytelling, whether VR can make us “more human,” and other contemporary issues ranging from the aesthetic to the ethical. Learn 360º workflow (cinematography, stitching, and projection) with examples presented in 360º projection at the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome. Review the timeline of VR and immersive storytelling through the lens of previous historic collaborations between the tech and art worlds.
X Gallery (June 3-5)
Explore local, national, and international VR / AR projects that showcase a range of new technologies and illustrate how artists are bending the tech to tell their own stories. Featured projects with attending artists include: fabulous wonder.land, a 4D VR take on Alice in Wonderland, created by Toby Coffee of the UK National Theater; The Visitor, a VR house of mirrors created by filmmakers James Kaelen and Eve M. Cohen; and Giant, a VR memoir of sorts in which director Milica Zec captures the experience of growing up in a war zone.
Founded in 1976, SIFF creates experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world with the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Cinema, and SIFF Education. Recognized as one of the top film festivals in North America, the Seattle International Film Festival is the largest, most highly attended film festival in the United States, reaching more than 150,000 annually. The 25-day festival is renowned for its wide-ranging and eclectic programming, presenting over 450 features, short films, and documentaries from over 80 countries each year. SIFF Cinema exhibits premiere theatrical engagements, repertory, classic, and revival film showings 365 days a year on five screens at the SIFF Cinema Uptown, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, and SIFF Film Center, reaching more than 150,000 attendees annually. SIFF Education offers educational programs for all audiences serving more than 13,000 students and youth in the community with free programs each year.