ROME – The Venice Film Festival is launching a competitive section dedicated to films made for virtual-reality viewing.

The new section, named Venice Virtual Reality, will comprise a maxiumum of 18 titles. It is being touted  as the first-ever competition for VR works launched by a major film fest.

A jury composed of up to five prominent personalities from the creative tech world will award the following three prizes: Best VR film, Grand VR Jury Prize, Best VR Creativity Award.

Venice last year became one of the first fests on the global circuit to showcase VR works in a new state-of-the art VR theatre (pictured), which has seats that pivot 360 degrees.

VR titles at Venice in 2016 included a 40-minute preview of “Jesus VR – The Story of Christ,” which is considered the first VR feature film. It was produced by Autumn VR and VRWERX and shot in Matera, Italy.

In January, the fest’s parent organization, the Venice Biennale, launched the first edition of Biennale College Cinema Virtual Reality, an extension in the VR sphere of its Biennale College lab, which shepherds micro-budget movies from development through distribution.

In other news, Biennale College has now selected nine producer/director teams who will work on VR projects lasting between 10 and 20 minutes. The selected projects and their directors/producers are:

  • Chromatica (Flavio Costa, Italy / Laura Catalano, Italy)
  • Dinner Party (Angel Soto, Puerto Rico / Charlotte Stoudt, US)
  • Ice Cave (Maja Friis, Denmark / Sara Namer, Denmark)
  • Dilemma (Camille Duvelleroy, France / Laurent Duret, France)
  • Matryoshka Mon Amore (Nir Saar, Israel / Kevin Molloy, U.K.)
  • Spomenik (Ivan Knezevic, Serbia / Mirko Topalski, Serbia)
  • The Warship (Erika del Mundo, Philippines / Jack Weinstein, U.S.)
  • The Little Black Pawn (Quentin de Cagny, France / Francois Bouille, France)
  • The Neighbour (Romero Rudolf Borgar, Netherlands / Esther Rots, Netherlands)

Of these nine VR projects, two will receive a Euros 30,000 ($32,000) contribution towards production provided by Sony Corp. and will subsequently screen during the festival.

The 74th edition of the Venice fest will run from Aug. 30 through Sept. 9.