As organizers prepped the third edition of the NewImages Festival, they looked to expand the new media event’s international footprint. In previous editions, the festival hosted expansive foreign delegations while organizing VR residency programs with partners from that year’s country of honor. In 2020 they were supposed to build even further, presenting the fruits of last year’s France-Taiwan residency while inviting a whole new delegation from South Africa.

While restrictions on global travel made this year’s intended South African focus a project that will have to wait until 2021, NewImages’ international focus remains a foundational part of the festival’s sense of self. “NewImages global strategy is to go where the others are not,” says festival director Michaël Swierczynski. “We want to open the doors and develop new grounds in places where there’s just as much talent but not as many partnerships.”

“As with our jury [which is made up of professionals from fields outside of XR], our goal is to expand the field,” Swierczynski adds. “The XR world cannot just be a fixed line from China through Europe to the U.S. and Canada.”

Going forward the festival’s residency program will remain a keystone of that project. Last year, NewImages partnered with the Kaohsiung Film Festival and the French Office in Taipei to send a French creator on a three-month, expense-paid artistic residency that came with a €30,000 ($34,900) development grant and a promise to program the final project at a subsequent edition. Case in point: Last year’s selected project, “Atlas” (pictured), will make its world premiere at this year’s edition.

“It’s very important to back up our words with action, because sometimes labs and incubators of this type can be a bit blurry as to what they actually offer,” Swierczynski explains. “Here, the works are selected, accompanied, financed and presented. We want to make it the best residence possible.”

“That’s how you make links,” the festival director continues. “The idea is to create international connections. We did so in Taiwan, we did so in South Africa – only it had to be bumped forward a year – and we will do it somewhere in South America the following year.”

When travel restrictions do ease up, NewImages organizers hope to start globetrotting again, looking to spread their name and message in less obvious spots. “Letting aside the residence, we have a larger international project to open doors in unexpected places,” says Swierczynski. “We’ve traveled to festivals all over the world.”

“We even went to Myanmar in 2017,” he marvels. “And we had never seen such a big success!”