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Running Sept. 23-27, this year’s NewImages Festival will work on two different fronts, offering locals a physical rendezvous space at Paris’ Forum des Images, while opening its full program to international attendees participating online.

Giving NewImages’ third edition a true hybrid flair, the 16 VR projects playing in competition and the 12 out-of-competition works can be experienced in person via reservation, and through the festival’s digital arm, @VRChat, a virtual room created by XR platform VRrOOm.

On the industry side, NewImages three-day program will launch with an opening keynote from MIT’s D. Fox Harrell, and then span a number of professional workshops and panels, while the festival’s XR financing market will host eight pitching sessions divided by theme.

Blending both physical and digital elements, the festival’s opening performance, “Flame,” will put live performers Alejandro Mendia and Samantha Alcon onto stage optimized for the virtual world – a show that speaks to NewImages’ broad curatorial sweep.

“We always want to display the diversity of creation with regards to storytelling,” says NewImages director Michaël Swierczynski. “We want to link ourselves to all new media creation, to expand the field. We think of ourselves as a kind of lab for new forms of visual storytelling.”

When the festival had to rethink this year’s edition once the pandemic hit, making international travel all the more difficult and the physical component all the more restrictive, organizers made sure to adhere to their main governing ethos.

“We held true to our three missions, which we call our 3Ds,” says Swierczynski. “To discover new trends; to display new talents; and to democratize our offerings, giving free access to the public. We maintained those three missions, while readapting for the moment.”

When selecting this year’s jury, for example, the festival planners could not assemble as international a mix as they have in editions past, but they still followed past principles by looking for members from outside the box.

The final jury – which includes filmmakers Julie Bertuccelli (“The Tree”), Alice Diop (“Towards Tenderness”), and Jeremy Clapin (“I Lost My Body”), actor Vimala Pons (“Elle”) and composer Jean-Michel Jarre – draws from the worlds of acting, music, documentary and animation, but not VR – and that’s exactly how the festival wants it.

“We want to avoid any insularity,” Swierczynski explains. “We don’t want to assemble a jury of VR experts in order to judge VR projects; we want experts of cinema, music, photography – people at the top of the field, but from other fields. Having top professionals from different fields guarantees both high standards and open minds; it creates new avenues of exploration, and it feeds the diversity of our industry.”

“That’s the best way to valorize our work,” Swierczynski adds. “As we’ve seen in previous editions, members of the jury have gone on to pursue VR projects of their own, because the jurors of today are the spokespeople and evangelists of tomorrow.”