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Using immersive storytelling to tackle issues such as mental health, trans identity and end-of-life care featured heavily in the pitches in this year’s Digital Experience category at Annecy.

Aimed at showcasing the best interactive animated film projects in development, the category’s strong contenders included U.K-Ghanaian branching narrative short “Unwanted Guest,” which tackles depression and anxiety.

A blend of animation and live action  – which director Comfort Arthur says was inspired by “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” – the film is a dark comedy which follows a young man’s struggles with two unwelcome housemates: Anxiety Anie and Depression Dep.

Arthur, whose previous short “Black Barbie” was screened at Annecy in 2017, cleverly incorporated the actor and the two animated characters into her MIFA pitch, which dropped on MIFA’s online platform earlier on Tuesday.

The choose-your-own-adventure narrative- written by Adjani Salmon, Jocoliah Parker and Elana Mugdan – comprises four short format user journeys.

The director signaled that the project’s likely end destination was Amazon Echo via the smartphone, and her team is also working on a series of AR posters for placement in clinics, libraries and cafes.

Currently in development, the project is looking for investors, distributors, storyboard artists and animators to bring their vision to life.

Another branching narrative pitch in this category was the U.S.- French film “The Blossom Crown” which places the viewer in the shoes of a sibling whose brother is transgender.

The project’s co-creator and director Raphael Penasa is also co-producer of “Battlescar – Punk Was Invented By Girls” – a contender in this year’s VR competition at MIFA.

Penasa promised that throughout the 30-minute experience viewers would need to make “difficult choices that will change the destiny of the family.”

Support for “The Blossom Crown” includes a writing grant by the French film-TV agency CNC and Penasa revealed that Emmy-nominated actor Scott Turner Schofield is now attached to voice the main character.

Other key talent includes UX designer Allison Crank; TV series and games art director Simon Hutt as well as Alec Veniel – a young transgender character designer whose experiences inspired the project.

The film is now looking for financial partners including distributors, co-producers and fundraisers.

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Unwanted Guests Credit: Comfort Arthur

Another pitch using VR to enhance viewer empathy is “Nana Lou” (original title “Mamie Lou”), a French animation directed by Isabelle Andreani and produced by Voyelle Acker through the Paris-based animation label Small Creative.

This two-part 20-minute film invites the viewer to play a guardian angel at the bedside of a grandmother in her last moments, who floats between the medical world and the world of the dying woman’s memories.

According to Andreani, prototypes for the project have been created in gaming engine Unity and the next stage of development is the object animation and character interactions.

The project is currently looking for international co-producers, broadcasters and other outlets interested in supporting distribution.

Further pitches in this category include the short format French VR experience Legends “La Vouivre”,” from directors Amandine Zink and Cédric Jaccheri, which aims to breathe new life into European folk law and legends.

Another French effort, Sandra Devonssay’s “Ne pleure pas devant ma tombe,” (“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”) is a 3D VR 360 animated poem that recounts the life of Margaret Schwarzkopf, a German Jew.

Also in this category are Georgy Molodtsov’s  “Pod Podushkoi” – an Estonian VR experience featuring a kitten mitten that aims to solve kids’ problems and “The Dollhouse” – an immersive 20-minute co-production, produced through Luxembourg’s Wildfang Films and Canada’s Zazie Films, that focuses on the enslavement of a domestic helper by taking a child’s eye view.

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The Blossom Crown Credit: Daniel Balage