The Sundance Film Festival released the lineup for the 16th-anniversary edition of New Frontier, the fest’s track for showcasing multimedia, VR and emerging tech creative projects. The 2022 program includes 15 premieres from creators around the world.
The New Frontier program will be “a fully biodigital showcase,” according to Sundance. It will be globally accessible online via Sundance’s The Spaceship virtual venue from Jan. 20-28, 2022, with in-person extensions and live performances at The Craft, a new artist-centered venue in Park City. Ticketed New Frontier performances also will be presented in Park City’s Egyptian Theatre and simultaneously on The Spaceship.
Kicking off the festival on Jan. 20 will be a special hybrid digital/in-person presentation of Sam Green’s “32 Sounds” (pictured above), an immersive documentary film about the powerful effects of sound, featuring live music and narration. “32 Sounds” will take place simultaneously in the Egyptian Theatre and in The Spaceship’s Cinema House.
New Frontier’s Spaceship platform, accessible via laptop or VR headset, is again being developed with creative studio Active Theory. Festival attendees, both in-person in Park City and online, can interact with each other via avatars and a human-scale Biodigital Bridge screen in Park City.
First launched in 2007, the New Frontier exhibition showcases multimedia storytelling, art installations, and biodigital performances that make use of emerging technologies like VR, haptic feedback and AI.
Here’s the full lineup for the 2022 New Frontier program:
“32 Sounds” / U.S. (Lead Artist: Sam Green) — An immersive documentary and sensory film experience that explores the elemental phenomenon of sound and its power to bend time, cross borders and profoundly shape our perception of the world around us. The film will be presented in its “live cinema” form, featuring live music and live narration. World Premiere.
“Atua” / New Zealand (Lead Artists: Tanu Gago, Jermaine Dean, Key Collaborators: Kat Lintott, Carthew Neal, Nacoya Anderson) — Reimagining the realm of Pacific gods in this sculptural AR experience. Claiming space for gender diverse communities impacted by colonial contact, to see themselves reflected as vital to their cultural heritage and an intrinsic part of the cosmos. World Premiere.
“Child of Empire” / U.K. (Lead Artists: Sparsh Ahuja, Erfan Saadati, Stephen Stephenson, Omi Zola Gupta, Key Collaborators: Sam Dalyrmple, Saadia Gardezi, Jayosmita Ganguly) — Experience the largest forced migration in human history, the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. Embody the childhood memories of two survivors, as they reflect on their journeys across a divided homeland. World Premiere.
“Cosmogony” / Switzerland (Lead Artists: Gilles Jobin, Susana Panadés Diaz, Camilo de Martino, Tristan Siodlak, Key Collaborator: Pierre-Igor Berthet) — A live digital performance in which 3 dancers are motion captured in Geneva and projected remotely in real time. North American Premiere.
“Diagnosia” / U.S. (Lead Artists: Mengtai Zhang, Lemon Guo, Producers: Mengtai Zhang, Lemon Guo, Yue Huang) — In this VR experience, the director locks us inside his teenage memories of being incarcerated in a military-operated internet addiction camp in Beijing in 2007, where internet addiction and other youth issues were treated as severe mental disorders, and sometimes by violent means. North American Premiere.
“Flat Earth VR” / Brazil (Lead Artist: Lucas Rizzotto) VR is known as the ultimate empathy machine that lets users experience others’ perspectives. But what happens when those perspectives are delusional? Experience the ultimate flat-earther fantasy: ascend into the stars and prove all globe-earthers wrong by taking photos of the planet as it truly is: flat like a pancake. World Premiere.
“Gondwana” / Australia (Lead Artists: Ben Joseph Andrews, Emma Roberts, Key Collaborators: Lachlan Sleight, Michelle Brown, The Convoy) — A durational VR experience that runs over 24 hours, and a constantly-evolving virtual ecosystem chronicling the possible futures of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, the Daintree. Powered by climate data, each showing is unrepeatable and speculative, a meditation on time, change and loss in an irreplaceable landscape. World Premiere.
“On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World)” / U.K. (Lead Artists: Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Arnaud Colinart, Pierre Zandrowicz, Key Collaborators: Jo-Jo Ellison, Bobby Krlic) — On a regular Saturday morning in January 2018, as Hawaiian citizens went about their daily routines, the entire state population received an SMS from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, which read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” World Premiere.
“Seven Grams” / France (Lead Artist: Karim Ben Khelifa, Key Collaborators: TT Hernandez, Quentin Noirfalisse) — An entirely new way for people to understand the human cost that went into producing their smartphones. This project brings the Democratic Republic of Congo’s tragic mining industry straight to the smartphone that its mineral resources helped make, via an app on both IOS and Android systems. North American Premiere.
“Suga’- A Live Virtual Dance Performance” / U.S. (Lead Artist: Valencia James, Key Collaborators: Thomas Wester, Simon Boas) — An immersive experience that features live dance performance as volumetric video in social virtual reality space. The performance weaves together movement, family stories, and cultural heritage to imagine virtual environments as a site for healing and reclamation of spaces that were historically filled with pain and injustice.
“Surrogate” / U.S. (Lead Artist: Lauren Lee McCarthy, Key Collaborators: Dorothy R. Santos, David Leonard, Stefanie Tam) — How do we relate to the future while living in a world in crisis? Amidst climate change, inequity, and pandemic, it’s no longer possible to view ourselves as separate from past and future. How much control should we have over a birthing person’s body, and a life before it’s born? North American Premiere.
“The Inside World” / U.S. (Lead Artists: Jennifer McCoy, Kevin McCoy, Key Collaborators: Annie J. Howell, Peter Rostovsky) — The city of Las Vegas is now operated by artificial intelligence. Fourteen AI “Managers” handle every sector of the city. The problem is, one of them is secretly human… Digital Art NFTs meet gameplay in this community driven mystery. World Premiere.
“The State of Global Peace” / U.S. (Lead Artists: Daanish Masood Alavi, Key Collaborators: Igal Nassima, Erica Newman) — The prime minister of a fictitious country – played by you – is about to deliver a speech at a virtual UN General Assembly in the near future. A group of students hijacks the security system and takes over the screens, asking to have a dialogue. World Premiere.
“They Dream in My Bones – Insemnopedy II” / France (Lead Artist: Faye Formisano, Key Collaborators: Ludovic De Oliveira, Lilou-Magali Robert, Cindy Coutant) — Immersed on virtual veils, this VR360 experience tells the story of Roderick Norman, a researcher in onirogenetics, the science he founded, which makes it possible to extract dreams from an unidentified skeleton at the frontier of gender and the human. North American Premiere.
“This Is Not a Ceremony” / Canada (Lead Artist: Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), Key Collaborators: Olivier Leroux, James Monkman, Jessica Dymond) — Darkly humorous and occasionally caustic, this cinematic VR experience offers insights into the struggles and conflicts of growing up an Indigenous man. World Premiere.