Source: Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Rodeo London


Sundance Film Festival top brass on Wednesday (December 6) unveiled the New Frontier selections including work involving Darren Aronofsky and VR superstar Chris Milk.

Humanity in the age of civilian warfare, post-human pleasure-seeking, live astronomy masterclasses, and a thriller about a shaman’s role in uncovering the cause of a death are among the topics explored in the experimental, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality and AI showcase. Key collaborators include Darren Aronofsky (SPHERES: Songs Of Spacetime) and VR superstar Chris Milk (Chorus).

New Frontier programming will occupy three venues: The New Frontier Exhibition at Kimball Art Center, New Frontier at The Ray, and The VR Bar at Music Café.

”Technology-enabled storytelling continues to develop into a thriving industry,” Sundance Institute president and founder Robert Redford said. “It’s essential to protect the creative spaces where creators can develop work and reach audiences independent of commercial pressures. The work that we showcase at New Frontier sets the agenda for the year in creative cross-media storytelling.”

Shari Frilot, Sundance Film Festival senior programmer and chief curator of New Frontier, added: “This year’s artists push the boundaries of a host of new technologies in powerful and surprising ways. The story creates the body and the corpus takes on new meaning, offering a new framework for personal interactions in modern society.”

Besides the festival, the Institute supports the annual New Frontier Story Lab, New Frontier Day Labs in cities nationwide, and the New Frontier Residency Program, which involves MIT Media Lab’s social computing group and Jaunt Studios.

All selections are world premieres and of US nationality unless stated otherwise. All synopses provided by the festival. The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 18-22.


★ (Austria)
Lead Artist: Johann Lurf
This film, compiling shots of clear night-time skies from throughout film history in chronological order, reveals that what humans may regard as an absolute image is actually quite unstable. This instability occurs not only of evolving technological parameters, but also as a result of period-specific trends in culture.

A Thousand Thoughts (USA)
Directors: Sam Green, Joe Bini
A live cinema portrait of the legendary classical music group the Kronos Quartet. Green narrates the film and Kronos performs the soundtrack live. A meditation on music itself – the act of listening closely to music, the experience of feeling music deeply, and the power of music to change the world.
Cast: David Harrington, John Sherba, Hank Dutt, Sunny Yang.

Deep Astronomy And The Romantic Sciences (USA)
Cory McAbee
A live sci-fi event, presented in the form of two master’s classes, featuring music, animation and artwork. Topics include the colonization of other planets, sentimentality reform, transdimensional drifting, the proper way to view the universe and the reason that humans exist.
Cast: Cory McAbee.

Organ Player (USA)
Director: Narcissister
This hybrid performance/documentary film explores how ancestral data is stored in our bodies, impacting the lives we lead. On the personal level, the film investigates how the artist’s complex family history compelled them to create the masked, erotic performance character Narcissister.
Cast: Narcissister, Sarah Lumpkin, Oscar Lumpkin, Bernard Lumpkin, Carmine Boccuzzi.


Experience Realistic Touch In Virtual Reality (USA)
Lead Artists: Andrew Mitrak, Greg Bilsland, Joe Michaels, Jake Rubin
Key Collaborator: Dr. Bob Crockett
HaptX brings realistic touch to virtual reality for the first time. The innovative technology lets VR users feel the shape, movement, texture and temperature of digital objects. By providing advanced haptic feedback and natural interaction, HaptX enables unprecedented levels of realism in virtual experiences.

Awavena (USA-Australia-Brazil
Lead Artist: Lynette Wallworth
Key Collaborators: Nicole Newnham, Tashka Yawanawa, Laura Soriano de Yawanawa
The Yawanawa, an indigenous Amazonian people, see immersive technologies as tools they can co-opt to share their connected worldview. Inviting artist Lynette Wallworth to their community, the Yawanawa share the visions of Hushahu, their first woman Shaman, and our technology renders visible the luminous world they have always known.
Cast: Hushahu Yawanawa, Tata Yawanawa, Mutum Community.


Frankenstein AI: A Monster Made by Many (USA)
Artists: Lance Weiler, Nick Fortugno, Rachel Ginsberg
Key Collaborators: Nick Childs, Hunter Owens, Brandon Powers
By challenging dystopian perspectives around Artificial Intelligence, this immersive experience reimagines Shelley’s seminal work to examine the cultural ramifications of pervasive, ubiquitous technology. Participants interact with an artificial intelligence, co-creating a shared narrative around the implications of unleashing this naive, intelligent “monster,” both mythical and imminent, into the world.

TendAR (USA)
Lead Artists: Samantha Gorman, Danny Cannizzaro
A humorous and provocative installation that combines interactive storytelling, AR and emotion/face recognition technology to promote discussion about current topics in biometric data and artificial intelligence. Your guide: a fish-like creature who amusingly analyzes the partners collaborating in the experience, their emotions and the world around them.


Zikr: A Sufi Revival (USA)
Lead Artists: Gabo Arora, John Fitzgerald, Matthew Niederhauser
Key Collaborators: Selim Bensedrine, Igal Nassima, Jennifer Tiexiera, Wilson Brown
This interactive social VR experience uses song and dance to transport four participants into ecstatic Sufi rituals, while also exploring the motivations behind followers of this mystical Islamic tradition, still observed by millions around the world.

Elastic Time (Switzerland)
Lead Artist: Mark Boulos
Key Collaborators: Robin Mange, Javier Bello Ruiz
A mixed reality interactive documentary about space-time, narrated by astronomer Tony Stark (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). A real-time hologram of your body is integrated into the observatory room; using the controllers, you bend space and time to your will, creating black holes, wormholes and time portals.
Cast: Tony Stark.

Hero (USA)
Lead Artists: Navid Khonsari, Vassiliki Khonsari
Key Collaborators: Brooks Brown, Mark Harwood, Sinclair Fleming
An immersive, large-scale installation that explores humanity in our modern era of civilian warfare. In this vérité VR experience with multi-sensory engagement, participants embark upon their own primal journey. When everyday life is disrupted by profound crisis only human connection can inspire hope.
Cast: Masoume Khonsari, Perla Daoud, Samer Sakka, Sam Sako, Said Faraj, Sue Shaheen.

VR_I (Switzerland)
Lead Artists: Gilles Jobin, Caecilia Charbonnier, Sylvain Chagué
Key Collaborators: Jean-Paul Lespagnard, Carla Scaletti, Camilo De Martino
Blending art with technology, VR_I resulted from the encounter between Swiss choreographer Gilles Jobin and the founders of Artanim, Caecilia Charbonnier and Sylvain Chagué. In this contemplative virtual dance piece, five spectators, immersed together and in real time, use avatars to investigate a performance among surprising effects of scale.
Cast: Susana Panadés Diaz, Victoria Chiu, Diya Naidu, Gilles Jobin, Tidiani N’Diaye.

BattleScar (USA-France)
Lead Artists: Martin Allais, Nico Casavecchia
Key Collaborators: Arnaud Colinart, Raphael Penasa, Andrew Geller, René Pinell
New York City, 1978: When Lupe, a Puerto Rican-American teen, meets fellow runaway Debbie, the Bowery’s punk scene and the Lower East Side are their playground. This coming-of-age narrative explores identity through animation and immersive environments as Lupe’s handwritten journals guide users through her year.
Cast: Rosario Dawson.

DICKGIRL 3D(X) (UK, pictured)
Lead Artist: Sidsel Meineche Hansen
Key Collaborator: James B Stringer
DICKGIRL 3D(X) is the non-binary version of EVA v3.0, an avatar purchased online and appropriated by the artist. Through DICKGIRL 3D(X), the viewer becomes a post-human pleasure-seeker in an encounter with a submissive clay-like sculpture.

SPHERES: Songs Of Spacetime (USA)
Lead Artist: Eliza McNitt
Key Collaborators: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, Jess Engel, Arnaud Colinart
Dive into the heart of a black hole and uncover the hidden songs of the cosmos. In this interactive VR experience, the breakthrough discovery of gravitational waves transforms how we see the Universe. Fall into the darkness, and you will find the light.

Wolves In The Walls (Chapter 1 ) (USA)
Lead Artists: Pete Billington, Jessica Shamash
Key Collaborators: Edward Saatchi, Saschka Unseld, Jennine Willett, Zach Morris
All is not as it seems when 8-year-old Lucy’s imagination proves to be reality. Help her discover what’s hiding inside the walls of her house in this immersive fable, based on the work by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and choreographed by acclaimed immersive-theater company, Third Rail.
Cast: Elisa Davis, Elizabeth Carena, Cadence Goblirsch

Chorus (USA)
Lead Artist: Tyler Hurd
Key Collaborators: Chris Milk, Megan Ellison, Justice
Crystals, lasers, monsters, heroines. Transform into fantastical female warriors in this social virtual reality experience. Six people can band together to battle evil in this epic journey of empowerment, all orchestrated to the song “Chorus” by Justice.


Dinner Party (USA)
Lead Artists: Charlotte Stoudt, Laura Wexler, Angel Manuel Soto
Key Collaborators: Rachel Skidmore, Bryn Mooser, Erik Donley
A short virtual reality thriller that dramatizes the incredible story of Betty and Barney Hill, who in the 1960’s reported the first nationally known UFO abduction case in America.
Cast: Malcolm Barrett, Sarah Sokolovic.

Dispatch (USA)
Lead Artist: Edward Robles
A small-town police dispatcher faces the greatest challenge of his career during an all-night crime spree.
Cast: Martin Starr, Julianna Guill, Graham Shiels, Beth Grant, Samuel Stricklen, Kelly Jenrette.

Eyes In The Red Wind (South Korea)
Lead Artists: Sngmoo Lee, Jongmin kim, Youngsam Jung
Key Collaborators: Jaehyun Park, Myuonggoo Ji, Youngsik Yu
Friends and family members gather to throw a ‘soul scooping’ ritual, to pacify the soul of a drowned man. When a possessed shaman reveals the murderous truth behind the death on the table, lust and secrets come to the fore.
Cast: Sungmi Kim, Jaehyun Kim, Jeongmi Lee, Nara Kim.

Masters Of The Sun (USA)
Lead Artists: will.i.am, apl de ap, Taboo
Key Collaborators: Pasha Shapiro, Ernst Weber, Sara Ramaker, Eddie Axley
In 1983, Los Angeles was spared from utter destruction driven by an ancient evil. The ghetto became ground zero for drug epidemic that transformed citizens into soul-sucking zombies through Z-Drops, until a ragtag crew used one weapon to take their city back: hip-hop.
Cast: Rakim, Queen Latifah, Jason Isaacs, Stan Lee, KRS-One, Slick Rick.

Micro Giants (China)
Lead Artist: Yifu Zhou
Key Collaborators: Teng Wang, Shuyi Qiao, Jia Zhang
A computer-generated VR experience that gives an unprecedented and highly engaging perspective of insect life. When participants enter into the micro world, tiny flowers and insects in normal life now become mighty trees and beasts.
Cast: Pantawit Kiangsiri.

On My Way (USA)
Lead Artist: Yung Jake
Key Collaborators: Mike Rosenstien, Ari Kuschnir, Andrew Schwartz
In a Tesla, multiple Yung Jakes rap about money, cars, drugs and things of that nature, among interactive elements.
Cast: Yung Jake.

Space Explorers: A New Dawn (Canada-USA)
Lead Artists: Paul Raphaël, Felix Lajeunesse
Key Collaborators: Morgan Spurlock, Ryan Horrigan, Stéphane Rituit
Experience the journey of NASA astronauts as they navigate the trials and sacrifices of their training and missions. An immersive VR experience that shines a light on mankind’s most ambitious endeavor to understand our planet, our universe and our origins.
Cast: Jeanette Epps, Jessica Meir, Victor Glover, Michael Gernhardt.

The Sun Ladies VR (USA)
Lead Artists: Maria Bello, Celine Tricart, Christian Stephen
Key Collaborators: Wesley Allsbrook, Tim Gedemer, Mark Simpson
An in-depth look at the personal journey of Xate Singali: from her roots as a famous singer in Kurdistan, through ISIS sex slavery, and to her new life as a soldier on the front lines as she starts a female-only Iraqi fighting unit called the Sun Ladies.
Cast: Maria Bello.

The Summation Of Force (Australia)
Lead Artists: Narelle Autio, Trent Parke, Matthew Bate
Key Collaborator: Anton Andreacchio
In a moonlit suburban yard, two brothers battle one another in a mythic game of cricket. A study of the motion, physics and psychology of elite sport; a cosmic, dreamlike and darkly beautiful metaphor for life.
Cast: Jem Autio Parke, Dash Autio Parke.

Your Spiritual Temple Sucks (Taiwan)
Lead Artist: John Hsu
Mr. Chang arrives to his “Spiritual Temple,” a place that represents one’s destiny. To solve his marital crisis and financial problems, he summons his guardian – The Thunder God. They attempt to tidy his life, which turns out to be a big mistake…with hilarious consequences.
Cast: Ctwo, Sun Ke-Fang, Han Chang, Andy Tsai, Wei Hao Tseng, Liu Kuan-Ting.