VR is a growing market still in its infancy, but nevertheless it offers big and exciting potential to creative professionals like Alejandro G. Iñárritu, whose virtual reality installation “CARNE y ARENA” is set to receive a special Oscar statuette, making it the first VR project to receive an Oscar.
Iñárritu, winning back-to-back Best Director Oscars for “Birdman” in 2015 and “The Revenant” in 2016, created the conceptual virtual reality installation to expose the human condition of immigrants and refugees. The work is based on true immigrants’ accounts.
“My intention was to experiment with VR technology to explore the human condition in an attempt to break the dictatorship of the frame, within which things are just observed, and claim the space to allow the visitor to go through a direct experience walking in the immigrants’ feet, under their skin, and into their hearts,” says Iñárritu
Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who worked with Iñárritu on "Birdman" and "The Revenant," as worked on the installation with Iñárritu.
The installation is said to have “opened for us new doors of cinematic perception,” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president John Bailey says. “Inarritu’s multimedia art and cinema experience is a deeply emotional and physically immersive venture into the world of migrants crossing the desert of the American southwest in early dawn light. More than even a creative breakthrough in the still emerging form of virtual reality, it viscerally connects us to the hot-button political and social realities of the U.S.-Mexico border.”
The last time a special Oscar like this was awarded to a project was back in 1996 when Pixar's “Toy Story” receive a special achievement award for being the first feature-length computer-animated film. The Oscars at the time didn’t have a category for computer-animated features, but as we know, a category was eventually created in part thanks to Pixar's innovations. Iñárritu “CARNE y ARENA” could do the same for VR. It could be a while before the Oscars have a category for VR features, but “CARNE y ARENA” could be the first of many more Oscar-worthy VR experiences to come.
The special Oscar will be presented at the 8th annual Governors Awards on November 11th. You can see the entire six-and-a-half minute “CARNE y ARENA” yourself at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it is currently on view.