Astra Film Festival’s The Future Is Now unveils its selection
by Vassilis Economou
- With 10 VR and 18 360° non-fiction experiences, the biggest Romanian documentary gathering is embracing new technologies for the third year running under Sibiu’s Dome
The Astra Film Festival (AFF), the leading Romanian documentary film festival, is celebrating its 25th edition this year, and for the third year in a row, it will be bringing the future of cinema a little closer to the present day. Launched in 2016, The Future Is Now section is dedicated to non-fictional virtual reality (VR) and 360° experiences. Running from 15-21 October, the section will once again be hosted at the Dome in Sibiu’s Great Square.
This year’s The Future Is Now selection includes a total of 28 immersive documentaries: ten of these are VR films and 18 are 360° productions that will be screened in full-dome format, truly making the most of the AFF Dome’s capabilities.
Starting with the VR films that can be experienced in the small Dome, six of them are part of the Guardian VR collection. They are: Arctic 360, an immersive tour of the consequences of human behaviour on the melting of the Arctic; First Impressions, which allows the viewer to experience and interact with the world from the point of view of a newborn; Limbo, which explores the experience that almost 32,000 asylum seekers in the UK are going through while awaiting a decision about their asylum status; Sea Prayer, directed by novelist Khaled Hosseini, an animated experience inspired by the story of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee from Kobani who drowned in Bodrum in 2015; The Joy of Frogs, which covers the springtime period when these amphibians mate; and The Party, which, by focusing on 16-year-old Layla as she attends a party, gives an insight into the autism spectrum.
Diversion Cinema, known for its presence at Cannes NEXT, Venice VR and Amsterdam, is bringing three more experiences: The Real Thing by Benoit Felici and Mathias Chelebourg, a journey into China’s fake cities; Bloodless by Gina Kim, which explores the last moments of a South Korean “camptown” sex worker who was murdered by a US soldier; and Kobold by Max Sacker and Ioulia Isserlis, a horror experience that investigates the mysterious case of a missing boy. The final VR experience is the Romanian production Circus 360 by Dorin Moldoveanu, an observational documentary about the first animal-free circus experience in Bucharest.
The 18 full-dome Future Is Now productions explore different aspects of our lives, from the universe (Astronaut, Closer to the Stars, Oceans in Space), through our planet (Dynamic Earth, Our Violent Planet, Sky on Fire, The Mayans' Cosmic Planners), to science (Faster Than Light). Also, the programme offers new formats through which to experience art, thanks to the abstract works After Cherenkov, Contraluz, Liminality and Stardancer's Waltz. It should also be mentioned that four full-dome experiences are also part of the Astra Film Junior section, which is unspooling its tenth edition: Amigos - Inside the Human Body, Life of Trees, The Secrets of Gravity and We Are Stars.
Regarding this year’s edition of The Future Is Now, Dumitru Budrala, founding director of the Astra Film Festival, underlined: "We are happy to see that Astra Film Festival has, over time, built up a loyal and informed audience of film lovers, able not only to explore and understand the reality of the world we live in, but also to immerse themselves in it, to experience and “live” the Other’s feelings and emotions, so that later on they can move on and transform reality, improve human relationships and make this world a better place.”
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