The 64th BFI London Film Festival Announces LFF Expanded, A New Strand Of XR, And Immersive Art

The BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express, today announces LFF Expanded: the Festival’s new dedicated strand of XR and Immersive Art. 

Using cinema as a jumping-off point, LFF Expanded will be an expansive space for programming, including VR, AR, Mixed Reality, and live immersive performances. LFF Expanded will feature bold, innovative creators from around the world who use a range of creative techniques to ensure audiences are not in front of a work of art, a film, or performance, but in the middle of it.

BFI London Film Festival Director, Tricia Tuttle said: “Despite the challenges of the year, we are so thrilled to be able to deliver such an ambitious first LFF Expanded. This new programme of XR, Immersive and Interactive works will sit alongside our film programme, as we also expand to include series, television, and episodic filmmaking. We are eager to create a platform for showcasing brilliant new work at the Festival that reflects the blurring boundaries of many of these visual storytelling forms and a future in which creators move with increasing ease between them.”

All Kinds of Limbo – National Theatre | Credit: Simon Sorted

LFF Expanded will be open throughout the BFI London Film Festival (October 17th to the 18th).

While plans beyond 2020 include a large scale physical installation, the Festival is innovating in response to social distancing restrictions by commissioning a bespoke, dynamic new virtual exhibition space, “The Expanse.”  This brand new virtual exhibition space will house the LFF Expanded programme, announced with the full LFF official selection on the 8th of September.  LFF Expanded is programmed by Ulrich Schrauth (LFF XR & Immersive Programmer) who has also worked closely with INVR.Space on the design of the virtual exhibition space.

The Expanse will feature a virtual gallery composed of twenty 360 video and immersive works, plus a virtual theatre that will house a line-up of live talks and events throughout the festival. The platform has been built by INVR.SPACE, an award-winning full-service VR studio space and immersive media Research Facility.

Credit: BFI

Additionally, the Festival will offer an opening event within The Expanse, and a dedicated XR & Immersive Audience Award will be announced at the Virtual LFF Audience Awards Ceremony on the closing day of the Festival. You can check out a full list of the programming here; talks and events will be announced ahead of the Festival.  

Audiences can connect with one another and view the works using tethered and non-tethered (Oculus Quest) headsets. For those that do not have a headset at home, the Festival will have a number of headsets available for use at the BFI Southbank. There will also be a 2D browser version of the platform for those wishing to view the theatre events at home. To view the works outside of the platform, attendees can access the Festival’s 360 video programme via Oculus TV and the dedicated LFF 360 Player via WebXR, accessible on mobile VR-headsets.

Last week LFF Expanded also announced a new partnership with the English National Theatre and its Immersive Storytelling Studio, which works with artists and emerging technologies to develop new content and experiences. The National Theatre will deliver the exhibition together with LFF in future years and in 2020 present the studio’s VR immersive experience All Kinds of Limbo as part of LFF Expanded.

Read our review of All Kinds of Limbo here.

Behind the Scenes – All Kinds of Limbo – National Theatre

Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development at the National Theatre said “Immersive storytelling is an incredible genre that finds itself taking inspiration from both film and theatre and I can’t think of a more fitting partnership than one between the National Theatre and the BFI to celebrate this. Celebrating and recognizing the richness of cultural diversity is central to British society in 2020. As such we’re delighted to be presenting the National Theatre’s ALL KINDS OF LIMBO as part of the Festival. This project celebrates the influence of Caribbean culture on the UK music scene from the late 1940s to today.”

XR Programmer Ulrich Schrauth said: “While the inaugural XR programme for the BFI London Film Festival will look different than what we had originally envisioned…out of necessity sometimes comes innovation and we are hugely excited to present our LFF Expanded plans for 2020. Shifting the full artistic programme into the virtual realm makes it even more accessible for all kinds of audiences and creates new opportunities for creative formats and artistic impression. We are very proud and thankful that all these amazing artists have entrusted us with their work. And it feels that together, we are shaping the future of immersive art exhibition”.

The 64th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express takes place from Wednesday, October 7 to the 18th. The full festival programme. Tickets will be available for purchase beginning Monday, September 21st.

More news to follow.

Feature Image Credit: BFI

About the Scout

Alaster Armitage-Brain

Alaster is the UK Editor-at-Large for VRScout. Outside of VRScout he is producing VR content for leading brands around the world.

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