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Iñárritu’s ‘Carne y Arena’ Just Won an Oscar

A major first for the VR industry.

On Friday, the Board Of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it would award Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Carne y Arena (Virtually present, Physically invisible), an honorary Academy Award, “in recognition of a visionary and powerful experience in storytelling.” This is the first time a VR experience has actually landed a statuette, following a near-miss for Google Spotlight’s Pearl last year.

This announcement follows back-t0-back “Best Director” wins for Iñárritu (Birdman in 2015 and The Revenant in 2016), though obviously this is his first for work in VR.

Created in partnership with ILMxLAB and Iñárritu collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki, the installation combines physical space with the virtual landscape, giving participants a firsthand experience of being an immigrant attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. It situates you among them as they’re confronted by border patrol—both by helicopter and by land.

Photo Credit: Emmanuel Lubezki

“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,” AMPAS president John Bailey said in a statement. “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.”

This announcement is also big news for Hollywood. This honorary Oscar is one of less than 24 to ever be awarded, and the first since Toy Story snagged one over 20 years ago.

The award will be presented on Nov. 11 at the 9th annual Governors Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood. The “Carne y Arena” installation is currently running at LACMA, but is sold-out through Nov. 12.

About the Scout

Jesse Damiani

Jesse Damiani is Editor-at-Large of VRScout and the CEO of Galatea, a writing and project management tool for immersive storytelling. He's also Series Editor for Best American Experimental Writing (Wesleyan University Press) and the author of @endless$pectator: The Screens Suite #loliloquy (BlazeVOX, 2017). Other writing can be found on Quartz, IndieWire, and HuffPost.

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