EVERY YEAR THE biggest news out of the Sundance Film Festival is always the hefty sums handed over to independent filmmakers for their passion projects. From Fox Searchlight dropping $1 million for future Oscar nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild in 2012 to Amazon Studios’ massive $12 million buy of The Big Sick at last year’s fest, everyone in Park City is hustling to make a deal. But that hustle has always been reserved for traditional films, not the virtual reality ones. Until now.
The Sundance Film Festival just provided an early remedy for the lack of diversity next year’s Oscar race could inevitably face. After four days of rave reviews for the pale casts in “Manchester by the Sea” and other movies, “The Birth of a Nation” earned three standing ovations at Monday’s premiere — one before it even started, one that lasted throughout almost the entire end credits and another when director/writer/star Nate Parker took the stage immediately afterward.
If this year’s Sundance Film Festival is any indication, virtual reality is about to hit the mainstream. Under a program called New Frontier, the festival is promoting eleven independently produced VR films on a smartphone app. The finalists have been chosen from hundreds of entries, and among them are some short documentaries, horrifying acid trips, and even a Reggie Watt music video.