At this point in time, there are only a handful of festivals taking virtual reality films seriously and the Tribeca Film Festival, with its notable history in support of interactive film, is one of them. Their Storyscapes program introduced a few new experiences that we had a chance to try out. Let’s take a look:


The Turning Forest

Oscar Raby / Oculus Rift

Enter a magical low-poly landscape of tall trees, vibrant falling leaves, and a giant fantastical creature that takes you for an exhilarating ride. The experience is narrated, but it’d be difficult to call it a story so much as a children’s book that unfolds without clear aim. The environments themselves were beautiful and made great use of scale and depth. In one moment, you can physically place your head inside the creature’s mouth and look out at its teeth vibrating to music. All of this creates a sense of wonder that can make you feel like a kid again. I’d been transported into what I can describe as a Nintendo 64-version of The Neverending Story. Definitely give it a spin.


Charles Ayats, Armand Lemarchand, Marc-Antoine Mathieu / Samsung Gear

Billed as the first graphic novel to be adapted for VR, Sens is based on Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s comic of the same name. It’s interactive, but your interaction with the story is limited to you pointing a dot (cursor) in the center of your vision at arrows in the world to navigate to new scenes. Again, there’s no real story here so much as a series of interesting spatial environments—narrow corridors, cliff edges, and flying (which seems to be a common trope in VR). The animation was a bit rough and the black and white world doesn’t play well in VR. ›

Notes on Blindness

Peter Middleton, James Spinney / Samsung Gear

This is a VR companion experience to a feature-length documentary about John Hull, a theology professor who lost his sight and cataloged his experience via audio recordings. As John describes each sound in an environment, you see points of light, almost like sonar, illuminate objects until you gain a full picture of the space and activity around you—a busy park, a quiet front yard. There’s a beautiful moment where you experience a heavy storm from inside a home—each leaking drip illuminating a new surface of a small cottage. At roughly 30 minutes, it’s long and will test your VR stamina. ›