Industry Report: New Media
M:brane thinks outside and beyond the cinema box by talking science and nature
by Jan Lumholdt
Great insights were to be had in Malmö when a group of visionaries shared their thoughts and ideas on how to show the world to a young audience
“Sharks predate the dinosaurs and lived in the oceans for 400 million years. They help to keep the ecosystem healthy. Now you’re in the head of the shark; you are the shark, a hammerhead, equipped with a predator’s unique set of senses, making choices to explore migration patterns, hunting techniques and the dangers that sharks face. You see everything underwater with a clarity that’s impossible for a human. Now, you need to escape fishing nets…” Andy Byatt, former diving expert from the BBC Natural History Unit (BHU) and part of the team behind the creation of landmark programmes such as Blue Planet, describes his new project iShark: The Domino Effect, co-created with fellow underwater specialist Roy Kimhi. The interactive, 360-degree VR experience is one of six “case studies” presented at the 15th edition of the M:brane forum for youth media content, gathered together under the “Science & Natural History Track” banner.
“Most of it is asking who we are, where we came from, the meaning of it all – like films should do, and many don’t,” reflected filmmaker Hussain Currimbhoy, who moderated the event with a fascination at least as “childlike” as any target-group audience member. After the shark universe, the Peruvian Andes took shape, where a condor (representing the indigenous) and an eagle (the globalised) are said to fly side by side in harmony again, all according to Inca prophecy and told by Chilean creators Maria Jose Diaz and Francisca Silva in Ancestral Secret VR, merging ancient legend and current reality, again with ecological ties. “We are making this film for you who march the streets each Friday for the environment,” said Silva. The next trip ventured into space, off towards the Trojan asteroids of planet Jupiter, as part of a forthcoming NASA mission, documented in the Spanish project Behind Lucy by director Alphonse de la Puente and producer Ruth Chao. They aim to follow the mission set for October 2021.
The scientific sextet was rounded off by Kid’s Earth, an interactive app game from Lillia Schneider, Germany, linking ecology, art and entertainment, and merging them in such a way as to find decent solutions to problems revolving around natural issues, responsibility, the impact of humans on nature and sustainability; Between Saajve and the Sky, an animated series of Sámi stories from Oskar Östergren Njajta, Sweden; and AugmentifyIT, an augmented-reality app with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) related subjects, created by Ahrani Logan, UK, in partnership with Guinness World Records.
Keeping the young audience at the centre of a project and understanding how they see the world – be it via VR, AR or film – was one of the issues addressed, sometimes morphing into the question of distribution, not least in the current times. “Look for new ways outside of the cinema box” was advice already taken to heart by several of the projects. “Do it yourself” was another mantra. “The more personal you get, the more universal you get,” was Currimbhoy’s closing statement. “The times are different, so do something different.”
Each project, currently at a different stage of development, was enthusiastically scrutinised by the M:brane youth panel together with “old” experts Neal Hartman, of the CineGlobe Film Festival, CERN, Switzerland; Irem Couchouron, Silbersalz & Documentary Campus, Halle, Germany; and Mikkel Thomassen, from the Games & Digital Media section of the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen. Kid’s Earth, Behind Lucy and Between Saajve and the Sky are also part of the 2021 M:brane pitch programme (see the news). Silbersalz director Donata von Perfall delivered the warmly inspirational opening keynote speech. A 2022 follow-up is in the pipeline.
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