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EXCLUSIVE: Astrea acquires Venice Immersive competition title Floating with Spirits, unveils trailer


- Juanita Onzaga’s work follows two indigenous sisters who summon the ancestral knowledge and mystical cosmogony of their shaman grandmother

EXCLUSIVE: Astrea acquires Venice Immersive competition title Floating with Spirits, unveils trailer

After having her shorts showcased in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, as well as at the Berlinale, IFFR, the MoMA and the Museum of Modern Art of Paris, filmmaker Juanita Onzaga is about to present her first VR work, Floating with Spirits.

Set to premiere in the Venice Immersive competition of this year’s Venice Film Festival, Onzaga’s work follows two young Mazatec, indigenous sisters who recall the ancestral knowledge and mystical cosmogony that their shaman grandmother used to share with them, in the misty mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. As the sisters wander through their natural surroundings and while preparing for the Day of the Dead, they share the stories of their ancestors. During these special days, the spirits of their loved ones descend into the world of the living, guided by the light of the candles and the glow of the cempasúschil flowers on the altars, following the sweet smell of their favourite meals, to share a beautiful moment with the living. The girls’ imagination transports us into the world of the spirits of their ancestors and the spirits of nature. A shamanic dance ritual opens a portal through which we can discover the secret worlds of four such spirits of nature.

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Speaking about the project, Onzaga told Cineuropa: “Who’s to say what is real and what is not? How are we able to see and feel invisible worlds? How can we communicate with the forces and spirits that live within our lands? I spent years getting to know the sabedoras [knowledge bearers] from Mazatec indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, listening, learning and sharing in their cosmogony and world vision. It connects deeply with my own background and questions around the afterlife, the connections between the human and the non-human, and the portals between the visible and the invisible. Inspired by their cosmogony, we built this sensorial, poetic, ancestral, futurist VR experience to shake up our perception of the real, and to rewire the ways we connect with nature and the afterlife.”

Floating with Spirits was produced by Emmy Oost and An Oost for Belgium’s Cassette for Timescapes, Donato Rotunno for Luxembourg’s Tarantula and Corine Meijers for Dutch firm Studio Biarritz. The executive producers are Daniel Loustaunau for Mexico’s Colectivo Colmena and Fernand de Amorin for Tarantula. The VR work also received support from Film Fund Luxembourg, the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF), the Corona Emergency Fund of the Flanders government, the Netherlands Film Fund, the European Union’s Creative Europe – MEDIA programme and the Vocatio Fund.

Astrea, the third branch of Atlas V that is fully dedicated to the distribution and diffusion of immersive narrative content, is in charge of the project’s distribution. During the festival, the VR experience will be open to the public from 31 August-9 September.

Watch our exclusive trailer for Floating with Spirits below:

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