Virtual Reality

BIFF Gets Techy


This is the future of film.

Every year, the Boulder International Film Festival draws more than 25,000 film fans and industry leaders to town for special screenings, parties and more. In the past, it’s drawn famous faces to Boulder like Alec Baldwin, James Franco, Chevy Chase and Oliver Stone. It’s an opportunity to uncover the best, newest films, including potential Oscar nominees. In fact, MovieMaker Magazine called BIFF one of the top 25 coolest film fests in the world.

This year, there’s a new twist: BIFF’s getting techy.

The festival — one of the most anticipated annual events in Boulder — runs Feb. 22-25.

For 2018, BIFF has a free new app to help attendees plan their schedules; a crazy, groundbreaking “augmented reality” program; more virtual reality activities; and several innovative films.

The BIFF App

BIFF has wanted to have an app for years, says Kathy Beeck, co-founder and director of the festival.

“It’s all right there. You can view trailers, buy tickets, make schedules, see the names and synopses of the films, locate parties, learn about the youth program,” Beeck says. “Everything we are doing will be accessible at your fingertip.”

Augmented Reality

With the app, you might not need a physical program. But you’ll want to pick one up because BIFF’s programs this year are like nothing before. Download and open the app, and as you’re flipping through the program, run your phone over the pictures on the page. If there’s a trailer associated with that photo, the app will automatically begin streaming the trailer.

“The program comes to life,” Beeck says. “I think we’re the first film festival ever to do this.”

Several ads will also use this “augmented reality” feature, she says; place your phone over ads and a special message or offer may pop up on your phone.

“It’s just the coolest thing,” Beeck says.

This feature was created by Boulder-based Mighty Fudge Studios, an animation studio.

Virtual Reality

This is the second year BIFF has a virtual reality station. Last year’s VR experience was popular, attracting about 2,000 people who put on a virtual reality headset and watched short films.

“It changed my life when I did it last year,” Beeck says. “All of the sudden, I was on the top of a mountain in 3D. I’m scared of heights so I thought I was going to fall off. You can walk around the space. I peered over the edge. My heart was racing.”

She said she also played interactive catch with a computerized dog. She “picked up” a stick and threw it for the dog, and he brought it back to her.

This year’s VR space is at Galvanize, 1023 Walnut St. It’s free and open to the public, and will feature a variety of different gear, several VR-compatible films you can experience and a VR panel, which will touch on topics like what’s new in VR, how to get funding for it, how to monetize it, production techniques, audience engagement and more.

New this year is an interactive safari animal video that Beeck thinks kids will love. In the preview of it, she says, “It was so delightful. The kids were screaming, almost crying, they were so excited. The look of wonderment on their faces was priceless.”

Reality Garage (a Boulder-based VR company) will also contribute to three days of free activities for kids at the Boulder Public Library, including a virtual reality demo, where VR cameras will take videos of the kids and show them how to patch it together to make a film.

Innovative Films

When thinking about the future of film, technology is not all that’s at play. BIFF is also presenting two creative, innovative films this year that are like nothing else the fest has shown in the past.

João Pedro Zappa and Caroline Abras in “Gabriel and the Mountain.” Courtesy photo

“Gabriel and the Mountain” is a unique fusion of a documentary and reality TV. It tells the true story of a young Brazilian backpacker found dead on top of a mountain in Africa.

“The film recounts those last days leading up to his last climb… and the people he encountered on this trip across Africa,” Beeck says. “Those people play themselves in the movie. … They didn’t get actors. They used the real people.”

Agnès Varda, left, and JR, right, in “Faces Places,” directed by Agnès Varda and JR. Photo courtesy of Cohen Media Group

The second innovative BIFF film, “Faces Places,” is a blend of the classic and new — in terms of the filmmaking team. It’s made by an 89-year-old French filmmaker and a 33-year-old French photographer, whose specialty is taking pictures of people and blowing them up into huge pieces.

“It’s charming,” Beeck says. “They blow up these epic-sized portraits of ordinary people they meet and put them on trains or on the side of a barn, trying to show these people’s humanity. It’s delightful, and techy, with blowing up the pics this big.”

Film Synopses

João Pedro Zappa in “Gabriel and the Mountain.” Courtesy photo

“Gabriel and the Mountain,” Brazil/France, feature film, 2017, 131 minutes

Subtitled, USA premiere.

Directed by Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa

Winner at Cannes, Lima and Sao Paulo International Film Festivals.

Gabriel Buchmann, a young Brazilian backpacker, is found dead on top of a mountain in Africa. Inspired by Agnès Varda’s Vagabond, director Fellipe Barbosa makes a masterful tribute to his friend by re-creating the last 70 days of Buchmann’s life. From Buchmann’s letters, and with help from Pedro Sotero, one of Brazil’s top cinematographers, Barbosa tracks down people that Buchmann had stayed with, his guides and African friends. All of these people play themselves in this unforgettable film (opposite João Zappa, who plays Buchmann), and we learn all about Buchmannn’s lovable quirks from the eyes of these native-born Africans. With his somewhat darker complexion, Buchmann hoped to enter the ‘heart of Africa,’ to blend in with the people. But he didn’t blend well because his entire demeanor shouted ‘tourist,’ and he always wore his cowboy belt outside his dashika.”

“Faces Places,” France, feature documentary, 2017, 90 minutes

Subtitled, Boulder premiere.

Directed by Agnès Varda and JR

Agnès Varda will receive an honorary Oscar in 2018

Film is nominated for a 2018 Academy Award

“One of the leading figures of the French New Wave, 89-year-old filmmaker Agnès Varda, and acclaimed 33-year-old French photographer JR teamed up to co-direct this enchanting road movie. Together they travel around French villages in JR’s photo truck meeting locals, learning their stories and producing epic-size portraits of them. The photos are prominently displayed on houses, barns, storefronts and trains, revealing the humanity in their subjects and in the filmmakers themselves. ‘Faces Places’ documents these heartwarming encounters, as well as the unlikely, tender friendship formed between the filmmakers along the way. This film is far more than a charming buddy movie, it’s a major collaboration between two of Europe’s greatest artists and is being heralded throughout the world.”

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