“An ode to the immigrants”

Iñárritu presents his VR project “Flesh and Sand”

Flesh & Sand - File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 17/09/2017 16:00 Newsroom Mexico City Actualizada 12:16
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“Neither geographical nor nationalist,” Flesh & Sand is “an attempt to explore a human condition.” It's an artistic work that speaks of a worldwide crisis, that of the Mexican and Latin American immigrants who risk their lives trying to cross to the United States, and that of the African and Middle Eastern immigrants who struggle to reach Europe.

“Their oceans are our deserts,” said Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu during a conference to present his new virtual reality (VR) project, which the general public will be able to experience next Monday at the University Cultural Center of Tlatelolco: “All [immigrants] share the stories, the tragedies, the reasons to flee,” said González, referring to the project as an “ode to the migrants” and a tribute to the history of immigration which has formed Mexico City, claiming “it's in our ADN.”

Almost five years ago this initiative was born, and because it breaks traditional cinematography formats, it represented a challenge for the filmmaker. The presentation of this project in Mexico, according to the director, can be something positive for the Mexico City inhabitants, who are somewhat distant from this reality of the border.

The filmmaker was joined by the dean of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Enrique Graue; Mexico City's Mayor, Miguel Ángel Mancera; and the director of Cinépolis, Alejandro Ramírez, who supported the arrival of the project and its presentation in the city.

The filmmaker, who defined himself as an immigrant – who has been living for 16 years in the United States – said humanity is living a “world crisis of rejected and misunderstood immigrants,” a reality the director said is hard to get away from when living in Los Angeles where 5 million of people live in an “anonymity condition, in the shadows, invisible, under harsh circumstances.” He questioned what both Governments have stopped doing and criticized the decision of the U.S. to terminate DACA.

Flesh & Sand is an almost seven-minute work installed in a 200 m2 space and was conceived as an individual experience, where the spectator – barefooted and with the help of VR lens – lives the fear, pressure, and persecution an immigrant in the dessert faces when crossing the border. The project was conceived as an immersive work where the audience can live a unique and personal experience; unlike films, where the role of the spectator is passive.

Last May, when the project was presented at the Cannes Film Festival, the director told EL UNIVERSAL that the story started from the stories of immigrants, based upon which he wrote a “multifunctional” script. Afterwards, he and Emmanuel Lubezki (photography director) filmed in the California desert, and after the immigrants who shared the stories worked on an acting workshop, the whole process was sent for the development of the VR technology.

The director said the possibilities which VR offers to education, art, and science aren't being taken advantage of fully, claiming "most of the VR resources are being allocated towards the video games and porn industries," and their true potential can go beyond all that.

“I like that the installation can talk, from a humanist point of view, about the issue without talking about the good guys or the bad guys, without racism, but about the complex realities of the Mexican and Central American people,” he said.


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