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New Frontier: One Step Beyond
by Karen Pecota

Since its inception as an intricate part of the Sundance Film Festival experience, the category of innovative creativity with films in the section called New Frontier, I have tried to feature at least one or more installations in my festival coverage. The artists chosen to showcase their creative interactive experience in New Frontier are unique, cutting-edge, and find comfort in the fact that festival goer’s line up for hours to get into their installations.

This year in the festival's virtual format the New Frontier took one on a fascinating prospective journey using a variety of platforms or rooms with different levels, similar where one might engage within a video game. Most of the installations required virtual reality (VR) headsets to participate but I had a chance to get into a non-headset-required animation platform called Fortune!--dealing with money. It's a five-minute 3D narrative about Frank Bourassa, allegedly the world's greatest counterfeiter. He recounts the story of his counterfeiting operation and in hindsight what he learned.

One could spend hours in the levels the New Frontier offered festival goers but my main assignment was to screen and review films and the timeframe to take advantage of both per day was not conducive to my schedule. However, I did take advantage of simply exploring the levels when time allowed.

To enter any of the platforms one had to register with an Avatar figure specific to one's profile (see photos of my Avatar). Once I was registered, I could roam to my heart's desire and take advantage of what was available, as well as, meeting other Avatars along the way; by passing each other in the rooms, chit-chatting together, playing games together, taking excursions, or hanging out in designated cafes or bars. I had the chance to interact with various people, including two other journalists in a bar talking about one of the films that we all had issues with much to my surprise.

The New Frontier went beyond the call of duty to make the Sundance film festival 2021 and its first virtual experience one to remember. So impressive! So interconnecting the festival goers! So fun! Hats off to the creators for working hard to embrace the independent film world during a pandemic. An unforgettable experience!