Virtual Reality

VR Narrative Experience “Jailbirds: Bwa Kayiman” to Have Its World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival and NewImages Festival

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Have you ever wished you could step inside a comic book and become part of the action? Soon, you will be able to do it. Jailbirds: Bwa Kayiman is an innovative VR narrative experience that tells the story both from an objective and subjective point of view.

It is a touching story about human freedom, based on the visual universe created by a renowned Belgian author of black poetry comics, Philippe Foerster. Co-produced by Digital Rise and Be Revolution Pictures, the immersive visual experience will have its world premiere at two festivals – Tribeca Film Festival, from June 9 to June 20, and NewImages Festival, from June 9 to June 13.

What Does It Mean to Be Free? The VR Narrative Experience Attempts to Explain

Jailbirds: Bwa Kayiman is a story about escaping the dreary reality and plunging into a world of wonder. It revolves around Felix, a gentle giant jailed in a nightmarish prison, who shows an unexplainable serenity and optimism, despite all his trials.

The VR narrative experience goes on to disclose his secret: when he goes to sleep at night, Felix’s eyes leave his body and escape to the outside world. Thus, through his eyes, Felix is free, and explores magical landscapes. Jailbirds: Bwa Kayiman is actually a wonderful allegory for virtual reality – the medium that allows users to escape reality using their eyes.

Jailbirds – Bwa-Kayiman is a particularly exciting experience that immediately appealed to me,” said Griselda Gonzalez Gentile, producer and founder of Be Revolution Pictures. “Without having any real knowledge of VR, I intuitively perceived the potential of a film where the viewer feels and lives the notion of confinement and freedom with the characters of the scenario.” 

Jailbirds: Bwa Kayiman: More Than Just a VR Movie, a Fully Immersive Experience

Writer and director Thomas Villepoux defines his creation as a VR narrative experience. It is not just a three-dimensional cinematic production, but a world where the viewers feel that they are part of the story and live it through the eyes of the characters.

Creating this innovative artistic concept required VR coding, interactive storytelling techniques, and real-time animation. It is the first time video game techniques meet filmmaking techniques. Of course, such a daring new approach had its challenges. But they were more than welcome for the team involved in creating the VR narrative experience.

Digital Rise co-founder and Creative Director Villepoux freely adapted Philippe Foerster’s comic story “Paulot S’évade” (“Paulot Escapes”), published in 1985 by top-rated magazine Fluide Glacial.

“How do you adapt a comic book with such a particular style in a medium that uses real-time animation – that is, video game tools that have their own aesthetic?” said Villepoux commenting on the challenges he faced in tackling the project.  “The first work was handled by Fred Remuzat, an art director specialized in CGI, who can make a character exist in a pencil sketch and then translate it into polygons and vectors. Together, we defined the visual style and the design of the characters. Then the animation studio The Pack created the 17 special ‘shader’ that enables this ‘pencil drawing’ render.”

Human Talent and Modern Technology Create an Unforgettable Experience

“As a film producer, I see new technologies as a source of different and innovative but powerful audiovisual experience for viewers,” said Gonzalez Gentile. Jailbirds – Bwa-Kayiman is a perfect example of this.”

However, Jailbirds: Bwa Kayiman is not just a VR narrative experience, but also an inspirational film with solid performances from a team of talented actors. The lead role – Felix – went to Barry Johnson, an actor who specializes in playing animated characters, known for his work in Beyond: Two Souls (2013) and Blacksad: Under the Skin (2019).

Tómas Lemarquis plays the key negative character – the Chief Warden. His acting experience includes roles in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and Golden Bear-winning film Touch Me Not (2018).

How to Experience Jailbirds: Bwa Kayiman

Did we pique your interest? If you’d like to watch Jailbirds: Bwa Kayiman, here are the available access options:

  • In situ at the Tribeca Festival between June 9 and June 20;
  • In situ at NewImages Festival between June 9 and June 13;
  • From home using a VR headset, by accessing the Museum of Other Realities (MOR) app, available via Steam and Viveport from June 9th. The MOR app is available only for users with Rift, HTC VIVE, Windows Mixed Reality, and Valve Index. If you have Oculus Quest, you can access MOR via Oculus Link or Virtual Desktop application.
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