Veteran actor Robert De Niro is the latest in a long line of notable celebrities to don a virtual reality headset. He discussed his harrowing experience in VR during an interview on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
“It was about showing you how horrible it was,” De Niro said of the experience he tried, which was designed to give users a realistic sense of the psychological toll that solitary confinement can have on prisoners.
De Niro doesn’t name the demo in question during his interview. However what is clear is that he tried it during the 2016 Tribecca Film Festival where he was appearing on a panel of his own.
The only solitary confinement VR experience from Tribeca, and therefore the one De Niro is probably referring to here, is known as 6×9: An Immersive Experience Of Solitary Confinement.
This experimental VR film was created by Francesca Panetta – a reporter and producer of “special projects” for The Guardian – along with co-producer Lindsay Poulton.
According to the experimental film’s official description on the festival’s website:
“The issue of solitary confinement is currently gaining exposure across the country, with a recent New York Times article laying out some of the most notable examples of art depicting the effects of U.S. prison conditions. The Guardian has been critical of the topic in its written pieces, but 6×9 enables users to relate to the prisoners’ experiences in a more intimate and direct way. Pulling from seven original interviews conducted by Panetta and Poulton, 6×9‘s audio component offers the real voices of those who have been incarcerated in solitary confinement; it also immerses viewers in the true sounds of prison spaces, taken from footage shot by PBS for itsFrontline documentary Solitary Nation, which Panetta considers ‘extraordinary.'”
Tribeca follows Sundance as the second major film festival to heavily incorporate virtual reality cinema into its lineup. Major companies are also jumping on board this digital bandwagon. Samsung is currently working on a VR only film studio in New York City.
All of this momentum prompted Fallon himself to wonder out loud whether or not VR represents the future for mainstream filmmaking.
The Tribeca Film Festival is currently ongoing in New York City. Its VR offerings are scattered throughout but are primarily being displayed through the creative hub known as Spring Studios.