The highly anticipated new immersive, animated story experience from Baobab Studios, Baba Yaga, will celebrate its world premiere as part of the Venice International Film Festival’s “Venice VR expanded” program. This latest effort from the studio behind Asteroids!, Crow: The Legend and Bonfire introduces viewers to this inscrutable witch of Eastern European folklore by placing them directly in the story, driving how it unfolds.
In Baba Yaga, viewers will be invited as a main character into a haunting fairytale world completely reimagined, and their choices will determine the ending of this story of love, fortitude and magic. Sometimes a force for evil, sometimes a force for good, the enigmatic witch Baba Yaga uses her powers to stop the villagers whose settlement encroaches upon her enchanted forest. When the viewer’s mother, the village chief, falls deathly ill, it is up to them and their sister Magda to do the unthinkable — enter the forest, uncover its hidden mysteries and get the cure from Baba Yaga. Ultimately, every decision the viewer makes matters…even whether humanity and nature can live in balance.
Directed by Baobab Studios co-founder Eric Darnell and co-directed by Mathias Chelebourg, Baba Yaga is a contemporary portrayal of the Eastern European legend inspired by illustrative 2D pop-up animation, hand-drawn and stop-motion styles, creating a modern visual language for VR inspired by classic animation. Leveraging the studio’s award-winning animation pioneers and interactive gaming veterans, Baba Yaga blends theater, cinema, interactivity, AI, and animation into a unique experience that explores themes of empowerment and environmentalism.
This year, the Venice fest organizers have opted to offer the 44 VR program selections representing 24 countries (31 projects in competition, nine out of competition, four projects developed during Biennale College Cinema editions and one supported by a Biennale grant) entirely online. The innovative digital platform is supported by HTC Viveport, Facebook’s Oculus, VRChat and VRrOOm. See all selections here.
Venice VR Expanded Competition selections:
Here | Lysander Ashton (U.S./U.K.)
Terrain | Lily Baldwin, Saschka Unseld, Kumar Atre (U.S./Germany/Switzerland)
Finding Pandora X | Kiira Benzing (U.S.)
A Taste of Hunger | Christoffer Boe, David Adler (Denmark/Sweden/France)
Hush | Vibeke Bryld (Denmark)
Goodbye Mr. Octopus | Amaury Campion (France/U.S.)
Om Devi: Sheroes Revolution | Claudio Casale (Italy/India)
African Space Makers | The Nrb Bus Collective (Kenya/Germany)
Baba Yaga | Eric Darnell, Mathias Chelebourg (U.S.)
Killing a Superstar | Fan Fan (China)
Gnomes and Goblins | Jon Favreau, Jake Rowell (U.S.)
Agence | Pietro Gagliano (Canada)
In the Land of the Flabby Schnook | Francis Gelinas (Canada)
Dreamin’ Zone | Fabienne Glezendanner (France/Switzerland/Germany/S. Korea)
Replacements | Jonathan Hagard (Japan/Germany/Indonesia)
Paper Birds | German Heller, Federico Carlini (Argentina)
Great Hoax: The Moon Landing | John Hsu, Marco Lococo (Taiwan/Argentina)
Beat | Keisuke Itoh (Japan)
La Comedie Virtuelle | Gilles Jobin (Switzerland)
The Hangman at Home | Michelle Kranot, Uri Kranot (Denmark/France/Canada)
Once Upon a Sea | Adi Lavy (Israel/Canada)
The Metamovie Presents: Alien Rescue | Jason Moore (U.S.)
4 Feet High | Maria Belen Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan (Argentina/France)
Ajax All Powerful | Ethan Shaftel (U.S./China)
Minimum Mass | Raqi Syed, Areito Echevvaria (New Zealand/France/U.S.)
We Live Here | Rose Troche (U.S.)
Man Under Bridge | Hanna Vastinsalo (Finland)
Recoding Entropia | Francois Vautier (France)
Kinshasa Now | Marc-Henri Wajnberg (Belgium/Congo)
One More Minute | Wan Daming (China)
Mirror: The Signal | Pierre Zandrowicz (France)
Venice was one of the first film festivals in the world to demonstrate interest in virtual reality. The development of the VR Theater in 2016 sparked enormous interest among the participants of the Venice Production Bridge. Starting in 2017, La Biennale di Venezia launched the first VR competition in an A-list festival. This year, the exclusively online accessibility of the Venice VR Expanded section represents a new commitment and a new challenge.
The Venice Int’l Film Festival takes place Sept. 2-12 (labiennale.org/en).
More about Baba Yaga and Baobab Studios at ww.baobabstudios.com