Arts / Musa faces spears in virtual reality film

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Allen filming the Dubay Dancers at Byron Bay

“DANCE is actually the first language of our people,” explains dancer David Gulpilil when talking about the new virtual reality film “Carriberrie”.

It’s accessible to the public on all devices at the National Film and Sound Archive from today (Friday, February 22).

“CityNews” donned the virtual reality headset when joining media in a preview of the 14-minute film, conceived by producer and director Dominic Allen. He was on hand yesterday, (February 21) alongside NFSA chief Jan Müller, deputy chair and Birri Gubba man Wayne Denning and Bundjalung dancer Delta Kay, to explain that the crowd was about to become “witness to a robust and impressive and really beautiful culture”.

Guided by the resonant voice of Uncle Jack Charles, “Carriberrie” take viewers on a 360 degree virtual tour of Australia through the dance of our First Peoples.

“Carriberrie” features 156 dancers and 36 performances, representing nine cultural groups, and encompassing both traditional ceremonial song and dance through to contemporary and modern expressions.

Anangu Women Uluru, Mitijulu, Spirt Song

Throughout the experience dancers suddenly appear face-to-face, sometimes raising spears at me – it’s hard to remember that I’m just sitting in a chair.

The film takes me backstage to Bangarra Dance Theatre – I can swivel around to see the seats in the auditorium, to Byron Bay where dancers move on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, up to the Torres Strait, to the lush watercourses of Arnhem land and then face to face with Uluru.

Allen said that there was “something visceral” about virtual reality, which he said was being increasingly used in mental health and training.

“You can even stand on stage with Beau Riley [who plays Bennelong] from Bangarra,” he says.

Strangely enough, he reported, it had “never been so easy to make a film”, and this one was developed in extensive consultation with Aboriginal cultural advisors, and produced by a team featuring multiple Indigenous key crew members.

“We believe in the power of stories to transcend cultural boundaries and build a deeper understanding and respect,” he went on, praising the NFSA’s use of cutting-edge immersive technologies, which the institution was now collecting and preserving, alongside traditional audio-visual formats.

Augmented reality and virtual reality was well on the way up in the film world, he said – and, Müller cut in – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was “sitting up and taking notice”.

“Carriberrie”, National Film and Sound Archive and on iPad, until June 1. Free, virtual reality headsets provided.



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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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