Alejandro G. Iñárritu is going to be given a special Oscar statuette on November 11th for his Virtual Reality installation Carne y Arena (Flesh and Sand) currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The award is in the Special Achievement Award category, given for an achievement that makes an exceptional contribution to the industry, but for which there is no annual award category.The award-winning director, writer, and producer has already earned two Oscars for his films, most recently for Birdman in 2015. Carne y Arena as an installation combines physical space with an Oculus Rift to illustrate the paths of global immigrants and refugees.
Carne y Arena capitalizes on the benefits of mixed reality, by making the physical space extend and blend with the elements of the virtual. Iñárritu knows that to create an immersive emotional experience, it is essential to use the physical space. Iñárritu makes the physical space cohesive. When the player is in the desert at dawn, there is real sand under the player’s feet and real wind blowing across the room. The exhibit takes around 6 to 7 minutes and is limited to one person at a time.
Iñárritu’s special Oscar is one of fewer than two dozen ever awarded, with the last one being in 1996 for Toy Story for being the first feature length computer animated film. Carne y Arena is the first ever virtual reality (or mixed reality) experience to ever be given an Oscar. The implication of this is huge for the future of VR. John Baily, president of the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Carne y Arena “opened for us new doors of cinematic perception.” If experiences like Carne y Arena become popularized, it’s possible that VR and other applications of the technology such as Augmented Reality (AR), will not only shake up the gaming industry, but also the film one as well.