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Alejandro González Iñárritu Tells Marina Abramovic Why He Loves Virtual Reality — Tribeca 2017

At the Tribeca Film Festival, Iñárritu spoke with the performance artist about his interest in the medium on the verge of premiering his new work at Cannes.

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Borgia/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Alejandro González Iñárritu is no longer interested in making realistic movies. The Mexican filmmaker — who is one of only three directors to win consecutive Oscars — Iñárritu told performance artist Marina Abramovic during a conversation at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday that ever since 2009, he’s increasingly disliked exploring realism in movies.

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“It was not adding anything, enhancing anything or revealing another reality to me,” Iñárritu said. “Our internal reality is more important, or is the only one that exists to ourselves. I love to play that cinematically and perceive characters through that state of consciousness.”

While his 2014 film “Birdman” is one the strongest examples of Iñárritu letting the inner thoughts of a character take over the narrative, he said he will never make a film like “Birdman” again, in part because the elaborate camerawork required prevented him from being able to do more than two or three takes per shot. It also made improvising extremely difficult, to the point where one attempt at rewriting a joke in a scene caused Iñárritu to lose an entire day of shooting.

Asked which actor he’d like to work with that he hasn’t, Iñárritu deflected by saying he doesn’t think about casting until after he’s written a script. He did share one regret however, for never being able to work with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. “I would have loved to have worked with this guy,” he said.

Asked what he was working on next, the director shared scant details other than to say he had a couple projects he was pursuing, but that both were only “ideas,” and he didn’t know which one, if either, would come to fruition. Iñárritu’s newest project, however, is something he’s never done before: a virtual reality installation about immigrants entitled “Carne y Arena,” which is the very first VR project ever chosen for the Official Selection of at the Cannes Film Festival.

A six-and-half-minute solo experience — only one person can enter the story at a time — the work features a large, multi-narrative light space with human characters. An immigrant himself, Iñárritu said he had the desire to focus on the subject because of the stigma associated with immigration today.

“Immigration and terrorism were blended in 2001 and suddenly [people] were caught in this ignorance and fear,” he said. “I thought it would be amazing to document a piece of the undocumented stories and journeys.”

Working on his first VR project for an entire year made Iñárritu feel like a kid again, he said, for the way he was able to learn a new medium from scratch. “We’re [making] baby steps. Nobody knows anything. I don’t know anything,” he said. “The biggest mistake with VR is to interpret it as an extension of cinema, but it’s not cinema. VR is everything cinema is not…that playfulness is a fantastic way to not be afraid to fail.”

Toward the end of the conversation, the ever unpredictable Abramovic shared an impulsive idea with Iñárritu and the crowd.

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“Can you put me in one of your movies?” she asked. “I have a dream. It’s very communist. I am on my knees cleaning the floor. A wooden floor, with a big brush. It can be a murder. Or a love scene.” She added that she would just be in the background.

Iñárritu didn’t hesitate. “It’s a promise,” he said.

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