Bathhouse Odyssey ‘Traversing the Mist’ Takes Top Prize at Paris’ NewImages

Director Chou Tung-Yen’s bathhouse cruising experience “Traversing the Mist,” a dreamlike odyssey awash in fear and flesh, took the top honors at Paris’ NewImages Festival on Friday, claiming the festival’s Grand Jury Prize to the tune of $6,424.

Produced by Taipei’s Very Theatre and Very Mainstream Studio, the NewImages-winning project offers a steamy experience in every sense of the term, ushering users through underground corridors rife with sensual possibilities, dimly lit and driven by conflicting desires. The multi-user experience caps a trilogy for director Chou Tung-Yen, who will next bring his winning volley to Cannes’ first ever Immersive Competition.

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Consisting of author and activist Amandine Gay, techno pioneer Molécule and Sundance New Frontier curator Shari Frilot, this year’s jury awarded two additional prizes, celebrating Joséphine Derobe and Claire Allante’s “Bear My Soul” with the Interactivity award, and Steye Hallema and Frank Bosma’s “The Imaginary Friend” with the Impact prize. Both honors came with $3209 in winnings.

Inspired by the sacred rites and mythologies of Indigenous cultures, “Bear My Soul” is a multi-user experience that collapses distinctions between flora and fauna, inviting users into a shared communion that bolters spiritual connection with the wider world. Meanwhile, single-user experience “The Imaginary Friend” makes good on its title, allowing users to become make-believe confidantes to a troubled child, himself unable to separate fact from fantasy.

‘The Imaginary Friend’
‘The Imaginary Friend’

Rounding out the prizes, Aley Baracat’s “Irregular Heartbeats” won the XR Development Market award, receiving a grant of $1069. Produced by Lilian Hess and Kate Pasterfield, supported by the European Creator’s Lab and the National Theatre London, and set for completion next year, the winning entry puts users into the headspace of a gay Egyptian man as he weighs whether or not to come out to his family.

Finally, director Jonathan Pêpe received a $6419 grant and a ticket to Rome in order to develop his immersive nature doc “Fisheye” at Italy’s Villa Medici. Now in its third year, the program offers artistic residencies to French artists on the cutting edge of new media.

This year’s NewImages Festival runs from April 24-28.

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