Dear Angelica, a VR film about the dreams of a girl. Photo: Kaleidoscope VR
Dear Angelica, a VR film about the dreams of a girl. Photo: Kaleidoscope VR

Step into the animated world of a girl’s dreams, or explore the depressing life inside immigration detention centers and become a spy to catch a mole. These are some of experiences you could taste at Hong Kong’s first virtual reality (VR) film festival this weekend.

The inaugural Kaleidoscope VR Hong Kong Film Festival on Sunday will let viewers experience first hand the latest in this technology as well as top quality VR cinema from around the world.

It has been organized by the local branch of Kaleidoscope VR, a worldwide platform dedicated to content creators

“We have spent a lot of time getting the  best equipment such as the Google Daydream, HTC Vive, Samsung and Oculus gear for this festival, and you cannot find all of these at one event anywhere else in Hong Kong,” said Sophie Chui, one of the organizers of the event.

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A high-end VR station will be on show during the Kaleidoscope VR Hong Kong Film Festival on April 30. Photo: Asia Times/Poo Yee Kai

More than 10 films, documentaries and games will be shown at the event, which promises to be some of the best in virtual reality work that has been shown at major film festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca and Cannes.

“Some of the documentaries bring you to remote areas in the world, some bring you personally into the struggles of the characters. There are a couple of artsy VR films that have very interesting editing,” said Howard Tian, another co-organizer of the event.

Howard Tian (L) and Sophie Chui (R) of Kaleidoscope VR, Hong Kong. Photo: Sophie Chui
Howard Tian and Sophie Chui of Kaleidoscope VR, Hong Kong. Photo: Sophie Chui

Tian, a co-founder of Hong Kong-based company GO VR Immersive, is one of the equipment sponsors for the festival on April 30. “People who don’t necessarily have experience with cinematic VR are able to experience it first hand during our event,” he said.

One of the documentaries is Indefinite about the detention system in the UK. Audiences will be brought into the heart of 20-feet-high walls and hear first-hand from those living within those barriers exactly what it is like, and experience the conditions for themselves.

Then there’s also Dear Angelica, an immersive animation about a girl’s dreams. The viewer will be transported into the character Angelica’s world and experienced the animation real time in a 3D space.

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For those with experience in playing VR games, The Price of Freedom is an interactive adventure that allows a player to become a spy and assassinate a radical who has infiltrated the CIA. As the game progresses, the plot deepens.

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“It’s interactive, you can find the keys, the clues and listen to the narrators and progress scene by scene and solve the mystery,” explained Tian.

Future of VR in Hong Kong

Both Tian and Chui hope that the event will foster a community of VR content creators as well as open up opportunities for practical applications of VR in Hong Kong commercially.

“From my experience working on VR since 2015, we are a little behind mainland China and other countries such as Taiwan and Singapore,” said Chui.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about VR not just from the film industry but also from those in the IT industry,” said Chui who added that in Singapore, Taiwan and mainland China there are already discussions on how this immersive technology can be applied.

American company Zspace has applied VR in education, teaching kids about anatomy. Photo: Zspace via Wikimedia Commons

“They [China, Singapore, Taiwan] are already talking about practical applications for VR such as in education, in businesses and social advocacy for women. They are talking about getting things done as opposed to just talking about potential, the market etc,” she said.

Tian, whose company is a creative agency that provides a full end-to-end VR production solution, hopes the event will encourage more commercial opportunities for similar firms in Hong Kong.

“Hopefully this can lead to more opportunities for commercial VR content like what companies have been doing with micro-films,” he said.

Tian and Chui have been heartened by generosity of both people and companies offering to sponsor and provide equipment for the festival.

“A lot of my friends with VR equipment and VR companies have volunteered to provide their equipment for the event when they heard that we were holding a Kaleidoscope VR festival in Hong Kong. I haven’t paid a penny and for that I’m very grateful to all of them,” said Chui.

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While Hong Kong is behind on the virtual reality curve, Chui is nonetheless optimistic that this event and Hong Kong’s strengths will bring about change.

“In Hong Kong, we have advantages such as a pool of filmmaking talent and a tradition of making films. We also enjoy a higher degree of freedom compared to other mainland cities and it’s still an international city. My hope is that Hong Kong can be a VR production center of the world.”

The Kaleidoscope VR Hong Kong Film Festival will be held on Sunday, April 30. Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite.