Technology has the power to completely bring a story to life. From the early days of silent cinema, to the incredible 8K VR visuals that blow minds today, creators continually push the boundary of what is possible with the use of tech, leading to more and more jaw dropping, dumbfounding experiences. For over a decade, Sundance Film Festival have led the development of immersive creative expression through their program, ‘New Frontier’ and they have now released this year’s full lineup. Founded by Robert Redford in 1978, in order to attract more filmmakers to Utah, Sundance is now the largest Independent film festival in the United States and its radical influence has further evolved through the introduction of New Frontier.

But what is New Frontier? Well, it is a curated collection of cutting-edge independent and experimental media works, coming from creators who are pushing artistic innovation across mediums that include rocket travel, biotech, facial recognition, mixed reality and underwater AR.

Shari Frilot, Chief Curator of New Frontier summed the spirit of the collection up in an official statement, saying “Powerful technologies now enable experiences that capture, replicate, and replace ‘the real.’ But it is even more special when the human touch converges with technology, we are provoked to reach beyond what we know to be real and enter into unfamiliar terrain. This transcendence can shift who we believe ourselves to be, where our bodies begin and end, what we are to each other, and who we are ultimately capable of being. The 2020 edition of New Frontier stares down the fear of losing our neighborhoods, and losing ourselves, and reminds us that the future is ​now​ — and because the future is now, the future can be ours.”
Powerful, evocative words from the respected artist and filmmaker and the broad, fluid nature of the programme means great things for those working in this space, allowing plenty of creative expression and artistic license. Any reason for creatives to push more is only ever a good thing, inevitably leading to new innovations and breakthroughs in their respective fields.
70% of the interactive content featured in New Frontier is made with Unity, our developers’ primary program of choice here at Laduma and we have been personally inspired by some of the insane visuals that we have seen in previous years. They constantly produce polished and engaging experiences, coming from a growing community of creators that share and collaborate.
A personal favourite of ours from last year is a piece called Runnin’, featuring flamboyant comedian and musician Reggie Watts. An immersive, interactive music video, Runnin’ transforms its dancers in different ways through your own movement, meaning users can fully embody the music and be inspired by an inspirational, upbeat experience that they can completely make their own.

This year, the 2020 edition of New Frontier is returning to its two dedicated venue spaces: ​New Frontier at The Ray​ and ​New Frontier Central​, each of which host a variety of media installations, a VR Cinema, and panel discussions. New Frontier Central will also house the​ Biodigital Theatre​, a cutting-edge presentation space that will feature a rotating schedule of large-scale VR theatrical works including a feature-length livestream game telecast.
With these additions, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Program features 241 works, 44% of which are directed or led by one or more women, 35% of which were directed or led by one or more artists of color, and 19% made by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+.
For those wishing to apply for 2021’s cohort, here are some initial guidelines for submission per Sundance: “A wide range of innovative works engaging with cinematic storytelling will be considered for New Frontier. We encourage the diverse creative community of storytellers and technologists to submit inventive works of fiction, documentary, and interactive projects for consideration. Artists may submit their work in one of two categories for Festival consideration: New Frontier Films or all other New Frontier Projects.” Best of luck!