CANNES.- Mexicans Alejandro González Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki have joined their talents to build an artistic experience in which the virtual reality and symbolism dip the viewer into the heart of the illegal immigrants that cross from Mexico to the United States.
It is an experience in which the spectator becomes part of the drama of immigration trough virtual reality, that transport him at the moment of the detention, in the middle of the desert, of a group of immigrants who tried illegally to get in the United States.
Based on the testimonies of several of these immigrants, Iñárritu devised an artistic project that goes beyond an installation or exhibition, in which virtual reality is the main element.
Before arriving to the Prada Foundation of Milan, which financed the project, Iñárritu and Lubezki premiered “Skin and Sand (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible)” in the context of the 70th Cannes Festival, as part of its special events, but out of competition.
To participate in the experience, whose symbol is a heart, it is necessary to reach the small Mandelieu airport in Cannes and get into a hangar enabled to host a project in which Iñárritu has been working for four years.
"I took some creative risks, I went through paths never visited, and I learned many lessons." Although both are audiovisual, virtual reality is everything that cinema is not, and vice versa, the frame disappears and the two-dimensional limits dissolve," he says.
This is the welcome –in Spanish, English and French– gave by the creator of "Babel", who alleged that the experience of “Skin and Sand” will be differente for each visitor.
“We have created a truthful alternative space where you will walk beside the immigrants (and their subconscious) with infinite possibilities and perspectives in a vast landscape, but you will do it under your own terms," he warns before starting the tour.
Begin with a piece of the border wall that was in Naco (Arizona), built with recycled metal material that had been used for landing helicopters in the Vietnam War. This was retired four months ago and was replaced by another of concrete.
In a small room, there immigrant’s shoes collected in the Mexican border. There, the spectator has to leave his shoes. The flour is sand.
Virtual reality glasses, helmets and a backpack and the experience begins. Only six minutes passed in a sigh and in which one can 'live' something that Iñárritu qualifies as a "semi-fictional ethnography".
Located in the middle of the action, but without interfering in it, the spectator turns on himself to be able to observe every detail of a scenario in which everything is thought and in which, as in real life, it is impossible to grasp what happens in every corner.
Suddenly, he confronts an American policeman shouting at the immigrants, a dog barking violently, a pregnant woman falling to the ground, a child crying or a helicopter that dazzles with its powerful lights.
A visual-oriented hyperrealism in which there is also space for the symbolism of a sea-like table in which a ship is shipwrecked with immigrants who, one by one, are drowning in the sea.
You would have to live those six minutes to really know what is happening, although all the details of what happened to each of the immigrants are in a gallery that allows to leave the empty black space, that, moments before, was full of shouting and tears.