Canadian VR doc ‘Made This Way’ to make debut at Venice Film Festival


TORONTO — A Canadian-made virtual reality film exploring how two transgender individuals are challenging gender norms will make its international debut at the Venice Film Festival, which kicked off Wednesday.

“Made This Way: Redefining Masculinity” combines an immersive documentary and an installation of photography, co-created by Toronto-based photographer Irem Harnak and filmmaker Elli Raynai.

The film was made using volumetric capturing, a technique that creates 3D video models, and allows the viewer to move through the virtual environment and around the subjects, letting them examine all the different angles of the immersive, computer-generated world.

The experience puts users in virtual environments inspired by the memories and stories of Elijah Miley, who identifies as a transgender man, and Devyn Farries, who identifies as non-binary, as they speak of their identities and transitions.

Raynai says he and Harnak wanted to celebrate the lived experience of the two individuals featured in the film.

“It’s very celebratory of what they went through. They had so much courage to be who they are,” Raynai says.

Harnak started the project in 2016 as a portrait series of transgender men. It evolved to include a VR experience after she visited the VR exhibits at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017.

The visual artist says she immediately knew she had to bring “Made This Way” to VR to create a more visceral experience of her encounters, something, she explains, the photos couldn’t do on their own.

The 18-minute piece will screen as part of the festival’s VR program and will also take part in the second edition of the Venice Virtual Reality Competition. The film runs several times a day from Thursday to the end of the festival on Sept. 8 as VR can only be experienced one person at a time.

Marie-Espérance Cerda, The Canadian Press