The Venice Film Festival has added special screenings of 40 minutes of virtual reality feature Jesus VR – The Story Of Christ. At a full 90 minutes, the film is produced by Toronto-based Autumn Productions and LA’s VRWERX. The companies previously set a Christmas release on all major VR platforms. Now, they’ll have a Venice showcase to help spread the word.
The film has an interesting pedigree with Italian industry vet Enzo Sisti exec producing. He was EP on Mel Gibson’s $612M worldwide grosser The Passion Of The Christ. That same film’s religious advisor, Father William Fulco, also advised on Jesus VR. Gibson himself will be in Venice on September 4 to debut his war drama Hacksaw Ridge out of competition.
Jesus VR – The Story of Christ goes 2,000 years back in time to witness the story of Jesus Christ from birth to resurrection. The film, whose producers promise a “you-are-there experience,” includes such events as Jesus’ baptism, the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper and the crucifixion.
Shot in Matera, Italy — also a location for The Passion — and in 4K 360° with an all-Italian crew, Jesus VR is directed and produced by David Hansen with his partner Johnny Mac through Autumn VR and VRWerx’s Alex Barder and Russell Naftal. Hansen and Mac’s Autumn financed the film; recent credits include Sundance 2016 entry Lovesong.
The cast includes Tim Fellingham (Final Destination 5), Mish Boyko (Anthropoid) Christian Serritiello (Homeland), Rhys Howells (Hollyoaks) and Matteo Carlomagno (Jumper). The script is by Andre van Heerden.
VR has been making its way into some major festivals and this is a big year for Venice which is incorporating six VR projects into its four-year-old film market, Venice Production Bridge. There’s also a new VR Theatre on the Lido where the 40-minute cut of Jesus VR will be available to festgoers from September 1-4.
The news comes following a weekend that saw the action spectacle remake of Ben-Hur fail to ignite faith-based audiences in North America. While a portion of the demo clearly showed up, as Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro reported on Sunday, some marketers in the community argued that more of the flock could have come out if the demo had been prioritized over the secular in marketing campaigns — a strategy employed by The Passion Of The Christ.
VR is a different avenue, to be sure, but the move to get media play out of Venice — which is also world premiering Sky and HBO’s The Young Pope — looks like a savvy bid ahead of a digital Christmas release. It will go out on such VR platformas as Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and the HTC VIVE.
Venice kicks off August 31 with Damien Chazelle’s La La Land followed by such big-ticket titles as Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals.