Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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*RU There*: Feature Film About Second Life, Gaming, and Living Digitally Selected for the Legendary Cannes Film Festival This Year!

Update, 5/18: Read early reviews of R U There here.

A movie about Second Life and gaming is screening at this year's prestigious Cannes Film Festival, which opens today. The name of the film is R U There, a Dutch/French production partly shot in Taipei, and partly in Second Life. It's about a professional gamer who falls in love with a beautiful Taiwanese girl, who invites him to deepen their relationship in the metaverse. Check out the immensely stylish trailer, which sort of suggests Wong Kar-Wai meets CounterStrike:

RU There is screening in Cannes' Un Certain Regard selection, which is reserved for international movies that are "original and different" in a noteworthy way. Previous entries include last year's acclaimed hit Precious, Hou Hsiao Hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon, and Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. (Which as it happens, was promoted in Second Life.) Competitively, R U There is up against movies like Socialisme, by Jean-Luc Godard, who's one of the world's greatest living directors. In other words, this is a very big damn deal.

David Verbeek

RU There was directed by David Verbeek, who occasionally visits SL as the avatars "LilyRukai Camino" and "Cameraman Haiku". I tried to get in touch with him, but being in Cannes at the moment, he's somewhat tied up.  Fortunately I was able to interview the film's editor, Sander Vos, who introduced Verbeek to Second Life in the first place. "David is fascinated by the contradictions of modern life versus the needs of the human soul," as Sander put it to me. "While we were editing his previous film, I was in SL on a daily basis and I showed him around." (Vos' SL avatar is "RL Karkassus".) What he saw there and what Sander told him inspired Verbeek to include Second Life in his next project:

R U THERE David Verbeek

"I might have told him about the wonders and difficulties that surround virtual romance, about how intense one can identify with one's avatar that is being in love with another avatar," Vos recalls. "I can imagine that struck a chord in David, because when we were shooting in SL, that was what he was searching for all the time: shots that made the audience identify with the avatar - and at the same time wonder about the metaphysical consequences of that. 'Do we now identify with the avatar or with the user behind the avatar?'"

Vos estimates about 15-20% of the movie takes place in SL, "But [those scenes] are important-- as the relationship between the main characters evolves further there than in real life."

Verbeek puts it this way in the production notes:

Because they are so different, Jitze and Min Min would never share their universe in real life, but in the virtual world they can. What they, despite their many differences, have in common is the need to feel free and be liberated from the constraints of life. Something they cannot accomplish in the real world, but can in Second Life. Virtual reality enriches their experience, despite being an imaginary world.
Sander Vos

No announcements about a theatrical/broadcast/DVD release for RU There have been made as yet, but seeing as Cannes is the most important international marketplace for distributors, odds that it'll get some kind of wide release are good. (Cannes is about as crucial on the worldwide stage as the Sundance film festival is in the United States -- which is funny, because as it happens, a Second Life documentary was featured at the last Sundance.) In any case, Vos tells me, "the Dutch distributor was thinking about doing a viewing in SL for an audience."

Though where in Second Life R U There will play remains to be seen. "I saw there is a Cannes sim in SL," Sander Vos muses. "Wonder if that would be a good pace to do it."

Image credits: IDTV Film, VPRO, Les Petites Lumières. Sander Vos photo courtesy of him.


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Nexii Malthus

Wow! Awesome, definitely would want to watch this one. I'm not much of a movie buff either (haven't even watched Avatar for example xD). But this seems very different, has caught my eye.

Skate Foss

Looks really beautiful. Since it will be shown at Cannes, it's sure a release and a DVD, would love to see this. The trailer is great.

JoJa Dhara

O well ..why not a sl / Rl premiere party? in Amsterdam?

The people of this Film know the connections!! ;)

Paula Anguita (Mallory destiny)

I have seen the movie and it is really very great. The referral to Wong Kar Wai I can surely agree with. The influence of Asian cinema in the best tradition makes it a film for connoisseurs.

The film really shows in a convincing way the huge difference between violent games like World of Warcraft (which is not named in the film, but it's obvious) and the peaceful virtual reality of Second Life, where people can be themselves. For this reason it could help Second Life to gain a wider audience and perhaps more residents even.

The film will have it's release in 6 theaters in the Netherlands on June 17. But this number might increase, depending on the success in Cannes.

Molly Montale

English press kit:

page at festival site:

Cannes tips

Thanks, I've just added it to my watchlist. I see there's a French movie about a chatroom coming out, plus "Protag" (s&m thriller).

Ann Otoole

Finally a good film not made by parasite journalists trying to get paid for putting down something they know nothing about.

This is a good sign.

Pooky Amsterdam

What a great looking, and feeling film this will be. Just so excited about Second Life being portrayed as beautiful and sentient.

Tilly Ayres

anything that holds the possibility of forewarning those interested in second life has gotta be worthwhile... the rules are :-
first life First & secondlife Second
this place can screw around with you soo bad, to loose someone you dont even know in sl can destroy you in the real world... it can make you physically ill.
not all online games should be treated as "Games"


This is a movie I would definitely see. Impressions of the preview:

1. The first thing that hit me was how very sad the avatars and SL landscape looked in comparison with the other games shown in the film. We see these rather detailed fighting scenes... only to switch to SL and bleached-out avatars and landscapes. Not the best presentation of either... but unfortunately all too common on the SL platform.

2. "I go to Second Life to relax"? LOL, SL is the primary source of my stress these days. From bait-and-switch sim pricing to years-long critical bugs, asset server issues / inventory loss, severe stop-dead lag, release of an extremely buggy viewer to the general populace, and doing no telling what to XstreetSL (it doesn't look promising)-- SL is these days the last place I go to "relax". These days... I turn to RL to get away from SL. ;D

Nevertheless, it looks like an interesting movie and one that I would likely go to see-- SL or no SL. It will be very interesting to see how they integrate the Second Life environment into the movie. I surely agree that virtual worlds such as SL can have more than casual impact on real life entities.


Virtual Courtship:
When two people meet and date in a virtual world online with the intent of being together in real life. People who participate in Virtual Courtships are not initially bound by looks, age, location, and sometimes gender, thus providing a much greater real life dating pool. Virtual Courtships bypass flawed algorithms on static profile-based dating sites, allowing for real time, constant interaction.

I've been writing about this for eons.

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