Jan Kounen, a French director born in the Netherlands whose best-known credits are “Dobermann” and “Blueberry,” has so far provided his most personal work with “Ayahuasca,” a virtual reality simulation investigating Peruvian jungle shamanic healing.
Produced by the leading French VR company Altas V (“Gloomy Eyes,” “Spheres”), Luxembourg’s A Bahn and Small Studios, Kounen developed “Ayahuasca” based on his multiple trips to the Peruvian Amazon where he took part in the rites of Ayahuasca. The 11-minute immersive journey, directed by a shaman, recreates the trance and mystical experience of listening to meditative chanting and drinking plant-based tea called Ayahuasca which is intended to purify the body and mind.
The world premiere of “Ayahuasca” at the Tribeca Film Festival went on to play at Cannes, Mexico and Arles festivals. It’s just launched on Steam, the video game network, and on the Vive HTC online store. The interface has also bowed in multiple locations at the Diversion location-based and cultural institutions, as well as the Amsterdam Eye Museum.
“Only VR can give you the opportunity to explore a mind-altering, transformative experience like Ayahuasca medicine because we use digital technologies and tactile methods to pull you in so that no film can do it,” Kounen said.
He said joining VR after spending his life making movies wasn’t a challenge because “they’re two different things, like literature and theatre.” “When you’re creating VR material, the essence is the experience in itself, not the plot and context that’s the foundation for storytelling,” Kounen said.
Popular on Variety The director said, “VR, like AR (increased perception), stimulates our senses, poses deeper issues and helps us perceive reality differently, as does science fiction, which often lets us focus on our environment.” Kounen said he was intrigued by the rapid development of VR and AR technology. “We started with two back and white VR laboratories and now we have color labs
“Sounds, advanced technology that allow you to go so far and explore feelings and our connection with space and nature,” Kounen said.
In addition to VR, Kounen recently wrapped up his fifth feature film, “Mon Cousin,” a comedy created by Eskwad with French star Vincent Lindon and famous Belgian actor François Damiens. Pathe manages sales from around the world.
Elsewhere, AtlasV is also getting ready to release the animated VR “Gloomy Eyes” by Fernando Maldonado and Jorge Tereso, voiced by Colin Farrell.