Special Oscar awarded to Alejandro G. Iñárritu's virtual reality project

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The 90th Oscars are still four months away, but the Academy has already handed out its first statuette of the season.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors announced that its members voted Wednesday to present a special Oscar to Alejanddro G. Iñárritu’s virtual reality installation project CARNE y ARENA (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible) in recognition of the “visionary and powerful experience in storytelling” created in collaboration with Emmanuel Lubezki, the Birdman helmer’s longtime collaborative director of photographer.

“Alejandro Iñárritu and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have opened for us new doors of cinematic perception,” newly elected AMPAS president John Bailey said in a statement. “CARNE y ARENA, Iñárritu’s multimedia art and cinema experience, is a deeply emotional and physically immersive venture into the world of migrants crossing the desert of the American southwest in early dawn light. More than even a creative breakthrough in the still emerging form of virtual reality, it viscerally connects us to the hot-button political and social realities of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

After world-premiering at Cannes in May, CARNE y ARENA is simultaneously on display at various museums around the world, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Fondazione Prada in Milan, and Tlatelolco Cultural Center in Mexico City. Producer Mary Parent, Legendary Entertainment, Fondazione Prada, ILMxLAB, and Emerson Collective also worked on the film, with executive production from Katie Calhoon.

According to LACMA’s website, the VR installation is based on true immigrant and refugee accounts, blurring “the lines between subject and bystander” as it allows “individuals to walk in a vast space and thoroughly live a fragment of the refugees’ personal journeys.”

Iñárritu has won four competitive Oscars in the past, including three (picture, director, and original screenplay) for his 2014 drama Birdman, following up with another best director victory for directing Leonardo DiCaprio in 2015’s The Revenant. Lubezki won three consecutive best cinematography Oscars for Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant between the 2014 and 2016 Oscar ceremonies.

The Academy noted CARNE y ARENA will be presented with its Oscar at the 9th Annual Governors Awards on Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center. The 90th Academy Awards take place Sunday, March 4.

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