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VR film review: ‘I, Philip’

VR film review: ‘I, Philip’

The genre of VR films is still finding its feet and one of the main questions that producers and viewers ask themselves about any given VR film is ‘does this really require VR?’ A number of VR films being aired at Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) answer this question with a firm ‘Yes!’ One of the films that stands out in this respect is ‘I, Philip’, which is based on the true story of a project that created an android version of American sci-fi author Philip K Dick a decade ago. The android, named Phil, earned a fan-base at conferences across the US before it (he?) went missing in 2006.

‘I Philip’, a 14-minute VR film from French production house Okio-Studio, tells the story from the perspective of Phil. This in itself works well in VR as Phil is at the behest of his creators and lacks true freedom, just like the viewer: while you’re free to look in whichever direction you want, you can’t go wherever you want.

The film begins with beautifully rendered 3D CGI opening sequence in which the viewer floats in a world that appears to be the dream on an android (although there are no electric sheep here!).

Part of the opening sequence.

Part of the opening sequence.

Vestiges of the real world gradually appear as the viewer awakens to the reality of Phil’s conscious existence and Phil’s voice-over begins to piece the narrative together.

The filmed sequences are all shot in stereoscopic giving a seamless 360-degree 3D effect. A sequence in which Phil is presented to an audience at conference is particularly effective, making the viewer feel ‘on show’ as the android.

Phil is shown to an audience at a conference.

Phil is shown to an audience at a conference.

As the narrative progresses, the filmmakers subtly introduce themes of free-will and reality: Are all of Phil’s memories his own, or are some of them – such as a scene on a beach – recreations of Philip K Dick’s memories?

These questions are best left for the viewer to decide, and more than one viewing is recommended. While viewers can debate these questions, it seems certain that Philip K Dick, and his missing android incarnation, would give it the thumbs up.

‘I Philip’ is being shown at Dubai International Film Festival. Check out the film itinerary here for screening times.

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The Editor is a technology journalist with 15 years experience of covering telecoms and media.

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