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Alejandro Iñárritu's virtual reality installation, 'Carne y Arena,' wins a special Oscar

Alejandro Iñárritu's virtual reality installation, 'Carne y Arena,' wins a special Oscar
"Carne y Arena," by filmmaker Alejandro Iñárritu, is a virtual reality installation on view at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Alejandro Iñárritu)

“Carne y Arena,” a virtual reality installation by filmmaker Alejandro Iñárritu, has been awarded a special Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday.

The Academy’s Board of Governors voted to present the special award to the VR project, currently on view at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in recognition of the installation as a “visionary and powerful experience in storytelling.”

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The title translates to “flesh and sand,” and the story immerses the viewer in the experience of migrants crossing a border at dawn only to be set upon by a Border Patrol helicopter. Visitors to the installation sit in a frigid holding pen meant to emulate those used by the Border Patrol; they remove their shoes and enter the VR portion of the experience.

Times staff writer Carolina A. Miranda described the second part: “Here, you don a set of virtual reality goggles for a nearly seven-minute experience that places you deep in the desert as a group of sunburned and weary migrants, all rendered digitally, stumble across. Among them: a small boy and a mother clutching an infant.”

From this room, guests enter a small hallway with video testimonials. Times art critic Christopher Knight found this portion of the installation to be the most compelling.

“Video screens embedded in the wall feature close-up portraits of immigrants whose ghastly stories inspired Iñárritu’s project. Among the most moving testimonies is one from a careworn patrol agent whose anguished memories of his former job haunt him,” Knight wrote in his review.

Iñárritu collaborated on the project with his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, among others. The Academy will present the award at the annual Governors Awards on Nov. 11 in Hollywood.

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