Oculus Celebrates Socially Conscious Virtual Reality Films at SXSW

3 projects were selected to air in the film festival

The film "The Evolution of Testicles" created for Oculus VR for Good’s Creators Lab was an official VR selection at SXSW. Oculus
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

Virtual reality: great for intense gaming experiences and apparently, immersive and socially important films. At least that’s what Oculus is trying to create with its VR for Good’s Creators Lab program.

The company’s program pairs VR filmmakers with nonprofits to create compelling films dedicated to a cause. This year, three of the 10 films were chosen as official VR selections at South by Southwest’s film festival. To celebrate, Oculus threw a small activation and celebration at SXSW, where guests could watch the films themselves and even chat with some of the filmmakers and nonprofits involved.

“We really believe that once we saw the impact of VR as an empathy vehicle, we thought it was critical for us to do something to showcase the goodness that the technology provides,” said Paula Cuneo head of partner and strategic marketing at Oculus.

In its second year, Oculus required that participants of the program had more expertise in VR development and production to produce powerful films. One of those films includes “The Evolution of Testicles,” created by director Ryan Hartsell and the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign. The film focused on individuals who survived testicular cancer and explained how important it was for men to regularly screen themselves. The serious film included plenty of humor, such as a 100-foot hot scrotum air balloon dubbed “Skyballs” and starred actor Chris O’Dowd.

While the crew faced some challenges filming the piece, such as flying the balloon in unpredictable weather, they believe it was worth it to raise awareness about testicular cancer.

“Since I’ve been through with this piece, its part of my routine [to check],” said Hartsell. “That to me is the point—that’s the whole objective [of the film].

On Oculus’ side, the company thinks these films and premiering at SXSW “cuts through the noise” and has a bigger impact.

“VR can deliver that personal moment that moment of empathy, where you engage; someone in VR looks you in the eye, you hear the story and you’re compelled to action,” Cuneo said.

The films will eventually be posted to Facebook, where users can watch it in 360 video.

@itstheannmarie annmarie.alcantara@adweek.com Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.