David Hansen is a movie director and producer from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has just produced the world’s first full-length virtual reality (VR) movie and it is about the life of Christ.
In the movie entitled Jesus VR: The Story of Christ, Tim Fellingham plays Jesus and Mish Boyko the role of Peter.
It was featured at the prestigious Venice Film Festival this past week where they presented a 40-minute cut of the 90-minute movie. In an interview with the Regina Leader Post, Hansen described their invite to the festival as “unbelievable.”
Virtual reality allows a person to be immersed in the environment. You literally become part of the story as it is happening.
In computer generated environments you are even able to manipulate objects or perform certain activities. However, they are not quite there for VR movies made up of real people and movie sets.
Nevertheless you are standing with the disciples as the events take place. In a news release, Hansen described Christ’s story as the most powerful story of all time adding “The viewers truly feel they are there with Jesus and his disciples.”
Hansen told the LeaderPost:
“In some ways, VR is as close to time travel as you could get. It really feels like you’re here, you’re looking around, you’re in that moment.
I was thinking historically, if you could travel back anywhere in time, where would the majority of people want to go? … The No. 1 person they want to meet is Jesus Christ.”
To watch a VR movie you have to wear a special device on your head. These can range in price from a cardboard box version costing $20 to more elaborate devices upwards of $600.
The movie was shot in Matera, Italy last fall. This ancient village was the same place used for Mel Gibson’s move — The Passion of Christ. Perhaps not surprisingly, the VR movie included Enzo Sisti as its executive producer. He held the same position in the Mel Gibson production.
Jesus VR covers Jesus’ life from his birth to crucifixion including several Bible stories, Jesus’ baptism, the sermon on the mount and the last supper.
Peter Bradshaw, a columnist for a British news paper The Guardian, saw the movie at the Venice festival and described its unique wrap around experience. Though fixed in one spot, you are able to look 360 degrees — up, down, right, left and even behind to see what is taking place.
He tells of being at the manger where Jesus was born. As the wise men were giving their gifts of gold and frankincense to Christ, Bradshaw turned around and saw a cow chewing its cud behind him.
In the Good Samaritan scene, he looked to the side and saw two men putting a wheel on a chariot. He added that villagers will come right up to you and literally get in your space.
At times it seemed very real. Bradshaw wrote:
“I was filled with the weird, paranoid urge to turn my back on the main action and check that reality really was carrying on as normal and that the actors weren’t having a cheeky cigarette.”
The crucifixion scene was particularly compelling. Not only do you watch from the crowd as the Romans put Christ on the cross, but at one point you are given Christ’s perspective and look down at the soldiers and people below.
“With your bulky headset on — it began to overheat during the crucifixion scene, alarmingly — you have the urge to giggle. Not necessarily mocking. You feel skittish.”
The movie is scheduled for release this Christmas and will be geared to the smartphone market where users can plug their VR headset into their device.
Though VR will be undoubtedly be used for more odious purposes, the first movie was still about Jesus, the Son of God.
Autumn Productions, a Toronto-based company, financed and produced the film. It is co-owned by David Hansen and Johnny Mac.