The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Friday that Oscar-winning director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will receive a Special Award for his migration-themed virtual reality installation Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible), according to The Hollywood Reporter. Inarritu will receive an Oscar statue “in recognition of a visionary and powerful experience in storytelling,” the Academy said in a statement.
Carne y Arena, which is currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Fondazione Prada in Milan and Tlatelolco Cultural Center in Mexico City, made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The installation combines a six-and-a-half minute 360-degree virtual reality clip and physical artefacts to recreate the experience of migrants crossing the border between Mexico and the United States of America. After the participants go through the experience, they see video portraits of actual immigrants with their individual stories appearing in text.
The installation is a collaborative effort between Inarritu, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, Mary Parent, Legendary Entertainment, Fondazione Prada, ILMxLAB, and Emerson Collective.
“Carne y Arena, Inarritu’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,” Academy president John Bailey said in a statement. “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.”
It has been 22 years since the Academy presented a Special Award of this kind (the last went to John Lasseter for Toy Story). Inarritu has previously won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture for Birdman in 2014, and Best Director for The Revenant in 2015.