A rare special Oscar is being awarded to a virtual reality installation created by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Carne y Arena – meaning flesh and sand – tells the story of migrants trekking across the Sonorian desert in the US.
The Academy said they were presenting the award to recognise a “visionary and powerful experience in storytelling”.
It’s understood to be the first special Oscar to be awarded since one for Toy Story in 1996.
The installation – full title Carne y Arena (Virtually present, Physically invisible) – is based on the true accounts of migrants.
Viewers of Carne y Arena, which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival this year and is currently on display in LA, Milan and Mexico City – don virtual reality headsets for the six-and-a-half minute experience.
- Should reality be virtual?
They walk alone and barefoot across sand, joined by virtual migrants hoping to reach America, while border guards patrol the area.
Inarritu said he met and interviewed Central American and Mexican refugees while researching the project, adding: “Their life stories haunted me.”
He said he wanted the visitor “to go through a direct experience walking in the immigrants’ feet, under their skin, and into their hearts”.
John Bailey, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – which organises the Oscars – said Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki had “opened for us new doors of cinematic perception”.
Mr Bailey added: “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.
“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 US-Mexico border.”
Inarritu won the best director Oscars in 2016 for The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and the previous year for Birdman, which also won best picture.
He and Lubezki will receive the special award at the 9th Annual Governors’ Awards in Hollywood on 11 November.
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