Tribeca Games and Immersive, part of the 2023 Tribeca Festival, took place June 7–18 in New York City, and the Unity for Humanity team was fortunate enough to attend and support some of the impressive projects.
The festival program included an incredible lineup of impact-driven games and experiences, shedding light on pressing social issues as well as sharing experimental narratives and introducing awe-inspiring 2D and 3D games.
Unity for Humanity supported five impact-driven projects with grant funding: Colored, Maya: The Birth (Chapter 1), The Fury, Kinfolk: Black Lands, and Reimagined: Volume II: Mahal. Of the projects Unity supported, two went home with Tribeca honors.
Colored, a location-based augmented reality (AR) experience, tells the often untold story of Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old girl who stood up to segregation laws in Alabama nine months prior to Rosa Parks. The AR storytelling beautifully combines the Magic Leap device and video projection to create a unique, poetic experience that incorporates theatre, history, and immersive entertainment.
Adapted from an essay by Tania de Montaigne, Colored transports audiences to 1950s Montgomery, Alabama to experience the Civil Rights Movement through the embodiment of Claudette Colvin. Through Claudette, Colored not only highlights the experience of segregation, but also explores colorism and how it has persisted throughout history to impact who we choose to honor and celebrate.
Maya: The Birth (Chapter 1) is a virtual reality (VR) experience created to bring the “taboo” subject of menstruation to the forefront. The audience follows Maya, a young girl in the U.K., as she experiences shame and bullying due to beginning her menstruation. As Maya confronts this shame, she transforms into a powerful superhero deriving her power from the process of menstruation.
Directors Poulomi Basu and CJ Clarke were inspired by stories of real women in Nepal, who are forced into exile and often assaulted because of their menstrual blood, to create Maya as a fantastical alternate reality where women are powerful and their strength is celebrated.
Maya was awarded a Tribeca New Voices Special Mention. The jury commented that Maya is “an imaginative way to tell an everyday story in a vivid world. Presenting a shift in perspective, the project opens new imaginaries with under-told narratives. This project left us on a hook and the jury is excited to see its next steps and continued development.”
The Fury is an examination of the brutal treatment of political prisoners, including the sexual exploitation of female political prisoners in Iran. Acclaimed artist Shirin Neshat combines performance, video art, and immersive storytelling to create a strikingly powerful experience which mirrors the memory of sexual assault to demand change.
Kinfolk: Black Lands is an AR exploration of Black self-sovereignty in New York City. It explores the lives of three ancestors who represent free Black communities that existed in New York from the 1600s to the early 1900s. This experience is educational and aspirational, empowering audiences to rethink oppressive systems and imploring the next generation to reimagine and build a more equitable future.
In 2021, Unity for Humanity supported the Kinfolk team’s Tribeca Juneteenth exhibition. This year, the team was awarded a Storyscapes Special Jury Mention for being “a profound and authentic representation of the Black experience in America.” Judges were inspired by Kinfolk’s mission to “bring history to contemporary audiences through AR technology as it not only celebrates the richness of Black culture and history, but also serves as a powerful tool for education and understanding, making it a standout contender deserving of recognition.”
Reimagined: Volume II: Mahal was inspired by Director Michaela Ternasky-Holland’s early loss of her father. Weaving in her ancestry and Philippine mythology, Mahal tells the story of four immortal children grieving the loss of their father, the creator god Bathala. Each makes sense of their father’s passing in their own way, causing dangerous effects. The gods must learn to honor their father together to save the universe, reflecting themes of community, loss, love, and acceptance to the audience.
Also during Tribeca, Unity for Humanity Community Manager Paisley Smith moderated a panel discussion on “The Birth of a Super-Heroine: How Women Shape Stories for the Future Generation.” The panel featured amazing immersive creators Katayoun Dibamehr (producer, Maya: The Birth [Chapter 1]), Ana Ribeiro (creator, Pixel Ripped 1978), Michaela Ternasky-Holland (director, Mahal), and Eloise Singer (director, The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend). It also touched on the strong characters depicted in each of the creators’ projects and how their personal experiences across games and immersive production shaped the creation of their work.
Panelist Eloise Singer was awarded the Storyscapes Award for The Pirate Queen. The jury commented that the project received this top award “for its outstanding technical execution, immersive user experience, and unique and untold story of a nearly forgotten woman in history.” Finally, Goodbye Volcano High (also made with Unity) by KO_OP was awarded the Tribeca Games Award for “how much [it] felt of the moment and questions whether you should still care about anything when everything sucks – complete with doom scrolling, dinosaurs, and high school band drama.”
Congratulations to all impact-driven artists and creators who exhibited work at the Tribeca Film Festival. Keep creating meaningful change!
Unity for Humanity is designed to celebrate and support impact-driven creators. If you are using real-time 3D for social impact, join our Unity for Humanity Community Discord to attend monthly events, learn about upcoming grant opportunities, and more. You can also subscribe to Unity’s Social Impact newsletter.