HIFF Presents Political Thriller in Virtual Reality

Annie Lukowski and BJ Schwartz, the filmmakers of "The Hidden," at Mulford Farm Mark Segal

Don’t be fooled by the rustic-looking 18th-century barn on the grounds of the Mulford Farm just west of Guild Hall. Inside you will experience 15 minutes of cinema as riveting as any at the Hamptons International Film Festival’s more familiar theaters.

The vaulted interior retains its original wood frame and other hand-hewn structural elements, but six sets of virtual reality headsets are there to propel viewers into the cinema of the future. “The Hidden” is a 15-minute political thriller that drops you in the middle of a cat-and-mouse game.

You are literally in the middle of the action. Swiveling stools allow you to take full advantage of VR’s ability to surround you with the action. You can be watching a young woman hanging laundry in her sunny California backyard, but if you swivel you will see the alley behind the yard, the policeman waiting at the back gate, the houses across the alley. You can see the sky above and the policeman’s sneakers, which are in fact a hint that something isn’t quite what it seems.

The film was made by Annie Lukowski and BJ Schwartz, who have been working with VR for four years. “We’re filmmakers, and we were looking for a story that mixes compelling narrative with a story that you need to be present to really experience,” said Mr. Schwartz. “With VR you experience the raid from every perspective.”

“It’s a 360-degree experience,” said Ms. Lukowski, “but you don’t have any agency, you can’t affect the movie.” That ratchets up the tension, as you feel as if you are in the characters’ actual space and close enough to touch them.

The Mulford Farm Lounge, as the barn is called during the festival, is open daily through Monday from noon to 4 p.m. “The Hidden” is a thriller with a very powerful message, but one best experienced without foreknowledge of the plot. The program is presented with the support of the Organization Latino-Americana (OLA).

The filmmakers will participate in Sunday’s 10 a.m. Winick Talk at Rowdy Hall, which will examine what the future of VR means for our experience of visual entertainment.

Inside the Mulford BarnMark Segal