Hosting Cuba’s First Virtual Reality Festival

For over fifty years the US imposed embargo has blocked new technology, culture, and ideas from entering Cuba. The island nation existed in a time capsule of diesel cars, rotary-dial phones, and physical data distribution.

Cubans persevered through ingenuity and masterful hacking. During my first exploration of Havana’s electronic music underground, Joyvan Guevara, the godfather of Cuban electronic music, explained to me that he had been mixing on a two-track cassette until he was gifted a mixing board and vinyls by visiting German DJs.

This got me thinking that I should share Virtual Reality so that Cuban artists could begin to harness this new medium that is still being explored in the States. So during my trip to Havana to shoot ¡Viva la Evolución!, my upcoming VR documentary on Cuban underground raves, I hosted Cuba’s first Virtual Reality festival.

Joyvan spun a hypnotic sunset session as Cuban artists and filmmakers as well as students of the University of Havana, Havana’s Institute of Superior Arts, and NYU Tisch gathered to experience virtual reality for the first time.

Ian Forester from VR Playhouse (the incredible Creative Studio supporting me on ¡Viva!) showed cutting-edge 3D animation and photogrammetry models as well as the studio’s newest collaboration with Dawn Richard.

As night fell over Havana, artists from around the world discussed creating immersive media to transcend the cultural boundaries that have stunted both countries for so long. I’m incredibly excited to see the collaborations and projects that come out of this and to share my documentary with the world this summer.

Agradacimientos to Subpac and WeLens for providing the equipment to make this possible; Ariella Neckritz, Rich Pauwels, and Simone Schulz for running demos, and the Ludwig Foundation for the Arts for their space and support.


Photos by Joyce Lanxin Zhao



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