Film festivals Wonderspaces
The Emmy-nominated VR film, “Traveling While Black,” screens Friday through Sunday. Photo credit: Screen shot, @VRScout, via Twitter

Virtual reality can offer a peek into fantastic landscapes – or it can open up viewers’ eyes to a harsh reality – in this case, one part of the experience of being Black.

Traveling While Black, brought to Liberty Station by Wonderspaces, examines the history of attempts to throw up barriers for Blacks to move about freely in the U.S. and the effort to find safe spaces as a result.

The film, by Oscar-winner Roger Ross Williams (for 2010’s Best Documentary Short Subject) and Emmy-winner Felix & Paul Studios (for 2017’s Outstanding Original Interactive Program), focuses on the famed Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington D.C.

Because it’s virtual reality, viewers share in an intimate series of moments with the eatery’s patrons as they reflect on race relations in the U.S. and how they affect their ability to move about as they please.

The film, opening Friday, “highlights the urgent need to not only remember the past but to learn from it,” organizers said, “and facilitate a dialogue about the challenges minority travelers still face today.”

The film continues through Sunday at the Dorothea Laub Music & Arts Center. Tickets cost $12 and must be purchased online. Shows begin at 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday.

The next film in the series, Where Thoughts Go, presents “a dreamlike terrain” where viewers can listen to stories, hopes, and secrets shared by previous participants – while sharing their own too.

Wonderspaces, which launched in 2016, gained attention in San Diego the following year with a Mission Valley show. The art pop-up has since spread to Austin, Scottsdale and Philadelphia.

The founders aim to offer art in more accessible spaces for audiences that museums and galleries don’t typically reach.

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