Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories

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Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories (FIVARS) is a media festival that showcases stories or narrative forms from around the world using immersive technology that includes virtual reality, augmented reality, projection mapping and spatialized audio.


Created, directed and curated by Keram Malicki-Sanchez and working with technical director Joseph Ellsworth, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in the summer of 2015, the FIVARS - an acronym for the Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories - featured a selection of virtual reality and augmented reality experiences that focus on narrative or a form of storytelling. The earliest recorded event was the Camp Wavelength music festival in Toronto, August 28-30th.[1] It is considered to be Canada's first[2][3][4] dedicated virtual or augmented reality stories festival, and was the world's first virtual reality festival dedicated completely and exclusively to narrative pieces.[5] FIVARS is operated by Constant Change Media Group, Inc. and VRTO (Virtual Reality, Toronto - a conference and Meetup group. FIVARS then ran its first official festival September 20 and 21 at rock music venue "UG3 Live" in downtown Toronto from 11am to 7pm.

FIVARS returned with a preview pavilion at the VRTO Virtual & Augmented Reality World Conference & Expo in June 2016[6][7] and to Camp Wavelength[8] in August of the same year.

The festival continued in 2016 for a second year,[9][10] September 16–18, 11am to 7pm at MSMU Studios in downtown Toronto. The program was listed a "Public Event You Should Attend" in the syllabus for the Future Cinema program at York University.[11] The festival featured 30 selections - each enhanced by a haptic backpack created by Subpac[12] FIVARS Festival Explores Human Experience Through Virtual Reality, in addition to a custom 3D Audio Chamber created by David McKevy and an augmented reality art gallery by artist Daniel Leighton and presentation by Joergen Geerds of KonceptVR and Daniel Burwen of Jaunt XR. Ellsworth moved into a tech consulting position.

In 2017, the FIVARS festival featured 35 pieces from 15 countries and was held at the House of VR in Toronto.[13][14] World premieres included "Sanctuary" by Shivani Melukar, "City of Ghosts" from director Olivier Asselin and CieAR, and IN HIS PRESENCE[15] from director Brenda Colonna and producer Philip Plough, among others.

The 2018 took place at the legendary Matador Ballroom - a famous after-hours club and public hall about which Leonard Cohen wrote the song "Closing Time" in 1992. The ballroom was reopened for one weekend, the host the FIVARS festival. The festival showcased 36 new pieces from 12 countries.[16][17]. In this third year, Malicki-Sanchez was joined by associate producer Stephanie Greenall.

For its 5th anniversary, the FIVARS festival moved to the Toronto Media Arts Centre in Toronto and expanded to six galleries, showcasing 31 new selections from 10 countries, including Germany, France, China, Netherlands, USA, UK, and Canada. [18]. The panels featured talks by Ed Callway of AMD, Thomas Wallner from Liquid Cinema VR Inc, director Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man (film)), Nimrod Shanit and Timur Musabay (The Holy City VR) and international sculptor and installation artist Marilene Oliver, among others.[19]. Malicki-Sanchez was again joined by co-producer and co-curator Stephanie Greenall.

Immersive Media Awards[edit]

The festival awards prizes for People's Choice in two categories: Immersive Video and Interactive Experience and introduced a Grand Jury prize and Impact award in 2017. In 2019 the festival added additional awards for Best Experience Design, Best Visual Design, Best Audio Design.


On Monday, September 21 the festival announced People's Choice awards for two categories at the Cadillac Lounge[20] - a music venue and restaurant in Toronto.


  • Best Interactive Experience: Apollo 11[21][22]
  • Best Immersive Video: SONAR [23]



  • Best Interactive Experience: Pearl (Patrick Osborne)
  • Best Immersive Video: Help (Justin Lin)


  • Grand Jury Award: Real (Connor Hair and Alex Meader) [24]



  • Best Interactive: Alteration
  • Best Immersive (Passive): Guardian of the Guge Kingdom


  • Impact Award: Priya’s Shakti / Priya’s Mirror (Dan Goldman)
  • Grand Jury Prize: Manifest 99 [25]



  • Best Interactive: Museum of Symmetry (Paloma Dawkins)
  • Best Immersive (Passive): Going Home (David Beier)


  • Impact Award: The Hidden (Annie Lukowski, BJ Schwartz)
  • Grand Jury Prize: Battlescar (Nico Casavecchia, Martin Allais) [26]



  • Best Interactive: After Dan Graham (David Han/Friend Generator)
  • Best Immersive (Passive): 2nd Step (Joerg Courtial)


  • Best Experience Design: Grand Jury Prize: Battlescar (Nico Casavecchia, Martin Allais)
  • Excellence in Sound Design: Unheard (Zhechuan Zhang)
  • Excellence in Visual Design: Ex Anima (Pierre Zandrowicz)
  • Impact Award: State Power (Jeff Stanzler)
  • Grand Jury Prize: The Industry (Mirka Duijn) [27]


  1. ^ Exclaim! Magazine Camp Wavelength Festival Coming to Toronto Island in August
  2. ^ Digital Journal Inside Canada's first virtual-reality film festival"
  3. ^ BNN Virtual reality gets its own Canadian festival with FIVARS
  4. ^ Toronto Star TIFF isn’t the only film festival in town this month
  5. ^ Huffington Post FIVARS Is the Most Cutting-Edge Storytelling Festival in the World
  6. ^ Huffington Post 5 Reasons VRTO Will Completely Change the Face of VR
  7. ^ VRScout VRTO Reinvents the Tech Conference
  9. ^ L'Express POP02 et FIVARS: la réalité virtuelle invitée d’honneur
  10. ^ Playback
  11. ^ York University, Future Cinema 1 - Professor Caitlin Fisher
  12. ^ Geekpr0n
  13. ^ NOW Magazine
  14. ^ Toronto.com
  15. ^ CBC Radio: That time I met Jesus in Computerland
  16. ^ [1] After years in limbo, Toronto’s Matador Ballroom is back (Toronto Star)
  17. ^ NOW Magazine: The Matador lives to fight again
  18. ^ FORBES: This Week In XR: Apple’s Annual Love Fest, RIP Darqui AR, Story UP Funding, Vive Cosmos Out, Gunwerx Virtual ARsenal
  19. ^ https://fivars.net/news/fivars-2019-panels-toronto/ FIVARS 2019 Talks - Official Site
  20. ^ Meetup.com Listing Archive
  21. ^ Immersive Education Apollo 11 VR wins FIVARS Public Choice Award in Toronto
  22. ^ Telecommunications Software & Systems Group Two International Awards won by Waterford based VR Company
  23. ^ SONAR 360
  24. ^ VRFocus FIVARS Winners Announced
  25. ^ FIVARS 2017 Winners Announced
  26. ^ FIVARS 2018 Award Winners
  27. ^ FIVARS 2019 Award Winners