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MyMetaStories, a European film festival curated by Unifrance—a government-funded organization dedicated to promoting French cinema—launched Friday in the popular video game Minecraft and runs until Monday.
Taking place in a specially built virtual cinema within the enormously popular sandbox game, the free festival will showcase 13 short films created by a range of European creatives, with each one screened in a blocky Minecraft room inspired by the film.
Users will need to pick up a ticket in-game for their film of choice before heading to the virtual cinema at the scheduled time. The independent festival is taking place on a third-party server in Minecraft: Java Edition for PC, and the MyMetaStories website has instructions for accessing it.
D-1 before the beginning of the festival in Minecraft!💥 🎬 🎮
See you tomorrow on the other side 👾 ⚡️✨@unifrance @MEDIAprogEU @europe_creative#MyMetaStories #MEDIAprogEU #CreativeEurope #metaverse #minecraft #cinema #europeancinema #europe #euro #onlinecinema #gaming #gamer pic.twitter.com/IzWzLP1AVy
— MyMetaStories (@MyMetaStories) October 12, 2023
Players will be given the choice to watch the films in a standard cinema setting, surrounded by other avatars, or in a more typical full-screen setup. Pseudonymous Twitch streamers such as Aypierre, The Guill84, Shadoune666, and Nihachu will host in-world meet-ups and discussions to further add to the community feeling of the festival.
Within the Minecraft experience, players will also be able to play a range of mini-games built around the individual films, Meanwhile, an overarching quest will require users to speak to a range of non-player characters (NPCs) involved in the making of movies to track down the location of a missing actor.
“There’s educational things within the experience, but it’s all done in a playful way,” Unifrance Executive Director Daniela Elstner told Decrypt.
The short films span a range of genres, including horror, comedy, drama, animation, and action, with each one available in six European languages—German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese.
“People are more used to watching films with subtitles now thanks to great series on streaming platforms, but if they're in their native language, it's much easier,” said Elstner. “If you don't have that, you can't reach these people as easily.”
Minecraft was chosen to host the festival for a number of reasons. Unifrance didn’t need to pay for a dedicated land (unlike in NFT-based games like Decentraland or The Sandbox), and a number of Minecraft worlds already feature non-working cinemas. Also, the young, diverse, and enormous Minecraft player base offered the organization a different target audience.
“We want to reach out to their community and introduce them to something new,” explained Elstner. While MyMetaStories isn’t an official Minecraft experience, developers at game studio Mojang did acknowledge the festival earlier this week across social media. “They’re definitely aware of what we’re doing, and they seem to be supportive,” she added.
That same vision of giving people something new also inspired the choice of films on offer, which includes Danish animated comedy “Tales From the Multiverse,” Estonian dark fairytale “Virago,” French teen-drama “Pollux,” and German satire” Guy Proposes to His Girlfriend on a Mountain.”
“The idea is to have many different stories, but it's also anti-algorithm. We don’t want to just give you what you think you want to watch,” Elstner said. “We want a reaction.”
Today on our server: Find out the details on our Discord 🔗https://t.co/LclLYHDr8F🔗@unifrance @MEDIAprogEU @europe_creative#MyMetaStories #MEDIAprogEU #CreativeEurope #metaverse #minecraft #cinema #europeancinema #europe #euro #onlinecinema #gaming #gamer pic.twitter.com/IvRuLMqqKN
— MyMetaStories (@MyMetaStories) October 13, 2023
“If you only give people what they think they want to see, how will they open their minds?” she added.
Unifrance has hosted the online film festival MyFrenchFilmFestival for the past 13 years, building up a dedicated worldwide community in the process. According to Elstner, fans had been asking for more films as well as further events to go alongside the annual festival, which is where the idea for MyMetaStories first came from.
“We wanted to build on the community we already had. Widening it to include films from across Europe was really important,” said Elstener, who’s also faced criticism for the move. “Unifrance is designed to promote French cinema, but I truly believe no national cinema can be strong by itself.”
Organizers first started having discussions about an additional event two years ago. At the same time, conversations about the importance of Web3 and metaverse platforms hit the mainstream. The concept of the metaverse may have lost some steam, but game worlds remain enormously popular—with Minecraft claiming some 140 million monthly players as of 2021.
“It’s been complicated,” Elstner admitted, noting that she secured funding from the European Commission’s Creative Europe MEDIA Programme for the project.
“When we first started having these conversations, I was told to ‘Come back to Earth,’” she added. “We were told that gamers don’t want cinema in their worlds. I guess we’ll see if that’s true this weekend.”
Unifrance already has a three-year deal with Creative Europe MEDIA for events in 2024 and 2025, with plans in place to strike deals with real-world cinemas around the globe to further increase audiences and community.
“The goal is to make people curious,” said Elstner.
The short films will also be available to stream online via the dedicated website, along with a variety of worldwide on demand platforms until October 29, with seven feature-length films also accessible. Those taking part in the Minecraft experience will be able to win tickets to access the rest of the festival.
When Unifrance first launched the MyFrenchFilmFestival, people kicked up a fuss about watching films on personal devices and small screens. “Now it seems like the obvious thing to do,” Elstner said.
Will watching films within video game worlds eventually become just as accepted? Elstner admitted that she wasn’t sure, but the organizers continue to explore new ways to spread independent cinema to viewers.
“I don't know if a film festival in Minecraft will be as obvious in 10 years, but I'm sure we're exploring something that will consistently be a part of our lives. It’s the new way of communicating. I’m sure it’ll change, it'll evolve, but the basis of the idea is there. All we can do is experiment,” she explained. “Changes aren’t always easy to make.”