#Mickey by Betzabé García, Gibrann Morgado and Blas Valdez

by Beyza Boyacioglu

Last week at ODL, director Betzabé Garcia introduced her project #Mickey with her designer Gibrann Morgado and producer Blas Veldez. #Mickey is a cross-platform documentary about a gender-fluid Youtube celebrity from Sinaloa, Mexico. The project is comprised of a linear film annotated with augmented reality (AR) components and an interactive 360-degree video that uses WebVR technology. Through a multi-layered stylistic approach, the project talks about Mickey’s search for identity, both as a queer person born into a homophobic environment and a celebrity of the digital age.

From the early age of eleven, Mickey began exploring his sexuality and gender identity in a homophobic environment and without any support from his family. He found refuge in digital and social media, and constructed a secondary identity through an online persona. While media platforms have offered empowerment, visibility, and a community of followers to Mickey—as of now, he has 250,000 followers—his online persona has also brought further challenges to his quest for identity.

The project explores Mickey’s online and offline identities, as well as the clash between them, through a mashup of approaches such as video diaries, web/mobile-native graphics, digital collage, web punk art, memes, and so on. Garcia mentioned that Mickey’s own webcam and cell phone videos will provide a substantial archive for her project. In a “desktop documentary” style, the linear film will take the form of a video that is edited live by Mickey himself. Garcia and Mickey’s conversations during the editing process will be a part of the narrative, offering a commentary on media representation. In addition, together with Garcia, Mickey will attempt to reconstruct a story of his childhood, as he does not recall any memories from this part of his life.

The linear component of #Mickey will be screened in movie theatres. However, unlike a regular movie theatre experience, the film will ask the audience to have their mobile phones on and use them at certain moments to view AR pieces embedded within the film frame. The creative team explained that through the AR components, the viewer will gather further insight into Mickey’s experiences and mindset, and unlock hidden elements such as a hateful Youtube comment or a hallucinatory vision. In addition, a web-based (webVR) 360 video with interactive content (selectable hotspots) will allow users to experience the Mazatlán Carnival from the point of view of Mickey’s float, while Mickey narrates the scene through audio and text message-like graphics.

In #Mickey, a linear film, webVR, and AR come together to explore the meaning of self in the digital age. The project is scheduled for the end of 2017; we will definitely be on the lookout for the #Mickey experience.

Betzabé García (Director and Producer) lives and works in Mexico and London. Director of the NY Times Op-Doc short “Unsilenced” (2016). She directed and produced her first feature documentary film “Kings of Nowhere” (2015), winner of the SX:Global Audience Award at SXSW, the Grand Jury Award at Full Frame Documentary Festival, the Golden Eye for Best International Documentary Film at the Zurich Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Morelia International Film Festival, International Jury Prize at This Human World; and the Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma-Ambulante Grant, among other awards. The documentary was also screened at Sheffield Doc/Fest, MoMA’s Doc Fortnight, Frames of Representation at ICA and the Warsaw Film Festival, among other festivals. “Kings of Nowhere” was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film at the 2016 Cinema Eye Honors, Best Documentary at the Mexican Ariel Awards, and Betzabé won Best Director of a Documentary Film at the 2016 Cinema Tropical Awards. “Kings of Nowhere” was included in Sight & Sound Magazine’s list of Best Films of 2015. The documentary is distributed by FilmBuff and was bought by SundanceTV.

Gibrann Morgado (Animator and Augmented Reality Programmer) Artist and creator of Uncurated an initiative to build mixed reality contexts and design future-oriented virtual environments. Gibrann’s 3D graphics, augmented and virtual reality works have been shown in: 1933 Contemporary (Shanghai), The Digital Museum of Digital Art (Berlin), DiMoDa at Stolbun Collection (Chicago), Transfer Gallery (Brooklyn), Art Basel (Miami), Material Art Fair (Mexico City), and the Chopo University Museum (Mexico City), among other places. Co-founder and collaborator of the Vngravity collective. His work has been featured and reviewed in The Creators Project, Vice, Prosthetic Knowledge, Revista Código, La Tempestad, Fractal, Aristegui Noticias, Ibero 90.9, The future of Storytelling, Killscreen, Scoop, Anti- Utopias, Esfera pública, Salonkritik, Thvndermag, Metapolítica, Cultura Colectiva, Trust Digital, Akoya Books, Hyperallergic, Buzzfeed, Club Innovation France, Widewalls, Periódico el porvenir, La Jornada, Art F City, among others.

Blas Valdez (Producer) Author of the novels Crasheado (2013), Deleting Me (2011), Rompecabezas (2002); the book of short stories Restos de Corazón (1998). His multimedia work has been presented at UCLA / State of the Arts (Los Angeles); University of Leeds (UK); Mexican Institute of Paris; Borderhack (Tijuana); ARCO (Madrid); Mexartfest (Kyoto). His literary work has been adapted to film and television.