Asif Kapadia, Oscar-winning “Amy” director and BAFTA winner for “Senna” and “The Warrior,” will debut in the XR (extended reality) and immersive filmmaking space with “Laika.”

Adapted from Nick Abadzis’ eponymous 2007 graphic novel, “Laika” will tell the the story of planet Earth’s first voyager into space, an unwanted stray who survived the streets of Moscow to become the most famous dog in the world. Through the medium of animated VR, the story, co-written by Kapadia and Abadzis, will be told from Laika’s point of view. It is a collaboration with award-winning animation studio Passion Pictures (“Doctor Who: The Runaway,” “The Lost Thing”).

The project is presented by the BFI London Film Festival and commissioned by StoryFutures Academy, the U.K.’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, run by the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway, University of London, with support from the BFI Film Fund and Film4.

Kapadia will discuss the project’s work in progress at the public unveiling of The Expanse, the virtual exhibition space created to house the London Film Festival’s ‘Expanded’ XR and immersive art program, on Oct. 8. “Laika” is due for final completion in 2021. Kapadia recently participated as a member of the jury for the Venice Film Festival’s Venice XR Expanded program.

“From the moment I first read Nick Abadzis’ fantastic graphic novel, I’ve wanted to find a way to bring it to the screen and animated VR is the perfect medium to adapt his beautiful work,” Kapadia said. “In my opinion, VR works best when it is rooted in something real and my ambition is for viewers to believe they are really there with Laika, on Earth, during training and finally in space.”

“Laika” is a Passion Pictures and Sheep Thief Films Production, in partnership with StoryFutures Academy. The project will be produced by Kapadia, Jack Arbuthnott and Rebecca Gregory-Clarke and will be executive produced by Katie Grayson, Debbie Crosscup and Andrew Ruhemann for Passion Pictures.

BFI London Film Festival director Tricia Tuttle said: “Through this partnership with StoryFutures Academy and the team at the NFTS, we have had the opportunity to work with Asif Kapadia, a filmmaker whose ambitious big screen film work consistently dazzles and impresses, as he starts to work in a new form. We can’t wait to see where he goes with “Laika” and to share the project with audiences in the future.”

NFTS director and co-director of StoryFutures Academy Jon Wardle said: “From the moment Asif came along to the StoryFutures Academy Lab we knew it would be brilliant to work with him. He was intrigued by virtual reality, but above all he was excited about Laika’s story and saw the potential that VR offers to bring it to life in a completely new way.”

James Bennett, co-cirector of StoryFutures Academy, added: “By bringing world-leading talent like Asif Kapadia to the emerging medium of Virtual Reality, StoryFutures Academy is helping creative leaders shift the dial in what is possible in this exciting new platform.”

The BFI London Film Festival runs Oct. 7-18.

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· Asif Kapadia with Laika’s Director of Photography Roman Osin, and Technologist Johnny Johnson in development on ‘Laika’ in the StoryFutures Academy Immersive Lab StoryFutures Academy

https://variety.com/2020/film/global/asif-kapadia-laika-xr-extended-reality-bfi-london-film-festival-1234790342/