Virtual reality experience ‘This is Not a Ceremony’ goes to Sundance Film Festival

Click to play video: 'Cinematic VR Experience premiers at Sundance Film Festival'
Cinematic VR Experience premiers at Sundance Film Festival
WATCH: A cinematic virtual reality experience directed by an Indigenous man living on Westbank First Nation Land is making it's debut on the international stage. Sydney Morton spoke with the director to learn more about his work. – Jan 17, 2022

A virtual reality experience is on its way to an international stage at the Sundance Film Festival in the U.S.

This is Not a Ceremony is a National Film Board of Canada VR Experience directed by Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), from Piikani Nation in Alberta who now lives on Westbank First Nation Land.

“Going to Sundance has been a lifelong dream,” said Ahnahktsipiitaa.

The experimental documentary immerses the audience in the story through stunning cinematics.

“In many Indigenous nations including the Blackfoot Confederacy and Piikani Nation, we have a tradition of witnessing where the witness becomes responsible to the community,” said Ahnahktsipiitaa.

“I really wanted to take that idea and infuse it into this piece.”

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The stories of two Indigenous men are shared; Adam North Peigan who is president of Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta and a victim of The Sixties Scoop and his travels as a foster child, and Brian Sinclair who died at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre on Sept. 21, 2008.

“Where you’re simply just looking at Brian Sinclair’s story you say ‘How does this happen?’ ‘How does a man die of a bladder infection which is completely treatable in the hospital after 34 hours?’ so you feel like how does this happen but, you also feel of course this happened because as Indigenous people we know the stories all too well,” said Ahnahktsipiitaa.

Also guiding viewers through the story is the buffalo spirit, Inii.

“I’m from Piikani and Piikani is also famous for having the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, the buffalo is extremely important to us, it’s extremely important to Blackfoot people so we wanted to include the buffalo,” said Ahnahktsipiitaa.

“It was such an important part of the story for us and for me and I think it’s truly incredible. We used a lot of style photos that I had taken of the buffalo jump. We used some 3D models in order to create the buffalo and I think that it’s incredible.”

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This is Not a Ceremony screens at the Sundance Film Festival virtually on Jan. 20 and will be available to watch until Jan. 30. For more information visit

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