The installation's purpose is to give people a way to live through even a small part of an immigrant's journey. It was based on true immigrants' accounts and uses vast spaces, sand-covered floors and cold waiting rooms to make the six-and-a-half-minute VR sequence as immersive as possible. AMPAS president John Bailey said in a statement:
"Iñárritu's multimedia art and cinema experience is a deeply emotional and physically immersive venture into the world of migrants crossing the desert of the American southwest in early dawn light. More than even a creative breakthrough in the still emerging form of virtual reality, it viscerally connects us to the hot-button political and social realities of the U.S.-Mexico border."
Since the Academy doesn't have the proper category for Carne y Arena yet, Iñárritu is getting a special statuette. That doesn't make the win any less important, though: as Polygon notes, the last time the Academy gave out a special Oscar was back in the '90s for Toy Story 1. That special award paved way for the Academy to establish the Best Animated Feature category a few years later, something Iñárritu's work could also do for virtual reality.