González Iñárritu's Carne y arena/Virtually Present, Physically Invisible (González Iñárritu 2017) is a multilayered virtual-reality installation that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and later won a Special Achievement Oscar. This work is a notable departure from the director's previous output, both in its use of virtual reality and in its focus on the divisive subject of migration. Carne y arena has been praised for its technological innovation, but it has also been criticized for tackling such a political subject through the medium of virtual reality. For some critics, virtual reality is an entirely inappropriate medium for exploring such a serious issue, privileging, in their view, spectacle over reflection. González Iñárritu has countered such critiques by asserting that the use of virtual reality makes the experience of visiting Carne y arena intensely personal and immersive. This article will situate the installation in relation to González Iñárritu's previous work and examine the debates surrounding the relationship between virtual reality and empathy with reference to Carne y arena.