One of the most innovative forces when it comes to interactive documentary making, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has announced it will return to IDFA this November with no less than four projects.
The festival, held annually in Amsterdam, generally has a solid selection of interactive projects, many of which will go on to travel the world.
This year the NFB (Bear 71, Highrise) will present the IDFA audience with the following selection: Fort McMoney (TOXA/NFB), a groundbreaking interactive documentary game; A Short History of the Highrise (NFB/The New York Times), the latest production in the NFB’s acclaimed Highrise project; the interactive photo essay The Last Hunt; and the feature documentary Ariel (NFB/Parabola Films/Beso Film).
The festival takes place 20 November to 1 December.
Selections at IDFA DocLab
DocLab will host the world premiere of Fort McMoney, a trilingual (English, French and German) interactive documentary game about the issues facing Fort McMurray, Alberta, a fast-growing community where, every day, more than a million and a half barrels of oil are extracted. Fort McMurray is at the centre of Canada’s economic growth, thanks to its location in the heart of the oil sands, the world’s largest energy project. The film project allows users to immerse themselves in the town’s environmental, social, cultural, economic and political concerns. By meeting citizens and key players in Fort McMurray’s development, users can, among other things, participate in major debates leading to referendums whose outcomes—determined collectively by the players—influence the direction of the game for everyone. Participants find themselves taking part in a striking interactive experience that brings to life complex and very real dilemmas.
Launching online 25 November, the doc is created by David Dufresne and produced by Philippe Lamarre and Raphaëlle Huysmans (TOXA) and Hugues Sweeney and Dominique Willieme for the NFB, in association with ARTE.
A Short History of the Highrise
DocLab will feature the latest production in the NFB’s Highrise project, whose first installment, Out My Window (2011), received the inaugural IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling.
Directed by Katerina Cizek, and produced by the NFB and The New York Times, A Short History of the Highrise tours the 2,500-year global history of vertical living, examining issues of social equality in an increasingly urbanized world. Each of the four films in the documentary is intended to evoke a chapter in a storybook, with rhyming narration, photographs brought to life through intricate animation, game play and responsive videos that create immersive, exploratory experiences. The first three films―Mud, Concrete and Glass―draw on the Times’ extraordinary visual archives, a repository of millions of photographs that have largely been unseen in decades. The fourth chapter, Home, is composed of images submitted by the public and set to music.
A Short History of the Highrise is written and directed by Cizek. The interactive elements are produced by the Times’ graphics team, under the direction of Cizek and the Times’ Jacqueline Myint, interactive art director and developer for the series. NFB senior producer is Gerry Flahive, with Jason Spingarn-Koff as series executive producer and the New York Times commissioning editor.
The Last Hunt
The festival is also showcasing the new interactive photo essay The Last Hunt. Available online and as an app at the iTunes Store and Google Play. This doc is said to push the envelope of multi-platform development, making innovative use of the Adobe AIR/Flash platform. Using one codebase across the web, iOS and Android, and combining traditional Flash DisplayList and the Starling framework, it takes advantage of GPU acceleration to achieve smooth scrolling and incredible game-like 60 fps responsiveness. The device’s gyroscope also drives a parallax layer to create a subtle element of depth, enhancing the user’s experience as their tablet becomes a window into the world of The Last Hunt.
Created and produced by the NFB’s Digital Studio in Vancouver, the interactive photo essay delves into the motivations that led Montreal photographer Alexi Hobbs to photograph his grandfather’s last hunting expedition, exposing both the strength of family bonds and the spirituality implicit in the pragmatic act of hunting.
With story and photography by Hobbs, the creative team includes Jeremy Mendes as co-creator/art director, Vincent McCurley as creative technologist/developer, and Jennifer Moss as writer. Dana Dansereau is the producer, with Loc Dao as executive producer and creative technologist. Rob McLaughlin is also executive producer.
European premiere – Competition for First Appearance
When Ariel was just 33, his legs were shredded by an industrial dough mixer in Mendoza, Argentina. He became a living embodiment of the ongoing duel between man and machine. From that point on, he began to rediscover the meaning of freedom, seeking to rebuild his broken identity, keep his family together and design his own artificial legs.
In the feature documentary Ariel, director Laura Bari (Antoine, 2009) has created an intimate and metaphorical portrait of Ariel’s newfound transhumanity, juxtaposing his daily life with dreamlike inner worlds—and pushing the boundary between the real and the imaginary. The film invites us to step through the mirror that separates fall from redemption. Bari summons ancient myths and blurs the line between known and unknown, all the while exploring themes of identity and difference, of overcoming and resilience.
Ariel is co-produced by the NFB, Parabola Films and Beso Film and produced by Nathalie Cloutier for the NFB, Sarah Spring for Parabola Films and Laura Bari for Beso Film.