DocLab Shorts 24 Nov at 19:45
A program of short stories that would never have existed without the internet.
Review: DocLab Live 2 / Three Stories of Time & Place
The second live screening for this year’s interactive IDFA program featured three very different web projects, which nonetheless hail from what seems to be emerging as the Godmother of Non-Linear / Non-Fiction: the fair nation of Canada.
The new media crowd gathered once again in DocLab’s seductive night-time lair, Tuschinski 4, as the night opened with director Kat Cizek presenting her personal guide through the windows and doors of high-rise buildings in the low-income neighbourhoods of the world for HIGHRISE/Out My Window (also currently showing as an interactive installation at De Brakke Grond theatre in Amsterdam).
Out My Window, as it turns out, is just the first chunk in the much wider, cross-genre, social progress project HIGHRISE. A pure hybrid web production, it was created with over 100 collaborators – artists, activists, filmmakers, architects, technicians – using Skype, Facebook and email to manage and connect the global team, under the capable virtual direction of Ms Cizek.
Despite the vast and varied input, a strong and consistent visual aesthetic runs throughout the project – a fact, says Kat, which can be attributed to the meticulous, 25-page style guide given to each participant.
The 360-degree web documentary’s navigation is centered around a black-and-white animation, an archetypal dilapidated tower block, which prompts colour and movement in the windows and doors as the mouse rolls over. Reminiscent of the aesthetic and interface of the seminal HBO Voyeur, the intro page immediately tells us what we can expect: the discovery of life, warmth, music, food, family, love, and death behind those concrete walls.
First stop was Prague, where monolithic structures of Socialist architecture create a profoundly bleak, morbid beauty across the South City neighbourhood – home to the country’s largest housing estate. The story is told through the eyes of two photographers who use their craft as a way to protest against their bleak surroundings, and find meaning in their grey, concrete-clad lives.
In Sao Paulo we meet the woman who runs a squatter movement, helping other vulnerable women and families occupy abandoned buildings in the city to cheat the threat of homelessness in this giant metropolis of 25 million. With her voice as our guide, we are shown how community and human warmth can evolve in even the starkest circumstances.
Beirut, the hub of multiple violent conflicts in recent history; we meet Mazen, an illustrator and musician as he reminisces on how he created experimental, war-like sounds with his trumpet during the Israeli bombings of 2006, as an act of noisy (but implicit) resistance, which he says, “saved me from insanity, instead of sitting and freaking out in my living room.”
And over to Taiwan, where a grandmother tends to her ancestors in a high-rise cemetery, while her photographer grandson documents the story for Out My Window.
The 360 technology in Out My Window allows viewers to peak into neighbours’ windows, move around the apartment or neighbourhood and access details in the frame to explore each location, each little life inside those vast towers.
Channelling the principles which gave way to National Film Board Canada’s 1967 Challenge for Change program, fostering cross-discipline collaborations and targeted dissemation of content to influence policy, HIGHRISE has multiple offshoots planned for the coming years, including a peek at Hip Hop culture in urban high-rise neighbourhoods, as well as digital literacy for empowerment in marginal urban communities. Sign me up for the Tweets, this one we need to follow!
Next up, we were shown a short and snappy silver-screening of the data-visualization project Test Tube, in which revered Japanese-Canadian academic, science broadcaster and activist David Suzuki explains the principle of exponential growth using his curiously bendy fingers. He makes it sound so easy! Test Tube is a fun little participatory website which invites visitors to name the one thing they would do if they had just 1 minute to spare. The results appear as a live feed, and are composited as a data-viz where you can see how many people would SLEEP (most popular) versus those who would rather CLEAN (least popular) – and everything in between.
Naturally, being an NFB project, Test Tube looks slick and tasty, mixing edgy animation with live action and high-end graphic design.
To close the program, a world exclusive of the delightful web documentary Welcome to Pine Point – never-before-seen and not yet online! Three strapping Canadian men manned the Macs on stage to show us around the remnants of the former mining town of Pine Point via a host of kitschy memorabilia.
Blending text and voice-over, grainy archive video and stills, oral testimonies, and hand-drawn animation, Welcome to Pine Point evokes a retro scrapbook aesthetic, creating tongue-in-cheek ode to a vanished community. But more than that, it’s an ode to nostalgia and “the creation of hometown memories”, questioning how mementoes, photos and physical objects shape our perception of what has been.
Written by TheMinilot.