DocLab Shorts 24 Nov at 19:45
A program of short stories that would never have existed without the internet.
A week in review: IDFA DocLab Opening Night + First Live Cinema Event
Unexpected documentary storytelling from day one.
Although IDFA DocLab has come to a close following a week of screenings and events split between Amsterdam’s art-deco Tuschinski cinema and theaters at de Brakke Grond, our dedication to curating innovation in digital documentary continues here. Watch this space for updates and reviews from the festival. And don’t forget to explore our new website — it’s the most extensive digital archive of projects, people, and companies pushing the boundaries of documentary.
Last Thursday evening, the newest edition of DocLab’s dynamic program showcasing cutting-edge works in documentary storytelling launched to a full house at the De Brakke Grond. It was just the beginning of a week full of live cinema events, performances, and industry panels dedicated to exploring new documentary narrative forms. Caspar Sonnen, curator of DocLab, the new media program at IDFA, kicked off the evening and welcomed the buzzing crowd to the opening reception of the Expanding Documentary exhibition.
Every corner of the exhibition space was packed with visitors navigating the diverse set of projects that traverse alternative ways of presenting documentary content. While the projects showcased this year varied in theme and experience, we applaud all the projects because they think outside the box and are creating challenging user experiences that explore never before seen stories. Whether the stories are told through video, immersive technology, photography, games, performances or collaborations, today’s project makers are working with new medias and going beyond traditional formats, time frames and narrative styles.
All the projects selected for DocLab’s digital documentary storytelling competition were on display on various screens for visitors to peruse at leisure while five of the works were built in the form of interactive installations. From birdifying your voice with Thijs’ What Is It Like to Be a Bird?’ to revealing the stories hiding behind objects in Barcode.tv, the selected projects further documentary narrative forms and increasingly involve interactivity in the form of user control and navigation.
An unrivaled hit of the night — and of the entire week — was C.A.P.E., a virtual reality performance and experience brought over by C.R.E.W. that literally lets you touch the documentary. How good was it? Sold out every single day. Equipped with video goggles, a headset, and a laptop you wear with a backpack, you are transported to the center of Brussels and go on a virtual walk and experience that is a part of a 360 degree environment. Led by a guide to make sure you don’t stumble over people at the gallery space or fall down because you can’t see where you’re going in actual physical space, you can look around, walk around (very often on rooftops), and just get lost in the city of Brussels.
DRAWING THE INTERACTIVE DOCUMENTARY: FROM PIXELS TO PAPER
The live cinema events go beyond traditional screening formats by taking the most innovative documentary gems to the big screen. These unique events provide the opportunity for a director’s cut of a project, enabling audiences to be taken on a personal guided journey. The first live cinema event opened with Caspar introducing the unique work of Dutch documentary artist, Jan Rothuizen, and the launch of his latest book: The Soft Atlas of the Netherlands.
It may seem a rather strange fit for interactive storytelling, but DocLab is all about experimenting with new formats of documentary storytelling — be they digital, an installation, or on paper in this case. Pen and paper, as the audience is alluded to, also has a lot of similar themes that exist in interactive work in the sense that a piece of paper has no boundaries.Inspired by documentaries, forms of journalism and different levels of interactivity, Rothuizen’s drawings have many levels of information going on at the same time. He takes everyday locations and visualizes them on paper, revealing personal stories, surprises, and a level of detail that a photographic image cannot capture. And because there’s no hierarchy of information in the drawings, there’s absolute freedom to the way it’s perceived and read.
Rothuizen explains that his drawings attempt to re-imagine the interactive documentary without thinking of ‘a book’ in terms of interactive media, because well, it comes down to a question of what is interactive — on a brain and physical level. Whether a fallen soldier’s room, a design studio space, or the room of a teenage girl who passed away, the lives and stories that are revealed in Rothuizen’s mappings are often melancholic and alway a very personal way of storytelling.
Jan Rothuizen’s The Soft Atlas of the Netherlands in the installation space.
RE-IMAGINING LIVE DOCUMENTARY STORYTELLING
The evening’s program also brought the audience face-to-face with the concept of live documentary storytelling taking center stage. Moving from paper and pen to paper and typewriter, writer Dirk van Weelden captivated the audience immediately when he chose an audience member to write a story about on stage. What happened next was live documentary storytelling at its finest. Weelden began by asking the participant a series of seemingly unrelated questions to which he readily obliged. Questions ran the gamut of: Do you collect anything? What personality traits did you inherit from your mother? Have you ever been in a house that was burning? Do you have a favorite island in the world? Would you like to be able to pilot a plane? Do you like horses?
Following this brief q&a, the audience began to watch a writer write in silence on a typerwriter. The only noise emanating from the room was the loud sound of each typed key. About five minutes of writing later, a story surfaced.
Descending in a small airplane
we spot an island.
Warm and sunny
in a sea of worry and pain
On the island is a little boy.
He knows god doesn’t need cash.
so he roams around, looking for ways
to work and pray.
On the shore line he meets a dog
bringing him a big box of matches.
Oh, this little researcher goes crazy
he almost sets his safe and peaceful island alight.
But his mother
a booming voice coming from the sky
shouts so hard, he runs to the shore in time to stop the fire
Franklin retreats to his cabin
rearranging his collection of bedlamps
Sleep will bring him back
to the world of work
All in all, a brilliant start to DocLab 2011! A night that revealed to all in attendance the possibilities of the documentary medium. Stay tuned for more reviews exclusively on doclab.org.