Read the full jury rapport for the firestarters IDFA Doclab Award for Digital Storytelling 2013.
The jury of the firestarters IDFA DocLab Award 2013 consisted of Jason Brush, John MacFarlane and Kira Pollack. Last Wednesday, they nominated Hollow by Elaine McMillion, I Love Your Work by Jonathan Harris and Just a Reflektor by Vincent Morisset and Aaron Koblin.
At the IDFA Award ceremony, they just awarded Jonathan Harris with the Award.
Watch Jonathan’s response, recorded at sunrise this morning — the day after Thanksgiving — at an owl sanctuary in Shelburne, Vermont.
Read the full jury statement below…
The consistent strength of the entries in DocLab’s 2013 Digital Storytelling competition made selecting the winners difficult — not an unfamiliar challenge for any jury, but our process was compounded by the sheer variety of the entries. From genre, to platform, to interaction, the program forced us to confront some of the core conundrums of today’s continually evolving modes of media creation: how to compare projects’ radically different use of media, narrative, technology, interaction, and craft in our evaluation? How to differentiate between journalism, portrayals of data, and so-called traditional documentary? What does the word “creative” in Grierson’s admittedly imperfect definition of documentary actually mean? We enjoyed — or, at times, had to endure — long, heady discussions about the very nature of documentary, and the role of technology and audience interaction in the evolution of documentary. Somehow, we felt that the programmers had impishly set us up for exactly this sort of debate, and delighted in knowing that we were tied up in knots seeking resolution.
Ultimately, we loved the selection because of how much it made us think. The stories we experienced were fascinating, stimulating, inspiring. Each of the 15 works in the program, in very different ways, advances the language of interaction and documentary. In the end, the three works which we selected to highlight out of this year’s remarkably strong field were those that we felt best convey a unique and compelling perspective on the reality of their subjects, and that craft interactions which amplify the audience’s experience and understanding of that perspective.
This wistful but hopeful account of the decline of a rural American county takes one of today’s emergent genres of interaction, the scrolling narrative, and transcends its now-familiar use through cinematic modes of narrative storytelling. This project succeeds by combining video portraits of the county’s remaining inhabitants with user-generated content, which together create a multi-varied perspective on this forgotten part of America.
The first nominee is Hollow by Elaine McMillan
An experimental examination of the daily routine of ten young women in New York who make lesbian porn, this project finds joy and insight in the banal. Its flawless interaction, rigorous approach, and brave (if unorthodox) distribution model both emerge and enhance from the subject itself.
The second nominee is I Love your Work by Jonathan Harris
This innovative musical experience, which evokes a long history of experimental documentary and dance, implicates the audience as a performer, and ultimately the subject of the piece. This might appear, at first, to be a music video for a rock band, but is in fact a sophisticated exploration and reflection of our relationship with technology — from clothing to cell phones — and how we use it to perform.
The third nominee is Just a Reflektor by Vincent Morisset
Winner: Jonathan Harris I | Love your Work
Within a superb and diverse field of entries, which ranged from moving data visualizations to emotional personal storytelling and explorations of social issues, the winning project truly moves the language of interactive documentary forward.
I LOVE YOUR WORK’s powerfully simple interaction connects the audience to its subject and maker in a profound way that rewards repeat viewing through a seemingly inexhaustible depth of content. Using an approach that is both curious and caring, the work takes an apparently salacious subject and illuminates the mundane humanity within, exposing the truth and reality behind pornography’s public face. The approach to capturing the subjects’ stories, and the world(s) they live in, sets the stage for the audience’s experience. The cinematography, which is immediate and intimate, loose but focused, conveys a knowing warmth that creates a true sense of presence.
The piece feels like one is sneaking glances at private lives, not just through the framing of shots but also in the way one accesses the content: only ten audience members, who have paid a $10 entry fee, can view it during any 24-hour period, an approach that enhances one’s awareness of being spectator. (This approach, notably, invokes the awkward experience of attending a peep show.) The immediately intuitive interface is also quite beautiful; abstract, almost painterly — a rare feat for an interface.
I LOVE YOUR WORK does exactly what a documentary is meant to do, but with interaction and an online platform. It is honest, almost to a fault. In the end, its contradictions — how it suggests a voyeuristic experience, which it proceeds to confounds by its self-imposed rules, fueling the audience member’s desire to dig deeper and deeper in — create a unique perspective on a hidden reality right in front of us.