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FAQ: IDFA DocLab 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about IDFA DocLab, including how to submit your project, the Crossmedia Forum, Immersive Network, and DocLab Academy

What is IDFA DocLab?

IDFA DocLab is IDFA’s new media program, showcasing interactive documentaries, virtual reality and other new digital art forms that successfully push the boundaries of documentary storytelling in the age of the interface. The program includes the IDFA DocLab Competition, live cinema events, an exhibition, workshops and industry panels that take place during the festival, as well as a selection of projects curated and presented online.

When does IDFA DocLab take place?

All IDFA DocLab events take place in November during IDFA in Amsterdam. In 2017 the festival dates are 15-26 November, with most IDFA DocLab events taking place between November 16-22.

How do I attend IDFA DocLab?

The IDFA DocLab program offers events accessible for the general audience as well as industry events that can be invite only. The 10-day exhibition is freely accessible throughout the whole festival for both a general audience as well as industry guests. The Interactive Conference as well as the Live Cinema Events are open to the public, tickets are sold via IDFA’s ticketing system.

What types of projects can I submit to IDFA DocLab?

IDFA DocLab is open to all sorts of works that use new media to represent reality, ranging from digital non-fiction storytelling and art to physical installations, virtual reality experiences, live performances and multimedia projects.

How can I submit my project?

Go to MyIDFA, submit the online IDFA entry form and pay the entry fee. Please provide us with the appropriate viewing materials. We can view interactive/immersive projects on most platforms/devices, including MAC, PC, iOS, Android, Steam, Sony Play Station, X-box, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear, HTC Vive or Google Daydream / cardboard. In case of a performance, installation, or for a platform not specified above, you can upload visual/written documentation.

Can I submit a work-in-progress? 

Although we strongly prefer to be sent final versions, we do accept works-in-progress. We do not select unfinished projects, but do recognize that at the time of submission your project might be a rough draft. Please note however that we will not consider multiple iterations of the same work-in-progress.

I made a mistake on my entry form. Can I get back in to change it?

Once you have submitted an entry form, you can no longer change it yourself. Please send an e-mail to doclab@idfa.nl, and we will make your changes in the database. These changes will not appear in your online entry form.

I submitted a project. What happens next?

Submitted projects will be considered (1) for the IDFA DocLab Competition, (2) as an installation for our festival exhibition, (3) as a performance at our live cinema events and/or (4) for the IDFA DocLab Online Database. Projects selected as part of the competition program are eligible for the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling as well as the IDFA DocLab Immersive Non-Fiction Award.

How and when will I find out if my work is selected?

When a project is selected, the festival will notify the applicant, director, creator and/or producer no later than on October 12, 2017. Once your work has been selected, you may use the IDFA logo and the relevant IDFA laurel for publicity purposes. The files will be sent to you in digital form.

If selected, how will my work be presented at the festival?

If selected, your work will be showcased as part of the annual IDFA DocLab Exhibition or one of the Live Cinema Events.

If selected, will I be invited to attend the festival?

We want to encourage everyone to attend the festival and artists involved in a project selected for the DocLab program are eligible for a free guest badge. In some cases, we will also offer help with accommodation and travel expenses, however this support is limited and priority will be given to persons involved in specific festival events. Anyone who wishes to attend the festival must fill out the online accreditation form through MyIDFA.

I am still looking for funding and/or partners, can you help?

Within the IDFA Forum, the festival’s co-financing and co-production market, the Crossmedia Forum offers a space to creators working on interactive new media projects to publicly pitch to an audience of professionals from the interactive storytelling field and documentary film industry. One-on-one meetings with a broad range of key professionals enable them to create new partnerships, receive in-depth feedback on their work and find new ways to move their projects forward. Read more about the Crossmedia Forum.

What is the Immersive Network?

With the Immersive Network program, IDFA DocLab brings interactive and immersive communities together to create, research, showcase and network. Throughout the IDFA festival and future events, different activities are being presented. Read more about the Immersive Network.

What is DocLab Academy and how can I participate?

DocLab Academy is an international program for new talent in the field of documentary storytelling and interactive media which takes place during IDFA, addressing a variety of challenges and opportunities through exclusive workshops on interactive storytelling and virtual reality by international new media pioneers. Full details about participation will be available in May. Read more about the DocLab Academy.

60 Seconds – Call for Mobile and Interactive Projects

Interactive Creators: Explore the Short Form! The Very, Very Short Form.

Life is short, today more so than ever. We want it all. We want it now. And we want it fast. But just because something is bite-sized doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in depth or feeling. In 2014, the National Film Board of Canada and ARTE launched Interactive Haikus to give digital artists the chance to create short-format experiences that pack a punch.

And now, the NFB and ARTE in collaboration with IDFA DocLab are calling on interactive creators to get in on the fun while it lasts.

For this edition, the theme is very much a reflection of our times: the mobile world. We’re all on the move. And the mobile world is right there with us, helping us make and break connections, rethink social norms and reinvent the world. Ideas have never been so much on the move as they are right now. Mobility can be about migration, losing our cell phone or the loss of physical mobility … occurring anywhere from everyday life to geopolitics.

And no platform better embodies the notion of mobility and the momentum of the digital world than the one we hold in our hands every day: the smartphone. We’re asking artist-creators to develop mobile and interactive experiences that are funny, moving, engaging or thought-provoking. You can be a designer, a writer, a creative coder, a digital artist, a musician or a game designer. You can be independent or part of a studio or collective.

An international jury made up of artists, producers and journalists will select the ten best entries that meet our criteria, embrace the theme of mobility, and respect the 10 rules of engagement. The ten winners will receive up to 10,000€ to produce their project and premiere it at IDFA DocLab in November 2017.

Time is ticking. Send us your projects.

The Rules:

  • Is a 60-seconds experience.
  • Is about mobility and demonstrates it through the use of smartphone features.
  • Works in a mobile browser, no native apps.
  • Brings personal and social media data into the story.
  • Interacts with users intuitively. We don’t need a navigation menu.
  • Is not a film.
  • Uses sound.
  • Is accessible to an international audience.
  • Own or have had all rights released on all creative and technical assets.
  • Break one of the creative rules (4 to 8) and explain why.

You can see the full technical brief and information on how to submit your proposal here. Submissions close 10 April 2017 @ Noon. Proposals must be presented in French or English.

All submissions, questions, or requests for clarification can be addressed by email to veryveryshort@idfa.nl. Questions may be written in French or English.

All submissions will be notified of the results by May 15.

logo_onf         arte_logo_rgb Impression


Highlights from IDFA DocLab 2016

2016 marked the tenth anniversary of IDFA DocLab. Let’s take a quick look at some of our highlights from this special edition.

The 10th edition of IDFA DocLab was a very special occasion for us so we were very pleased to share it with so many old and new friends from the interactive community. It was the biggest festival edition to date, including an 11-day exhibition showcasing 30 of the world’s best interactive documentaries, virtual reality experiences and physical installations, a series of Live Cinema Events, the annual Interactive Conference, the DocLab Academy training program, the Immersive Network Day and the Crossmedia Forum.  Of course there was also time for celebration as we hit our 10th birthday!

Amsterdam, 17-11-2015, IDFA International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam. Doclab Exhibition Elastic Reality. Photo Nichon Glerum
Check out the photos from the exhibition floor on our Facebook!

To celebrate a decade of interactivity at IDFA DocLab, invited an international selection of new media curators, decision makers, award-winning artists and producers who chose their favorite interactive documentary projects – the ones they believe should never be forgotten. From their selection the Interactive Canon was launched. If you would like to receive a copy of the Interactive Canon publication, please contact michael@idfa.nl.


Every year, the DocLab Interactive Conference gathers creators from all areas of the new media industry to discuss the next steps in this evolving field. This year was no different, with talks about narrative-driven virtual reality experiences, digital arts in Africa, the science of smells, what magicians can teach us about VR-storytelling, and so much more. If you couldn’t make it to the conference, a recording of each talk will be posted in the coming weeks. Until then you can follow the day through our Storify.

“Despite the relentless churn of the new, with all the excitement and fear it provokes, the heart of the matter remains the stories we tell about the world, and the memories and values that we use to bind ourselves together as a culture”

Professor William Urrichio of MIT reflects on ten years of IDFA DocLab.

The premiere of the The Shared Individual by Makropol and Bombina Bombast was a creative experiment in live, multi-user VR theatre. Check out the highlights of this unique experience below:

As part of DocLab’s ongoing mission to encourage the preservation of digital non-fiction stories, this year’s expert meeting gathered leading creators and experts to discuss three case studies. One of these was Bear 71 VR, the reimagining of the original interactive classic by the NFB. The project, originally built with Adobe Flash, was given new life through HTML 5 and WebVR, and premiered at IDFA DocLab 2016.

The 10-day DocLab: Elastic Reality exhibition at de Brakke Grond showcased 30 of the world’s best interactive documentaries, virtual reality experiences and physical installations. Find out more about each of the selected projects below:
100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time by Kira Pollack & Paul Moakley, USA
Bear 71 VR by the National Film Board of Canada, Canada
Chameleon by Robin McNicholas, Barney Steel & Ersin Han Ersin, Mexico/England
Clickclickclick.click by Roel Wouters & Luna Maurer, The Netherlands
DeathTolls Experience by Ali Eslami, Iran
Deprogrammed by Mia Donovan, Canada
The Dig by Topaz Adizes, Mike Knowlton, Julia Gorbach, Carla Tramullas & Mark Harris, USA
Dreams by Philippe Lambert, Canada
Everyday Everywhere by Bjarke Myrthu, Austin Merrill & Peter DiCampo, Denmark/Sweden/USA
Flint Is a Place by Zackary Canepari, USA
Follower by Lauren McCarthy, USA
The Great Animal Orchestra by Thomas Deyriès, France
Home : Aamir by Rufus Norris, England
I Am Not Home Video by Bert Hana, The Netherlands
The Island of the Colorblind by Sanne De Wilde, Belgium
Meat Puppet Arcade by Matt Romein & Joseph Mango, USA
The Modular Body by Floris Kaayk, The Netherlands
News Globus by Charles Gedeon, Sena Partal, Mikio Kiura & Bjørn Karmann, Denmark
Notes on Blindness VR by Arnaud Colinart, Amaury La Burthe, Peter Middleton & James Spinney, France/England
Radical Love by Heather Dewey-Hagborg, USA
The Resistance of Honey by Peter Boyd Maclean, England
Saydnaya by Forensic Architecture & Amnesty International, England
Smell Dating by Tega Brain & Sam Lavigne, USA
So You Still Sort of Have the Same Number by Nele Eeckhout, Siona Houthuys & Mirke Kist, The Netherlands/Belgium
These Memories Won’t Last by Stu Campbell, Australia
Tzina: Symphony of Longing by Shirin Anlen, Israel
White Spots – A Journey to the Edge of the Internet by Bregtje van der Haak & Richard Vijgen, The Netherlands
Wifi Whisperer by Kyle McDonald, USA
Zeki Müren Hotline by Beyza Boyacioglu & Jeff Soyk, USA/Turkey

This year’s recipient of the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling was Deprogrammed by Mia Donovan, a meditative virtual walk through the minds of a former member of the Unification Church, a skinhead and a jihadist.


The winner of the Scenic IDFA DocLab Immersive Non-Fiction Award was DeathTolls Experience by Ali Eslami, a virtual journey placing the data of the tragic news events in an emotional perspective.


You can find the full jury report for 2016 here.

Thank you everyone for a wonderful edition of IDFA DocLab, and We look forward to seeing you in 2017!

Jury Report: IDFA DocLab Competition 2016

Winners of the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling and Scenic IDFA DocLab Immersive Non-Fiction Award announced at IDFA’s 29th award ceremony.

Members of the jury: Brett Gaylor (Canada), Anna Higgs (United Kingdom) and Jan Rothuizen (The Netherlands).
Overall we were hugely impressed with the range of projects in competition – from interactive web documentaries, physical installations, audio tours and interventions both physical and digital to still emerging VR forms. Unifying this range, it’s clear that the programmers are championing emerging creators, thereby showcasing the exciting new talents that are taking bold risks and exploring new forms in a rapidly changing landscape. The projects also reminded us that sometimes the simplest, even traditional, approaches can be the most effective. Disruption is not obligatory. We want to congratulate all the creators in competition on making highly engaging, thought-provoking works that tackles a huge range of issues with their own unique perspectives, great style, narrative and technical ambition. We look forward to seeing more work from you all. It goes without saying that this was a really tough year to judge, but we feel the two projects we have highlighted weaved together sound, vision and narrative to bring us emotionally affecting storytelling that – fittingly for DocLab – would only be possible using their chosen forms.

Scenic IDFA DocLab Immersive Non-Fiction Award
For the immersive prize, we were moved by a work which employed varied techniques to progress the narrative and challenge the relativism inherent in personal viewpoints. We felt ill, uncomfortable, and saw talent. In our current global climate, sometimes its important we don’t look away. We encourage the maker to continue to take chances, and contribute to this new medium’s evolving language.
The winner of the IDFA DocLab Immersive Non-Fiction Award is DeathTolls Experience by Ali Eslami.

IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling
The work we selected for the digital storytelling award lured us into a world where escaping seems impossible. As you move forward through a simplified landscape you listen to people whose experiences are reflected in the world around you. In this documentary the virtual gives a human perspective on how people fall victim to to indoctrination as adolescents, and how they find their way back.
The winner of the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling is Deprogrammed by Mia Donovan.

Ten Years!

MIT professor William Uricchio reflects on ten years of IDFA DocLab.


Although (for some of us!) it may feel like yesterday, ten years is an eternity in the age of Moore’s Law, when processing capacity doubles nearly every two years. 2006 was the year that Google acquired YouTube and Facebook first opened its services to the public. In the intervening decade, the Internet went from wide open spaces to ever more colonized, scrutinized, and monetized clusters of economic development.

IDFA’s DocLab was founded before Apple released its iPhone. And now, ten years later, mobile phone ownership has surpassed the 100% mark in most nations, developing economies included. Public participation has also changed dramatically. In 2006, YouTube’s users broke records by uploading 5,400 minutes of video per hour. Today the upload rate is closer to 1,440,000 minutes per hour. Meanwhile, Facebook claims 1.71 billion monthly active users – people who post, comment, and share. And Facebook is but one of the many platforms fighting for our attention, our personal data, and access to our credit cards.

We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion is an in-depth exploration of human feelings.

We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion is an in-depth exploration of human feelings.

As people deploy technologies in ever-changing ways, incorporating them into their lives, and using them to transform digital space into social space, the implications for the documentary arts are clear. Beyond the tools of the trade, beyond even new modes of distribution, the possibilities for the documentary emerge from the people who have grown up with new expectations regarding personalization, navigation, and participation. Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar articulated those new possibilities on the eve of DocLab’s birth with We Feel Fine, documenting the virtual social ethos not through sounds and images, but through data traces of social media; not through authorial curation, but by enabling the user to find her own way; not by ‘telling’ but by enabling.

We have entered a new era, and exact parallels are still lacking. One of the closest documentary precedents we have appeared with Cinema Vérité and Direct Cinema – new tools and style, newly defined relations between maker and subject, and above all, a new platform (television) that transformed the distribution of documentary. But television was still a highly centralized, ‘one-to-many’, platform, and distribution still formed a major bottleneck, still enforced the maker-audience divide. And it remained stable for decades.

{THE AND} performed at DocLab Live: Love and Other Digital Sins

{THE AND} by The Skin Deep performed at DocLab Live: Love & Other Digital Sins

Compare that to the past ten years during which high definition video became widely accessible (even a standard feature on most mobile phones), interactivity emerged as a norm, and the internet enabled ‘many-to-many’ distribution logics. IDFA DocLab was one of the first to consistently track, curate, and cultivate the implications of these developments, creating a truly international platform for what has become known as “the art of interactiveand immersive storytelling”. The history of DocLab’s programming is about as close as one can get to tracing the history of these new developments. But while it is tempting (and useful!) to look back at that work in an archival way, the real value lies elsewhere.

Moore’s Law means continuing change of dramatic proportions. And DocLab has a track record of anticipating change, of remaining flexible and creative in its definitions and selection criteria. The work of the last ten years suggests that we should watch DocLab and its sisters carefully if we want to understand what’s next. Consider the ‘internet of things’. There is every reason to expect that things large and smallwill document their own trajectories through the world, and that these traces will be as relevant to documentary makers as the sounds and images of the past. Consider AR and VR, with their new twists on immersion, interaction and even location. In our increasingly connected and ‘datafied’ world, things like biometrics, robots, artificial intelligence, and geo-location technologies will help to bridge the gap between the analog and digital, while at the same time providing new terrain for documentary makers – and a new vocabulary for the production process. These developments have been ongoing, and have already been broached by IDFA DocLab in its search for new documentary forms.

After graphic artist Jan Rothuizen participated in the DocLab Academy in 2013, he co-created Refugee Republic and later, together with Sara Kolster, won the IDFA DocLab Award with Drawing Room.

Drawing Room by Jan Rothuizen and Sara Kolster

But despite the relentless churn of the new, with all the excitement and fear it provokes, the heart of the matter remains the stories we tell about the world, and the memories and values that we use to bind ourselves together as a culture. Documentary remains that harsh mirror in which we see ourselves and our relations to the world in ways that are simply impossible with the unaided eye. Regardless of its form or the elements from which a documentary is composed, it remains shackled to this most human of tasks. Each generation seems convinced that it inhabits the most complex of times. And perhaps we’re the same, or perhaps we’ve really managed to get ourselves into a uniquely complicated situation this time. We live increasing portions of our lives in digital spaces, are finding new ways to connect the previously disconnected, and continue to invent and transform our condition in surprising ways. And the pace of change is relentless. But the same curiosity that drives these developments also offers us new ways to reflect, to represent, and to embrace our undefined future.
Here’s to the next ten years of curiosity and commitment to undefined notions of reality and art.

William Charles Uricchio

William Uricchio.

Professor William Charles Uricchio is an American media scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Utrecht University. He specializes in beginnings, when old media were new and new media emerge and stabilize. In 2011, Uricchio and director Sarah Wolozin started the MIT Open Doc Lab, a leading institution for academic research and support of interactive documentary art and storytelling.