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DocLab Shorts 24 Nov at 19:45

A program of short stories that would never have existed without the internet.

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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.

Jury: DocLab Competition 2016

Brett Gaylor
Brett Gaylor is a Canadian documentary filmmaker and the director of Advocacy Media for the Mozilla Foundation. His most recent project, Do Not Track, is a co-production of Upian, the National Film Board of Canada, Arte France and Bayerischer Rundfunk, in association with Radio-Canada, Radio Télévision Suisse and Al Jazeera’s AJ+ network. It is the recipient of the International Documentary Association Award for Best Nonfiction Series, the Prix Gémeaux for Best Interactive Series, the International Association of Broadcasters Online Factual Prize, the Deutscher Prize for Online Communications, and the 2016 Peabody Award. His 2008 feature documentary Rip! A Remix Manifesto was the recipient of IDFA’s Audience Award. It was broadcast in 20 countries and seen by millions worldwide.

Anna Higgs
Anna Higgs is an award-winning British producer and creative executive who leads groundbreaking work at the intersection of film and digital storytelling. Higgs has recently taken up the position of Creative Director at NOWNESS, a global video channel bringing together the best in culture, with the best of emerging and established filmmaking voices. Prior to joining NOWNESS, she was Head of Digital at Film4, spearheading innovation for the Oscar-winning film fund with projects including Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s 20,000 Days on Earth, Ken Loach’s The Spirit of ’45 and Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank. Other credits include Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, Sundance-winner Dark Horse, directed by Louise Osmond, and Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy. Higgs was named as one of Time Out’s inaugural Culture 100, described as “the innovators, visionaries and pioneers behind what’s now and what’s next,” alongside Danny Boyle and Steve McQueen.

Jan Rothuizen
Dutch artist Jan Rothuizen realized at an early age that he would be a better artist wandering the streets of cities than working within the confines of a studio. Since then he has exhibited internationally and published a range of books. In 2009, Rothuizen published The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam, a collection of hand-drawn maps of the city he grew up in. He makes monthly reportage drawings for the Dutch daily de Volkskrant. In 2014, he developed the interactive web documentary Refugee Republic, currently exhibited at the MoMA in New York. Rothuizen won the 2015 IDFA Award for Best Interactive Storytelling with Drawing Room, a hand-drawn VR experience of his artist’s residency on top of Amsterdam’s Dam Square.

Crossmedia Projects at IDFA Forum 2016

The IDFA Crossmedia Forum is showcasing new media projects with an emphasis on interactivity.


At this year’s IDFA Forum 2016, interactive new-media projects will be publicly pitched to an audience of professionals from the interactive storytelling field and documentary film industry.

IDFA Crossmedia Forum 2016 selection:
Avi Does the Holy Land, Various Directors (2017)
Earn a Living, Alexandre Brachet, Margaux Missika (2017)
Gentrification Platform, Pieter van Huystee, Renzo Martens (2017)
Hectarium, Diego Briceño (2018)
If You Are Not There, Where Are You?, Maartje Nevejan (2018)
Konfiguration, Lucy Hawking (2017)
Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water, Georgy Molodstov, Michael Owen (2017)
Narrators of History, Hanna Partanen (2017)
POPPY: Uncovering the New Drug Wars, Robert Knoth (2017)
Replay Memories, Andrés Jarach, Gordon (2018)
RIOT, Karen Palmer (2017)

IDFA Crossmedia Forum takes place on November 21-22: public pitches will be held on Monday followed by one-on-one meetings on Tuesday.

IDFA DocLab Selection 2016!

Explore this year’s selection with works ranging from virtual reality and interactive narratives to data art, multimedia journalism and immersive installations.

Elastic Reality Wide

We are pleased to announce the full IDFA DocLab selection for  2016. Twenty projects will compete for the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling and the Scenic IDFA DocLab Immersive Non-Fiction Award. A futher selection of projects will be presented as part of the Elastic Reality program.

Full details on the DocLab Elastic Reality exhibition (17-27 November), our series of Live Cinema Events (17-22 November) and the fifth annual Interactive Documentary Conference (20 November) will follow soon.

IDFA DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling 2016

Death Tolls Experience by Ali Eslami (Iran, 2016)
Deprogrammed by Mia Donovan (Canada, 2016)
The Dig by Topaz Adizes/Mike Knowlton/Julia Gorbach/Carla Tramullas (USA, 2016)
Everyday Everywhere by Peter DiCampo (Denmark/Sweden/USA, 2016)
Follower by Lauren McCarthy (USA, 2016)
The Great Animal Orchestra by Thomas Deyriès (France, 2016)
Home : Aamir by Rufus Norris (England, 2016, 13′)
I Am Not Home Video by Bert Hana (The Netherlands, 2016, 15′)
Clickclickclick.click by Roel Wouters/Luna Maurer (The Netherlands, 2016)
Meat Puppet Arcade by Matt Romein (USA, 2016)
News Globus by Mikio Kiura/Sena Partal/Bjørn Karmann/Charles Gedeon (Denmark, 2016)
The Resistance of Honey by Peter Boyd Maclean (England, 2016, 9′)
Saydnaya by Forensic Architecture in collaboration with Amnesty International (England, 2016)
Smell Dating by Sam Lavigne/Tega Brain (USA, 2015)
So You Still Sort of Have the Same Number by Nele Eeckhout/Siona Houthuys/Mirke Kist (The Netherlands/Belgium, 2016, 50′)
These Memories Won’t Last by Stu Campbell (Australia, 2015)
Underworld: A virtual experience of the London sewers by Francesca Panetta (England, 2016, 5′)
Tzina: Symphony of Longing by Shirin Anlen (Israel, 2016)
Wifi Whisperer by Kyle McDonald (USA, 2016)
Zeki Muren Hotline by Beyza Boyacioglu/Jeff Soyk (USA/Turkey, 2016)

Special Focus 2016: Elastic Reality

The DocLab: Elastic Reality program is a co-production of IDFA DocLab and De Brakke Grond, made possible by the Creative Industries Fund NL and the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts.
100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time by Kira Pollack (USA, 2016)
Bear 71 VR by the National Film Board of Canada (Canada, 2016)
Dreams by Philippe Lambert (Canada, 2016)
Flint Is a Place by Zackary Canepari (USA, 2016)
The Island of the Colorblind by Sanne De Wilde (The Netherlands, 2015)
The Modular Body by Floris Kaayk (The Netherlands, 2016)
Notes on Blindness VR by Peter Middleton/James Spinney/Arnaud Colinart/Amaury La Burthe (England/France, 2016, 25′)
Radical Love by Heather Dewey-Hagborg (USA, 2016)

IDFA DocLab 2016: Save the Date!

Key dates for IDFA DocLab 2016


This year marks the 10th anniversary of IDFA’s new media program DocLab, which showcases the best interactive non-fiction storytelling and explores how the digital revolution is reshaping documentary art. We are pleased to announce that this year IDFA (16-27 November, Amsterdam) will offer a wide range of events and opportunities for people interested in the creative potential of digital technology, virtual reality and interactive media.

DocLab Schedule
Thursday 17 November: DocLab Opening Night
Saturday 19 Nov: Immersive Network Summit (Invite only)
Sunday 20 Nov: Interactive Conference
Monday 21 Nov: Expert Meeting: Interactive Documentary Preservation (Morning session – Invite only)
Monday 21 & Tuesday 22 Nov: Crossmedia Forum (Invite only)
DocLab Live Cinema Events from 17 to 22 November
DocLab Exhibition open from 17 to 27 November
DocLab Academy runs from 17 to 21 November (application is now closed)

How to attend DocLab events?
Accredited guests can buy tickets from 3 November 12:00 via MyIDFA
General public can buy tickets from 7 November 19:00 via MyIDFA
Some events are by invitation only

DocLab Live Cinema Event
Regular tickets: €10,50
Accredited Guests can book free tickets for Live Cinema Events on the day before or the same day, or buy a ticket for €5,50 from 3 November

Interactive Conference

Regular tickets: €37,50
Accredited Guests: €27,50

17 Nov to 26 Nov from 9:00-23:00
27 Nov from 9:00-18:00
Some installations have varying opening hours. On site reservation may be required.
Free entrance.

IDFA DocLab Progam
The full IDFA DocLab selection will be published on 10 October. More details about speakers, live events and panels will follow early November.