An eclectic harvest at this year's DocLab, the new media program of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, focusing on new forms of documentary storytelling. Yesterday's DocLab Presentation: Back to the Future featured a wide variety of projects, ranging from a graphic novel to live storytelling, while DocLab Live 4: The Web Rocks presented web documentaries loosely centered around music.
What these projects, and their makers, seemed to have in common is a 'medium-independent' approach to storytelling, comparable to the difference between story and plot. If story is the raw material from which a plot is crafted, in these cases the story is molded in a specific medium, be it film, an infographic, a book, etc. Of course, the medium being the message, the form chosen will define the experience of the story, in the same way that a single story can be told in many different plots. (Remember Queneau's 'Exercises in Style'?)
Thus, to the afternoon moderator's bewilderment, a documentary can take the form of a graphic novel and the New York Times produces non-textual journalistic pieces in many interactive and nonlinear formats, trying to find the best-fitting form for each subject. (One beautiful, though tragic example is 'Scenes From a Ruined Boulevard', which documents the devastation in one street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.)
Other highlights of the day included:
- 'Highrise / Out My Window', a web documentary made with 360° cameras brings to life the stories of people living in highrise buildings in 13 cities all around the world. Using people's apartments as the interface, the project creates intimate collages of people, objects and views out of the window.
- 'Kenk', subtitled 'A Graphic Portrait', documents the story of an iconic Slovenian-born Torontonian, who has been called "the world’s most prolific bicycle thief" and a "self-styled urban environmental crusader". Based on video footage and still photography, this graphic novel has an awesomely gritty black-and-white style, inspired by the aesthetic of oldschool photocopies. The team behind this project is now turning the book into an animation film, a process they dubbed "palindromic filmmaking".
- 'Les Communes de Paris', a web documentary offering an interactive tour through the recently envisioned Grand Paris, telling the stories of its people and neighborhoods, from the postcard center to the far-flung banlieues. While its interactivity is based on one of the most classic interfaces (the map), the film manages to draw you into its myriad stories and convey the unique energy mix of the hyperlocal and cosmopolitan Paris.