A while ago I wrote a post about a collection of interactive documentaries encouraging social change and stated that I believe “interactive documentary can be a powerful and effective tool to discuss complex issues and encourage social change.” Luckily I am again able to prove my point with the launch of Broken Hopes, an interactive documentary about life in Palestine 20 years after the Oslo Accords.
Incase you’re not aware of the Oslo Accords, here’s a bit of background courtesy of the Broken Hopes team: In 1993, the signing of the Oslo Accords brought hope and optimism across the world that the Palestinian people and their rights would at last be officially recognised. The famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin at the White House remains an iconic image imprinted on our collective memory as a sign of hope for lasting peace. 20 years on, that famous handshake has not turned hopes of peace into reality for the Palestinian and Israeli people.
The resulting interactive documentary, produced by photographer Cédric Gerbehaye and journalist Eve Sabbagh, was a collaboration between Agence VU’, Action Against Hunger and Darjeeling. The 20-minute multimedia experience takes the user on a journey across the West Bank, charting the trip on an interactive map, juxtaposed with testimonies from both Palestinian and Israeli families.
I spoke to the UK branch of Action Against Hunger to find out more about the documentary and the motives behind creating it…
Firstly, why did you choose to make the documentary interactive?
The Israeli/Palestine conflict is a complex and complicated one, and of course one which has lasted over half a century. It is also a conflict which has gotten much press attention over the years and therefore it can be difficult to engage people’s attention once again in the subject. We felt that an interactive web experience would grab people’s attention and transport them into the world we are hoping to bring across.
How do you think vast topics, such as Palestine and the Oslo Accords, can benefit from the interactive treatment rather than a traditional, linear documentary?
We think it allows the user to really immerse themselves in the issues and makes them far more accessible than a passive documentary or written piece even. Hopefully users find this exciting and while they can skip sections or watch parts as and when they can, they can also discover more information and interviews through the blog section.
How long did it take to make this project?
From inception to finalization it took 6 months. As a humanitarian NGO working in oPt we wanted to help raise awareness of the reality of life for the Palestinians we work with, and we wanted to do this in a way which would have the most reach. Once we decided that a web documentary would be the most effective tool in raising this awareness, we contacted some digital agencies and photographers for their input and ideas. The resulting discussions and brainstorming sessions with Darjeeling and L’Agence Vue helped to create the paper template for the web documentary. It then became a matter of working closely with the photographer and the production team to capture the content for the documentary.
I found the map very effective, what made you integrate it into the experience?
It is often hard to understand how very small the land mass we are talking about really is. By navigating the map users should be able to understand just how small the land mass is, what the Green Line means, where the Wall now is and just how many settlements and checkpoints there are in the West Bank.
With such widespread conflict, why did you choose to focus on the five specific areas?
Editorially it was very hard to narrow down our choices as really you could make 2 or 3 hour long documentaries on these issues. We chose areas where ACF have a presence and have been working with communities for a number of years. This is for a number of reasons, ACF more often works with the marginalized and most vulnerable communities and people and of course these are the people who suffer the most as a result of conflict and of lack of access to land, water and basic services. Also as we already know the communities and trust us, they are happier to open up and really tell us their stories.
What are your long term hopes for the documentary? How do you plan to disseminate it further?
We hope the documentary will be online for at least one year and that it will be viewed by as many people as possible! We are hoping that as many media outlets as possible will pick it up and embed it on their websites and that as a result it will promote discussion around the issues. Our main reason for producing this documentary is to once again encourage those involved in the political negotiations and policy developments that those ordinary people who suffer daily need to be at the heart of their decisions.