5 interactive documentaries encouraging social change

I firmly believe that the interactive documentary can be a powerful and effective tool to discuss complex issues and encourage social change. I have looked at five recent and upcoming releases which cover a wide range of topics, but utilise the platform for a similar goal.

The Invisible Picture Show

This documentary uses phone interviews from children who are detained in immigration centres, bridging the visual gap with effective animations. The International Detention Coalition (IDC) estimates that there are thousands of children placed in detention every day and hundreds of thousands every year, in countries including Australia, Greece, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa and the United States. This documentary brings to light the experiences of these children, who are often hidden from the public eye and invites the user to take action during the documentary. I particularly like the way the documentary could be shown to and understood by children, even inviting those under 18 to submit video messages of support.




The Ghosts in our Machine

Liz Marshall’s powerful documentary shows the animals that are “hidden in the shadows of our highly mechanized world.” As part of the documentaries release, an “online companion” was also released by ‘Pine Point’ creators, The Goggles. The online, interactive experience introduces different elements of animal cruelty including the fur trade, the dairy trade, zoos and aquaria and animal testing. “Our goal was to create something that was reflective and respectful of the film’s profundity, but had its own breadth and depth, an experience that paralleled the story being told, and the passion and challenges of its main human subject, photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. The question of how to best lead an audience through the online experience was answered after we read some of Jo’s journal writing. It was insightful, passionate, human and the voice of a fascinating guide. To her voice, we layered select pieces of the film, and also content that the audience could meaningfully explore at their own pace with details, photographs, writing, captions and footnotes. We hope you enjoy the results of our collaboration.” – The Goggles, Interactive Directors

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 12.44.34



Question Bridge

Question Bridge began in 1996 with artist Chris Johnson was looking for a way to use media art to generate a meaningful conversation around class and generational divisions within San Diego’s African American community. Almost two decades down the line and with recognition from both Sundance and Sheffield Doc Fest (among others)  the project is now looking for funding for an interactive platform to continue their work. We will be covering this project in more depth in an upcoming article later this week, but for now watch their funding video and take a look at the Kickstarter for more information!



Geld.gr – Money and the Greeks

Built in Korsakow by Florian Thalhofer, Money and the Greeks is a very unique interactive documentary, with the content subject to change at any time following public screenings. As the site explains: They [Florian and his wife, Elissavet Aggo] came back from their trip with lots of material: more than 30 hours of interviews. With the help of the Goethe-Institut Athen all the material was translated and with the help of the greek editor Lefteris Fylaktos the material was pre-edited into 203 clips with a duration of 4 1/2 hours in total. This material was then previewed in public viewings in Berlin and Athens, where the audience became part of the editing process. People were invited to rate and comment the material. Based on these ratings the material was selected, which should be worked on further. The rating also took place on the internet where people could register and rate and comment online. The raw-material is still available and the rating-process is still ongoing. All the data from the ratings was (and still is) collected and determines what makes it into the film.

Screen Shot from Money and the Greeks interactive experience.

Screen Shot from Money and the Greeks interactive experience.

With such a complex issue, this process of rating puts the power back into the hands of the public and continuing to raise debates as opinions on the footage differ.




Last but not least, Submarine Channel’s latest offering Unspeak, based on the book by journalist Steven Poole, will be released in under two weeks. A must see for documentary lovers, language enthusiasts, activists, journalists and just about everyone else, the film discusses the hidden messages and obscured meanings behind familier media terms: “Every word is a rhetorical choice and comes cocooned in a web of associations and ideas, but the choice of these associations can be more or less deceptive; unspeak is language which deliberately loads the dice.” There will be a special preview of the film in Amsterdam at 7:30 pm on June 20, 2013  at the  EYE film museum – find out more here.