Op-Docs & the NFB’s “A Short History of the Highrise” to debut at New York Film Festival

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The New York Times’s Op-Docs and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) will debut their new new immersive documentary series as part of the Film Society at Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival Convergence program –  a showcase for storytelling that transcends a single narrative medium – on Monday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. ET. Following this, the series will premiere on NYTimes.com in October.

“We are greatly honored to premiere at the New York Film Festival’s showcase for cinematic innovation,” said Jason Spingarn-Koff, New York Times commissioning editor for Opinion video.  “In Op-Docs, we celebrate unique voices and creative storytelling approaches, and now we’re bringing opinion journalism to the interactive documentary form.”

The series, “A Short History of the Highrise”, tours the 2,500-year global history of vertical living and issues of social equality in an increasingly urbanised world and follows on from Writer and Director, Katrina Cizek’s previous project ‘Highrise’.  Each film is intended to evoke a chapter in a storybook, with rhyming narration, photographs brought to life with intricate animation, game play and responsive videos that create immersive, exploratory experiences. The series, which unfolds in four short, interactive films, is optimized for tablet devices, which allows viewers tp navigate the story extras and special features within the films using touch commands like swipe, pinch, pull and tap.

“Cinema and interactivity are influencing each other more and more,” said NFB senior producer Gerry Flahive.  “In our HIGHRISE project, we’ve always been platform-agnostic, embracing the potential of both.  This collaboration with Op-Docs has given the NFB and The New York Times a chance to further advance online documentary storytelling.”

A short trailer of the experience is available to watch on the NYTimes site and gives you an insight into the experience. Layered content, not too dissimilar from the style of Hollow, powerful photographs and animation all play a part, with the first three films (“Mud,” “Concrete” and “Glass”) drawing on The Times’s extraordinary visual archives, a repository of millions of photographs that have largely been unseen in decades.  The fourth chapter (“Home”) is comprised of images submitted by the public, set to music.

The series is produced by Op-Docs, the Times editorial department’s forum for short, opinionated documentaries, and the National Film Board of Canada as part of the NFB’s ongoing HIGHRISE project, an Emmy Award-winning multi-year, many-media collaborative documentary experiment.

On this project, collaboration is key. Although the films are written and directed by Katerina Cizek, the interactive elements are produced by The Times’s graphics team, under the direction of Ms. Cizek, The Times’s Jacqueline Myint, interactive art director and developer for the series, NFB senior producer Gerry Flahive and series executive producer and New York Times commissioning editor for Opinion video Jason Spingarn-Koff.

Make sure you check out the rest of the New York Film Festival Convergence program which also features 48 Hour Games by Suvi Andrea Helminen, an interactive “choose your own adventure”-style documentary that was shot during the Nordic Game Jam, an event that annually brings together more than 300 game developers from all parts of Scandinavia. Also, Christian Fonnesbech and Frederik Øvlisen’s Cloud Chamber, a collaborative experience that is part alternate reality game, part film, part social network, is also among the highlights of the Convergence’s Keystone Presentations… Click here to find out more!