Canadian interactive documentary and transmedia content creators are enjoying the spotlight at the Sundance Film Festival, even as their industry back home seems to be slowly fading out.
Despite some outstanding achievements, documentary production in Canada is at its lowest level in six years, according to the Documentary Organization of Canada.
DOC says shrinking budgets changing guidelines, dwindling broadcast licenses are other factors give the community less and less opportunity to make the films it cares about.
As such, "We all know this has been a difficult year for the documentary industry in Canada."
Nevertheless, this year three long form documentaries are in competition at Sundance.
Peter Wintonick has new feature, China Heavyweight, the latest feature documentary directed by Montreal-based Yung Chang, alongside Jennifer Baichwal's Payback (based on Margaret Atwood's book about debt, and the crisis it has created) and James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot's Indie Game: The Movie (about making video games).
Interactive Web-based productions are also drawing attention, with the world premiere of Bear 71 from the National Film Board.
Bear 71 blurs the line between the wild world and the wired one in an interactive multi-user online experience told from the point of view of a female grizzly bear, dubbed "Bear 71" by the park rangers who track her. The bear's story speaks to how we coexist with wildlife in the age of networks, surveillance and digital information.
Audiences use an augmented reality application to explore the bear's world--a vividly reimagined "nature" seen through the lens of technology and featuring thousands of trail-cam images of wild animals in their natural environment. Users can also interact using their webcam and engage through social media channels that involve elements of gameplay; for instance, they are asked to answer the question, "What kind of animal are you?"
To create Bear 71, co-director Leanne Allison gained access to one million photos gathered covertly in the wilderness by motion-triggered cameras over 11 years. Renowned Canadian actress Mia Kirshner (Exotica, 24, The L Word) provides a poignant performance throughout the web experience, as the voice of Bear 71.
Bear 71 website users can also interact in real time with the live installation and be present "virtually" at Sundance. The live installation is a unique experience that harnesses facial detection software, augmented reality, motion sensors, wireless trail-cam QR codes, projection and data visualization. Festival goers (and website users) become animals who are tracked within the story world of Bear 71 and "captured" via photos placed on a "surveillance wall."