NFB Debuts New Works at IDFA

Bear 71, produced by Loc Dao and Bonnie Thompson
Photo from the production, courtesy of the NFB

New pioneering work by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) takes the stage this year at International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Three NFB works hit the popular festival and showcase the cutting edge of documentary.

IDFA is among the ever-growing list of festivals inviting film buffs to step out of the movie theatre and strap into a headset by highlighting the rising industry interest in virtual reality (VR). IDFA and the NFB put the potential of VR to the test by previewing a new VR incarnation of Bear 71 at IDFA’s DocLab new media program. Bear 71 is one of the NFB’s most acclaimed interactive works having garnered two Webbys, FWA Site of the Year and a Cannes Cyber Lion among its list of accolades. The VR headset is the latest hardware for this immersive trek along Canada’s national parks through the point of view of a bear. The new 20-minute VR offering, however, promises to let audiences see the world through the bear’s eyes.

Photo from the production, courtesy of the NFB

Also on tap is a “participatory happening” of the cool online interactive project Dreams. The experience explores the space between semi-consciousness and reality as new technology harnesses elements of the dream world to make them last long than the few winks of sleep. Audience members at IDFA will “contribute dream stories via text and drawings that are scanned and uploaded in real time,” says the NFB in its description Dreams. These contributions are then “translated into live music and visual projections.” What was once science fiction is now documentary.

Finally, the boundary-pushing nature of these IDFA selections is obvious when Mark Lewis’s excellent experimental feature Invention reads like the most conventional doc on the list. This innovative city symphony film is a visual ballet that tours through the building and streets of Toronto, Paris, and São Paolo. This immersive doc is Lewis’s feature film debut and his second collaboration with the NFB, following Cold Morning: Trilogy (2009). Read the POV review of Invention here.