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Documentary Now!- the afterthoughts

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I have a great news for you:  interactive documentary is starting to be a buzz word…
Like last year Documentary Now! was a nice two days conference where a mixture of academic, PhD students and documentary makers exchanged their views on the new directions and evolution of the documentary world.  It had the same informal and open athmosphere, but unlike last year I really got the feeling that interactive documentary is staring to be seen as an urgent strand to be understood. When I presented a paper last year (proposing a possible way to categorise interactive documentaries) people were looking at me like the freak that was into computer “stuff”…. This year people had a different attitude: they wanted to know what this “stuff” was. Also: there were so many people who sent papers for the interactive panel that they had to reject half of them (including mine!) .

So for me the big news is that even documentary makers are now puzzled by the options that new media might offer to their craft… For me, after 10 years researching this field and saying that new media is not a threat but an opportunity… this is quite refreshing!!!
Of course classic documentary makers are still sceptical. They wonder what the difference between a cut and a link might be, they fear that interactivity creates new problems of ethics, they question how the lack of a unique ending could ever create a strong narrative…. They basically resist this form as much as they can (and stay very critical about it)…. but – and here is the change- this year they massively turned up at the interactive sessions.  They even staid till the end of the conference to listen to Florian Thalhofer presentation! Not only:  the questions were so many that I really sensed a change of attitude towards digital documentary. This was obviously also due to Florian’s great presentation.  And, yes: Florian got invited as a Key Note speaker!!! Is this not a sign that interactive documentary  is becoming more main stream?

This was a great conference. For once I found people that spoke my language and were interested by my same topics and (most impressive of all) that knew all about my blog – and even read my phd writing!!! This was sooooo exciting… I often get disapointed because people do not commemt on my website, and I too often think that I am writing a monologue with little purpose – while my original aim was to create a community of people interested in my same topics…. But then I discover that some people do read the blog, even if they do not participate.   I suspect commenting on someone’s else blog is intimidating but, common, if you see it as a way to create a community of interactive documentary makers …  does that not make you feel better? I take this occasion to encourage you to debate more on my blog,  to find a voice and to help creating a community…

Anyhow, back to Documentary Now! : not only the atmosphere is nice and informal, not only “big” names as Brian Winston, John Dovey and Florian Thalhofer and many others do participate – but also interactivity is seen as a serious strend so… watch out! Once again thanks to the organizators Alisa Lebow, Michael Chanan and Holly Giesman for putting together such an interesting event!

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 18th, 2010


  1. On January 28th, 2010 at 23:33 Holly wrote:

    Hi Sandra,

    Thanks for this positive feedback. It was nice meeting you at the conference. You’re so right about interactive documentary being the buzzword this year. From the very beginning, we noticed it was on a lot of people’s minds this year. It will be difficult to top Florian’s keynote presentation next year.

    I look forward to keeping up with your blog; it is one of the best I have found on interactive documentary.

    Best wishes and hope to see you at next year’s conference.


  2. On February 1st, 2010 at 00:16 Sandra wrote:

    Hi Holly,

    thanks for your comment! And thanks for helping organizing such a nice event! I agree with you that Florian will be difficult to top… but what about re-inviting him and just adding more interactive producers to show what they are working on? I often feel that the most resistant to interactive documentaries are film-makers themselves – maybe because they feel threatened? The best way to open people’s mind is often to inspire them…


  3. On February 19th, 2010 at 17:19 Andre Valentim Almeida wrote:

    So good to hear, same feelings here! So it’s time to start thinking on the Interactive Documentary Conference, don’t you think? Any thoughts?

  4. On February 21st, 2010 at 01:32 Sandra wrote:

    … I am thinking about it… I am thinking…
    If it happens I will let you all know… rest assured! ;)

  5. On March 1st, 2010 at 16:17 Andre Valentim Almeida wrote:

    Ok! Let me know if you need some help! :)

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