A Short HIstory of the Highrise

It's not hard to swallow that a lot can change in 51 years. The evolution of the New York Film Festival since its inception in 1963 is on full display in Bob Hawk's recent recollections of five decades spent attending NYFF. What's more surprising is how different things can look after just one year.

The 51st edition of the festival also marks the second go-round for NYFF Convergence, our three-day celebration of immersive media that includes live experiences and demonstrations, keynote presentations and panels with transmedia creators, and concerts and parties to boot. The big difference between this year and last? A dash of worldliness.

“Last year we focused on local projects and creators,” shared Convergence programmer Matt Bolish. “This year we've got a much more global perspective. It's exciting for me because that's what NYFF was originally about: bringing the best world cinema to New York audiences. This year, we're delivering on that promise for immersive media.”

The 2013 roster includes projects from Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, and Canada. One explores the effects of Dutch colonialism around the globe. Another takes viewers on a virtual road trip across the United States. This ability to shrink the globe down and allow people from opposite ends of it to participate in interactive storytelling is perhaps the greatest promise of immersive media.

Below we've highlighted some of the most exciting events from the second edition of NYFF Convergence. We hope you'll join us this weekend (September 28 – 30) in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center as we explore the world of transmedia for the second, and certainly not last, time.

The Cloud Chamber Mystery
September 28 at 11:00am

The Danish Film Institute has begun to invest heavily in transmedia, and this immersive, collaborative mystery that mixes science and electronic music is a prime example of the stunning results. Storyworld director Christian Fonnesbech and CEO Frederik Øvlisen will be on-hand to discuss and show a sneak preview their interactive experience, which hasn't even come out in their native Denmark yet!

The Empire Project
September 28 at 12:30pm and 4:00pm

This beautiful interactive documentary explores the legacy of Dutch colonialism through a series of short videos that will be set up around our NYFF venues (check out the map) for you to explore starting at 12:30pm… for free! Then join creators Eline Jongsma and Kel O'Neill for a discussion of their four-years-in-the-making project at 4:00pm. In his coverage of IDFAFilm Comment, Nic Rapold said: “Hovering around 10 minutes apiece, the uninflected loops don’t need to press the points of the complex human narratives they unearth, each of which short-circuits conventional conceptions of a history long laid to rest.”

Producing Convergence
September 28 at 3:30pm

Last year's popular panel returns to Convergence in collaboration with PGA Interactive Forum. PGA was an early adopter of immersive media and was the first of the craft guilds to acknowledge that transmedia producers deserve their own credit. This year, a group of transmedia creatives and producers will talk about first 10 years of the transmedia revolution, from back when most people had never even heard the term to now, when it is among the media biz's top buzzwords. In an interesting twist, many of this year's recently announced panelists outwardly and openly campaigned against transmedia when it first hit the scene, but have since come around.

Charlie Victor Romeo
September 28 at 2:00pm

This play-turned-3D-film will get your heart pounding with its recreations of real airline emergencies. It originally screened at the Sundance Film Festival, but we've got something they didn't: a panel discussion of the project that includes a former air traffic controller who saw the play, made his colleagues follow suit, and insists it has saved lives!

48 Hour Games
September 28 at 5:00pm

This film-cum-game set at a Hackathon turned into a veritable shouting match when it played at SXSW, and we're sure the NYFF playthrough will be no different. What makes this choose your own adventure film interesting is that there aren't the typical right or wrong choices, and there's no going back. Just like at a real Hackathon, the stakes are high and if you don’t pick the right team at the beginning, you might just be out of luck.

No More Road Trips?
September 28 at 9:30pm

Who would have thought it would be Convergence that would finally bring filmmaker and archivist Rick Prelinger to the New York Film Festival? The remarkable thing about Prelinger is that he not only saves archival material from the brink of disappearance, but lets people see it (often for free) and uses it to build beautiful art. He won awards for his Lost Landscapes of San Francisco and Detroit projects and returns here to save another bygone institution: the road trip. His love letter to the highways and byways of the USA makes use of his 60,000-hour archive in a totally new way, and has been embraced, perhaps unexpectedly for him, by the interactive community.

The Cosmonaut
September 29 at 12:30pm

Put together by the Riot Cinema Collective and over 5,000 people, this immersive science fiction experience is exactly what transmedia should be. Totally open source, you can even download all the footage and create your own version of the film. The Cosmonaut originally made waves with a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign, then went quiet for what seemed like ages before exploding onto the world earlier this year. The final (or is it?) product mixes film, gaming, social media, live music, a studio album, and more into a rich and organic whole. Remarkably, you can discover the storyworld at any one of these entry points withouth missing a thing. Join us at 12:30pm for a screening of the full feature film and a conversation with creator Nicolas Accala. Then we head to the Film Center Amphithear for a creator vs. creator chat between Accala and Mark Harris (Lost Children).

Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club
Spetmeber 29 at 5:00pm

Cory McAbee, whose film Crazy & Thief recently played in Film Society's Indie Night series, is a man who wears many hats: musician, filmmaker, and now transmedia creator. Join us for a keynote presentation about the crowdsourced art project surrounding his new film The Embalmer’s Tale. Then stick around for a live concert in which McAbee will perform pieces of the film's soundtrack that he’s currently developing with fans. Directly following this event is the second annual Creators Cocktail Party, open to all Convergence Badge holders.

A Short History of the Highrise
September 30 at 7:00pm

We are beyond thrilled to close this year's Convergence lineup with the World Premiere of this supergroup collaboration between the New York Times and the National Film Board of Canada, another national group that has done an exceptional job of promoting immersive storytelling. The interactive documentary makes gorgeous use of the Times' rich visual archive, some of which hasn't been seen in decades, to tell the story of thousands of years of vertical living. The event features screenings of the project's four short films (Mud, Concrete, Glass, and Home) followed by a demonstration of the accompanying interactive experience.