Pine Point: A beautifully poignant digital narrative

Pine Point is another spectacular production of the National Film Board of Canada (see here for the moving interactive documentary “Bear71”), which conveys a complete re-imagining of the idea of the photo album as a way to preserve memory. It shares with us the heart and soul of a town, now closed, and questions what nostalgia is for. When something is gone, is it really gone?

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This amazing digital narrative is about detail and sentiment, going back and moving forward, memory and community. The story is charming, the script (if you can call it that) very well crafted, but what blew me away was the role of the images. At times still and poignant, at other times playfully floating or falling, they add another layer to the tale, as if they, too, were a narrator. As with a photo album, the question arises: are the images the protagonist, or the people in them? Is the town the protagonist, or are its citizens?

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The images are enchanting. Sometimes bleak, sometimes beautiful. Sometimes sad, sometimes joyful. And always, arranged in a way that draws you even more into the story. The mixture of stills, vintage-style video and drawing is graceful and theatrical without being intrusive, and the interaction of type and voice together telling the story is engrossing and complex without being distracting. The end effect is touching, innovative and beautifully executed.

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The narrative is steeped in nostalgia and even melancholy, but also in love and appreciation. Watch it and you find yourself not feeling sad that the town’s gone, but glad that it existed. As far removed as it may be from your world, it represents something to everyone: a sense of community, the bond of shared history, and the comfort that even when parts of our past are no longer physically there, we can still go back and reminisce. It’s just a mining town, a closed one at that. But here we have a beautiful example of the power of something small to show us something big.

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Towards the end of the narrative, the screen displays this text: “What remains of Pine Point is an unfinished sentence.” You hope it never gets finished.

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