Interactive history: the evolving art of the documentary

The new type of reporting: article? documentary? film? web page?

For a while now I’ve been fascinated by the rapidly evolving art of the documentary. I’ve shared with you several examples that I consider game-changers: enthralling, media-rich, web-centered stories, which bowl you over with the choreography and the layers, as well as with the relevance and weight of the subject.

I’m convinced that it’s not so much the information that the film is imparting that matters, but how the information is presented. And new platforms and software and styles make interactive, media-rich presentations less expensive to construct. They’re not easy, but they are easier than they used to be, which leaves more scope for creativity and message.

first world war

These early examples of new media (and let’s call them “new” media because they don’t really fit into any of the pre-established categories – they’re part film, part interactive web page, part pamphlet, part textbook) are ground-breakers, showing future documentarists the possibilities, giving them creative blocks on which to build, and providing glimpses as to how far this transformation could go.

The example I want to show you today is a report by the The Guardian newspaper, on the First World War. Technically brilliant, visually poignant and sweeping in its coverage, it goes into detail that is difficult to transmit in traditional textbooks or linear films. It’s not exactly reality, but the interactivity does make you feel as if you can poke around, ask questions, interview people. Documentaries like this may be expensive to produce, for now. But hopefully we will start to see more in this style, enthralling students of all ages, opening us up to historical experience and piquing interest in live heritage. The end result will be a deeper knowledge and broader interest in what humanity, past and present, has to offer.

first world war 2Check out the entire report-documentary-film-article-whateveryouwantocallit here.


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