This post is more specifically aimed at a subject I am interested in, webdocs, but you might find it interesting even if you are not passionate about cinema and films! First of all, let me explain what I am talking about.
What are webdocs?
Webdocs is the abbreviation for webdocumentaries, a genre (some would say subgenre) of documentary cinema. Distancing itself from the traditional narrative storyline, webdocumentary aims to transform the viewer into the user. It also creates a more personalized experience in relation to the content. Taking form of online platforms, webdocs approach documentary subjects from a new perspective and transform them into a new form of storytelling. You will mostly find environmental, social or political issues, as well as very personal histories as the main subjects of this genre.
A mix of traditional narrative film form, journalism and gamification results in a new and exciting means of telling the world, about the world. This new emerging genre does not mean the disappearance of the traditional documentary genre, as some might fear, but rather an opportunity to make content more accessible and more immersive.
I could go on and on about what web documentary entails, but the main thing is that it is an emerging genre, continually developing, which, I believe, is important to keep an eye on, especially for this reason – it is history in the making. Web documentary, in my opinion, is the response to our need as consumers of quick, attractive and interactive media. This genre embraces both the traditional and the new, to create stories that amaze and leave a mark. People will always look for stories, as a way to learn and expand their view of the world, but the truth is that there is a need out there of redefining the format of storytelling.
Explore them yourself!
The best way to understand webdocs is to experience them! I made a short list of a few examples that excel in the genre. Sit back, and click away!
(I suggest you experience the examples below in that order, since I tried to organized them from the most simple structures to the more complex. Don’t forget, the best thing about webdocs is that you can leave any time, and return later to continue your experience!)
- Alma, a powerful personal story from Guatemala, told in a linear narrative, and a great introduction to the genre. The interactivity of the user in minimal.
- Shirt on your back mixes editorial form with archive footage, photographs, statistics and a heartfelt testimony of a survivor of the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh, Mahmunda.
- Journey to the end of coal takes you on a drive through various coal mines’ areas in China, where you meet the workers who live in slums, or survivors of mine accidents.
- Pine Point tells the story of a now long-gone town, that suddenly took form as a mining town, only to disappear a generation later.
- High Rise: Out my window explores the residential highrise buildings and the people who live in them. Following 13 stories of 13 different people around the world, we learn what kind of people live in several highrise buildings in Canada, Brazil, Cuba, Taiwan, South Africa, U.S.A., India, Holland, Czech Republic, Cambodia, Turkey and Lebanon.
- Hollow explores rural America through the eyes of the residents of McDowell County, from a more jurnalistic approach.
- Bielutine Collection is an eerie tale about a mysterious, highly valuable art collection kept by Ely Bielutine, a modernist painter, and Nina Moleva, former art historian, in a hidden Moscow apartment. The border between truth and made up stories is is unsure.
- Off shore interactive sets you on a virtual oil platform where you are left to explore, in an investigative journalistic fashion the realities of our dependence on oil and how it affects our world.
- Bear 71. Wolves, mice, eagles are watched online by a user so far away from nature, yet able to track it with the use of an interactive map. The project puts in perspective the relationship between man, technology and nature and raises questions about the morality of it.
- Fort McMoney takes gamification to another level, and talks about the Canadian oil industry. Somewhat biased, the project is based on a detective-like storytelling, exploring the desire for success and wealth of those behind the industry.
Let’s talk about them!
I was first introduced to web documentary properly during the New Media Documentary course last year. Since then, I’ve become fascinated with the medium and I am trying to learn more and even work within the genre. I owe this new passion of mine to my professor that introduced us to webdocumentary, challenged us to develop a webdoc project during the semester and introduced us to experts in the field.
I hope you enjoy this new genre, and if you already had contact with webdocumentary, feel free to suggest other examples (there are so many!). I am curious to see what your feedback is after checking out these webdocs (or others), so leave your opinion in the comments or tweet me.