HIGHRISE at Canadian Screen Awards

Highrise/One Millionth Tower is up for an award tonight at the newly minted Canadian Screen Awards (formerly the Geminis and Genies). The other nominees are the NFB’s Bear 71 and Bar Code, High Fidelity’s Masa Off Grid, and the CBC’s Exile Without End: Palestinians in Lebanon. Congrats to all! A warm shout out to Helios Design Labs’ Mike Robbins and Sarah Arruda, both of whom were central to all things digital at One Millionth Tower. Also a warm thank you to the highrise residents, architects and animators who helped us redefine collaboration in the digital documentary realm.

BTW, we at the HIGHRISE team have been seeing a lot of Helios lately, because we’re working on a new exciting project that we’ll be announcing at SXSW next month. Stay tuned here for details.


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Last month, The National Film Board of Canada received a Special Achievement Award at Canada’s Gemini Awards. HIGHRISE is proud to be a small part of it. Here’s the citation for the Award:


Under the creative leadership of Tom Perlmutter, the NFB has become a pioneer in the use of digital technology, both from a viewing and production point-of-view.

From the advent of video and DVDs, the NFB’s vast collection of documentaries, animation and narrative films, which had been available in 16mm, became difficult to access, unless the material was repackaged from film to popular hom viewing formats. Many NFB classics were languishing in cinema vaults until an new initiative was undertaking to digitize much of what had been created over the years at the Board.

Now, over 2,000 titles can be seen online, including all the major award-winners going back to the 1940s. Last year, NFB films were seen over 20 million times — an astonishing figure — with viewings on the Viewing Room at, apps for iphone/ipad, Android and Playbook as well as on related channels on Youtube and Dailymotion.
Simultaneously, the Board has been moving forward, creating some of the most intriguing uses of documentary in the realm of new technology. HIGHRISE/Out My Window created by Katerina Cizek and produced by the NFB is a 360-degree interactive project, which offers viewers the chance to view real-life scenes and situations in locations around the world.Working collaboratively with artists, activists and residents in other countries, Cizek and the NFB have broken barriers, creating new experiences in the documentary. Along with Welcome to Pine Point and Waterlife, the website as a new form of doc is beginning to take shape.
“Seen through the Board’s long history, social media begins to look like an extension of the social doc, and the recent ascendance of the NFB into a world-player in ineracitve interfaces can br seen more as manifest destiny than dark horse success.”— Jessica Duffin Wolfe POV

“The NFB is creating and showcasing some of the most innovative content anywhere on the web. They are pointing the way for others who want to fully engage with online audiences.” — Norm Bolen, President & CEO of Cnadian Media Production Association
MORE WINS: ONE WORLD, FITC and education


HIGHRISE/Out My Window has been honoured with more awards, in very diverse worlds.

Last night, Senior Producer Gerry Flahive was in London U.K. where he accepted our prize in the New Media category at the One World Media Awards. This amazing organization, created by BBC World Services Trust, “recognizes the media’s contribution to international development, human rights, education, mobilising a global community that shares our values.”

The jury citation from One World: “HIGHRISE/OUT MY WINDOW was the richest and most innovative entry in terms of its use of multimedia and the possibility of new media. With so much emphasis in development on the rural poor it was refreshing to see the emphasis here on urbanisation. The views of people living in developing country cities were at centre stage. It was an engaging and compelling work.”

At FITC -Toronto, an award celebrating Flash and other technologies, we won the Best Audio in Flash. Grats to our incredible sound designer, Janine White, and the whole team at Imaginarius: Vincent Marcone, Natalie MacNeil as well as the programmer Bobby Richter.

In the education universe, we have picked up an Award of Merit from the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education. Congrats especially to our eduction team, Tey Cottingham and Kathy Sperberg.

ReelScreen covers the One World win here.

Congrats to the team, and congrats to all the residents living in the global highrise of Out My Window.

Award nominations: WEBBY and more


It’s award season, and the nominations have been coming in!

The awards are very diverse, attesting to the innovation on all fronts of Out My Window.

We are up for Best Use of Photography at the Webbys. Please consider voting for us in the People’s Choice awards. Our fellow nominees are National Geographic, Life, BBC and The Tiziano Project.

Meanwhile, at FITC, we are nominated for best use of sound. There’s also a People’s Choice there, please consider supporting us there too.

At the Banff Interactive Rockies, we are nominated along with 3 other NFB projects for best online program –non-fiction.

In the UK, we are also nominated for a One World Media Award, which recognizes the media’s contribution to international development, human rights and education.

Congrats to the whole team on these remarkable acknowledgments!



The NFB’s Tom Perlmutter, Christina Rogers and Joel Pomerleau accept the Emmy in Cannes, France.

HIGHRISE/Out My Window has been honoured with an International Digital Emmy Award for Non-Fiction. Here are some of our team’s reactions, that I’ve been collecting from all over the world:

“We are thrilled with this prestigious recognition for a work entirely conceived for digital platforms. It is part of our ongoing commitment to explore and determine the art form par excellence of the 21st century,” said Tom Perlmutter, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada.

“To be honoured with such a prestigious award for our efforts in pushing the boundaries of documentary storytelling, reminds us of the decades of innovation by our predecessors at the NFB, where creativity, social impact and the incorporation of new technology have always been at the forefront of what we do,” said NFB senior producer Gerry Flahive.

“It’s so great!” said Heather Frise (Editor, Story Assignment Editor, HIGHRISE Creative Associate) “Hopefully, because of the award, more people are drawn to the work, and we will have a broader reach and impact with the stories and the issues.”

“As for Chicago, the award comes at a time when the last highrise in the Cabrini-Green public housing project is being demolished,” said David Schalliol (Chicago story and photos).  “The event is a symbolic end to a major U.S. housing policy, but it’s also the end of a community. Highrise/Out My Window provides an opportunity for the world to engage how residents experienced the end of that era, and the Digital Emmy reminds us of the value of thinking about global events as anchored in daily life.”

This experience has really clarified for me what is possible to achieve when a team working collaboratively is led with a strong vision filled with trust, support and generosity,” said Paramita Nath (Bangalore story and photos, Illustrator, Participate Project Coordinator). “I feel lucky to have been part of this team and this process.”

I’ve always thought of Out My Window as an online installation piece which focuses on bringing together the stories of very different people from very different parts of the world,”  said Vincent Marcone (Chief Artist at Imaginarius, responsible for the interactive architecture and design). “We tried to create an artful way of portraying these tales in the design and specifically the 360-degree navigation of the site.”

“I’m very proud…” said Theodore Kaye (Taiwan story and photos), “I look forward to seeing and partaking in further redefinitions of the ‘web documentary’ and other new media. As internet connectivity trickles down to more countries, such media evolution is bound to take on fascinating forms and functions.”

“I think Out My Window opened a window on many minds,” said Cigdem Turkoglu (Istanbul research and story). “I also shared it with the participants of our part here in Istanbul, they were also very pleased with the news and shared it with their neighbours on the street.”

It’s projects like OMW that are the reason I got into multimedia in the first place!” said Brent Foster (Istanbul photos).

“Bring on the digital Oscars!” said Martin Potter (Phnom Penh story and photos).

“My family posted [the news of the Emmy] all over their facebook! They sent out a huge email to all our friends. My whole family is thrilled!” said Maria-Saroja Ponnambalam (Research, Editor, Sound Research and HIGHRISE Community Media Production Coordinator).

It’s the project’s music curator and supervisor, Helen Spitzer, who probably said it most simply of all: “We’re all doing cartwheels!”

Last, but not least, the NFB Executive Producer Silva Basmajian said: “I am honoured to be part of an organization (NFB) and  team that has reinvented documentary storytelling through the production of original digital content.  Out My Window is a global community with stories  that resonate with all those who enter this virtual Highrise.”

Set in 13 cities around the world, HIGHRISE/Out My Window combines interactive 360° photography, video, text and music in 49 vignettes, chronicling life inside the most common urban structure of the age: the high-rise apartment block.

Some nice media coverage of the award:, realscreen, VarietyCTV News, and Macleans.

Here’s the Emmy nomination trailer:

*OUT MY WINDOW* nominated for an EMMY


We are proud to announce HIGHRISE/Out My Window has been nominated for an International Digital Emmy in the Non-Fiction Category. Fellow nominees are:

Embarrassing Bodies: Live
Maverick Television / Channel 4
United Kingdom

Globo Amazônia: The Geoglyphs
TV Globo

Fremantle / TV2 Norway

There’s three categories for Digital Emmys, Children/Youth, Fiction and Non-Fiction. A strong global year at the International Digital Emmys: countries with first-time nominations in the digital categories include Brazil, Lebanon and Turkey. (hey, all three countries are represented in OMW!)

This is the first time the NFB has been nominated for an International Digital Emmy.



Three thrilling things on the theme of EDUCATION today.

01 Thrilled to announce a new addition to the Out My Window Universe: a set of education tools for teachers, specifically aimed at the 14-17 age set. It’s called Inside OUT MY WINDOW – Global Education Lab.  Our colleagues in the NFB education department have done an awesome job pulling this together (that’s you: Kathy Sperberg, Tey Cottingham  with HIGHRISE researcher extra-ordinaire Maria-Saroja Ponnambalam, along with HIGHRISE’s house band designers, Helios.) This is how the team describes it:

Inside OUT MY WINDOW – Global Education Lab
We’re thrilled to launch our newly developed educational space entitled Inside Out My Window – Global Education Lab. It’s an educational extension to the NFB’s  interactive project. Out My Window: Views From the Global Highrise is an award-winning immersive exploration of vertical living. It’s all about the people living in highrises and the global issues they face. IOMW targets high school students aged 14–17 and is a great tool for educators interested in creatively integrating global education into their lessons. Have your students explore Out My Window first, and then continue their learning experience through Inside OUT MY WINDOW’s four interactive screens about the project’s 13 featured cities. Download the Educator’s guide for ideas on how to go deeper into issues of urbanization and global suburbanisms.

02 Thrilled to announce our nomination for a BAKA FORUM Award 2011. Because of the amazing educational tools described above, Out My Window has been nominated for a prestigious award in Switzerland for the Cross-Media in School and Youth Education Category.

03 Thrilled to discover a high school in Korea has not waited for the education guide to come out, as they have already created an elaborate, fantastic class project inspired by Out My Window! Check out this OUT OUR WINDOWS, a thoughtful group blog from a whole class as they discover the stories of Out My Window. What a great teacher Mr.Garrioch must be.


What a way to cap off two incredible weeks in Amsterdam. We’ve come home with the first ever IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling for HIGHRISE/Out MY Window.

At the award ceremony in the stunning Tuschinski Theatre of downtown Amsterdam, the president of the jury, Alexandre Brachet reported: ‘“The project draws its strength when viewed in depth and at length. The meetings in dozens of countries, from Bangalore and Beirut to Toronto, Canada are all beautiful and the design of the piece resonates with the stories. Photos, video, audio and interactivity all work in seamless harmony towards telling the stories in a compelling way.” The other two jury members were Zach Wise and Antoinette Hoes.

The DocLab competition category rocked with 17 amazing projects: from non-linear guru Florian Thalhofer’s Planet Galata: A Bridge in Istanbul, to 3 very fine NFB/interactive projects (Testtube, This Land, Welcome to Pine Point), to the Arcade Fire runaway hit The Wilderness Downtown, to the university student project in the Appalachians, Soul of Athens, and of course the two fantastic nominees: the visually lush California is a Place, and the totally DIY  Soul Patron (shot, edited and programmed by the author as part of his masters in applied science).

Variety, IndieWire, DocSpace, MovieCityNews Filmmaker Magazine all covered the full IDFA awards.

I spent much of my time in Amsterdam at the lovely Brakke Grond, where we have our installation of Out My Window until January 9th, but I did get into the IDFA movie house a few times to see some great films, mostly revolving around the politics/technology theme. I caught most of the big double IDFA award winner (dutch category and feature-length) Position Among the Stars, which has an opening shot that rivals that of Manufactured Landscapes in beauty. It’s the third instalment in a (decade-long-in-the-making) trilogy of family life in Indonesia by Leonard Rete Helmrich, a cinematographer/director who built steadycam contraptions with low-tech solutions (bamboo etc) to create a technique he calls “Single Shot Cinema.” He often uses long, uninterrupted shots, with the camera moving freely around, surprising us with unusual points of view and sudden glances sideways, sometimes even to follow a fleeing cockroach in extreme close-up. The camera as a living, curious and very much involved entity.

Continuing the politics/tech theme, I also saw the Danish Blood in the Mobile, which investigates how Nokia and other electronics companies are fuelling a deadly war in the Congo (by purchasing coltan and other minerals needed for cell phones and electronics from killer warlords). It’s a subject that has been on the media radar for the last decade (Peter Wintonick and I pointed to it back in 2003 in our web-companion to Seeing is Believing: handicams, huamn rights and the news) and yet the multi-nationals continue to rake in huge profits, and to dodge justice as millions of people in Congo continue to die. The film wisely suggests that there’s a solution: to demand more transparent supply chains (see here). For a more uplifting portrayal of the Congo, I went to the heart-warming Kinshasa Symphony, which came in fourth for the IDFA Audience award. (The award went to the oscar-short-listed Waste Land, also about repurposing recycled materials from a garbage dump to create participatory art. I caught Waste Land at Hot Docs last year, it’s a must-see).

I was happy to see a the “talk-show” live interview with fellow Canadians Luc Coté, Patricio Henrique about their urgent film You Don’t Like the Truth: Four Days Inside Guantanamo. They talked about the struggle they had to finance their film, based on  7 hours of surveillance footage (shot on VHS) of the interrogation of Canadian Omar Khadr held at Guantanamo, for alleged war crimes he committed when he was 15 years old. No financiers would touch the film when they were making it, yet its now playing a huge role in pointing a spotlight on how the Canadian government has betrayed its own citizen, to the hands of torturers and sadists. The timing of the release of the film is spot-on. In October 2010, Omar Khadr had just plead guilty to all charges, part of a plea bargain that would get him an eight-year sentence instead of life in prison. This makes him the first person to be convicted as a war criminal since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and the first child soldier since Nuremburg to be found guilty of war crimes.. The filmmakers showed the film to a room full of judges in the Netherlands last week, and are now touring with the film around the world. And their highly-deserved IDFA Special Jury prize will no doubt give the film a good boost.

Worth mentioning too is the last film I saw, My Reincarnation, by Jennifer Fox. For the last twenty years, her camera has witnessed the difficult relationship of a Tibetan Llama, Rinpoche and his resistant son (born and raised in Italy), who is said to be a reincarnation of Rinpoche’s uncle. Jennifer’s trust in life and fate unfolding before her camera (over 2 decades!) is breathtaking, and the film, a full 2 hours in length, takes you for a huge emotional, spiritual ride.

And finally, while IDFA is all about the films, the filmmakers, the parties and the fun, what really blew me away was the audiences. IDFA 2010 boasts an incredible total of 180,000 visits to the festival, up 15,000 from last year. As a maker primarily for the internet these days, I appreciate the direct communication I have with people who see our work on-line every day. The immediacy of twitter and social media is profound. But  what IDFA gave me, was the chance to meet hundreds of audience members face-to-face, and nothing beats that.  During my live cinema screening of Out My Window, audiences called out, cheered, reacted, laughed and applauded – all in real time, and I could feel their breath. It was a high that only live cinema can give you. And in my many, many hours at the Brakke Grond, I witnessed hundreds of audience members interacting with the installation as well as the kiosk computer version of the web-site itself. It was the ultimate in user-testing. I saw how things really worked and what could be improved (for example, two-days into the installation we added vinyl lettered instructions on the floor  for the motion detector spotlight triggers). But over and over, audiences approached me to tell me how much they loved the HIGHRISE experience, and it was real proof that Out My Window touches the minds and hearts of people from all walks of life: from PhDs, to teenagers, to filmmakers, to new media students to the general public.

The words and energy of one audience member , Willie, will stick with me for a long time. I met her almost daily at various IDFA DocLab events (she got rid of her tv and internet 6 months ago, and now interacts with the world only through free live events in Amsterdam) and she gave me quite a bit of her time explaining what she appreciated about the our project – and life. She said the 360º approach of our project reminded her of spiders, who have  multiple eyes set all around the front of their heads (i did not know that!). She is a self-prononounced “survivalist” and loves wild, foraged foods, and she loves clicking on objects on the internet that reveal a whole world behind them. Fascinating mind, and heart. Thank you IDFA and DocLab, for so much, but mostly for giving me a chance to meet audience-members like Willie.

And see you, Ally Derks, director of IDFA, in Toronto for Hot Docs, for your much-deserved Doc-Mogul Award, for your huge contribution to the documentary community.


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We are honoured to be one of six nominees for the BT Vision Innovation Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest, happening next week in the U.K. The list of other nominees makes for serious mind-blowage:

• Arcade Fire + Chris Milk’s The Wilderness Downtown, a music video built in HTML5 starring your hometown
• Exit Through the Gift Shop, a feature doc by and about that crazy Banksy artist dude;
• Prison Valley, a French web-doc by multi-media powerhouse Upian;
• The Arbor, hybrid doco-fiction, about a British playwright, who wrote her first play at age 15;
• The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, a doc built entirely out of propaganda, news footage and home movies;
• Quadrangle, an American experimental doc about a four-way love story.

See what we mean!?