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Feature-length documentary and three interactive works showcased at IDFA. NFB-produced and co-produced works featured at prestigious non-fiction forum.


October 28, 2020 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada

Four new works produced and co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) will be showcased at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), taking place in Amsterdam from November 18 to 29 and online for audiences across the Netherlands from November 18 to December 6.

IDFA is presenting the European premiere of Jennifer Abbott’s feature-length documentary The Magnitude of All Things, which draws intimate parallels between the experiences of grief—both personal and planetary. This Cedar Island Films/Flying Eye Productions/NFB co-production will be showcased in the festival’s Frontlight section, featuring hard-hitting films that interrogate power, seek truth, and urge us to stand in solidarity with the world’s vulnerable people.

There’s a stellar selection of three NFB works in IDFA DocLab, one of the world’s leading platforms for interactive documentary art and storytelling:

  • Agence (Transitional Forms/NFB) by Pietro Gagliano, an innovative blend of AI, cinematic storytelling and VR.
  • The Book of Distance by Randall Okita, acclaimed as a landmark in personal VR experiences.
  • Motto, a playful one-of-a-kind adventure for phones by the team of Vincent Morisset, Sean Michaels, Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit and Caroline Robert, developed by AATOAA and produced by the NFB.

The festival’s IDFA on Stage section is also presenting Motto Live, a live performance exploring the world of Motto, broadcast live from Morisset’s studio in Montreal, joined by artists from different countries.

About the projects:

The Magnitude of All Things by Jennifer Abbott

  • When Jennifer Abbott lost her sister to cancer, her sorrow opened her up to the profound gravity of climate breakdown. In The Magnitude of All Things, stories from the frontlines of climate change merge with recollections from the filmmaker’s childhood on Ontario’s Georgian Bay. What do these stories have in common? The answer, surprisingly, is everything.
  • For the people featured in this film, climate change is not happening in the distant future: it is kicking down the front door. Battles waged, lamentations of loss, and raw testimony coalesce into an extraordinary tapestry, woven together with raw emotion and staggering beauty that transform darkness into light, grief into action.
  • Named Best Canadian Feature at the Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival in Toronto.
  • Based in Vancouver, Abbott has been making films about urgent social, political and environmental issues for 25 years, including co-directing the 2003 Sundance award-winning The Corporation and its 2020 follow-up, The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel.

Produced by Andrew Williamson and Henrik Meyer for Cedar Island Films and Jennifer Abbott for Flying Eye Productions, and executive produced for the NFB’s BC & Yukon Studio by Shirley Vercruysse. With the participation of the TELUS Fund and Telefilm Canada and the Rogers Group of Funds, through the Theatrical Documentary Program.

Agence by Pietro Gagliano

  • Agence places the fate of artificially intelligent creatures in your hands. Will you help to maintain their peaceful existence, or throw them into a state of chaos? A dynamic film that merges cinematic storytelling, artificial intelligence, and user interactivity, Agence is never the same twice.
  • Official Selection at Venice International Film Festival’s Venice VR Expanded, BFI London Film Festival’s LFF Expanded and the Festival du nouveau cinéma’s FNC Explore.
  • The founder of Toronto studio-lab Transitional Forms, Gagliano is a pioneer of new forms of media that allow humans to understand what it means to be machine, and machines what it means to be human. He previously co-founded the digital studio Secret Location, and with his team, made history in 2015 by winning the first-ever Emmy Award for a virtual reality project. His work has been recognized through hundreds of awards and nominations, including two Emmy Awards, 31 FWAs, two Webby Awards and a Peabody-Facebook Award.

Produced by Casey Blustein (Transitional Forms) and David Oppenheim (NFB) and executive produced by Pietro Gagliano (Transitional Forms) and Anita Lee (NFB).

The Book of Distance by Randall Okita

  • In 1935, Yonezo Okita left his home in Hiroshima, Japan, for Canada. Then war and racism changed everything. Three generations later, his grandson Randall leads us on an interactive pilgrimage through an emotional geography of immigration and family to recover what was lost, in the first virtual reality work by this award-winning artist and filmmaker.
  • Hailed as a landmark in personal VR storytelling, The Book of Distance was named Best in Animation at the Vancouver International Film Festival’s VIFF Immersed program and received the Prix Horizon for Most Innovative 6DoF Animation at FNC Explore, as well as the Golden Fireball Award, the top VR prize at the Kaohsiung Film Festival in Taiwan. It has been an official selection at numerous festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier section and the Venice Film Festival’s Best of VR.
  • Based in Toronto and Japan, Randall Okita employs sculpture, technology, physically challenging performances or stunts, and rich cinematography in his work. The Book of Distance is one of three projects Okita has created with the NFB, which include his multi-award-winning 2014 short The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer.

Produced by David Oppenheim (Draw Me Close, Agence) and executive produced by Anita Lee (Stories We Tell) for the NFB’s Ontario Studio in Toronto

Motto by Vincent Morisset, Sean Michaels, Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit and Caroline Robert

  • Mottois a playful, one-of-a-kind adventure—an interactive novella that uses thousands of tiny videos to tell the thousand-year tale of a kind-hearted spirit. Part ghost story, part scavenger hunt, Motto finds a way to be both documentary and fiction, incorporating participants’ lo-fi, unstaged footage into its own emotional narrative.
  • FWA of the Day; Official Selection at Electric Dreams Online and FNC Explore.
  • Morisset is a director and the founder of AATOAA studio, who first came to prominence through his collaborations with the band Arcade Fire: Neon Bible, considered the first interactive music video, and Just a Reflektor, winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement – Original Interactive Program. Winner of the 2019 IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction for Vast Body, Morisset also created the acclaimed interactive projects BLA BLA and Way to Go with the NFB.

Motto is created by Vincent Morisset, Sean Michaels, Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit and Caroline Robert, developed by AATOAA and produced by the NFB.

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Related Products

Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopses: Agence | Motto | The Book of Distance | The Magnitude of All Things

Related Links

Festival international du film documentaire d’Amsterdam
Cedar Island Films
Flying Eye Productions
Transitional Forms
Téléfilm Canada
Groupe de Fonds Rogers

French version here | Version française ici.

Media Relations

  • About the NFB

    Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a one-of-a-kind producer, co-producer and distributor of distinctive, engaging, relevant and innovative documentary and animated films. As a talent incubator, it is one of the world’s leading creative centres. The NFB has enabled Canadians to tell and hear each other’s stories for over eight decades, and its films are a reliable and accessible educational resource. The NFB is also recognized around the world for its expertise in preservation and conservation, and for its rich and vibrant collection of works, which form a pillar of Canada’s cultural heritage. To date, the NFB has produced more than 14,000 works, 6,500 of which can be streamed free of charge at nfb.ca. The NFB and its productions and co-productions have earned over 7,000 awards, including 11 Oscars and an Honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in cinema.