(On the left: banner of East of the Rockies. Image provided by the NFB/ Top image: Joy Kogawa. Photo: Yukiko Onley/ Bottom image: Anne Canute. Photo: Katja De Bock)
March 1, 2019 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada
Acclaimed Canadian author Joy Kogawa, Toronto-based design and experience agency Jam3 and the National Film Board of Canada have unveiled East of the Rockies, an interactive augmented reality (AR) app based on true events about life in one of Canada’s Japanese internment camps.
East of the Rockies’ AR narrative follows 17-year-old Yuki as her family adjusts to life in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. The story takes inspiration from Kogawa’s novels Obasan and Itsuka, which chronicle the persecution of Japanese citizens in Canada during the war.
After activating the AR mode, app users can interact with Yuki’s story by tapping, inspecting and zooming in on key elements inside the Slocan Internment Camp. Each of these elements activates a scripted narrative spoken by Yuki, illuminating different aspects of the camp. East of the Rockies is a fully animated and voiced narrative, with Kogawa’s granddaughter Anne Canute providing the voice of Yuki.
“I’m grateful that this little story in Canada is not going to be lost,” says Joy Kogawa. “There are so many stories that are lost, that ought not to be, so it’s a wonderful thing to see it happening here in this way. I think it’s very exciting to be at the beginning of this kind of thing, how lucky is that?”
“By using immersive storytelling in East of the Rockies, we can educate a brand-new audience with a learn-through-gameplay experience leveraging the power of AR on iPhone and iPad,” adds Dirk van Ginkel, Creative Director at Jam3. “In working with Joy, we’ve been able to show what life was like when the Canadian government exiled the Japanese community. Sometimes to move forward as a society, we must look back and acknowledge past injustices – we hope that this is a platform for reflection.”
“At 83 years old, Joy has teamed up with artists and producers to leverage an exciting new technology and craft an important historical story for a new generation of Canadians,” says NFB Executive Producer Rob McLaughlin. “It’s an intergenerational story of love, loss, injustice and healing, and we hope it will lead to a greater understanding of Canada’s past at a time when issues of identity and race remain at the heart of so many contemporary debates.”
Students will also have the opportunity to take a more in-depth look at East of the Rockies with a high-school learning kit. The NFB Education kit poses questions and scenarios to help students understand and go deeper into the experience of life in the Slocan Internment Camp. The learning kit is available at eastoftherockies.com.
The AR features in East of the Rockies leverage Apple’s ARKit framework, bringing immersive visuals and a dynamic way to learn about an important moment in history. The experience is exclusive to iPhone and iPad running iOS 12, including iPhone 6s and newer, iPad (5th generation) and all iPad Pro models.
East of the Rockies is available on the App Store beginning March 1, 2019.
The app will be free to download in the first week, from March 1-8.
Electronic Press Kit | Images, trailers, synopsis: East of the Rockies
Download the app here.
Learning kit: eastoftherockies.com