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National Film Board of Canada’s leadership in storytelling innovation showcased at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. IDFA features pioneering NFB works in virtual reality, film… and dreams



November 15, 2016 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

The National Film Board of Canada’s pioneering work in new forms of non-fiction storytelling will be on display at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), taking place November 16‒27. The 10th edition of IDFA’s DocLab new media program offers a preview of a VR version of the multi-award-winning Bear 71 and a live laboratory for the upcoming project Dreams, while Mark Lewis’s innovative feature film Invention (Mark Lewis Studio/NFB/Soda Film + Art) has been selected by IDFA for its film program.

Bear 71 VR (preview)

Created by Jeremy Mendes, Leanne Allison, Jam3 and the NFB, Bear 71 VR is a 20-minute interactive virtual reality experience based on the legendary 2012 online interactive multi-user experience Bear 71, which premiered in the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontiers program and garnered multiple awards, including two Webbys, FWA Site of the Year and a Cannes Cyber Lion.

Bear 71 explores how we coexist with wildlife in the age of networks, surveillance, and digital information en masse through the life of a grizzly bear in Banff National Park, dubbed “Bear 71” by park rangers who have radio collared and tracked her since the age of three, watching her whole life via cameras in the park. The project features hundreds of trail-cam images of wildlife in the Rocky Mountains captured over the last 10 years and a rich musical and natural soundscape, as well as narration from the bear’s POV via a compelling script written by J.B. MacKinnon.

Originally programmed using Flash technology, Bear 71 is being adapted by the NFB into WebVR/WebGL as a way to preserve its digital legacy projects and expand its exploration of the creative potential of VR. Bear 71 VR is being optimized to run on Google Daydream devices at IDFA DocLab, where it’s being previewed as part of DocLab’s 10th anniversary programming. Produced in partnership with IDFA DocLab, Google and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Bear 71 VR will be officially launched in 2017.

Bear 71 VR is produced by Loc Dao, Janine Steele, Rob McLaughlin, Bonnie Thompson and David Christensen for the NFB, and executive produced by Loc Dao, Rob McLaughlin and David Christensen for the NFB. Dao and Steele will be presenting the NFB’s shift to WebVR at DocLab’s Immersive Networking Day on November 19, and also sharing Canadian expertise in public VR with the government of the Netherlands.

Dreams (participatory happening)

While we sleep, we assemble dreams with the peculiar logic of our memory fragments and emotions. Created by Philippe Lambert, Dreams is an online interactive project that explores this liminal area between semi-consciousness and waking reality to create dream stories that will not fade with first light.

Dreams at IDFA is phase one of a long-term process to build a vast database of dreams, launching in the spring of 2017. And it all starts at the 10th anniversary of IDFA’s DocLab, with a happening in which audience members contribute dream stories via text and drawings that are scanned and uploaded in real time and translated into live music and visual projections. Using the audience’s own perception of their dreams―which have their own singular logic and special relationship to time―this project creates a grammar that transcends the traditional limits of non-linear storytelling.

Produced by Hugues Sweeney, Dreams is the first solo project by Philippe Lambert, a renowned composer who has previously worked with the NFB on Vincent Morisset’s Way to Go and BLA BLA and as co-creator of Journal of Insomnia.


Shot in Paris, São Paulo and Toronto, Invention (87 min.) is the first feature by leading contemporary visual artist Mark Lewis.  From famous corners of the Louvre Museum to the modernist buildings of Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil and Mies van der Rohe in Canada, Lewis takes us on a dynamic tour of fluctuating cityscapes, capturing the texture of these places, their landmarks, and the people who inhabit their streets and buildings, with images of glass, light, reflections, concrete, spiral staircases—and paintings. An homage to the City Symphony films of the 1920s, Invention offers a searching love letter to urban spaces, art and cinema.

Invention is Lewis’s second collaboration with the NFB, following Cold Morning: Trilogy (2009). Invention is a Mark Lewis Studio production in co-production with the NFB and in association with Soda Film + Art. The producers are Eve Gabereau (Soda Film + Art), Gerry Flahive and Anita Lee (NFB), with Emily Morgan as co-producer (Soda Film + Art) and Anita Lee as the executive producer for the NFB.


Associated Links

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
IDFA’s DocLab
Mark Lewis Studio
Soda Film + Art

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  • 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.