East of the Rockies
Joy Kogawa and Jam3
| 40-60 min
Augmented Reality Experience
Selections and Awards
East of the Rockies is an experimental augmented-reality narrative written by 83-year-old Joy Kogawa, one of Canada’s most acclaimed and celebrated literary figures. The story is told from the perspective of Yuki, a 17-year-old girl forced from her home and made to live in the Slocan internment camp during the Second World War. As Yuki and her family adjust to their new reality inside the camp, they struggle to make life as normal as possible.
Users follow the story by tapping, swiping, inspecting and zooming in on key elements within each scene. Every interaction activates a piece of scripted narrative spoken by Joy’s own granddaughter, Anne. Spoken in the first person, each line illuminates a different aspect of life in the camp, as documented in Yuki’s journal.
East of the Rockies is an interactive narrative AR experience written by acclaimed Canadian author Joy Kogawa and told from the perspective of Yuki, a 17-year-old girl forced from her home and made to live in BC’s Slocan Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.
Origin of the project
The project began with Joy Kogawa—famed author, poet, activist, and member of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia, as well as Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun. Joy is also a former internee at the Japanese-Canadian internment camp at Slocan, BC.
Kogawa’s novel Obasan stands as the most important account of this chapter in Canadian history. Powerful and passionate, Obasan tells, through the eyes of a child, the moving story of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Based on Kogawa’s own experiences, this award-winning novel was the first to recount the story of the evacuation, relocation, and dispersal of Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry. Obasan was named one of the most important books in Canadian history by the Literary Review of Canada.
At 83 years old, Kogawa has teamed up with artists and producers at Jam3 to tell a completely original tale for an all-new medium. Together with Kogawa, the team is leveraging new and exciting technology to relate an amazing, substantive story and reach a new generation.
About the technology
East of the Rockies uses cutting-edge AR technology to bring impactful storytelling into the palm of users’ hands. Users become directors as they physically move through the 3D environment at their own speed with proximity-based interactions, tapping, and swiping.
Story-driven interactions emphasize story elements by showing life in Slocan, BC, or painting a picture alongside a character. Whether or not users enable AR, East of the Rockies tells an important story with innovative and artful technology.
Following Pearl Harbor, some 22,000 Canadians of Japanese descent or nationality were stripped of their property and interned under the War Measures Act.
The War Measures Act gave the federal government the power to regulate all persons “of the Japanese race”—which soon translated into forced relocation and years of internment for Japanese Canadians. Property was seized, stolen, looted, destroyed or left neglected while its owners were subjected to harsh conditions in remote locations, far from the homes and lives they once knew.
During this time, the rights of Japanese Canadians were severely curtailed. In August 1944, Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced that Japanese Canadians were to be moved east out of the British Columbia interior. The official policy stated that Japanese Canadians must move east of the Rocky Mountains or be repatriated to Japan following the end of the war.
It wouldn’t be until 1949, following years of internment, the confiscation and sale of their properties, and the Dispersal Policy, that the internees would be given the freedom to move anywhere within Canada.
For the roughly 22,000 Canadians affected, race superseded citizenship, regardless of class, sex, age or generation.
East of the Rockies is the story of a young millennial woman attempting to piece together the faded memory of her family’s past, set in an imagined version of the Slocan Japanese-Canadian internment camp—the site where her ailing grandmother lived and where her family’s lives changed forever.
Photo : Yukiko Onley
One of North America’s most celebrated writers, Joy Kogawa is the award-winning author of three novels, seven collections of poetry, and two books for children. Obasan, which The New York Times called “a tour de force… brilliantly poetic in its sensibility,” continues to be taught across North America, and the opera based on her children’s book Naomi’s Road has toured in Canada and the United States. In 1986, Kogawa was made a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2016 she was made a Member of the Order of British Columbia. In 2010, the Japanese government honoured her with the Order of the Rising Sun. Kogawa has worked to educate Canadians about the history of Japanese Canadians and is a long-time activist in the areas of peace and reconciliation. Her childhood home in Vancouver is now the Historic Joy Kogawa House, which frequently hosts writers-in-residence who seek to heal society’s struggles through literary expression.
Script consultant & voice over artist
Anne Canute is a multiracial, multidisciplinary designer based in the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. They are in their final year at the University of British Columbia, where they study Cognitive Systems and Asian Canadian and Migration Studies. Their interests lie in digital storytelling, intersecting the arts with technology, and community-driven media. Following East of the Rockies, Anne continues to explore forms of storytelling and recently worked on their first short film, Ricecake, which premiered at the 2019 Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Currently, they are in the process of putting together an art show about mixed identity called Canned Foreign. The exhibit, featuring installation art, experimental video, soundscapes, and drag, will go up at the Hatch Art Gallery in November 2019. Anne hopes to continue work in immersive storytelling and emerging media.
Designer and Developer
Photo : Dean West
Jam3 is a design and experience agency known for smart, innovative and inspired work. They work closely with their clients to first understand their problems and then solve them in creative ways. From their offices in Toronto, Los Angeles and Montevideo, they team up with forward-thinking brands from around the world.
Their partners include Google, Spotify,Microsoft, Adidas, Facebook, Ford, Sephora, MTV and Disney Pixar. Modesty aside, their diverse work has received global recognition from Cannes to The One Show, and even the Pulitzer Prize. To learn more, visit jam3.com.
Photo : Jam3
A pioneering creative and producer in digital storytelling, Jason Legge is a veteran of both Secret Location and Jam3 whose work includes projects for the LA Philharmonic, PBS Frontline, and the National Film Board of Canada. Among his recent collaborations with the NFB are the highly acclaimed Homestay and Biidaaban: First Light, which premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Jason is also the co-creator of East of the Rockies, an augmented-reality experience written by Joy Kogawa and co-produced by Jam3 and the NFB.
Rob McLaughlin is a Canadian producer and journalist most known for his work in digital media. He is currently the Executive Producer and Head of the National Film Board of Canada’s Digital Studio in Vancouver. From 2008 to 2011, he was the Director of Digital Content and Strategy at the NFB, where he led the development of the institution’s digital programming strategy and pioneering interactive documentary work, including Welcome to Pine Point and Bear 71. His most recent credits include the VR projects Homestay and Biidaaban: First Light.
From 2011 to 2015, he was an editor, publisher and senior executive at Canada’s largest newspaper chain, responsible for leading newsroom staff through a time of radical transformation in the newspaper industry.
Prior to working at the NFB, Rob was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. There he focused on developing new forms of audiovisual content designed to attract new audiences for public broadcasting, including the interactive radio service CBC Radio 3. He also served as the CBC’s director of digital programming, responsible for the creative development of digital platforms in the areas of documentaries, arts and entertainment shows for television and network radio programming.
A former tree planter and fishing guide from small-town Saskatchewan, Rob now lives in North Vancouver with his wife and the world’s two most brilliant girls, aged 10 and 14.
By Joy Kogawa and Jam3
Produced by Jam3 and the National Film Board of Canada
DIRK VAN GINKEL
Executive Creative Director
Managing Director / Partner
Executive Creative Directors / Partners
Director of New Business / Partner
Lead Game Programmer
Grafics and Animator Programmer
Voice Over Artists
User Experience Designer
Motion Capture Performers
NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA
Studio Operations Manager
KATJA DE BOCK
CANADIAN RACE RELATIONS FOUNDATION
Director, Finance and Administration
LEATRICE NAKANO CHAN
WILLIAM ANDREW ROSSER
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won over 100 awards, including 21 Webbys. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.