I was one of twelve documentary filmmakers from eight countries who were locked in a room at IDFA with fourteen I-Mac’s, two laptops and ten interactivity freaks. Our task: each of us had to create a non-linear interactive documentary in five days. Our tool: fresh from the University of Arts in Berlin, the experimental new «korsakow system» software. We were the lab rats with our paws on the keyboards. Our course coach Klaas Kuitenbrouwer from Mediamatic in Amsterdam called it “a mixture of a pressure-cooker and a kindergarten.” The idea was to discover to what extent the Korsakow experimental software answers the needs of non-linear narrative in documentary, to test the interactive interface with the viewer, to push the system’s boundaries and to play with its possibilities.
This was virgin territory to me; I was attracted by the way interactivity seems to offer the exciting prospect of a new relationship between a documentary’s author and its audience. I was relieved to find that the software tool, invented by our tutor Florian Thalhofer, is easy-to-use and an elegant, flexible solution to the non-linear problem of grouping and labelling one’s shots and sequences. Essentially, it’s a database intelligently linked by keywords, allowing viewers to navigate their own customised path through the material. Building a project is quick, tinkering with it is fun, testing it on viewers (or ‘players’, we found ourselves adopting gaming terminology) is revealing.