Interactive NFB doc offers viewers a peek at life inside a Toronto high-rise

Interactive NFB doc offers viewers a peek at life inside a Toronto high-rise

A stunning new multimedia NFB documentary, offering viewers the chance to explore the apartments of 13 immigrants in 13 different concrete high-rise towers around the world—including one in Toronto—has steadily been generating buzz.  Out My Window is the work of Toronto director Katerina Cizek, who specializes in just this kind of ambitious and masterfully executed digital storytelling.

As filmmaker-in-residence at St. Michael’s Hospital a few years ago, Cizek produced an award-winning multimedia Web site detailing the lives and work of the doctors, nurses and frontline workers who care for Toronto’s inner-city patient population. Out My Window uses many of the same methods to document the homes of 13 individuals living in such high-rise-heavy cities as Beirut, Bangalore, Johannesburg and Toronto.

With a few clicks, viewers can enter the Toronto high-rise home of Tibetan musician Amchok Gompo, hear his music, peruse his belongings and meet his family. A click on the stuffed yak summons Gompo’s memories of home and the dramatic tale of his exodus from Tibet, accompanied by photos of his new life here in Toronto. Spin 360 degrees around Gompo’s apartment to reveal a sweeping view of Toronto’s urban horizon. It’s a far cry from the rural narrative of Gompo’s past, and the contrast is sharpened by the sounds of the city that play alongside Gompo’s gentle guitar strumming.

Cizek’s project illustrates the power of new media to forge powerful human connections when used creatively. Out My Window rebukes the ethos of technology for technology’s sake: it is a beautiful example of what multimedia filmmaking can and should be. We had trouble tearing ourselves away from the screen.

NFB doc glimpses into immigrants’ high-rise world [Globe and Mail]