The Film Society Unveils Initial NYFF Convergence Slate Plus Keynote Speaker Henry Jenkins


Living Los Sures, produced by UnionDocs

The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the North American premiere of the interactive presentation of Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting's The Last Hijack, a presentation of ITVS's online series Futurestates, and a keynote address by Convergence Culture author Henry Jenkins as some of the initial projects slated for the 2014 NYFF Convergence.

Bridging technology and storytelling, NYFF Convergence spotlights immersive storytelling projects that are on the cusp of today's entertainment landscape. Jenkins's address will focus on this quickly evolving, multi-platform medium in his address "A Brief History of Transmedia Worlds," spotlighting world-building in the contemporary entertainment landscape as it applies to film as well as exploring the worlds of games, online content, books, and more.

Previewing the address, Jenkins said, "Today's films, television series, games, comics, novels, and even documentaries and journalism rely heavily on the concepts of world-building and world-mapping. In this talk, I will provide a conceptual map for understanding what we mean by ‘worlds,’ what roles they are playing in the production and consumption of popular media, how thinking in terms of worlds involves a shift from more traditional focuses on character and narrative, and why this concept has gained such traction in an era of networked communication and transmedia entertainment."

Henry Jenkins is the Provost's Professor of Communication Journalism and Cinematic Arts at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He joined USC from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was Peter de Florez Professor in the Humanities and directed MIT's Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program from 1993-2009, setting an innovative research agenda during a time of fundamental change in communication, journalism, and entertainment. As one of the first media scholars to chart the changing role of the audience in an environment of increasingly pervasive digital content, Jenkins has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture.

His research gives key insight into the success of social-networking websites, networked computer games, online fan communities, and other advocacy organizations and emerging news media outlets. Jenkins has also played a central role in demonstrating the importance of new media technologies in educational settings. He has worked closely with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to shape a media literacy program designed to explore the effects of participatory media on young people, and reveal potential new pathways for education through emerging digital media. He is Principal Investigator on the Media Activism Participatory Politics project. His most recent books include Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the Literature Classroom (with Wyn Kelley, Katie Clinton, Jenna McWilliams, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, and Erin Reilly) and Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Society (with Sam Ford and Joshua Green).

"We couldn't be more excited to have Henry Jenkins as our keynote speaker this year," NYFF Convergence Programmer Matt Bolish told FilmLinc. "Through his work as an educator at MIT and USC, as a media theorist, and as an author his contribution to the contemporary media landscape—to understanding how we tell and consume stories can't be understated."

Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting’s The Last Hijack is among the presentations announced Tuesday. A North American premiere, the project combines documentary footage, animation, and an online transmedia experience to "explore contemporary piracy from the point of view of a Somali man contemplating one final hijacking attempt." Also part of today's announcement, which includes the first three sections of NYFF Convergence, is a 30th anniversary screening (of a restored 16mm print) of Diego Echeverria’s 1984 documentary Living Los Sures, about the challenges and struggles of living in Brooklyn’s Los Sures neighborhood at that time. Nearly lost, the restored, reframed, and remixed documentary is now part of a multi-platform participatory media project of Brooklyn-based UnionDocs. For the third selection, NYFF Convergence will play host to a creator-guided tour of Futurestates, the ITVS series that imagines the "impact of technology on humanity in the not-so-distant future."

"When we started [NYFF Convergence] just four years ago there was an obsession about classifications and definitions of  what is 'transmedia' and how you describe it, what counts and what doesn't," explained Bolish. "While those debates haven't gone away—and I'm sure they will rage for some time—the artists who make this particular form of art have moved on. In the last four years we've seen an explosion of amazing projects, especially in the documentary space. They are slick, exciting, and, most importantly, accessible, giving lie to the impression that immersive storytelling involves complicated tropes or that it catered to a specific section of the filmgoing public."  

Looking at how transmedia is continuing to progress and cement its footprint on storytelling, Bolish added: "We are starting to see some really interesting indie narrative work emerge and that is huge because it shows that creators are realizing you don't need to have blockbuster budgets to tell an interesting interactive story. The key to blowing this out, to achieving widespread public notice of the form, is making more content, creating and re-creating stories that engage audiences."

NYFF previously announced Gone Girl as the Opening Night selection and Inherent Vice as the Centerpiece, the retrospective "Joseph L. Mankiewicz: The Essential Iconoclast" as well as initial selections in the Revivals section, including Burroughs: The Movie, The Color of Pomegranates, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Once Upon a Time in America.  

[Tickets for the 52nd New York Film Festival will go on sale to the general public at noon on Sunday, September 7. For information about purchasing Subscription Packages and VIP Passes, go to filmlinc.com/NYFF. To find out how to become a Film Society member visit filmlinc.com.]


2014 NYFF Convergence Keynote Speaker 
Henry Jenkins

2014 NYFF Convergence film and project descriptions follow:

Los Sures
Diego Echeverria, USA, 1984, 16mm, 66m
Diego Echeverria’s Los Sures skillfully represents the challenges of its time: drugs, gang violence, crime, abandoned real estate, racial tension, single-parent homes, and inadequate local resources in Brooklyn’s Los Sures neighborhood. Yet Echeverria’s portrait also celebrates the vitality of this largely Puerto Rican and Dominican community, showing the strength of their culture, their creativity, and their determination to overcome a desperate situation. Nearly lost, this 16mm film has been restored, reframed, and remixed by Southside based UnionDocs just in time for the 30th anniversary of its premiere at the New York Film Festival.
Saturday, September 27

Living Los Sures (Interactive Presentation)
Produced by UnionDocs, 2014
Using Escheverria’s 1984 documentary Los Sures as a starting point, Southside-based UnionDocs has created Living Los Sures, a massive mixed-media project that defies easy categorization. Composed over the course of four years and pulling on the talents of over 30 different artists, Living Los Sures paints a picture of a neighborhood from street level, an ever-evolving mosaic of people and places captured through film, audio, and now an online participatory experience. With the premiere of two new elements—Eighty-Nine Steps, a continuation of the story of one of the original characters from Los Sures, and Shot by Shot—that invites people to share their personal stories inspired by the shots and locations of the original film—the UnionDocs team will take audiences through the process of building this unique documentary storyworld.
Saturday, September 27

Last Hijack
Tommy Pallotta & Femke Wolting, Netherlands, 2014, DCP, 83m
Mohamed is your average middle-aged man trying to make ends meet in his homeland: the failed state of Somalia. One of the country’s most experienced pirates, he is faced with constant pressure—from his fiancée, family, and friends—to get out of his dangerous profession. Far from the romantic figures of movies and literature, piracy is coming under increasing scrutiny from global forces and communities within Somalia. Sensing the end of an era, Mohamed must decide if he should risk everything and do one last hijack. As he wrestles with these very real problems, a dramatic tale of survival unfolds. How did Mohamed come to live this brutal and dangerous existence and is it possible to walk away? Last Hijack is both a feature-length film, combining documentary footage and animation, and an online transmedia experience, allowing viewers a unique and original way to explore the story of Somali piracy from different perspectives.
Sunday, September 28

Last Hijack (Interactive Presentation, North American Premiere)
Tommy Pallotta & Femke Wolting

Join directors Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting as they explore the immersive online components of Last Hijack. The creators will offer a bird’s-eye view of the online elements of their documentary that investigates modern-day piracy. Using data visualizations, animation, live footage, and audio, the online experience paints a picture not of perpetrators of crimes and their victims but of real people whose actions have an effect on the world around them.
Sunday, September 28

Futurestates (Interactive Presentation)
Produced by ITVS, USA, 2014, 90m
What will America look like in 10, 15, even 20 years? Futurestates, the revolutionary series produced by ITVS, has been proposing answers to those questions since 2010. For its fifth and final season, Futurestates is presented as an immersive online video experience featuring short films that imagine robots with feelings, what education looks like in a wired world, and the future of prisons and our penal system. The central question at the heart of Futurestates is how technologies we may take for granted have a profound effect on our capacity to feel, create, live... and be human.
Sunday, September 28

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