The NFB at Sundance
(December 27, 2019 – Toronto, ON) Two new NFB virtual reality works will be presented at the Sundance Film Festival, along with an award-winning short doc set in British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii. The productions are Randall Okita’s The Book of Distance, Sandra Rodriguez’s Chomsky vs. Chomsky: First Encounter and Now Is the Time, which is the latest work by award-winning Vancouver-based Haida director, animator and illustrator Christopher Auchter. Sundance gets underway on January 23 and runs until February 2.
Presented in the festival’s Short Film section, Now Is the Time (pictured above) had its world premiere earlier this year at TIFF. The 16-minute short revisits the day in August 1969 when three generations of Eagle and Raven clan gathered to raise the first totem pole on Haida Gwaii in over a hundred years. Christopher Auchter made his directorial debut in 2017 with the NFB animated short The Mountain of SGaana, named Best Animated Film or Series for Young Audiences – Ages 6–12 at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and Best Animated Short – Iron Giants Children’s Jury Prizes (ages 14+) at the Seattle Children’s Film Festival. Now Is the Time is produced by Selwyn Jacob and executive produced by Shirley Vercruysse, with Teri Snelgrove as associate producer, for the NFB’s BC and Yukon Studio in Vancouver.
Sundance’s New Frontiers program will see the world premiere of The Book of Distance, the first VR work by acclaimed Toronto-based artist and filmmaker Randall Okita (The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer), as well as a prologue to the AI project Chomsky vs. Chomsky: First Encounter, created by distinguished Montreal-based creative director, filmmaker and sociologist of media technologies Sandra Rodriguez. It is an NFB-Schnellebuntebilder-EyeSteelFilm production.
Randall Okita’s third NFB production is titled The Book of Distance and embraces his family’s history. In 1935 his grandfather Yonezo Okita left his home in Hiroshima, Japan, for Canada. Then war and racism changed everything. Three generations later, Randall Okita created an interactive pilgrimage through an emotional geography of immigration and family to recover what was lost. The Book of Distance is produced by David Oppenheim and executive produced by Anita Lee for the NFB’s Ontario Studio in Toronto.
The prologue to Chomsky vs. Chomsky: First Encounter is a timely conversation on Artificial Intelligence’s biggest promises and pitfalls. Lured by the possibility of emulating one of today’s most famous minds, we meet and engage with CHOMSKY_AI, an entity under construction, evolving from the arsenal of digital traces professor Noam Chomsky has left behind.
Created by Sandra Rodriguez, a Montreal-based artist and visiting scholar and lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, her past work includes groundbreaking documentaries, webdocs and VR/XR projects, including as director of the fifth episode of the NFB-co-produced web series Do Not Track, recipient of a Peabody Award and over two million hits, and creative director/producer of Manic VR, winner of a prestigious Golden Nica at Ars Electronica.
Chomsky vs. Chomsky: First Encounter is produced by Sandra Rodriguez (EyeSteelFilm), Sebastian Huber (Schnellebuntebilder) and Marie-Pier Gauthier (NFB Digital Studio), and executive produced by Bob Moore (EyeSteelFilm), Louis-Richard Tremblay and Hugues Sweeney (NFB Digital Studio), and Michaela Pnacekova (Schnellebuntebilder), and was funded by the Canada-Germany Digital Media Incentive. The experience is supported in part by Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Lab Programs with a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Click here for a link to the Sundance Film Festival and other January 2020 film festivals.
All images courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).