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Jury report Golden Calf for Best Interactive 2019

By Mirka Duijn, Floris Kaayk, and Joost Raessens (chairman)

The projects submitted for the 2019 Golden Calf for Best Interactive cover an enormously broad and diverse field that cannot easily be classified under one heading. Projects have not only been submitted by broadcasters, museums, production houses and game companies, but also by independent makers. Among other formats, we received virtual reality games, web series, interactive comics, cross-media productions, insta-documentaries, web documentaries and interactive performances. There were many virtual reality installations among the entries this year. While some still doubt whether VR is just hype or an essential addition to the cinematographic experience, we as the jury were pleasantly surprised by the quality and diversity of these submitted VR works of which we could only select a limited number.


In the selection of ten works for Golden Calf for Best Interactive 2019, we were guided by two thoughts. First of all, we wanted to provide a broad overview of different "sizes in which" and "ways in which" interactivity can take shape in contemporary media productions. In all the selected productions, the spectator is positioned as a "user" - he or she is invited to make certain choices in order to bring the work to life. The most important difference between all the works assessed by us lies in the extent to which, and the way in which, the user is enabled to interact with the medium. In some productions, the viewer is invited to simply wander around in virtual reality or mixed reality worlds. In another production, a TV series, viewers are encouraged to collect shreds of information on a variety of social media channels. Finally, we also selected live performances in which visitors are seduced into social or more intimate experiments.

Secondly, the submissions we selected are, in our opinion, looking for a new visual language, a search driven by various, refreshing and infectious forms of social and/or personal engagement. There is a personal report of the war in Aleppo and a VR work on the position of LGBTQ refugees from Egypt in which makers reflect on the human imagination; on the ability to revolt against oppression; about the value of memories and friendship; about the desire to leave familiar circumstances and to open up to the wide world; about medical conditions such as epilepsy; about personal, intimate interaction and, finally, about the manipulative power of social media.

We are happy with this selection, which we believe beautifully displays the full breadth of "interactive". It is a field where, in most cases, single authorship is no longer a lead component. Instead, in labs and through interdisciplinary collaborations, professionals such as filmmakers, artists, designers, coders, scriptwriters, scientists and creative technologists come together in co-creation to create new stories with a corresponding new visual language. As far as we are concerned, this selection therefore forms a strong base on which to build the future of an (innovative) Dutch interactive media culture.

This year, the jury assessed the submitted projects while applying three separate criteria. The first criterion is "innovation" ("renewal" or "originality"). We looked specifically at technological innovation, at new forms of storytelling and at original (unknown or strange) ways to test our trusted perception. We also asked ourselves whether these innovative elements contributed to the meaningful experience of the work. The second criterion was "impact", or the "social urgency" of the project. Is the medium used in an interesting and effective way to put an important social theme on the agenda? The third and most important criterion for us was the combination of "authorship" and "artistic quality". Does the maker know how to shape a work in a characteristic, independent and creative way and thus avoid all-too-familiar and well-worn paths? And does the work have "power of expression", the ability to grab you immediately, to offer you an overwhelming experience? Based on these criteria, the jury has decided upon the following three nominations (in alphabetical order). Another Dream - Tamara ShogaoluAnother Dream, an animated VR experience about a lesbian couple fleeing Cairo in order not to be prosecuted, is a beautiful and highly cinematographic production. You will soon be swept along within a compelling story about love, and the need to build a completely new life for it in a foreign country. The fact that the project was presented as a VR, in which you as a user have all the time to literally and figuratively move into the world of the main characters, augments our experience of a relevant and daring subject. The jury therefore considered it an urgent but highly cinematographic project, which clearly demonstrates authorship and knowledge of developments within VR. The Great Orator (Die Fernweh Oper) - Daniël Ernst"Fernweh" means the longing for distance; maker Daniël Ernst gives that term a very personal, virtual translation in this project. Daniël creates VR experiences that he describes as "dioramas". He has been doing this for many years, and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in his field. In the making process of The Great Orator he did almost everything himself, from animating to programming, writing to editing. Characters, environments and atmospheres were thoughtfully thought out and composed. This results in a work of art that feels natural, executed down to the smallest detail, whereby the viewer almost forgets that he/she in a virtual world: the distance between an orator made of star dust and the audience seems to disappear. Kissing Data Symphony - Karen Lancel, Hermen MaatWith Kissing Data Symphony, makers Karen Lancel and Hermen Maat are investigating a neuro-feedback system for pillows. Kissing was always a personal, intimate interaction between two people, but their Kissing Data Symphony changes that. The makers collect live "kiss data" through special EEG headsets, which the audience immediately visualize. In doing so, they raise questions about ownership of data: who owns this (digital) kiss? The jury thought it was a refreshing entry. We are happy to see a research-driven project, where science, art and media merge. We also like how the makers play with the audience and their data. The project is therefore a wonderful example of a carefully designed interdisciplinary work.
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