Christina Elizabeth Hall

Interactive Nonfiction Canon


Even before taking this class, I used this interactive, web-based documentary, The Space We Hold created by the National Film Board of Canada, as inspiration for the 360/VR film work I created this summer at Adobe. I was looking for web-based stories that did a really good job using interaction in their story and this is one that stuck with me.

The Space We Hold bears the audience witness to the testimonies of three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII.

Without having to mention it, these stories are difficult to hear and the  strength these women have to share their stories is truly incredible.

The story introduces some of the victims of militarized sexual assault in the traditional documentary style at the beginning documentary. As we continue into each individuals story, which they warn are difficult to listen to, the filmmakers ask for consent as to whether or not you feel comfortable hearing the tales:

I appreciate this approach because it wants each viewer to feel safe in this experience.

As the stories are told, you have to hold the spacebar down continuously so that the story will continue.  This really enforces the viewer to be attentive and focused on the story — I believe this was very well done.

If you ever release the spacebar the story pauses:

Some moments were very hard to hear and internalize, but having the ability to remove my finger from the spacebar, at any point, to have a moment of pause, to reflect that I was hearing was an amazing opportunity to offer.

If the stories were too hard to hear, the creators gave the viewer the choice to stop listening. If the “I choose to stop” button was pushed, you were brought to a screen that reassured you that it was alright to stop, and that others have done the same:

Additionally, the creators offered some of the reasons provided by the viewers that couldn’t continue to ease the mind of the viewer that has chosen to stop watching

I think this is very powerful that the creators give the agency to the viewers to not continue to watch if the content is too tough for them.

At the end of the documentary, the creators encourage the viewers to post a response to the documentary, which are populated in a point cloud that the viewer can hover and see what others commented.

The Space We Hold from Christina Elizabeth Hall on Vimeo.

I feel that The Space We Hold is an exceptional example of an alternative documentary that not only addresses a difficult and extremely important story to tell, but also supports the viewer by not forcing them into an experience that may not feel ready to be a part of.

I appreciate that there is compassion for the story tellers and for the story receivers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *