Immersive multi-media series on residential highrise buildings to debut at New York Film Festival

The New York Times’s Op-Docs and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) will debut a new immersive documentary series about residential highrise buildings as part of the Film Society at Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival Convergence program – a showcase for storytelling that transcends a single narrative medium – on Monday, September 30, 2013 at 7:00pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The series, A Short History of the Highrise, will premiere on in October.

The series is produced by Op-Docs, the Times editorial department’s forum for short opinionated documentaries, and the National Film Board of Canada as part of the NFB’s ongoing HIGHRISE project, an Emmy Award-winning multi-year, multi-media collaborative documentary experiment.      

The series, which unfolds in four short interactive films, is optimized for tablet devices. Viewers can navigate the story extras and special features within the films using touch commands like swipe, pinch, pull and tap. On desktop and laptop computers, users can mouse over features and click to navigate. Smartphone users can view the four films via The New York Times mobile website.

A Short History of the Highrise tours the 2,500-year global history of vertical living and issues of social equality in an increasingly urbanized world. Each film is intended to evoke a chapter in a storybook, with rhyming narration, photographs brought to life with intricate animation, game play and responsive videos that create immersive, exploratory experiences. 

A video trailer is available at

The first three films (Mud, Concrete and Glass) draw on The Times‘s extraordinary visual archives, a repository of millions of photographs that have largely been unseen in decades. The fourth chapter (Home) is comprised of images submitted by the public, set to music.

The films are written and directed by Katerina Cizek, documentary filmmaker and HIGHRISE director. The interactive elements are produced by the Times’s graphics team, under the direction of Cizek and the Times’s Jacqueline Myint, interactive art director and developer for the series, and by NFB senior producer Gerry Flahive and series executive producer and New York Times commissioning editor for Opinion video Jason Spingarn-Koff.      

The festival premiere will include a screening of the films and a walkthrough of the interactive highlights, demonstrated by Cizek and Myint.    

“We are greatly honoured to premiere at the New York Film Festival’s showcase for cinematic innovation,” said Spingarn-Koff. “In Op-Docs, we celebrate unique voices and creative storytelling approaches, and now we’re bringing opinion journalism to the interactive documentary form.”

“Cinema and interactivity are influencing each other more and more,” said NFB senior producer Gerry Flahive. “In our HIGHRISE project, we’ve always been platform-agnostic, embracing the potential of both. This collaboration with Op-Docs has given the NFB and The New York Times a chance to further advance online documentary storytelling.”

To learn more about the HIGHRISE project, please visit, and to learn more about Op-Docs, please visit