Interview of French Digital Creator David Dufresne on the Occasion on NYFF 2014

September 18, 2014 | By Pervenche Beurier

I’m a… punk. In a sense, I try to break rules any time I can… The entire project Fort McMoney was driven from the start by the idea of combining documentary film and video games, auteur perspective and spectator freedom”.

David Dufresne has been invited by the New York Film Festival and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy to present his interactive Documentary Game Fort Mc Money at the NYFF-Convergence program. This will be a great opportunity to meet with one of the most innovative and famous French player of the digital creation (on Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 12pm - Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center) 

David Dufresne is an award-winning independent writer and filmmaker. Fort McMoney is his new film, an interactive game documentary, produced by ONF/Arte and Toxa (Best webdocumentary 2014, Festival du Film d’Environnement of Paris 2014 + finalist at the SXSW festival 2014 + Grimme OnLine Award 2014  Knowledge & Education Category + Special Mention Jury Visa d'or RFI-France 24) and acclaimed by the NY Times as the "wedding of the film and the video game". In 2010, he authored and co-directed Prison Valley, a web documentary, with Philippe Brault (Upian/Arte), which won a host of international awards like World Press Photo 2011 (Best interactive non-linear work of the year), and Visa pour l'image 2010 (Best web documentary, France)

David Dufresne also crafted the film Quand la France s’embrasse (France 2, in 2007). He was a long-time reporter for Libération and managing editor of iTélé, France’s 24-hour newscast. He has also published a dozen investigation books. He was also one of the first Internet players in France (he published the first webzine, La Rafale, in 1995).

He has recently joined the MIT as a Fellow at the Open Documentary Lab, Comparative Media Studies/Writing.


1/ You are invited by the prestigious NYFF (Interactive section : Convergence) to present your last documentary game Fort McMoney. Can you tell us a little more about this project?

Fort McMoney is a documentary game where you are involved in a virtual reimagining of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, a very real town located at the heart of the oil industry (third largest oil reserve in the world). Fort McMoney offers a completely unique format, where webdocumentary meets video game. Like my other interactive works, it is a kind of research and development for documentary, a new approach to storytelling & documentary and, I hope, a good way to get people involved. More than 600,000 people have played the game since its launch, last November. An iPad App will be out soon, also a TV film is planned for December 2014.

2/ Are you a journalist, a director, a storyteller, a scientist, an activist? How do you define your job? 

I’m a… punk. In a sense, I try to break rules any time I can… The entire project Fort McMoney was driven from the start by the idea of combining documentary film and video games, auteur perspective and spectator freedom. That was really both our goal and what we wanted to do. Several factors pushed us in that direction: the desire to innovate, explore new forms of narration and involve the public. The world’s future is being shaped by energy issues. Gaming is a lever for raising awareness. I’m totally convinced that the web can regenerate the documentary genre. As for video game writing, what has contributed to narrative more than it has in the past 20 years? 

3/ You will soon start a fellowship at the MIT Open Doc Lab. What is this about? Can you tell us more about the next project(s) you would like to develop with your MIT fellows? 

This is an absolutely wonderful opportunity to think about the new narratives. Folks at the MIT Open Doc Lab are very inspiring! My main focus at MIT will be: how to turn spectators into active/hardcore players? How to better manage the notion of time in iDocs?  How to put some random game algorithm in iDoc narrative? How to make documentary without video? 


The French Institute - along with the French diplomatic representations around the world - supports the cooperation in the digital and cultural field, especially innovative storytelling. David Dufresne’s fellowship at MIT Open Doc Lab is supported by the French Institute. More information here !

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