Matt Nish-Lapidus

The Space We Hold

Winner for “Best Original Interactive Production” at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards

“The Space we Hold” is an interactive documentary produced by the National Film Board of Canada as a companion piece to the full length film documentary “The Apology.”

Both pieces tell the story of the Comfort Women, women abducted into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.

I collaborated with the production team to conceptualize the digital documentary, provide art direction, and create a compelling interaction framework based on their existing material. Joining the project while it was in progress, I worked with the producer to maintain the artistic vision they had been developing while adding some deeper interaction and digital sophistication.

The piece walks viewers through the background of the Comfort Women, contextualizing it within their ongoing struggle for an official apology from the Japanese government. This story is intertwined with commentary about what it means to witness sexual violence in the 21st century, and the role we can all play to “hold space” for the victim’s stories.

The core of the experience is a first person testimony from one of the Comfort Women. In order to view the testimony the viewer must hold down the spacebar, literally and figuratively “holding space”, for the duration of the video. This encourages an active listening state and engagement with the powerful and difficult stories.

After listening, or choosing to stop early, the viewer is given the opportunity to reflect on the experience and leave a message. All the messages are gathered into a visualization, giving physicality to the space that has been held for the women’s stories.

The version of the project that eventually launched is paired down compared to our concepts, and ultimately not as effective. I hope that the full documentary will still see the light of day at some point.

Included in this folder are some early storyboards, art direction, and mockups of different aspects of the doc concept.