Reports of ship hijackings near Somali waters pop up with a disturbing regularity on our newsfeeds, but very few of them go deep into what actually happens on the ship taken hostage in the middle of the sea. Directed by Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta, Last Hijack, a hybrid of a feature documentary and an interactive, web-based experience, aims to answer this very question by telling the story from both perspectives—the pirates’ and the hostages’.
Combining animation, data visualization, and live-action footage, this interactive experience follows the timeline of an incident that took place in November 2008. Mohamed Nur, one of the hijackers, and Colin Darch, the captain of the ship, tell their versions of events from a horizontally divided screen. Viewers can always switch between their accounts, but the auto pathway ensures that you see the story from both angles. In order to provide a fuller picture of the piracy crisis, the documentary also features interviews with a security expert, lawyer, advocate, and even the captain’s wife, as well as interactive maps and graphics. Animated sequences represent the subjective points of view of the main characters, filling in what could not have been filmed and avoiding oftentimes awkward reconstructions.
One of the key elements in any i-doc’s vernacular is the interface, which not only lets users explore the story at their own pace, welcoming them to pause and wander around the content, but also provides guidance to an unfamiliar world, so that they do not feel lost. In Last Hijack, the interface becomes a storytelling tool in its own right. It allows for a perfect balance between active self-exploration and a more traditional, lean-back viewing experience, where the users can focus on the well-crafted story without feeling that they are missing out on additional features.
Last Hijack has already secured its place in the i-doc cannon. The well-crafted narrative and gorgeous animations, combined with intelligent interaction solutions, ensure an intriguing viewing experience that allows users to become active participants in the uncovering of the story without overwhelming them.