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Blood-soaked snow and the waxy green of conifers color the pensive landscape of The Last Hunt, an interactive story produced by the Digital Studio at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). The narrative follows photographer Alexi Hobbs as he joins his aging grandfather Pit on their final visit to the old family cabin on the rocky shore of a “deep, dark lake” in Quebec.
Photographs by Hobbs and a text narrative convey the character of his grandfather, a man who always felt more at home in the forest, and in spite of their generational divide there’s a connection between the way hunting and photography both make them more present in each moment. “I have a hard time with words sometimes,” Hobbs writes. “But I do know one thing: there’s a story here, in these pictures. It’s a vocabulary you start to pick up on, like anything else. Buckets of feathers. Hare stripped of their fur. A sideways wind blowing in off the lake. Smoke. Us.”
Released for free on iTunes for iPad in 2013, but also available in iOS for iPod and online, The Last Hunt uses a simple scroll function to connect between photographs, text available in English and French, and drawings, with a smart use of the gyroscope balance function of the iPad for depth. Throughout are small animations that seamlessly respond to the progression of the tale, like a running hare or snare set and triggered against a tree. A strategic use of lush but somber music sets the tone for the scenes of both life and death, composed by Rameses III and Barn Owl, along with a track from An Empty Bliss Beyond This World by the Caretaker (aka Leyland Kirby), itself an album about loss of memory in Alzheimer’s recalled through fragments of 78s.
The NFB is currently creating a lot of impressive interactive content, and The Last Hunt was honored last year by the Webby Awards in the People’s Voice category for Best Navigation/Structure. The art app only takes about 10 minutes to move through if you’re scrolling at a steady speed, and although it’s a couple years old now it’s one of those pieces that has the potential to endure beyond its technology as a skillful blend of images and experience that measure the last moments with a person in the place where they are most themselves.