Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary
Documentary films move us, excite us, awaken us, enrage us. They compel us to act. But for all of their power, they lack the ability to engage us. We watch rapt for an hour or more, and then the lights come on. We leave the theater with no immediate way to channel our empathy, our awareness, and in some cases, our anger.
Our answer: the appumentary.
Appumentaries are digital applications that build upon storytelling presented in books and films to deliver interactive experiences. We can leverage technology to convert isolated groups of individuals into communities. We can transform passive experiences into interactive ones that present content in myriad ways. We can provide ways for audiences to respond, for teachers to enlighten, and for students to explore.
We're pleased to announce that our first such project, an iPad app called Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary, is now available in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play store. Watch a preview here.
Spies of Mississippi is an important story about democracy. From 1956 to 1997, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission infiltrated civil rights organizations in the state in an effort to preserve racial segregation. Documents made public in 1998 revealed the extent of the publicly-funded spy operation, with secret files on more than 87,000 American citizens and complicity in the murders of three civil rights workers. Author Rick Bowers' research and interviews resulted in a book, published by the National Geographic Society in 2010.
The book inspired documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter, a Sundance Award winner for a film called Gideon's Army about public defenders in the deep South. Porter worked with Bowers to create a 52-minute documentary film based on Spies of Mississippi that premiered earlier this year as part of PBS' Emmy Award-winning Independent Lens series and received positive reviews from The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
It turns out that Porter's film production company, Trilogy Films, is located in the same Montclair, NJ, church-turned-office building as Joe Zeff Design. The two companies collaborated with Bowers to create the appumentary, extending the storytelling of the book and film to include:
• A video introduction from U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., on the significance of Spies of Mississippi.
• A text summary of the film, with video from author Bowers and director Porter.
• A song written specifically for Spies of Mississippi, with shareable lyrics.
• A visual timeline of the time period depicted in the book and film, with historical photographs and corresponding documents.
• An interactive map showing where events of the book and film took place, with photographs, video and documents that correlate with each point of interest.
• Three excerpts from the film, with bios of individuals featured in the film and an assortment of once-secret documents for further exploration.
• Lesson plans and resources for teachers to bring Spies of Mississippi into their classroom, aligned with Common Core State Standards.
• Discussion questions for book groups, students and teachers, with conversation starters from those who created Spies of Mississippi.
• Content from AARP’s Voices of Civil Rights project, a collection of first-hand accounts of the civil rights movement that Bowers helped to produce. The project included a History Channel documentary that won Emmy, Peabody and Webby Awards. A traveling exhibition of photographs and oral histories now resides in the Library of Congress.
• A portal to AARP's Voices of Civil Rights project to contribute your own story.
Images from the appumentary:
Joe Zeff Design has been at the forefront of creating educational apps for the iPad. The studio has produced 18 apps for Kids Discover, three of which are promoted by Apple on the iTunes App Store Education storefront this week. We've also designed and developed apps for the University of Notre Dame, UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Maryland Institute College of Art. All were produced using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.
Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary has been made possible by AARP, PBS and the Andrew Goodman Foundation. It is offered free to enlighten students and teachers, and to inspire other authors and filmmakers.
Learn more about Spies of Mississippi, the book.
Learn more about Trilogy Films.
Learn more about Joe Zeff Design.
And by all means, download Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary from the iTunes App Store.
(Update: Talking New Media interviews Joe Zeff on what may be "the firm's most important work to date." Link.)
(Update 2: Dr. Mario R. Garcia calls Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary "an example that all of us can learn from." Link.)
(Update 3: The Guardian names Spies of Mississippi: The Appumentary one of the best iPad apps of the week! Link.)
(Update 4: The appumentary will be featured in a special event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., this summer! More to come!)
(Update 5: Spies of Mississippi is a finalist for the Cinema Eye Honors' annual Nonfiction Film for Television Award! Link.)