Welcome to the age of interactive filmmaking. That message rings out loud and clear in "Late Fragment," a 21st-century movie that makes its world premiere at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.

Co-produced by The Canadian Film Centre and The National Film Board of Canada, "Late Fragment" glimpses the future of experimental filmmaking, one where techno-savvy hybrid filmmakers exceed the limits of traditional storytelling and where the passive movie goer moves from onlooker to participant with the click of a mouse.

Interactive film goes mainstream

"At the heart of this project is the idea of taking interactive film to the mainstream audience," says Ana Serrano, a "Late Fragment" producer and a Canadian Film Centre interactive architect.

It's also about giving a burgeoning market of maturing video game players who have tired of the limitations of that pastime something more meaningful to experiment with.

"People want dramatic, engaging stories. They want sophisticated storytelling that uses the next level of technology in new ways," says Serrano. So in a world of emerging cell phone videos, broadband and gaming consoles, what is the new language of cinema going to be?

"Late Fragment" gives a taste of what the future could look like

Delivered via DVD-video and presented as a live VJ-d performance theatrically, North America's first interactive feature film intertwines three tragic strangers (Krista Bridges, Michael Healey and Jeff Parazzo) who have all experienced violence in their lives.

Looking for healing, the troubled trio meet at a "restorative justice" therapy session held in a prison.

From that starting point "Late Fragments" writers/directors (Daryl Cloran, Anita Doron and Mateo Guez) marry multiple storylines, three acts, nine chapters, 139 scenes, three different endings and 380 components such as rabbit-holes, loops and clicks. The end result is a unique, non-linear film experience in which viewers can interrupt the story at any time they wish and switch from scene to scene.

"With a click you can change the direction of the story. You can switch scenes whenever you want. It's a format that lets you explore the point of view of the victims and the offenders in the film," says Serrano.

A techno marvel

At least 13 different digital tools were created and implemented to get this $1.3 million production made. In chapter 5 alone there are 3.26 billion story trajectories along which audiences can go.

While the film runs 168 minutes, viewers who buy the DVD and take it home can create a performative screening experience of up to three hours.

If major studios bite on this idea in a big way one day, we may all be watching movies like this in our homes and in theatres. Until then the novel technology and hop-scotch storytelling in "Late Fragment" lets viewers rule at their home box office.

- Constance Droganes, entertainment writer, CTV.ca