When the pandemic began we all became witnesses to a world outside of our windows. And nothing was ever the same again. “The Witnesses” is a collaboration between filmmaker Matt Ogens and Invisible Collective, a creative collective dedicated to making diverse and unique voices heard, founded by Justin Polk. For this timely project, Ogens asked people to share what spoke to them when they looked from their windows during quarantine. As time went on what they saw changed, as the world changed. This film is the story of their stories, a curation of what they observed, and an examination of what ultimately brought us all out of our homes to participate in something greater. Is hindsight 2020? Will we be more than “The Witnesses” to what this year brings?

Ogens originated the project’s concept, creative intent, and curation, but it was entirely a collaboration with people around the world capturing and sharing their experiences that resulted in the newly-launched piece. As Ogens shared, “We wanted to create a film showing that though what each of us might see from our window is different, we were all a part of a shared experience. Good or bad, tragic or heartwarming, together or apart.” 

This was a collaboration taking place over time, and involved an ongoing back and forth between the creative team and editor Einar Thorsteinsson.  It was very much about how each shot fit with the next and built upon the previous to create a narrative arc - even as the submissions kept coming in. 

“The George Floyd protests began in the middle of our edit,” notes Polk. “Suddenly the submissions we were receiving became very different. We took a step back, and the whole story of the film began to pivot. We were all no longer passive, no longer observers, we were out from behind our windows, in the streets, seeing and making change happen. Ultimately our film became about the transformation we all took from being observers to witnesses, to creating change, in every sense of the word.”

The film has been released as a new year begins, but the story of change hasn’t ended. It’s still winter, and the stay-at-home orders remain in cities around the world even as COVID vaccinations have begun. The US election is over, and fractures in our world have been exposed. “We need to remember what this past year felt like, and how desperately and how much more we still must change.” Ogens said. “That’s why ultimately the story in the film is left open-ended. There’s so much more to come.”

As Polk relates, “Each of us have our own point of view when it comes to the pandemic and social unrest… or anything that's happened during the last 10 months. To see that reflected in a film is pretty amazing. I hope what people take away from the project is that even though it's been one hell of a year, we still have so much more work to do as a society. When you look at what's going on it didn’t feel like 2020, it felt like 1920 in some respects. I want people to see what those outside of their bubble see and experience, and use that to propel themselves to make positive change.”