This animated documentary, directed by Jonathan Hodgson, opens with the statement, ‘Most people’s mums are mad. Mine’s got schizophrenia’. This text crafts the perspective of a child by adopting adolescent rhetoric. The tone of such a statement is carried through an extraordinary series of parallel narratives in which adults recount their experiences in childhood dealing with parents suffering from paranoid delusions. A varied set of richly textured and naïve illustrative styles assist the visualisation of a number of accounts where children doubt the natural authority granted to a parent.
A particularly fascinating aspect of the subject matter is revealed when the interviewees recall their beliefs that a parents delusions may have been real. When we are developing it is very easy to take anything a guardian tells us literally. It must be a slow process of realisation for a child to learn not to trust their first teacher in this world. A kid would start to decipher for themselves that their parent’s fantastical notions may be being generated by the distortions of mental illness; splitting reality into tangled delusions which are disengaged from rational analysis, but rather supported by a complex web of symbolic meaning and tenuous evidence. One would hope that such a disruption to natural authority does not have a long lasting affect on an individual’s development.
Siri Mechior and Tim Webb’s contribution to the animated portion of the film is invaluable. Something engaging is sparked when distinctively two-dimensional drawings skid into three-dimensions. Lines shift, scattering our understanding of space as the viewpoint rotates around the modernist imagery, causing the destruction of the flat plane. Occasionally these moving pictures are digitally encrusted to great effect in undulating binary distortions. At other points one can feel the materiality of physical mark making, the rippling paper jostles to create surface boil. In addition Hodgson’s sound design is gripping. The disembodied eyes that swing to the sound of creaking wood conjures surrealist notions of juxtaposition.
The live action scenes do not maintain the standard of excellence I attribute to the animated sequences. Certainly the over dubbing of the actors voices was a formal choice, one designed to unnerve and disrupt the default expectation of an audience. However such disharmony is so corrupting that the gathering in the garden scene feels like something out of a continental soap opera.
As a whole the film is fascinating both visually and in terms of subject. The Arts Council of England and Channel 4 funded this Sherbet film back in 2001. Currently the short has just under a thousand plays on Vimeo. Lets hope it’s audience continues to expand online.
I saw this beautifully crafted film at the Animated Realities conference in Edinburgh in 2011. The film animates a traditional sewing and textiles technique developed by the Kutch community, who are from a coastal region in Ahmedabad, India and has for a long time inspired fashion and textiles all over the world.
Here is a link to a review of the film following the latest in a long line of awards the film has received We will keep an out out for an online release of the film and if anyone knows where we can link to the film online, please do get in touch.
A whistle-blowing story, which lends itself to the animated documentary genre, mostly because of the ethical considerations in protecting peoples identity. The following synopsis is taken from the films entry on YouTube.
In August 2006, caregivers at the Sonoma Developmental Center found dark blue bruises shaped like handprints covering the breasts of a patient named Jennifer. She accused a staff member of molestation, court records show. Jennifer’s injuries appeared to be evidence of sexual abuse, indicating that someone had violently grabbed her.
The Office of Protective Services opened an investigation. But detectives took no action because the case relied heavily on the word of a woman with severe intellectual disabilities. A few months later, court records show, officials at the center had indisputable evidence that a crime had occurred.
“In Jennifer’s Room” is part of a reporting package that recently won a George Polk and an IRE award, and was named a finalist in the Pulitzer Prize’s Public Service category.
Well, I was very pleased this morning to find this review, and eager to watch the brand new trailer for the latest animated feature from the director of award winning animated documentary - Waltz with Bashir - Ari Folman.
However the trailer has already been removed for copyright reasons! So if anyone out there knows of a link to the trailer still online, please do let us know. Otherwise we will re-blog when the trailer is re – released!
In the meantime here is a short review to whet your appetite:
It is not often one comes across a CGI film with such a consistently rich sense of artistry. With his film ‘Caldera’, Evan Viera and a substantial team of supporting artists demonstrate a brilliant sense of composition, lighting design and mastery of the 3D medium.
This animated short attempts to represent a series of visual hallucinations that take place during a psychotic episode experienced by the female protagonist. Viera is not interpreting his own experiences, but rather that of his father, a long-term sufferer of schizoaffective disorder. The title refers to the self-destructive process of collapse when a volcanic crater is formed after a major eruption.
As there is no attempt by the filmmaker to claim this to be a documentary it may be unfair to criticise this short on the grounds of accuracy when depicting an unstable mental state. The psychological phenomena by its very nature is subjective, however the lack of discord present in the character’s demeanour was striking. The protagonist spends most of ‘Caldera’ looking calm and being able to concentrate in the context of the fantastical happenings she experiences. When depicting a gross thought disorder such as this it would be fair to suggest that the subject will likely be considerably less composed during such events.
Evan Viera writes that his father has “danced on the rings of Saturn, spoken with angels, and fled from his demons”. The traces of these delusions are quite literally interpreted in ‘Caldera’ yet the feeling is very much second hand in tone. Watching this glistening film gives one the impression of a challenging CGI exercise more than that of a depiction of pathological imbalance.
When viewing this film on Vimeo we are confronted in the blurb by Viera’s statement about his farther. The filmmaker wants us to be aware of the direct link between the protagonist’s vision quest and his father’s experiences of mental illness. For that reason I propose this is a documentary of sorts. Although based on second hand observations this film makes an effort to interpret a subjective experience that most of us could not ever fathom. Viera repackages it as a digestible image sequence granting the audience insight into a fascinating and difficult topic.
However the story telling is carried on the back of the film’s aesthetic. For instance the synopsis is somewhat minimal. In essence a sad looking woman decides to not comply with her medication (an extraordinarily contentious point in its own right that is not really addressed), leaves the city and goes for a swim. Within the ensuing visualisations good and evil are represented through the colours blue and red as well as by an animal sprit guide and a telekinetic daemon. Such simplistic symbols are surprisingly successful as narrative features and indicators of tonal change. The absence of dialogue inhibits our expectation for further explanation leaving the imagery to speak for its self. (Spoiler Alert) A lack of resolution is apparent at the end of the film; the screen fades to white during a slightly unjustified moment of mortality. This sequence is treated with such casual romantic vagueness one can only hope, for the protagonist’s sake, drowning is an extension of her delusion; if not then what a quizzically cynical finale.
‘Caldera’ left me nourished visually but a little under fed intellectually. A sumptuous film with an elegant air of visual poetry which sadly was not complimented by the reductive narrative.
‘Acts of Terror’ portrays the U.K Police force as an intimidating manifestation of growing state control. The 2005 Terrorism Act comes under scrutiny in this real life account of one woman’s careful navigation of the murky waters of police regulation and the U.K. legal system.
The film is commendable for the incredibly clear construction of its narrative. We are led through what must have been a complex set of legal procedures with a crisp sense of simplistic clarity. The animation follows, possibly less successfully, a similarly minimal motif. On occasion one is left with the feeling that a few extra frames were needed or wondering if the thuggery of police officers may have been better expressed than by giving them homogenised slanting closed eyes. However the court battle, where the style of an early 90’s close combat game is adopted, is where the writing, animation and sound design most successfully harmonise. This simple witty metaphor illustrates the ultimately futile struggle the protagonist felt in seeking justice.
‘Acts of Terror’ is an engaging campaign-based animated documentary that is charming and informative. It left me with the great hope that if, one day I found myself in the specific circumstances of the protagonist armed with the knowledge this film imparts, thus allowing me to personally triumph over a police officer when exercising my civil right to film them. I will just need to make sure there is no way they can suspect me of terrorism.
I first watched this film at the London Animation Club where the organiser, Martin Pickles, proudly stated the club’s role in connecting the film’s makers. Gemma Atkinson, Adam Ay and Fred Grace of Fat Rat Films gave a presentation at LAC proposing that an animator come on board. Following this they met Una Marzorati, who animated the entire film, and Tom Lowe who designed the soundtrack. Collaboration forums are exciting environments to observe and participate in. We wish the film-makers the best of success in spreading their message and hope for many more years of networking at the London Animation Club.