Ecstatic Truth VII: Decolonising Animation – recorded presentations, abstracts, bios, and live drawing

To watch the full symposium proceedings follow this link:


This symposium is jointly organised by Professor Birgitta Hosea, Anna de Guia-Eriksson and Nikki Brough, Animation Research Centre, University for the Creative Arts, UK; Helen Starr; Dr Tereza Stehlikova, University of Creative Communication, Czech Republic; Tangible Territory Journal; Dr Pedro Serrazina, Lusófona University of Lisbon, Portugal.

About Ecstatic Truth

According to Werner Herzog, mere facts constitute an accountant’s reality, but it is the ecstatic truth (a poetic reality) that can capture more faithfully the nuances and depths of human experiences. Given that animation (or manipulated moving image in all of its expanded forms) has the freedom to represent, stylize or reimagine the world, it lends itself well to this aspirational form of documentary filmmaking. This year’s symposium will be held at UCA in Farnham, Surrey and its theme of decolonising animation has been developed in collaboration with our Keynote Speaker, curator, producer and cultural activist, Helen Starr.

Decolonising Animation

Foregrounding subjective experience and freed from adherence to the physical, medical and scientific norms of photo-reality, just what is animation capable of? After a disappointing trip to Hollywood in 1930, Sergei Eisenstein travelled to Mexico where he socialised with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, absorbing non-Western ideas from a subaltern culture he very much admired and that clearly influenced his evolving thoughts on animation. In his writing on Disney, Eisenstein considers animation as a subversive form of shapeshifting that resists Western rationalism and binary thinking in its appeal to ancient, evolutionary memories of being formless protoplasm; to the limitless imaginative freedom of childhood and to a joyous return to a state of animism in which all aspects of nature are interconnected. He points out that animated figures squash and stretch with plasmatic elasticity; these unstable forms can change shape, species, gender or any other imposed boundary; can perform impossible tasks or survive death.

Despite all of its potential, Eisenstein asserts that animated film ultimately lacks consequence and is an escapist, golden daydream: “Disney is a marvellous lullaby for the suffering and unfortunate, the oppressed and deprived.”[1] But could animation be more than escapism and be made to matter? How might animation engage with notions of the human, of possible worlds, of post-, anti- and de-colonialism?

Coming from an intersectional perspective, this symposium seeks to listen to, unite, engage with and extend notions of opposition to ideologies of colonialism as applied to the practice and analysis of animation. All forms of colonialism, whether settler colonialism, exploitation colonialism, surrogate colonialism or internal colonialism, have one thing in common: the destruction of local and indigenous knowledge systems. Colonialism leaves in its wake extractive, material-based and non-sustainable cultures. How can we articulate and process these complex histories and struggles? Can animation liberate us from internalised empires of the mind? We are interested in debates around form and strategy as well as subject matter.

[1] Sergei Eisenstein, On Disney, trans. Alan Upchurch (London; New York; Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2017)

Panel 1: Participation and Memory: Diasporic Space, Violence and War

Chair: Jane Cheadle

Preserving Personal Stories of Diaspora Communities Through Participatory Stop-motion Animation

Nairy Eivazy (Presenting) PhD Candidate, LUCA School of Arts, Ghent, Belgium
Jan P.L. Peeters, Sandy Claes, LUCA School of Arts, Ghent, Belgium

Abstract: Diaspora communities, such as the Armenian diaspora, have lost their tangible connection to their homeland. They tend to carry objects with them that are representative of their roots and create a sense of belonging. Objects travelling along with diaspora members often hold personal stories. While these stories may seem insignificant and negligible, they do form collective expressions of intercultural exchange, displacement, loss etc. A prior definition of cultural heritage, put observable physicality at the centre, mainly considering monuments, objects and structures as examples of heritage. However, a shift in understanding recognizes cultural heritage in a broader sense as an assemblage of tangible and intangible forms including speech, ideas, interpretations, and memories. Considering this, cultural heritage has gone from being understood as property, an object, to being assessed as a process and emerging from oral or written stories, accounts and reflections, and performance. As such, the objects of diaspora communities and the personal stories connected to them are an essential part of the cultural heritage of these communities.

Stop-motion animation puts attention into inanimate objects and materials and brings them to life. This illusion of life happens not only by adding movement to the objects, but also by visualising the stories that they embody, by attributing human characteristics to the object (anthropomorphism), adding sound effects, written text etc. These unique characteristics of animation have been commonly used from its early days until now. However, in most animations, the viewers do not engage actively in the process of creating and visualising the stories of the objects. They are passively seated in a fixed position in front of a screen. This may result in the neglect of local stories and an internalized attitude of cultural inferiority, etc. However, the intricate process of creating a stop-motion has the capacity to engage individuals and communities in an active and creative way, to give them the agency to bring their own stories to life. More specifically, a participatory stop-motion animation process, in which participants are constantly and actively present in all stages, can encourage participants to pay attention to their objects and the connected stories. They can share their stories in a social setting, touch and place the objects and think of visual composition and sequential presentation. They can bring the objects to life by touching and moving the objects with their hands and visualizing the story attached to the objects. In this way, all the different stages of the animation process can trigger reflection and memories of the community, while manifesting the stories embedded in the objects.

Thus, the research question that guides this work is: how can a participatory animation process use characteristics of animation to document these expressions and stories? How can stop-motion animation give voice to the unheard stories by giving agency to participants to visualize their own stories? And in particular for this case study, how can a participatory stop-motion animation approach support a better understanding and preservation of the tacit knowledge of the Armenian diaspora community?

Bio: Nairy Eivazy is an Iranian-Armenian animation artist and researcher. Her work mostly falls into the field of stop-motion animation and inter-media practices. She holds a MA in animation directing from Tehran University of Art and currently she is a PhD candidate at LUCA School of Arts in Belgium, focusing on documenting and reflecting on memories connected to objects in the context of the Armenian diaspora.

Animating Memory: Creative explorations of migrant memories and postcolonial identities in the British Bangladeshi Diaspora 

Diwas BishtSchool of Digital Arts, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom

Abstract: The British Bangladeshi diaspora is located at a complex intersection in postcolonial Britain. It not only embodies the unfolding legacy of the erstwhile colonial empire but is also a critical site of contemporary debates around race, religion, and nation. However, the links between Britain’s colonial histories and its dominant politics of racialisation and marginalisation of Muslims in the present remain unexamined. Using an innovative interdisciplinary approach that combines key concepts from memory studies, diaspora studies, and participatory animation methodologies, the paper thus locates how ‘hidden’ histories of colonialism, South Asian partition, migration, and settlement, are implicated in the community’s negotiations of the meanings of being British, Bangladeshi, and Muslim in the present. Mapping key shifts in the temporal and spatial locations of three generations of British Bangladeshis, the paper analyses how multidirectional anti-colonial and anti-racist memories are gradually forgotten as young British Bangladeshis increasingly mobilise a pan-Islamic identity framework to resist racialisation and alienation. More importantly, the paper showcases a case study that locates how collaborative animation filmmaking into these collective intergenerational pasts helps the younger generations of British Bangladeshis take on these critical but fading memories of the community, enabling them to articulate their own experiences of religious marginalisation in process. The case study including the participatory animation film made as part of it, documents the events surrounding the murder of Altab Ali, a young Bangladeshi migrant worker, amidst the rise of the Far-right racism in East London during the 1970s, exploring how this racist murder mobilized the community to take action and fight in a united manner against the violent racist forces of the time. By actively involving young community members in researching these anti-colonial and anti-racist histories and representing it through collaborative production of an animation film, the paper explores how it allows them to take on memories of these pasts and equips them with multidirectional ways to represent and articulate their postcolonial condition and challenges of xenophobic nationalism in the present. It further examines the potential of such creative memory products like the animated documentary to disseminate these memories and elicit further responses from within the community. Furthermore, through this case study, the paper not only offers a theoretical framework for using animation-based research in sociological contexts but outlines practical ways of applying these methodologies for socially engaged enquiries in the future. In process, it locates how applied memory work through participatory animation methods allows for the expression of the embodied and affective forms of knowledge and can be an effective tool for enquiring into the experiences and concerns of marginalised and underrepresented communities in the future.

Bio: Dr Diwas Bisht is a researcher and animation film maker currently working as a lecturer in animation at the School of Digital Arts (SODA) and as a Research Associate on a British Academy project, ‘Digital Media and Participation and Political Culture’ at Loughborough University. His recently concluded PhD research focussed on creative explorations of intergenerational memories and identities in the British Bangladeshi community through participatory animation methodologies. He also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from Delhi University (2010) and a Master of Design (MDes) in Animation from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad (2013). His research interests include Diaspora and Cultural identity, Transcultural memory, Postcolonial studies, and Media studies. In his animation practice, Diwas bridges his academic research interests with collaborative, community led film projects to document marginalised experiences of the British South Asian diaspora. Over the last few years, he has worked with both community and academic partners like Swadhinata Trust, King’s College London, University of Liverpool, Loughborough University etc. on a diverse range of topics such as experiences of coronavirus pandemic, disaster heritage and environmental awareness amongst others.

Reimagining Spaces: Animation, Architecture and Anthropology

Paula Callus, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, United Kingdom

Susan SloanBournemouth University, Bournemouth, United Kingdom

Abstract: Spaces bear witness to often-silenced, everyday histories of, for example, civic resistance and societal cohesion, before or after war and violence. “Composed of intersections of mobile elements…in a sense actuated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it.” (De Certeau, 1987), space has the potential to embody layered contested voices. 

Over the course of two years, the AHRC research project ReSpace set out to critically engage youth in Rwanda, Kosovo, and the UK  through a series of art-based workshops, to research and reimagine specific sites using a combination of methods from animation, architecture and anthropology. Similarities of experience, of history, memory, and perhaps above all the over-signification of these post-conflict spaces (Rwanda, Kosovo), challenge standard assumptions about pre-war and post-war social realities. As insiders to violence but outsiders to each others’ experiences, the project set out to discover new epistemic grounds, exploring new methodologies, and empathetic learning.

A reimagining of place through participatory and experimental methods enabled a reconstitution of memory, stories and voice – ‘a vital human strategy for sustaining a sense of agency in the face of disempowering circumstances.’ (Jackson, 2004). Young people studying anthropology (Prishtina, Kosovo), architecture and animation (Kigali, Rwanda) shared their methods with each other as they reflected upon how to come to understand a place/ space as a post-memory generation (Hirsh, 2008) in a post-conflict context. A re-invention of these spaces was explored through animation methods using the Quill, interactive platforms (Unreal), stop-motion, direct and under-the-camera animation. 

In this presentation, Paula Callus and Susan Sloan (artist & practitioner) will revisit the animations created with/by young people on this project to consider how these interdisciplinary methods enabled different articulations of histories and memory. We will consider what sets of knowledge can be activated through animation practice that cannot be articulated through conventional research methods – or as anthropologist Tim Ingold (2013) put it, how does one think through making? 

Project Details: ( )

Bio: Prof. Paula Callus is based at the National Centre for Computer Animation, Faculty of Media and Communication, Bournemouth University. She has led on two AHRC funded research projects, Artop: The Visual Articulations of Politics in Nigeria, and ReSpace (Reanimating Contested Spaces): Designing Participatory Civic Education for and with Young People in Kosovo and Rwanda. Her research expertise is in Sub-Saharan African animation, the socially engaged arts and Global South. Callus has worked as a consultant and educator on the UNESCO Africa Animated projects in Kenya and South Africa, leading teams of artists to collaborate to make animated shorts. She has conducted participant-observer fieldwork in the DRC, Zimbabwe and Kenya on animation and related artistic practices in the Sub-Saharan region resulting in publications on aspects of African animation such as subversive animation and politics in Kenya, remediated documentary through African animation and new technologies and animation in Morocco. She was part of an AHRC Network for Development grant, e-Voices, that was looking at marginalization and the use of digital technologies. She was co-responsible for the sub-theme; Arts, Activism and Marginalization that took place in Nairobi, Kenya and consisted of curating an exhibition, workshops with artists, and focus groups with activists.

Keynote 1: Helen Starr

Chair: Prof Birgitta Hosea

Helen Starr, Founder @ The Mechatronic Library

Helen Starr (TT) is an Afro-Carib curator, producer and cultural activist from Trinidad, WI. She began curating exhibitions with artists such as Susan Hiller, Cindy Sherman and Marcel Duchamp in 1995. Helen founded The Mechatronic Library in 2010, to give marginalised artists access to technologies such as Game Engines, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR). Helen has worked with many public institutions such as Wysing Art Centre, FACT, Liverpool and QUAD in Derby. Being Indigenous-American Helen is interested in how digital artforms transform our understanding of reality by world-building narratives through storytelling and counter-storytelling. How, by “naming one’s own reality” we can experience the Other. Helen is on the board of QUAD, Derby and on the Computer Animation Jury for Ars Electronica, Linz. In 2020 she developed the concept of a Fluid or DAAD Futurism with Amrita Dhallu and Salma Noor.

Panel 2: Animating Ancestors: Postcolonial Approaches to Retelling Indigenous Oral History

The Stories of Our Ancestors:  Retelling tribal tales in the medium of animated film
Dr Tara Douglas, Adivasi Arts Trust, London, United Kingdom

Bio: The Tales of the Tribes (Douglas 2015 [1]) and the Stories of Our Ancestors are projects that explore the presentation of indigenous narratives in the medium of animated film. Indigenous knowledge is remembered and transmitted through the rituals, myths, legends and the folklore of local communities around the world. The spoken recollection is a co-creative process that takes place in the space between the storyteller and listener, in which the layers of story and meaning are to be found, deciphered and interpreted. As the stories have animated the cultural landscape, animation as an art form brings life to that which is static; its audio dimensions, the visual splendour and the imaginative, poetic quality seem to be suited for a modern presentation of ancient cultural stories and world views.   

The lasting impact of colonialism is seen in the continued interpretation of indigenous cultures and identities in India using Western conceptual models. The abiding representation as ‘backward’ people (Dean and Levi 2003[2]; Veerbhadranaika et al[3]. 2012) illustrates the importance of indigenous young people reappraising their cultural heritage. Literature in English is only sometimes accessible to students in the North East region of India and at other peripheries, but animation is seen and enjoyed on mobile technology which reaches even the more distant areas, and competes for the attention of young people.  

In India the creative industries look for projects that are expected to have popular appeal and generate profit, shying away from experimental presentations and marginalized, unknown content. When animation is perceived as juvenile entertainment, it is produced in bulk quantity and it is linked to brand merchandising. The strategies of Disney that are leading the industry tend to produce simplified, universalized narratives that are aimed at making the films more interesting for viewers (Mitra 1999[4]). In contrast, the original tribal stories are open ended and do not offer resolution.  How can animation speak about these narratives, and project the voices of community?  Can the language of animation be appropriated to expose and critique the neocolonial practices of the industry?

Animation can be explored as a tool to engage with the content across cultures, languages and age groups. Can the practice transcend purely academic frameworks and embark on an intellectual challenge to connect more deeply with indigenous ideologies? Through participatory production and co-design in an environment of knowledge exchange with members of the community, the film-makers encourage indigenous voices and perspectives and reduce the reductive strategies of commercial animation.  

Bio: Dr Tara Douglas was born in India. She is a co-founder and Secretary of the Adivasi Arts Trust ( Tara graduated with BA Hons Animation from West Surrey College of Art and Design (UK) in 1993.In 2002 Tara became the coordinator in India for an animation project based on tribal stories produced by West Highland Animation (Scotland): The Tallest Story Competition (2006). She directed and animated one of the short films in the series. In 2007 Tara screened The Tallest Story Competition films to 10,000 children in schools in Central India. Tara completed a Professional Doctorate in Digital Media in 2016 at Bournemouth University (UK) for the practice-led research Tales of the Tribes: Animation as a Tool for Indigenous Representation. She has organised animation and film workshops for indigenous tribal artists and storytellers in Nagaland, Sikkim, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat. She filmed and directed a documentary film: The Journey of the Tales of the Tribes (2018) which was broadcast in India on Doordarshan 1. She has since done post-doctoral research at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, Meghalaya (Department of Anthropology), for the project titled The Stories of our Ancestors.

The Representation of Cultural Space and Practice in Animated Documentary on the Theme of Ethnic Minority Oral Literature: Taking ‘Mei Ge – Kai Tian Pi Di’ as an Example

Dr Yijing Wang, Beihang University, Beijing, China

Abstract: The use of animation in creative expression compensates for the limitations of information transmission and promotion in traditional media. Animated documentaries have a unique advantage in presenting facts, interpreting non-literal materials, and sharing cultural experiences. This presentation examines: 1) the unique qualities of ethnic oral literature and the creative ideas of animation, 2) the shaping and representation of cultural space in the animated documentary, and 3) the practical approaches of the Mei Ge – Kai Tian Pi Di. The study aims to display the cultural system of ethnic minorities through animation, transforming ethnic oral literature from an isolated “story” to a lens for interpreting ethnic minority culture and cultural perspectives.

Oral folk literature encompasses a wide range of narratives myths, legends, folktales, chanting ballads, and more. For instance, the Yi oral literature of Mei Ge encompasses the entire history, culture, production, and way of life of the Yi people. The history of the integration of oral stories and animation among ethnic minorities in China will first be briefly explored followed by an analysis the linguistic characteristics of ethnic minority oral literature and the cultural contexts in which oral literature is performed within minority communities. Lastly, this section delves into the creative considerations (such as content composition, discourse, and perspective) behind the animated documentary on ethnic oral literature featured in this study.

Building upon the definition of cultural space, the interconnections of its key components (time, place, people, and cultural activities) will be examined within the context of Mei Ge. Using the author’s animated documentary Mei Ge – Kai Tian Pi Di as a case study, how cultural space among minorities is formed and portrayed will be explored through the creation of animation content framework and visual representation.

The collection and research of ethnic minority oral archives, including oral literature, should be grounded in the local knowledge, internal perspective, and self-narration of cultural holders, rather than external interpretations. The presentation will end with an examination of the cooperation paradigms in anthropological fieldwork methods and other design projects, offering insights into animation practice methods including the collaboration path with community members in the animation process, based on the author’s field investigation experience. This allows the carriers of oral literature (ethnic minority community members) to actively participate, incorporating their perspectives into the animation, and the “personalized” cultural interpretation and screen presentation form can be presented.

Bio: Dr Yijing Wang is an Assistant Professor at Beihang University. She was awarded a PhD in Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (2020). Her research is using animation as a form of ethnographic documentary, exploring animation’s potential to document the underrepresented cultures of minorities. Her ethnographic animation Longhorn Miao’s Love Songs was selected for the exceptional program of 2022 Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival held by the American Anthropology Association. She currently teaches animation documentary and related courses on minority’s folk arts, and at the same time conducts research on ethnographic animation and protection of minority intangible cultural heritage.

Panel 3: Decolonising Technology

Using Indigenous Design to Explore Contemporary Ideas in Quantum Mechanics

Mark Chavez (presenting) and Ina Conradi, Media Art Nexus Studios, Singapore, Singapore

Abstract: This paper discusses two case studies created as animated films that use cultural design archetypes to explain aspects of quantum theory. Drawing on the notion of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation as a metaphor for perceived and imagined reality, the films – Quantum LOGOS (Vision Serpent) and Moirai, Thread of Life – employ abstract animated imagery to represent quantum mechanics basics and string theory using Mesoamerican and Southeast Asian cultural motifs. These case studies focus on two core issues – Young’s Double Slit Experiment and the Observer Effect – relevant to the artwork’s use in explaining quantum phenomena. By using design archetypes inspired by ancient cultural art and philosophy, the films provide visual metaphors that explore the beauty of quantum reality, while highlighting the illusory nature of perceived reality. This research underscores the use of new creative technologies to construct designs that demonstrate similarities between current scientific notions and ancient indigenous thought, emphasizing the blurring of boundaries between reality and representation. Finally, the paper highlights how this research utilizes design inspired by ancient observations of natural wonders to offer fresh insights into quantum theory, revealing the interconnectivity between general relativity and quantum reality.

Bio: Mark Chavez is an artist/animator, educator, and entrepreneur with a wealth of experience in various media, including laser light, broadcast television, video games, and visual effects for fully animated and live-action films, as well as immersive performance animation. He has received numerous awards for his work and has been recognized for his contributions to the field of animation. He has worked on visual effects for various films at companies such as DreamWorks SKG and Rhythm and Hues Studios and in the gaming industry, having worked on PlayStation games at Acclaim Entertainment. In addition to his work in animation, Mark has also made contributions to the field as an educator. He served as the founding faculty for the digital animation program at Nanyang Technological University Singapore’s School of Art, Design & Media, where he has helped numerous students launch successful careers in animation. Mark has received funding from the National Research Foundation/Media Development Authority of Singapore and has received a prestigious National Award from the Singapore Prison’s Yellow Ribbon Project for his work with game software for storytelling with students and inmates.

Using data as materiality
Maybelle Peters,
 PhD Candidate, UCA

This presentation foregrounds motion capture technology, blackness and creative practice.  I study contemporary artists’ racialised black identity and their use of motion capture data.  I explore how new knowledge is produced through an examination of technical processes, subjectivity and world-making practices.  These overlapping and entangled meaning-making activities are analysed at iterative stages simultaneously using case studies to explore lived experiences.  The talk will comprise moving image work produced in response to key texts and their application to a technologically driven practice.  Additionally, a summary of the selected methods will be given.  This account uses a reflexive journal method to recount some of the decisions made during a series of tests.   Following an outline of processes relating to the research objectives, the presentation concludes with three excerpts using motion capture data.  The research considers how an interrogation of subjectivity and self-making produces a particular interest in using digitised captured motion.  Despite the development of virtual production aimed at supplying ready-made avatars, initial research has shown that black artists’ interest in working with motion capture remains largely unaccounted for.  Therefore, this study stages black subjectivity in relation to the digital human movement found in motion capture libraries.  One of the primary aims is to examine whether the use of motion capture data contests or reproduces colonial practices of cultural, dominant hegemonies.  From an initial investigatory series of practices, I outline how my argument that motion capture should be viewed as an extracted resource is connected to constructing racialised bodies.  I expand on this idea further through iterative tests to interrogate the (in)stability of identity as visually represented.  The research output is used to raise questions on how black artists navigate both imposed and self-defined notions of blackness.  The presentation focuses on my engagement with motion capture data.  By using computational information as a resource, I discuss how an exploration of movement is informed by adopting a politics of black navigational strategy.  This positioning aligns with scholar Katherine McKittrick’s assertion that “black lives are necessarily geographic but also struggle with discourses that erase and despatialise their sense of place” (McKittrick, 2006, p. xiii).  I outline how moving image as place-making probes a set of research questions.  The presentation centres on my use of existing motion capture data.  I explain how motion capture libraries are studied while making work.  The research aims to determine if the examination of movement contests or reifies ideas of racialised black bodies.  Recognising that descriptors such as Human are contested categories connected to colonial domination, the research presented will acknowledge this central theme and its connection to the study’s objectives.  

Bio: Maybelle Peters is a visual artist working with film, video and computer-generated images. Her practice explores the movement of Black bodies in time and space using an archive of ephemera, gestures and sounds. She gained her bachelor’s degree in Animation at Farnham where she made her first commissioned film for BBC2. Her Channel 4 commissioned film, Mama Lou, has been shown extensively at animation festivals including Annecy, Ottawa and the Edinburgh Film Festival. Her work was shown as part of ‘The Place is Here’ exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, and South London Gallery in 2017. She is the recipient of the inaugural Womxn of Colour art award 2020. Her recent work includes installations at Primary, Nottingham 2022 and Alchemy Film and Video Festival 2023. Maybelle is a practice-based PhD candidate at UCA Farnham. Her research area includes contemporary artists’ use of motion capture technology and anti-extractivist practices.

Keynote 2: Dr Liliana Conlisk-Gallegos

Liliana Conlisk-Gallegos aka. Dr. Machete or Mystic Machete is from the Tijuana-San Diego border region in Southern California. With the goal of advancing the certain decolonial turn, her live, interactive media art production and border rasquache new media art pieces and performances generate culturally specific, collective, technocultural creative spaces of production that reconnect Chicana/o/x “Mestiza” Indigenous wisdom/conocimiento to their ongoing technological and scientific contributions, still “overlooked” through the logic of the decaying Eurocentric project of Modernity. In her Tijuana-San Ysidro transfronteriza (perpetual border crosser) perspective, the current limited perceptions of what research, media, and technology can be are like a yonke (junkyard), from which pieces are upcycled and repurposed to amplify individual and collective expression, community healing, and social justice. She has organized and curated over 14 community-centered, interactive, decolonial, community building, and environmentalist, research-based multimedia artivism and critical intervention performances and her work has been exhibited at ACM|SIGGRAPH, The García Center for the Arts in San Bernardino, Human Resources Art Museum in Los Angeles, the PAMLA Arts Matter of the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association, and the Guizhou Provincial Museum in China. Her most recent curation was The Future Past v. Coloniality: Decolonial Media Art Beyond 530 Years, supported by the Digital Arts Community for ACM SIGGRAPH (

She is Associate Professor of Decolonial Media and Communication Studies at CSU San Bernardino and a member of the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Committee. Her writings have appeared in Critical Storytelling from Global Borderlands: En la línea, Vol. 8, 2022 (Brill Publishers), Re-Activating Critical Thinking amidst Necropolitical Realities: Politics, Theory, Arts and Political Economy for a Radical Change, 2022 (Cambridge Scholars Publishing), A Love Letter to This Bridge Called My Back, 2022 (The University of Arizona Press), Departures in Critical Qualitative Research 3 Vol. 10, 2021 (UC Press), and Journal of Latinos in Education Vol. 20, 2018 (Taylor and Francis).

Event Website:


‘Where is My Home?’ by Cecilia De Jesus

Still from ‘Where is my Home?’

‘Where is My home?’ by Cecelia de Jesus was the official winner of the USC Shoah Foundation’s Student voices film competition in 2013. The film tells the story of Vera Gissing and her escape from Czechoslovakia during the start of the Holocaust. The USC Shoah Foundation is home to one of the largest collections of digital archive footage of Holocaust survivors and witnesses, currently housing over 55,000 video testimonies.

De Jesus used archive footage, along with sand animation, to bring Vera Gissing’s story to life. When watching the film, you can’t help but be entranced by the macro sequences where we see individual grains of sand and translucency. The abstract imagery De Jesus creates with the sand spotlights Gissing’s testimony, the moving images accompanying her voice rather than pulling attention away from it. The film tells a harrowing real-life story, emphasising Vera Gissing’s voice.

Watch ‘Where is My Home?’ below:

AniDox:LAB call for applications

Applications are now open – Deadline 03 March 2023
ANIDOX:LAB is a tailor-made professional training course – for documentary and animation creatives, directors, producers and professionals with an animated documentary project in development.

The Lab is based in Denmark, Viborg and Copenhagen, and is supported by the Danish film Institute and the Animation Workshop.

They offer a series of seminars and consultation sessions running between May and August 2023. For in-depth guidance and a supportive framework. Expand participant’s international network and engage in new collaborations.

The ANIDOX:LAB uniquely addresses visual and immersive animation storytelling. The goal is to pitch a teaser/trailer and build knowledge, network and resources. We focus on collaborative processes, matchmaking, reaching audiences and new frameworks. The coaching seminars and creative workshops are designed to progress from fine- tuning an initial idea, through visual and narrative development, to a pitch package and a teaser/trailer.

It is a laboratory which brings professionals together to maximize their capacity and cultivate new skills, while developing their respective projects. Teams are encouraged to apply as well as artists working in cross-media, hybrid forms and new technologies.

Select participating ANIDOX:LAB projects have the opportunity to showcase their work at various prestigious international events and festivals.

for more information and to apply visit

‘Bettine Le Beau – A Lucky Girl’ by Martin O’Neill & GRIFF

Still from ‘Bettine Le Beau – A Lucky Girl’

With Holocaust Memorial Day coming up on January 27th, we want to share a couple of films with you over the next couple of weeks which share the stories of Holocaust survivors.

In 2014, collage artist Martin O’Neill and animator Andrew Griffin (GRIFF) were paired with Bettine Le Beau, a holocaust survivor, to interpret and retell her story. Seven artists in total were paired with survivors living in the UK as a part of the Holocaust Memorial‘s Memory Makers’ Project. Bettine Le Beau, former Bond girl, actress and author, was 82 years old when she collaborated with O’Neill and Griffin to share her story and have it retold through O’Neill’s beautifully intricate collages.

The illustration is bright and detailed, visualising Bettine’s narration as she recounts the events of her escape from a concentration camp in France and the course of her life after. The film’s style has the feel of a scrapbook, which goes well with the personal storytelling from Bettine. It’s a moving, tragic, yet strangely uplifting animated documentary about personal and cultural identity.

Bettine passed away in 2015, a few months after the film’s release.

Watch the full film below:

‘Split’ by Ellen Bruno

Still from ‘Split’ trailer

This 2013 animated documentary by Ellen Bruno is a personal animated documentary which focuses on the perspectives of children aged 6-12 who are experiencing the divorce of their parents. Made in collaboration with children, ‘Split’ puts them at the forefront of the issue. Approximately one million children experience divorce in the family each year, but often the children’s experiences and viewpoints fly under the radar. Bruno’s film is for children and by children.

The aim of the film is to not only give voice to children of divorce, but also to inform parents and encourage them to make better choices with their children in mind, as they navigate divorce.

Ellen Bruno is an award-winning filmmaker from San Francisco who focuses on issues surrounding human rights, often working with refugee-related issues. ‘Split’, like many of her other films, gives a voice to those who more often than not go unheard.

Watch the trailer below:

Read more about ‘Split’ here.

Rent ‘Split’ here.

‘Yoga for Larger Bodies’ by Stacy Bias

‘Yoga For Larger Bodies’ by Stacy Bias (2016)

Stacy Bias is a Glasgow-based animator, activist and artist. A part of her animation studio, Your Story Studio, ‘Yoga For Larger Bodies’ is a 2016 animated documentary which tells the story of one woman’s experience as a plus-sized yoga instructor.

The story is told through a continuous line-drawn animation which visualises the experiences and emotions shared through the narration. The piece aims to put emphasis on all bodies and all kinds of health being of equal value. The continuous line of the animation represents meditation, union and connection, all of which are key elements of yoga practice. ‘Yoga For All Bodies’ is a beautiful and heartfelt short animated documentary which is definitely worth a watch.

Watch the full animation below:

‘The Untold Story of Brain Injury’ by Jess Mountfield

Jess Mountfield‘s short animated documentary titled ‘The Untold Story of Brain Injury’ collaborates with Emilia Clarke’s charity Same You to give a voice to those who have been affected by traumatic brain injury. Mountfield reached out to the brain injury community and recorded their stories, editing over 30 voices into ‘one cohesive tapestry’.

​Mountfield uses more limited visuals in order to give more emphasis to the voices and stories used in the film, while also making use of visual metaphor shards and deconstructed shapes. The painterly textures give a sense of movement and texture, bringing further life to the narration. ‘The Untold Story of Brain Injury’ also complements a report of the same name, which is illustrated by Jess Mountfield and highlights the missing emotional and mental health recovery services essential for brain injury recovery.

Read the report here.

Watch the film below:

Click here to read more about the film.

‘Living with Depression’ by Anna Ginsburg

Anna Ginsburg’s ”Living with Depression’ visually interprets the experiences of two people giving their personal accounts of experiencing depression. The 2D hand-drawn animation style is expressive, each frame is detailed and full of life, yet beautifully encompasses the struggle of living with depression.

Ginsberg has a certain quality with all of her films which is very open and honest. ‘Living with Depression’ is no different as she aims to portray the aspects of depression which can’t be easily explained to those who do not experience it. The use of animation gives a visual to the interview narration and brings it to life in an engaging way.

The film was also the winner of the DepicT! award in 2012.

Watch ‘Living with Depression’ below:

‘Life, Animated’ by Roger Ross Williams

Still from ‘Life, Animated’

Roger Ross Williams‘ feature film ‘Life, Animated’ is based on the book ‘Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism‘ by Ron Suskind, which tells the story of his son, Owen, and his experience with autism. At the age of three, Owen became non-verbal but Suskind and his wife soon came to understand that Owen would use Disney animated movies as a way to connect and communicate with the world.

The film is comprised of the Suskind family’s home video clips, present-day interviews, and animation. Disney animation is a huge part of Owen Suskind’s life, and the animation in ‘Life, Animated’ has echoes of movies we know such as ‘The Jungle Book’ or ‘The Little Mermaid’. The fluid movements and expressive characters also have an organic, hand-drawn element to them which brings the animation closer to reality. The colourless palette also lends further emphasis to the real-life interviews and recordings which are included in the film, putting Owen and the story he has to tell at front and centre. Allowing Owen to share his own story was William’s main concern, “All too often in films about people with disabilities, the narrative gets taken away from them.”

The trailer gives us a glimpse into this personal and heartfelt film, and the insight it give us into the lives of those like Owen who struggle to understand and connect with the world around them in a conventional way.

Watch the trailer below:

Click here to purchase the full film on Amazon.

Eternal Spring

Eternal Spring, Jason Loftus’s feature-length largely animated documentary about the 2002 hijacking of a state TV signal in China by members of the banned spiritual group Falun Gong, is currently playing at Bertha Dochouse in London and at other cinemas across the world. The film chronicles a small group of Falun Gong practitioners, whose aim through the hijack was to counter the government’s narrative about their practice at a time when Falun Gong faced growing pressure and persecution.

The film uses the surviving hijackers’ memories as material through which scenarios are visualised by artist Daxiong, also a Falun Gong practitioner, who was forced to leave China as a result of the government crackdown following the hijacking. The design includes elaborate architectures and environments, through which the camera travels revealing characters and scenarios. As the action progresses we are introduced to a group of characters who come together as a community of activists, and are subsequently torn apart by the repercussions of their activism.

Eternal Spring does not completely get away from some of the problematic elements of animated reconstruction (and indeed of any reconstruction or reenactment), whereby richly detailed scenes are presented without the audience having full access to the knowledge of which details of the action and environment come from rigorous research, memory or record, and which come from the imagination of the filmmakers and designers.

However the film does constantly work to legitimise its representations, by adopting the reflexive technique of showing the research and development process through the eyes of Daxiong. The artist reflects on his own life and memories at the same time as talking to surviving hijackers and reconstructing theirs.

This process of making what Daxiong describes as ‘art based on a shared memory’ forms the spine of the film, with reconstructions emerging from live action interview scenes in which Daxiong is sketching as interviewees are describing their memories. At other times we see interviewees looking at designs and work-in-progress animated scenes, and responding to them, before we are plunged into the fully rendered glossy scene itself.

The visual design of the animated scenes gives the action, including scenes of physical abuse, a comic book / gangster heist quality. Gangster film tropes are also referenced in the cinematography, down to freeze-frame character introductions and even a dolly zoom in a diner, à la Goodfellas. This use of cinematic language can add drama in certain moments – the hijack itself gets quite tense – but gives it also gives the film a genre sheen that can be distancing at times.

The film also breaks with this design at moments, including a beautifully fluid expressionistic sequence at an emotional climax, in which a character’s psychology is represented through more abstracted images and action, leaning into symbolic imagery and evocative sounds, in an inky black-and-white aesthetic. Moments such as this elevate the film, heightening emotion and exploiting animation’s ability to do more than merely reenact.

Eternal Spring focuses its action almost exclusively around the run-up to and the fallout from the 2002 hijack. The absence of a wider contemporary context for Falun Gong has led some reviewers to view the film with notes of suspicion. The absence of any reference to the movement’s links to far right US media, for example, raises eyebrows in otherwise positive reviews in Indiewire and The Guardian. But this is a film that is honestly and unashamedly one-sided. It tells the story from the point of view of the hijackers – their experience of persecution, and of the sometimes exhilarating, ultimately tragic, events that changed the course of their lives. It’s an absorbing watch, a polished production, and essential viewing for anyone with an interest in the animated documentary form.

To find local screenings and more information on Eternal Spring, see the website: