This is an Animated Documentary and wrap around campaign to raise awareness and talk about some of the mental health wellbeing difficulties parents may face during pregnancy, birth and after. The aim is to emotionally support parents and enable them to find support. First hand testimonies along with animated characters and storylines open up conversations and experiences that are often difficult to start or hear. This film is directed by Emma Lazenby through ForMed Films, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company.
The festival who shares the name of the first known Animated Documentary features a stellar line up of films. Their selection includes a mockumentary category and a Rising of the Pandemic category on films made about and during the pandemic.
The festival is screening on location, alongside a hybrid online/ offline conference. You can find more details here: www.animadoc.pl
A still from Searching for Sugar Man featured in ‘Interjections and Connections’
Written a few years ago now, this article by Bella Honess Roe examines the animated segments within live action films and builds on the thinking in her seminal work ‘Animated Documentary’, both essential reading for those studying, making and writing about the theory and or practice of animated documentary.
The latest book about factual animation comes from Dr Nea Ehrlich, and a quick glance at the contents page shows notably distinct areas of animated documentary that have seen less coverage, for example an entire section of the book is dedicated to other forms of animated documentary within games and VR, whilst other chapters explore in depth the definition of mixed realities. We cannot wait to get reading, the book is available to buy at Edinburgh University Press or you can access the book via ‘open access’ via this link:
About the book:
Confronting shifts in the status and aesthetics of the real, *Animating Truth *analyses how contemporary technoculture has transformed the relationship of animation to documentary by mapping out two parallel
trends: the increased use of animation within documentary or non-fiction contexts, and the increasingly pervasive use of non-photorealistic animation within digital media. As the virtual becomes another aspect of
our contemporary mixed reality (physical and virtual), the book aims to understand how this visual paradigm shift influences viewers, both ethically and politically, and questions the wider ramifications of this transformation in non-fiction aesthetics.
FAFF this year took place from 17th – 25th October, as an entirely online event. Here are some collected highlights:
Best film: Drop by Drop, directed by Alexandra Ramires and Laura Gonçalves
Best student film: Right now, I am, directed by Ciara Kerr
Animated Documentary.com award: Not For Money, Not For Love, Not For Nothing, directed by John Robert Lee
Festival organiser Daniel Murtha and I interviewed many of the filmmakers about their films:
|We’re super-excited to share details of our upcoming panel discussion with three film-makers working with autobiography, in partnership with Animate Projects and British Council:|
Our next Animation Salon is programmed by Alys Scott-Hawkins and Ellie Land from Animated Documentary, is on 4 November. It’s our second in partnership with Animate Projects. The animated documentary genre continues to grow, featuring in a variety of formats: shorts and feature films, explainer videos, interactive documentary; and showcasing an array of techniques such as the autoethnographic film, the investigative film, the call-to-action and reconstruction films, to name just a few. Animators Mary Martins (UK), John Summerson (USA), and Signe Baumane (Latvia/USA) will share their insights and experiences with us, alongside some clips of their work.
Animation Salon/Accelerate Sessions
18:00 (UK time), Wednesday 4 November
More information here.
Free. Register here.
Spaces are limited – please join early to make sure you get in. Supported by Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund.
Still: My Love Affair With Marriage, Signe Baumane, 2021
Next Accelerate session coming up…
Animation and VR
With Tom Higham (York Mediale), Liz Rosenthal (Venice Film Festival), Juergen Hagler (Ars Electronica), Helen Starr (Mechatronic Library), and Ulrich Schrauth (London Film Festival Expanded). More details soon.
The Animation Workshop (home to ANIDOX lab), is for the second year running their new initiative – the ANDOX:VR Award and Exhibition. The Awards include a cash prize and a residency grant for the development of new work.
The 2019 awards included five projects in competition and one project out of competition.
This review will focus on the information available for each project online, usually a trailer and reviews. Unfortunately, I have not experienced the projects as a VR experience yet, due to not being able to attend the festivals the projects have exhibited at. My aim is that the information I provide will be enough to introduce the reader to the project and by following the links, knowledge about where to access the work will be clear.
‘Ayahuasca Kosmik Journey’ by Jan Kounen (2019)
This 18 minute VR film allows participants to immerse themselves in visions triggered by a dose of ayahuasca – a tea made from the leaves and stalks of shrubs found in Brazil and traditionally drunk by ancient Amazonian tribes. The spectator lives through the eyes of the director who has experienced the psychoactive brew.
“Imaginative, architectural and delirious visualizations. More than an imitation of a drug trip, the world presented is a spiritual one. Chants fill the headphones. Snakes slither. And no amount of text we can draft can dig deep enough into the actual experience.”
Review by David Graver on Cool Hunting
‘Homestay’ by Paisley Smith, Jam3 and the NFB Digital Studio (2018)
The trailer for this VR Animated Documentary cuts directly to the dramatic points of the story. This is the tragic story of a Japanese student who stays with a Canadian family; a look at how complete immersion in another culture can create a clash of expectations and change our understanding of family, hospitality, nationality and love.
The user experiences the story through a voice-over by the director, giving an account of her experience. The visuals embrace technological challenges by depicting a paper cut-out and origami aesthetic, created within game engine Unity.
‘Another Dream’ by Tamara Shogaolu (2019)
Winner of the ANIDOX:VR 2019 Award for Innovative Storytelling, ‘Another Dream’ is a hybrid animated documentary and VR game bringing to life the gripping, true love story of an Egyptian lesbian couple. Faced with a post-revolution backlash against the LGBTQ community, they escape Cairo to seek asylum and acceptance in the Netherlands. An accompanying installation allows audiences to reflect on what they have seen, heard, and felt in VR.
Another Dream is part of Queer in a time of forced Migration an animated transmedia series that follows the stories of LGBTQ refugees from Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia across continents and cultures — from the 2011 revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa region, to the world today.
‘Accused #2 Walter Sisulu’ by Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte (2018)
This 360° video immerses the spectator at the core of the Rivonia trial, which took place in South Africa 1963-64. Accused no.1, Nelson Mandela and accused no.2, Sisulu faced a racist and aggressive prosecutor. The defendants used the trial as a political platform against apartheid, at the expense of their freedoms. The original sound archives of the trial form the narrative, with illustrations by Oerd Van Cuijlenborg brought to life.
‘The Scream’ by Sandra Paugam and Charles Ayats (2018)
Winner of the ANIDOX:VR 2019 award for Best Immersive work (€1000). Bringing to life ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch, this VR installation enables the user to interact with the painting. The trailer sets a scary tone: set in an empty museum you are invited to touch the painting…beware of what you might unleash.
‘Songbird’ VR installation by Lucy Greenwell / Michelle & Uri Kranot (2018)
Songbird is a fairy tale with a dark heart. You will be transported to the island of Kauai in 1984 and into a painted replica of a lush cloud forest filled with colourful birds. Here, you are invited to search for the last known ʻōʻō, an iconic black bird with yellow leg feathers and a beautiful song, a bird whose existence has been threatened to the point of extinction.
Watch the trailer here
Online Submissions are open until 20th July, for the ANIDOX:VR 2020 awards.
The ANIDOX:VR Award is supported by The Animation Workshop/Via University College, Vision Denmark, The European Union, Viborg Kommune, The Danish Film Institute, and the Swedish Film Institute. The exhibition is sponsored by HTC VIVE.
Image: ‘Im OK’ by Elizabeth Hobbs
While still in production, there was a lot of talk among art lovers about the 2017 animated documentary Loving Vincent. ‘It is completely hand-painted’, ‘an army of artists has been employed for its production’, ‘it will look like a moving painting’ (see Frizzell, 2017; Mottram, 2017; Vollenbroek, 2017)… I was in suspense for its release and fascinated by all the hype surrounding it. When I finally got to watch the film, I could not help but feel a bit let down. Yet, I could not understand the reasons behind this disenchantment. The imagery imitated van Gogh’s style flawlessly, the storyline dealing with the circumstances of the artist’s death was interesting enough, and as far as I could tell, the acting was good. What was it then? Why was I feeling like I wanted to see more?
Part of me felt that my art education was to blame, an education that was perhaps wrongly distinguishing and discriminating between art and craft. I could not see the point behind this repetitive exercise of recreating an art style whose value lay in being different, in being original and unique. The recreation seemed like a copy, an imitation and therefore to me, of less value. It seemed no further away from art than a printed reproduction of the original painting. It seemed almost futile, unnecessary, a bit kitschy. The story could hold its weight without the hand-painted stylization, and the stylization might have had a stronger effect without a storyline. However, I remembered how art students and apprentices used to study images –and still do to some extent– by copying the masters. This film employed over one hundred artists who worked painstakingly to recreate the footage in Van Gogh’s style. Keeping in mind this tradition of learning art, it seems like Loving Vincent acted as an apprenticeship for them. An homage to the technique of this master of modernism. To me, it is a performance that pays tribute to this great artist, not so much in its completed form, the final film, as by the painstaking process of its production. And that change in perspective elevates a rather good film to a masterpiece.
Loving Vincent. Dir. Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman.
In her short film I’m OK, Elizabeth Hobbs (2018), took a completely different approach in depicting the life and work of the Austrian Expressionist artist Oskar Kokoschka. Despite some loose references to his work here and there, Hobbs did not try to emulate Kokoschka’s style, nor did she have a script and employ actors and rotoscoping. Using expressive, playful lines and bright colours on paper, the animator highlights aspects of Kokoschka’s life. She specifically focuses on the time when the artist volunteered for service during WWI, after being rejected by a lover. Although Hobbs communicates well the message of heartbreak, war and pain, unless a viewer is already familiar with the life and work of Kokoschka, it is unlikely that they would gain an education of the artist merely by watching the film. This, however, does not seem to be the priority of the short. Instead, it acts as a loose interpretation of the life of an artist.
I’m OK Dir. Elizabeth Hobbs (U.K. and Canada)
These two examples are very different approaches to document the life of an artist through animation. Both films take advantage of the medium to simulate an aspect of creation that van Gogh and Kokoschka were using. Loving Vincent partially employs rotoscoping in the form of hand-painted live action footage but remains confined within the indexical qualities of the recording. It takes advantage of van Gogh’s painterly aesthetics and simultaneously maintains a strong relation to ‘reality’. I’m OK, on the other hand, does not involve the tracing over live-footage and without this strong and recorded initial connection to the world, it recreates Hobbs’ own version of it from scratch. I’m OK applies an expressive approach with emotive brushstrokes, music, use of colour and symbolism to tell a story while highlighting the animator’s unique perspective and is without any pretence of presenting ‘the real’. Hobbs refers to Kokoschka’s style not by directly emulating his art, but by adopting a similarly expressive aesthetic while maintaining her artistic voice. Hobbs’s film is not only an homage to an artist. It is much more than that, as it is, at least in my humble opinion, a work of art in its own right.
Frizzell, N., 2017. 65,000 Portraits Of The Artist: How Van Gogh’s Life Became The World’s First Fully Painted Film. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/13/loving-vincent-van-gogh-painted-animation-dorota-kobiela-hugh-welchman [Accessed 9 March 2020].
I’m OK. 2020. [DVD] Directed by E. Hobbs. United Kingdom and Canada: Animate Projects Limited and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).
Loving Vincent. 2017. [DVD] Directed by D. Kobiela and H. Welchman. Poland and United Kingdom: BreakThru Productions and Trademark Films.
Mottram, J., 2017. Loving Vincent: How The First Fully-Painted Feature Film Took Six Years. [online] The Independent. Available at: <https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/loving-vincent-van-gogh-douglas-booth-armand-roulin-hugh-welchman-dorota-kobiela-a7994186.html [Accessed 9 March 2020]
Vollenbroek, T., 2017. ‘Loving Vincent’: 6 Facts About The First Oil Painted Animated Feature. [online] Cartoon Brew. Available at: <https://www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/loving-vincent-6-facts-first-oil-painted-animated-feature-150443.html [Accessed 9 March 2020]
London’s fifth annual Factual Animation Film Festival was hosted at the Cinema Museum on 8th December 2019. 21 short animated documentaries were screened across two programmes. Between the screenings there was a discussion panel featuring Rory Waubly-Tolley, director of There’s Something In The Water, Diana Gradinaru, director of What Is Consciousness?, Simon Ball, director of Do I See What You See?, and Haemin Ko, director of No Body.
The AnimatedDocumentary.com team are delighted to announce that the FAFF best animated documentary of 2019 has been awarded to Rosa Fisher director of Sent Away.
Sent Away explores the psychological impact that attending boarding school had on Rosa’s father, Tom. The film addresses the atmosphere of punishment, obedience and isolation that led each pupil to develop a hardened exterior. The film concludes by speculating how this emotionally traumatic cultural practice, common among Britain’s political elite, has shaped the UK. Sent Away, despite focusing on the childhood of a middle-aged man, is prescient in the lead up to the UK’s general election. One of the candidates for prime minister forged his identity in the competitive toxicity of Eton, the UK’s most elite boarding school. The other did not.
|FAFF 2019 Programme|
|Programme 1, 12pm|
|1||There’s Something In The Water||7||Dinosaur Blues|
|dir Rory Waudby-Tolley||2019||UK||dir Oleon Lin||2019||China|
|There are two types of lakes in the South: them that’s got giant salvinia, and them that’s about to.||In urban China, a man makes plasticine figures of popular characters.|
|2||No Body||8||What Is Consciousness?|
|dir Haemin Ko||2019||UK||dir Diana Gradinaru||2019||UK, Romania|
|An autobiographical experimental animated poem on the director’s immigrant experience.||Classic cartoon tropes are manipulated in this nightmarish story about memory.|
|3||Passage||9||Do I See What You See?|
|dir Asavari Kumar||2019||USA, India||dir Simon Ball||2018||UK|
|An Indian woman revisits her immigration journey through the illusion of the American Dream.||How do changes in the brain cause us to see differently?|
|4||A Letter To Myself At 16||10||Patchwork|
|dir Claire Tankersley||2019||USA||dir Maria Manero||2018||Spain|
|Five years after her sexual assault, there is so much that she wishes she’d known when she woke up the next morning.||The story of a 60 year-old woman’s liver transplant, as told by her donor.|
|5||Embraces & The Touch of Skin||11||Solos|
|dir Sara Koppel||2019||Denmark||dir Gabriella Marsh||2019||UK|
|An animated poem about the vital need for embraces and contact with other beings.||A portrait of a day in a single square in Barcelona.|
|6||My Dad’s Name Was Huw|
|dir Freddie Griffiths||2019||UK|
|Freddie’s late alcoholic father left behind a number of poems through which we might understand his experience.|
|FAFF 2019 Programme|
|Programme 2, 2pm|
|dir Samantha Moore||2019||UK||dir Michaela Režová, Ivan Studený||2018||Czechia|
|Animated fabric brings the story of a lingerie factory in Manchester to life.||In urban China, a man makes plasticine figures of popular characters.|
|2||Sent Away||7||The Elephant’s Song|
|dir Rosa Fisher||2019||UK||dir Lynn Tomlinson||2019||USA|
|A child sent to boarding school must contend with the trauma of abandonment.||The sad but true story of Old Bet, the first circus elephant in America.|
|3||Fifteen-Two||8||The Children of Concrete|
|dir John Summerson||2019||UK||dir Jonathan Phanhsay-Chamson||2017||France|
|The filmmaker’s mother recalls her parents’ indomitable relationship, strengthened by their love of games.||An immigrant child’s conflict with ethnic and national identity.|
|4||O Hunter Heart||9||Eadem Cutis|
|dir Carla MacKinnon||2019||UK||dir Nina Hopf||2019||Germany|
|Nature and domesticity collide in a dark take of love and loss.||A person’s attempt to frame their conflict with dysphoria.|
|5||The Drip||10||1 Minute History of Image Distortion|
|dir Leonie Ketteler||2019||Netherlands||dir Betina Kuntzsch||2017||Germany|
|You’ve never seen Chlamydia in quite this way before.||Material resistance in film history.|
The Deptford Animadocs symposium took place on a warm July day in Deptford Cinema, London. A converted shop edging the bustle of Deptford Market, the venue, which is run entirely by volunteers, is plastered with cult film imagery and local information, combining the laser focus of film obsessives with the inclusivity of a community space. The event attracted an audience including animated documentary die-hards as well as newcomers to the form and there was a buzz throughout the day as filmmakers, academics and audience members compared thoughts and ideas.
The day included three programmes of short films. Each had a theme. The first, ‘Borders’, was a harrowing collection of stories of migration, protest, and imprisonment. From the near-invisible modern-day slavery of some foreign domestic workers in Leeds Animation Workshop’s They Call Us Maids to the brutal detention of migrants in Lukas Schrank’s Nowhere Lines: Broken Dreams from Manus Island, the films told urgent stories with a strong social message.
The second programme, themed as ‘Memories’, was a more upbeat and varied screening, lifted by the humour of Dustin Grella’s Animation Hotline and the lateral charm of Carina and Ines Christine Geisser’s Durrenwaid 8. The programme also featured dark moments, notably Susan Young’s visceral The Betrayal, a film in which she explores a traumatic period from her past in which she was put in the care of a manipulative and destructive mental health professional.
Following this was a screening of the feature animated documentary Another Planet (dir. Amir Yatziv). The film follows the creators of various virtual simulations of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. These worlds have been created by very different people, each with very different motivations: police forensics, game development, museum exhibit modelling. In the film we see the creators of each simulated camp as avatars exploring their own virtual Auschwitz.
This was one of those films that is very difficult to describe or explain, or even to make sense of your feelings about during or after watching it. It’s strange, chilling, depressing, reflective, and at times blackly funny. It asks smart questions not only about its subject but also about the documentary form, leaving the audience unsettled and unmoored, unsure of whose voice we have been listening to.
The final short film programme of the day, ‘Body and Mind’, saw filmmakers looking inwards and making films that dealt with physical and mental illness, and emotional highs and lows. Kate Ranmey’s Lingua Absentia was a powerful story about a young woman with schizophrenia and cancer, told through the eyes of her mother, while Lizzy Hobbs’s BAFTA-nominated I’m OK was a wonderfully fluid, rich and satisfying way to wrap up the screening.
The day concluded with a roundtable discussion, with: myself; Susan Young; Terry Wragg and Jo Dunne from the Leeds Animation Workshop; Dr Victoria Grace Walden, who had organised and programmed the bulk of the day; and Dr Bella Honess Roe, who has written widely on animated documentary and who helped programme the event. It was a lively, discursive panel with a very active audience. Earlier in the day both Honess Roe and Walden had made presentations and led discussions, laying strong groundwork for more in-depth debate at the end of the day. It was particularly interesting to hear Young talk about her process of making The Betrayal, which she produced following a period of poor mental health, building a script from fragments of her real medical and legal records:
I had gone through this experience of being someone who had a voice, an animation director, et cetera, and then ending up with a mental health label and suddenly becoming voiceless. And that was totally shocking. So I wanted to explore that, to actually explore what it meant to me, how it felt to be voiceless. Which is why I used the medical records, to subvert them and take control of that narrative.
Most of the words in the film are seen as flashes of typed text, shot so close-up that the texture of paper and ink is visible, illuminated by sudden flashes of light. The doctor’s words are embodied in a disturbing voiceover, voiced by Young herself in audio that was then processed heavily to create a dark simulation of a man’s voice. This literal using of her own voice exemplifies Young’s intention:
it was really, really important to find my own voice again through playing with the voice of this individual who I’d created through his medical records he wrote about me, and also legal records.
It was also good to hear Wragg and Dunne talk about their work with Leeds Animation Workshop and how it has changed over the years. Particularly interesting was Wragg’s opinion that it is harder now to find ways to get a film seen in a good environment with the opportunity for discussion than it used to be. She explains that:
a lot of our films are quite dense and intensively researched and designed to provoke specific questions. They really work best if they’re in a group where people are around to talk about things, and sometimes that’s not as easy as it used to be.
More positively, the panel discussed animated documentary as a space where alternative and diverse stories and storytellers can flourish. Walden commented on how encouraged she was not only by the quantity and quality of submissions that Deptford Animadocs received, but also the diversity of the filmmakers and the stories represented.
Walden also talked about the way that the documentary value of animated documentary is problematised by the subjectivity of the form, the intent that is inherent in animation. While all filmmaking involves construction and decision-making on the part of the filmmaker, there remains a sense that animation is more constructed and therefore less trustworthy than live action. Walden and Honess Roe discussed the fact that while animated documentary is generally considered to be good at representing subjective, internal experiences, these representations are usually mediated by the animator or director, rather than emerging purely from the subject (Samantha Moore’s work within the collaborative frame is an example of a filmmaker addressing this issue).
This Animadocs festival, or symposium, or ‘sympestival’ as Walden calls it, was a rich day for fans of animated and alternative documentary. The programme of films was very strong, favouring high-intensity work packing an emotional gut-punch over information-heavy or highly illustrative films. This made the viewing demanding as well as rewarding, but the frequent breaks, presentations and discussions that peppered the day provided some cerebral and social relief. Walden and Deptford cinema even bought the audience a drink and provided crisps and cheese at the end of the day, which was nice.
To keep up to date with the future work of Deptford Animadocs, join their facebook group here.