‘The Beloved Ones’ by Samantha Moore

Samantha Moore’s 2007 UK Film Council commissioned animated documentary explores problems of stigma and denial in a Ugandan community through the eyes of two women dealing with the effects of HIV/AIDS in their respective families.

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The materiality of this animation technique is charmingly tangible. Two examples are the hut roof fashioned from torn corrugated cardboard and the illusion of perspective constructed through horizontally wrinkled brown paper. Many of the images in this film are complimented by the appearance of textile patterns. They are ever present in the sky, images of water and on the bodies of the chickens we see crossing the screen. I wondered whether this was simply a stylistic choice or did it hold symbolic significance. From an overview the patterns seem to be noticeable in positive contexts, but I feel I might be jumping to conclusions if I was to assert that they represent hope or optimism.

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The most striking moment in this short documentary takes place when we hear Anna recount her husband’s attitude of denial towards HIV/AIDS. ‘He has never taken a blood test, he has lost three girlfriends but still he doesn’t believe.’ As these words are uttered her husband’s body shrivels, metamorphosing into a deathly skeleton. Such imagery is powerful in its simplicity.

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One shot niggled at my animator’s eye; when the memory book is being discussed the camera moves backwards from in the hut and out the door. The cinematic illusion is broken by the visibly pixelated edge of the doorframe. Such a significant loss in resolution is unfortunate.

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In a recent article written for Animation Studies, Samantha Moore discusses audio problems she experienced while filming in Uganda. Moore was forced to use voice actors due to the low quality of the original recordings. Although she had an initial ‘…fear that the documentary status of the film could be compromised by this jettisoning of original sound…’ Moore argues that both the unusable original voice recordings and the audible re-enactment ‘carry the indexical trace of the words’. The choice between the two options was ‘…not aided by an argument about which is more genuine.’

Samantha Moore’s work has been featured on Animated Documentary several times. We look forward to many more films from her.

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