“Animated documentary …. there’s no such thing!” by Scotti Rothschild

When writing about a subject such as animated documentary it is a rare treat to come across a film that advocates, exemplifies and examines your field so directly. nst1

Set to the rhythm of beat poetry, Scotti Rothschild has written and directed a short film studies class, designed to counter an assertion proposed by a stranger. This animated short is dedicated to ‘…THAT live-action filmmaker who said that there was no such thing as animated documentary.’

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Reference is made to ‘Nanook of the North’, considered to be the first feature length documentary. The director of this 1922 film, Robert J. Flaherty, received criticism for staging several sequences. Despite this the documentary’s influence is internationally and historically recognised.  Rothschild argues the illusions of cinema are present in all on screen representations. It is therefore meaningless to disregard the more obvious methods of representation found in animation when comparing them to the hidden techniques used in live action documentary. In the words of the narrator: ‘Truth isn’t guaranteed by style or expression…. what matters is content and reasoning.’

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I am a great fan of meta-film making; this is where the processes of production are addressed so disrupting the illusion of cinema. Such work often evokes a sense of circular logic and metaphoric symmetry. In this case we are watching a documentary about methods of making documentaries. In order to hammer home her point, Rothschild states triumphantly before the credits that  ‘You have been watching a documentary’.

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I was puzzled that the Vimeo title includes the phrase ‘work in progress’ as the film appears finished. My whimsical mind hopes this statement references the growing field of animated documentary, implying that it is a fertile ground for filmic exploration. However it is more likely the video file may soon be updated with a few minor changes.

This is a student film, produced at the National Film School, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology in County Dublin.

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