‘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:

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‘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:

http://stacybias.net

http://thefatexperience.com

‘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:

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: eternalspringfilm.com

Celebrating Black History Month: ‘Black Enuf*’ by Carrie Hawks

Still from the ‘black enuf*’ trailer

Carrie Hawks‘ (they/them) is a gender non-conforming artist, designer, animator and filmmaker based in New York, US. They work with a wide span of media and methods of making such as performance, doll-making, drawing, animation, motion graphic design and multimedia design.

Hawks’ film titled ‘Black Enuf*’ explores expanding Black identity by interweaving personal stories from their great grandmother’s autobiography, interviews with friends and family, and hand-drawn visualisations of their own memories. The 22 minute film offers a mix of media and is experimental in style; it uses hand-drawn elements alongside scanned textures and digital artwork.

Hawks summaries the film as follows : ‘A queer oddball seeks approval from Black peers despite a serious lack of Hip-Hop credentials’ (via).

Watch the trailer:

Rent (£3.04) or buy (£5.17) the film on vimeo.

Visit Carrie’s studio virtually:

Celebrating Black History Month: ‘Yellow Fever’ by Ng’endo Mukii

Still from ‘Yellow Fever’

‘I am interested in the concept of skin and race, and what they imply; the ideas and theories sown into our flesh that change with the arc of time’ – Ng’endo Mukii (via)

Ng’endo Mukii holds a Master of Arts from the Royal College of Art (2012) in London, and a Bachelor of Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design (2006), USA. She is an award-winning filmmaker and is currently Professor of Practice at Tufts University, School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She is a writer on Netflix’s Mama K’s Team 4 series, and is one of 10 directors selected for the upcoming Disney+ and Triggerfish animated anthology, Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire.

Mukii describes ‘Yellow Fever’ as an exploration of the international fashion and beauty industry and it’s racist hierarchy. Her focus is the impact this has on the psyche of African women:

‘I believe skin and the body are often distorted into a topographical division between reality and illusion. The idea of beauty has become globalised, creating homogenous aspirations and distorting people’s self-image across the planet. In my film, I focus on African women’s self-image, through memories and interviews, using mixed media to describe this almost schizophrenic [sic] self-visualisation that I and many others have grown up with.’ (via)

Still from ‘Yellow Fever’

Watch ‘Yellow Fever’:

Celebrating Black History Month: ‘Childhood Memories’ by Mary Martins

Still from ‘Childhood Memories’

‘Our earliest childhood memories, often episodic, are one of our most intimate experiences’ – Mary Martins (via)

Mary Martins is a London-based animator and filmmaker. She is experimental in her practice, attempting to push boundaries of animated documentary and explore innovative new ways to portray reality. Martins was the 2017 winner of the Procreate Project Mother Art Prize and her films have been screened at multiple festivals around the world.

Commissioned by BFI and BBC4, ‘Childhood Memories’ by Mary Martins is a multi-layered film which utilises stop-motion and 2D digital animation, as well as 16mm colour film footage from 1970s Lagos, Nigeria. This autobiographical short explores childhood memories and cultural backgrounds.

Still from ‘Childhood Memories’

Martin’s reflected upon the starting point for the film, linking it to her earliest child hood memory: “… when I accompanied my mother to Lagos, Nigeria in 1987. I was 4 years old. I was too young to remain in London with my Father and my two older sisters.” (via)

Watch ‘Childhood Memories’ here. (Available only in the UK)

Launching a new podcast…

Here at AnimatedDocumentary.com we are trying out a new podcast format as part of our mission to offer information, promotion, and critical discussion around the animated documentary form. We’re planning to release an occasional podcast featuring discussion on animated documentary with filmmakers, academics, programmers, commissioners, and commentators.

In this first episode, team members Alys Scott-Hawkins, Carla MacKinnon and Alex Widdowson discuss Chris Landreth’s seminal short animated documentary Ryan (2004), as well as Laurence Green’s film Alter Egos, a live-action making-of documentary released the same year, which tracks Landreth’s filmmaking process and exposes problematic elements in his approach.

Ryan and Alter Egos AnimatedDocumentary

Animators Alys Scott-Hawkins, Carla MacKinnon, and Alex Widdowson discuss their thoughts on Chris Landreth's seminal short animated documentary Ryan (2004) and Laurence Green's film Alter Egos, a live-action making-of documentary released the same year, which tracks Landreth's filmmaking process and exposes problematic elements in his approach.  Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

Both Ryan and Alter Egos are free to watch online at the links below.

Ryan: https://www.nfb.ca/film/ryan/

Alter Egos: https://www.nfb.ca/film/alter_egos

Celebrating Black History Month: ‘Life on the Move’ by Osbert Parker

Still from ‘Life On The Move’

Osbert Parker‘s short animated film ‘Life On The Move’ is a collaborative production which explores the complexities of immigration by using real life experiences and research. The stop-motion animation plays alongside a script created by two researchers who conducted interviews with migrants, refugees and returnees in Somaliland.

‘Life On The Move’ is innovative in the way that it explores how artists and researchers can collaborate to generate knowledge that can reach wider audiences about complex issues such as immigration. The film makes this information and these testimonials more accessible to public audiences, and the team worked with the aim of inspiring more researchers to collaborate with artists.

“It illustrates how complex research findings can be disseminated in a clear and accessible style suitable for many public audiences. Visualising internal and external migration routes, it disrupts mainstream media coverage of migration as a problem, presenting a more holistic narrative.” – (via)

Still from ‘Life On The Move’

The figures used in the stop-motion sequence are all based on 3D scans of real actors from a variety of backgrounds to reflect differing cultures, focusing especially on unique facial features. Over 1800 individual images were used in the film to create the smooth animation. The film was a collaborative project which also involved PositiveNegatives, the Migration Leadership Team, artist Karrie Fransman and, of course, animator Osbert Parker. Research and field work was funded by the International Organisation For Migration.

The film was the winner of the ‘best social media short’ at AHRC Film Awards in 2019.

The film can be viewed on Vimeo via this link.