The ANIDOX:VR Awards, factual and visual storytelling in emerging media/VR

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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)

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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

You can find the trailer here and a link to the project’s website here

 

‘Homestay’ by Paisley Smith, Jam3 and the NFB Digital Studio (2018)

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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.

You can watch the trailer here and read more about the project here

 

‘Another Dream’ by Tamara Shogaolu (2019)

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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.

You can watch the trailer here and find more out about the project here

 

‘Accused #2 Walter Sisulu’ by Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte (2018)

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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.

You can watch the trailer here and find out more about the project here

 

‘The Scream’ by Sandra Paugam and Charles Ayats (2018)

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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.

You can watch the trailer here and find out more about the project here

 

‘Songbird’ VR installation by Lucy Greenwell / Michelle & Uri Kranot (2018)

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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.

‘Loving Vincent’ and ‘I’m OK’: two approaches to documenting the life of an artist

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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.

References

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]

 

‘The Divide’ and ‘Childhood Memories’ by Mary Martins

Mary Martins is a London based filmmaker making animated documentaries and experimental films. Her short film The Divide won the Mother Art Prize in 2017 as well as the Best New Voice award at the Factual Animation Film Fuss in 2016.

The Divide from Mary Martins on Vimeo.

In 2018 Martins was commissioned by the BFI and BBC4 to make the short film Childhood Memories, based on her memories of a holiday in Lagos as a young girl. The film combines archive footage with stop-motion and 2D animation to build a rich and evocative picture of a time and place remembered. The narrative for the film emerged from a poem that Martins wrote, which also led the visual development.

Discussing her process, Martins tells me “I turned my memory into a poem to create the rhythm, and that led the animation,  so the animation flowed from the rhythm of the poem”. Her decision to use a mixed media method was driven by both tonal and storytelling needs. “The reason why I chose the puppets was because I wanted to create that feeling that it was a real person going back in time” she explains. “I think you can capture that well with puppets, you can really bring them to life. And then there were bits that I couldn’t quite get from the footage no matter how much I edited it, and that’s where the hand-drawn came into it. To kind of fill in the missing gaps, between the visuals, the footage and the actual memory itself – the narrative”.

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Childhood Memories (2018)

Martins is set to study for a Masters at the Royal College of Art from September, as part of their animated documentary pathway, and sees it as an opportunity to develop her own distinctive voice. “My work is always going to be very experimental” she predicts, “I still don’t know if I have my own style yet, I hope going to the RCA will help me get closer to that… I see my work as a personal journey and really want to work on discovering myself through my work”. 


Childhood Memories can currently be seen online in the UK only at: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-childhood-memories-2018-online

Background on the project can be found at: https://abandonedmemories.weebly.com

More of Martins’ work can be seen on her website: http://www.marymartins.com

 

‘Chris the Swiss’ by Anja Kofmel

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Directed by Anja Kofmel and screened during Cannes International Critics Week in 2018, this feature length documentary ,which fuses a mix of live action, archive and animation, is a remarkable investigation into the death of war journalist Chris, Kofmel’s late cousin.

This personal story, rich with emotion explains how the death of Kofmel’s cousin has impacted her entire life. Chris travelled to the Croatian War of Independence in the 90’s, and much of the film is set in and around Zagreb. Kofmel appears herself in the film both as a child in animated form and as an adult in live action. We see her visit the places Chris had been, such as hotels and battle grounds and talk to the people he met, such as fellow journalists and ‘soldiers’, in an attempt to discover why and how he died. I thought the inclusion of the animation production process as part of the film was a nice touch, the storyboarding and concept sketches forming part of her search.

The animation is spellbinding, black and white 2D and created in TV Paint, there is the feeling of movement and texture in the drawings as the ink  bleeds into the ‘paper’ whilst images are formed and animated. The depiction of Chris and other characters is very clear, the characterisation of them and Kofmel’s direction holding up well against any photos or live action of those people. In particular the key characters, not alive today to give testimony, the animation is adding and ‘filling in’ for the missing live action that we require in order to tell Chris’s story. But the animation is not merely a device for the live action. It brings a new level of understanding to the documentary in the way in which it morphs, transcends time and geographical boundaries. There are symbolic themes in the animation, such as that of the animated lines that denote the lines in Chris scarf, or the black painterly marks that follow Chris, which instantly make me think of death. These devices guide us through the narrative, and act as signifiers of important events. The animation explores memory, loss and emotion and through it’s movement is evocative of all these states.

A wonderful film, truly deserving of its critical acclaim. In my opinion, this is a fine addition to the animated documentary genre.

http://www.christheswiss.net/

 

‘The Stereoscopic Society’ by Kate Sullivan

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The final film in the ‘Untold Tales’ series

Please put on your 3D glasses because I’d like to give you an immersive tour of a place I love.

Welcome to The Stereoscopic Society. We’re a bunch of 3D enthusiasts who meet once a month in a church hall in Euston. We share tips tricks and our latest 3D photos.

58 seconds probably isn’t enough time to experience how I feel when submerging for the usual full 3 hours at the club, but I hope you enjoy your quick cup of tea, meeting my friends and watching a digital slide show with us.

https://vimeo.com/296861425

https://www.instagram.com/kate_sullivan01

 

 

‘A Place to Think’ by Anushka Kishani Naanayakkara

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A film in the ‘Untold Tales’ series

A Place to Think is a meditative film, inspired by the architecture and natural environment found at the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery. The monastery welcomes all faiths and backgrounds, and gives people the space to reflect on their lives and the outside world which can at times seem overwhelming.

https://vimeo.com/296899375

https://www.instagram.com/nushy_peas

‘144 Units’ by Ian Gouldstone

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From the ‘Untold series’

A ficus, a cup, a gate, a buzzer to let people in, a wiener dog, a roll of toilet paper, an apartment, a television, a spare key, a smoke detector, renters, a fridge freezer, mop, a mouse, a communal clothes washer, an apartment, a bowl, a computer, an armchair, an apartment, a small kitchen, a lift, a human, a room, a door, a spare key, a mess, pillows.

An algorithmic film about my tower block inspired by the activity of its inhabitants.

https://vimeo.com/296910820/

https://www.instagram.com/iwgouldstone

‘Sir John Lubbock’s Pet Wasp’ – Osbert Parker and Laurie Hill

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The next installment from the Untold Tales series

‘Strange but true stories’ have always been a rich source of inspiration for Parker and Hill, especially those taken from turn of the century Victorian tabloids. Sir John Lubbock’s story and his scientific writings on Ants, Bees & Wasps stood out as contemporary for the directors who worked in collaboration on the film. Themes of environmental concern, cultural displacement, and empathy were found in their interpretation of Lubbock’s story still relevant to today. A diverse range of techniques from stop motion, 2D cut-outs, and digital animation is combined to tell a bizarre and beautiful love story with a sting in its tale.

https://vimeo.com/297121305

https://www.instagram.com/animatedplayground

‘The Foundling’ by Leo Crane

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The second film to be released as part of the Untold Tales series.

J— dreams of a family where wild birds are his brothers and sisters and he can escape the urban chaos of London. He lives with his adopted dads in a loving home, but can’t forget his past and the violent emotions he feels towards the young mother who abandoned him. In times of anger and sadness, he turns to the piano and the music that allows his dreams to flourish.

https://vimeo.com/296881122

https://www.instagram.com/leocrane77

‘Hold Tight’ by Jessica Ashman

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The first of the six Untold Tales films.

Hold Tight explores the importance of Carnival across the UK and how its celebrations provide an important lifeline to heritage and identity for younger generations of the Black Caribbean diaspora in Britain. It is a journey into the feeling of belonging, through the rituals of Carnival attendance and the power of bass.

https://www.instagram.com/jessiola

You can watch the film here:

Hold Tight – https://vimeo.com/297039237