Rosa Fisher wins the FAFF AnimatedDocumentary.com award for best film

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 WaterDiana 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 was organised by festival director, Daniel Murtha, with help from Marina Belikova, project leader for FAFF Berlin, and me, Alex Widdowson, panel host.

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
1 Bloomers 6 Gambler
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.

A day at Deptford Animadocs

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Deptford Cinema

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.

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Nowhere Lines: Broken Dreams from Manus Island Dir. Lukas Schrank (UK/ Australia)

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.

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I’m OK Dir. Elizabeth Hobbs (UK)

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.

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Deptford AnimaDocs

On July 13th Deptford Cinema in London will be hosting a day of film and discussion exploring and celebrating Twenty-First Century animated documentary. The event includes:

  • An international programme of 16 animated documentary films

  • Introductions by academics working in animation studies

  • Roundtable discussion with filmmakers and scholars

  • Drinks reception

Speakers include: Dr Victoria Grace Walden (University of Sussex), Dr Bella Honess Roe (University of Surrey), Dr Nea Ehrlich (Ben-Gurion University, Israel TBC), Susan Young (Royal College of Arts), Carla MacKinnon (Arts University Bournemouth), Terry Wragg (Leeds Animation Workshop).

Doors 11.30am / Tickets: £10 (£8.50 concessions)

More information on the website: http://deptfordcinema.org/new-events/2019/7/13/deptford-animadocs-1

 

 

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Migraine MyGroan MyGain (Dir. John Akre)

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The Betrayal (Dir. Susan Young)

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I’m OK (Dir. Elizabeth Hobbs)

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O Hunter Heart (dir. Carla MacKinnon)