‘Blue Pelikan’ by László Csáki

Directed and animated by László Csáki, a Budapest based multi-disciplinary filmmaker and lecturer; ‘Blue Pelikan’ was produced under the award winning collective Umbrella.

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The animated short illustrates the tenacity of young Hungarians following the collapse of the Soviet empire. While in 1989 the boarders were suddenly free to cross, the dire economic climate put travel out of reach for most. This short film captures a youthful optimism in a time of enormous upheaval and emphasises how unsurpessable desires are incubated by years of restriction.

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Recorded conversations concerning methods of overcoming these limitations are set to vibrant, stylised and layered animation. The uncanny visual language primarily addresses mark making. So much so most of the characters are briskly sketched out in chalky outlines, leaving their flesh transparent. The relaxed conversation scenes are laid over backgrounds teaming with colour and movement. These settings comfortably jostle for the viewer’s gaze, aided by a well-executed hand held camera effect. Csáki has been able to create an authentic sense of immersion and artistic realism in the environments that are also so noticeably crafted.

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Csáki also demonstrates a clear aptitude for motion graphics. Most noticeably, one page of a train ticket metamorphoses into the next via a mesmeric shifting of lines along a grid. He also seems to relish the typographic form, placing great emphasis on the various detergent brands.

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Umbrella  represent twelve other filmmakers, all of whom have work available to watch on the website. This film was brought to my attention via our Vimeo friends at DoccoAnim.

‘Table d’Hôte’ by Alexandra Levasseur

A Vimeo user named Surreal Magicalism needed just two sentences to effectively sum up this unconventionally abstract approach to animated documentary. “Simultaneously subtle & brutal indictment of meat production/consumption; brilliant! The animation style, pace & sound design are all incredibly strong.”

Somewhat subtler than Morrissey’s declaration that eating meat is worse than pedophilia, Alexandra Levasseur  represents her anti-meat message through metamorphic visual poetry, semiabstract narrative and masterful sound design.

A fly functions as a discordant device; it evokes a creeping notion of disgust while the viewer is presented with clinical images of meat preparation and consumption. This, I assume, is the central goal of the film.

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The title ‘Table d’Hôte’ refers to a ‘set menu’ in restaurant terminology. A situation with little choice may refer to the decadence of a society that insists on consuming meat as a norm, despite the agricultural inefficiency, environmental costs and ethical ambiguity.

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I am intrigued by the inclusion of a horse. Levasseur, a Montreal based student, may not be aware of the recent meat adulteration scandals in Britain. Maybe she references an animal that is normally revered and rarely consumed to highlight the perceived absurdity of accepting the industrial scale slaughter of some animals over others. Hopefully this isn’t simply explained by my ignorance of French Canadian livestock practices.

The illustrative style is confidently minimal, aided by a consciously fleshy colour palette. I observed a few careless animation glitches; the flickering line above the cow’s eye distracts from what is otherwise a powerful image.

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The sound design, despite being very simple is genuinely intriguing. The glimmering digital base track acts as a bed for all manner of thoughtfully selected sound effects. We are struck by silence in the final scene as the horse collapses into a pile of meat. Only an invisible fly is audible, reengaging the viewer’s disgust instinct once again.

Awarded the Vimeo Staff Pick, ‘Table d’Hôte’ is the second student film made at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema to grab my attention in so many months.

‘60 Second Adventures in Economics’ (combined) by the Open University

This sequence of 6 episodes provides pithy explanations of economic theories, narrated by the comic actor and frequenter of panel shows, David Mitchell. The script, whilst managing to be digestibly informative, also incorporates a sharp wit that comes so naturally to Mitchell.

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The diagrammatical animation is simplistic.  Some imagery and much of the movement seems reminiscent of comic timing found in Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python cut out animations. While the over all visual style seems influence by the RSA Animate’s wipe board series. The character and set design is fun and doodle like, bringing a pleasantly informal hue to the weighty topics.

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Developed as a promotional tool to attract interest in studying at the Open University, the series seems to have attracted a lot of online attention, particularly from U.S. commentators who seem to eat up the ‘British sense of humour’.

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The films are unaccredited but as far as I can work out Angel Eye Media were commissioned to create the 60-second adventure series.  This isn’t certain however, as the production company’s website seems to declare involvement with only the ‘60 Second Adventures in Thought’. Either way the ‘…Thought’ series is also worth a watch.

‘Tussilago’ By Jonas Odell

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What a treat to see the latest animated documentary from Jonas Odell.

“West German terrorist Norbert Kröcher was arrested on March 31, 1977. He was leading a group planning to kidnap politician Anna-Greta Leijon. A number of suspects were arrested in the days following. One of them was Kröcher’s ex-girlfriend, “A”. This is her story.”

In this film Odell has moved away from his usual method of weaving a story from multiple interviews and instead features the story of one woman ‘A’.  The pace of storytelling is fast and this keeps up a level of dramatic intrigue, supported by cut out visuals involving some complex camera moves and transitions.

We recommend watching Odell’s past films ‘Lies’ and ‘Never Like the first time’ which have both featured on animateddocumentary.com.

This film was kindly brought to our attention by Ian Fenton – thanks Ian

https://vimeo.com/84763962

‘There’s No Tomorrow’ By Dermot O’Connor

“We’re all doomed!” muttered an internal voice whilst watching this thoroughly bleak yet seemingly rational animation about the fundamental incompatibility of environmentalism and the current fuel based economic paradigm.

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Initially conceived as a lighthearted parody of the pro-capitalist propaganda cartoons of the 1940s and 50s, this Flash animation maintains a commitment to the juxtaposition of serious or complicated concepts with lighthearted and infantile graphic techniques; the characters are cute and inanimate materials are personified. Dermot O’Connor does his best to extend such jollity into the graphic representations of data. However when the flow of imaginative imagery inevitably runs as dry as some of the film’s subject matter, enough distraction is provided by the film’s apocalyptic overtones that criticism is effectively stifled.

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Efforts are made to keep levels of panic at a low simmer. Twinkling classical music soothes the tone of the film as catastrophic statements are churned out. Similarly the female narrator’s soft delivery greatly contrasts the alarming information she imparts.

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Gradually I started to mentally add two dots above each bell shape graph that predicted decline of a resource or living standard, resulting in a stream of crude sad-face emoticons.

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The Frequently Asked Questions on O’Connor’s website made for interesting reading. In this the writer/animator bitterly describes the film ‘consuming’ up to ‘three full years of personal labor’. In response to the question ‘Would you do it again if you knew how long it was going to take?’ O’Connor retorts ‘No. In the intervening years, it’s become clear that people are deeply set in their opinions, and that most of the writing/commentary/movies that are made simply reinforce existing beliefs, rather than change them. In addition, dealing with this subject is likely to have one labeled a Eugenicist/Genocidal-maniac/New World Order puppet/Illuminati/Oil-industry-shill/The AntiChrist, or worse. It would have been wiser to create a cartoon about crime-fighting squirrels with super-powers.’

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Despite being sympathetic and interested in much of O’Connor’s concerns this film has an uncanny pacifying effect. Rather than a call to arms the lasting sentiment is that of inevitable doom. Readers may ask ‘why write about a project that seemed to bring down both creator and audiences.’ In response I suggest it might be a good idea to consider the worst every now and then. The blissful comfort of ignorance can be as inversely distorting as crippling paranoia. We all need a bit of doom in our lives if not just to provide perspective on the triviality of our own day-to-day soap opera or maybe even help us re-think our tangled relationships with non-renewable energy sources.

‘Another day of life’ by Raul de la Fuente & Damian Nenow

A hybrid film featuring live action alongside animated documentary, this is the story of Ryszard Kapuscinski, a journalist covering independence movements throughout Africa in the 1970’s.

The animation and style is sublime, building on the style associated with ‘Waltz with Bashir’.

We are not sure when this film will be completed – but we anticipate its release!

You can read the review here:

http://twitchfilm.com/2013/06/watch-the-astounding-trailer-for-hybrid-animation-documentary-another-day-of-life.html

You can visit the website here:

http://anotherdayoflifefilm.com/en/index.html

‘Andersartig’ by Dennis Stein-Schomberg

Dennis Stein-Schomburg’s ‘Andersartig’, the German word for different, is an elderly woman’s account of her isolated youth in a German orphanage during a World War II allied bombing campaign.

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Schomburg captures the visual essence of memory through the use of transparency, a sepia colour palette and floating camera movements that include  slightly conflicting uses of perspective. While much of the composition is left abstracted by splashed ink, these textures provide context for individual details to pop out. Recognition is owed to the director for crafting the feeling that we are experiencing the narrator’s minds eye.

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Two and three dimensional animation components are combined successfully. While the image of a fish constructed out of numbers was designed crudely and moves with an equivalent level of elegance, the dispersion of dandelion seeds give a strong impression of air currents. These airborne symbols of childhood innocence serve as an impeccable introductory device to the impending air raid. Their aimless movement and silence function as a counterpoint to the droning intentionality of the aeroplanes set on civilian devastation.

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Despite being based on a factual account, this film has a distinctly allegorical tone to it.  The first possible interpretation aligns this narrative with the age-old advice that one’s proverbial eggs should not be placed in the same basket. In case of a chance instance of damage this is a recognised method for preventing the destruction of an entire stock.

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The second interpretation I take from this account weighs more on the connection between personality and survival. The title of the film presents a girl’s isolation and separatism as the main theme. Her resistance to following the action of the cohort led to circumstances that left her living while the rest perished. This is an appealing message as there is great value placed on individuality in our society. However, I am not certain it is wise to learn from this little girl’s actions, and by default her anti-social tendencies. If these circumstances were repeated the same results would not necessarily reoccur. This woman’s mere survival grants her decision the illusion of being correct when rationally it is fair to say this chance outcome was the result of numerous arbitrary circumstances. The connection between her personality and survival could be incidental. That said it is important to remember these are simply someone’s memories and any interpretation may say more about us, the viewers, than the narrator.

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I find it intriguing to compare this film with Alex Bland’s ‘I Dreamt of Flying’, an animated documentary I reviewed for this blog back in June. Bland presents the other side of the story, the accounts of British and American bomber pilots that described raids over Germany. While Bland steers away from the civilian casualties associated with these attacks, there is little engagement with the wider context of war in Schomburg’s film.

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‘Andersartig’ was brought to our attention by Florian Maubach, the director of ‘Iki – See you soon’ which I wrote about back in August. Maubach and Schomburg are both students from the University of Art and Design in Kessel. Dennis now works freelance as an animator and graphic designer.

‘The Vanni’ by Benjamin Dix

‘The Vanni’ is a graphic novel set in Sri Lanka, India and the UK and follows the story of a fictional Tamil family living in a fishing village in Sri Lanka. The story starts in 2004 following the Tsunami and takes us through to the following conflict and then life for the family surviving as refugees.

The concept comes from Bejamin Dix, a former UN staff member who spent 4 years living in Sri Lanka until 2008 when all NGO’s were asked to leave Sri Lanka. He has teamed up with illustrator Lindsay Pollack. The story and images are based on his real life experiences of living and working with communities after the Tsunami and as refugees.

The graphic novel is still in production, but you can see an interactive preview on their website.

http://www.thevanni.co.uk/

‘Centrefold’ by Ellie Land

Released over a year ago this animated docmentary looks at the current UK trend for labia surgery, a procedure which trims and tidies a woman’s labia.

Directed and designed by animateddocumentary.com’s co founder Ellie Land.

http://www.thecentrefoldproject.org/

‘Conversing with Aotearoa’ by Corrie Francis Parks

Corrie Francis Parks, a Montana based animator and photographer, took part in the New Zealand based Fulbright academic exchange award.  Her fellowship culminated in the creation of the 14-minute animated documentary ‘Conversing with Aotearoa’. (Aotearoa is the most widely know and accepted Māori name for New Zealand.)

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Francis Parks writes about the film: ‘In an age of technological integration and urban life, people turn to the natural world for a wilderness experience. What draws us to the remote corners of land and sea when we realize something in our lives is missing? Conversing with Aotearoa/New Zealand uses unique visual imagery to take the viewer into the physical and mental wilderness encompassed in the diverse landscapes of New Zealand. In this animated documentary, New Zealanders attempt to fathom their deep, personal connection with their land. Among the interviewees are hunters, fishermen, farmers, trampers, mountaineers, adventurer-racers, conservationists, ecologists, artists, urban and rural dwellers, Pakeha, Māori and tourists, young, old and in between. The thread that ties them all together is a passion and love for the wild places in New Zealand.’

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‘Conversing with Aotearoa’ is mostly compiled from photographic animation techniques interjected with partially fluid hand drawn scenes.  These are characterised by a pastel colour palette and a feathered quality of line.

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The film is speckled with bracing moments and cinematic experimentation. The time-lapse footage of starfish in a rock pool demonstrated the filmmaker’s fascination with the varied and wondrous environment. The title scene where the mountain range appears to breath is similarly striking.

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There are however some less successful moments. A Māori spirit/mask spins around a struggling mountaineer, presumably to symbolise his relative powerlessness when confronted with the overwhelming power of nature.  The crude rotational movement of the Māori design, when combined with a quaint woodwind instrumental score, felt visually disappointing and distracted from the absorbing account of mountainous peril.

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Although only a trailer is available on Vimeo, the full 14-minute version is accessible through SnagFilms, an online documentary streaming service supported by advertising. It is free to sign-up but expect to receive a weekly email unless you unsubscribe.