Celebrating Black History Month

Still from ‘Childhood Memories’ by Mary Martins

Here at animateddocumentary.com, we want to celebrate Black History Month by highlighting some excellent animated documentaries by Black filmmakers and animators. Some of these films have been posted on the blog before, and some are brand new!

Each Monday this October we will share an animated documentary by a different Black filmmaker, four from here in the UK and one from the USA. We’d also love to hear about any of your favourite films by Black creators so feel free to share in the comments below.

The United Kingdom’s Black History Month was founded more than 30 years ago, in 1987, to recognise the contributions made by people of African and Caribbean backgrounds in the UK. Today, however, the remit of the project has expanded to include the history of Black people from all backgrounds. You can read more about Black History Month on bbc.co.uk.

Be sure to check out the official website for Black History Month in the UK, here.

Still from ‘Hold Tight’ by Jessica Ashman

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‘A Brief History of the Internet’ by Melih Bilgil

Melih Bilgil’s ‘A Brief History of the Internet’ employs a distinctly simple visual language to depict a series of complex communication and technology developments. We are hurtled through the historical contexts of various breakthroughs that collectively lead to the invention of the World Wide Web.

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This animation project was conceived as a vehicle for showcasing Bilgil’s graphic design concept, PICOL. Short for ‘PIctorial COmmunication Language’, the project consists of a set of standardized signs developed to represent various features of electronic communication. The designer hoped that these icons would join existing examples, such as play/pause, creating a richer vocabulary of universally understood symbols.

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The director’s desire to cover the subject comprehensively is at times in conflict with the need to engage the audience, which creates a consistent element of discord. A feature common to many educational films is the interference created when entirely forgettable technical or historical referencing distracts from interesting learning points. The result of this is that the viewer’s short term memory is preoccupied by frivolous detail rather than the core subject; for example, the numerous acronyms that litter the script.

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In this film, a number of concepts, such as the decentralized network architecture, are enhanced by graphic visualizations. These reduced models communicate the dilemma and solution elegantly. However, occasionally the imagery does not expand upon or condense the verbal explanation. Instead it repeats the narrator’s script and the feeling of tautology creeps in.

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‘A Brief History of the Internet’ is comprehensive and stimulating. Occasionally it loses stride but ultimately one is left with the feeling they have learnt something useful.  Melih Bilgil lives in Munich where he works as a freelance multidisciplinary designer.