Animated documentary events at Encounters Festival 2016, Bristol, UK

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AnimatedDocumentary.com is getting ready to cover the Encounters Short film and Animation Festival. The festival runs from the 20th to 25th September across a number of Bristol’s cultural venues. Friday 23rd September looks to be an exciting day for Documentary Animation fans:

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At 12 noon the 5th Animation programme, A Look Inside, will be screened at the Watershed, focusing on the aspects of medicine, emotional and psychological conditions. The programme explores topics like memory, ageing and perception. It features recent films from Samantha Moore and George Sander-Jackson, familiar names in UK the UK ahi-doc scene.

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On the same day Animation Therapy will also be running a workshop from 10am-4pm under the ‘Animation on Prescription’ banner. The workshop is focused on the theme of compassion and is aimed at health professionals, dentists and vets. Documentary animation directors, Tim Webb and Em Cooper, will be teaching along side the occupational therapist and director of Animation Therapy, Helen Mason.

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Later that day at 4.30pm there will be an Animation on Prescription screening and networking event featuring examples of films created in a therapeutic context. Great Ormond Street Hospital, Aardman Animations and TPO Uganda are just some of the institutions featured.

Alex Widdowson from the blog team here at AnimatedDocumentary.com will be attending the entire festival looking for other ani-doc snippets. Click on the event links for details about booking tickets.

Review of ‘Kiss the Water’ by Eric Steel with animation by Em Cooper

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Last weekend I was lucky enough to go to the splendid Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival, to watch the documentary film ‘Kiss the Water’ by Eric Steel.The screening started at 11 am and I didn’t expect many people to be there at such an early time on a Sunday morning. However the auditorium was at least three quarters full. Following the screening was a lively Q&A session with animator Em Cooper and passionate audience members.

The film features animated segments by Cooper who has previously featured on animateddocumentary.com with her films 30% and Emergence. ‘Kiss the Water’ is not strictly an animated documentary, but the treatment of the animation is closely aligned to principles of animated documentary and therefore should be part of the discussion of the genre.

This is a slow film, suitable for a Sunday morning screening. The film is about the life of Megan Boyd, a Scottish woman who devoted her life to making flies for salmon fishing. She designed every fly she made and sourced the finest materials from all over the world. Her flies were famous amongst salmon fishers, and Megan received orders from all over the world. Megan died in 2003 and it was on reading her obituary that American Eric Steel felt the need to make a film about her.

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Megan spent her life living alone. She is described as ‘manly’ looking and every day she wore a tie and shirt with her tweed skirt. She drove a motor car and rode a motor bike and was remembered for her fast driving. Her home and adjoining fly-making shed, which is featured in the live action segments of film, is still standing, although it is now a ruin.

The treatment of the live action enables the animation to weave throughout it by various means. The interviews with people who knew Megan are set against a black backdrop, likewise the winding of the flies. The colours have been desaturated and there are some interesting edit decisions where the live action intercuts with the animation.

The animation is created using Cooper’s signature style of oil paint on glass. Cooper describes her self as a ‘live action film maker and animator’, as she often uses the filmed image as her source for the first frame of animation – a technique called Rotoscoping. In Cooper’s animated world, the camera is forever moving, searching through layers of oil paint, for glimpses of the figure of Megan. Thematic elements from the live action scenes and interviews are often revisited in the animation and metamorphosis features heavily to convey meaning, combining abstract elements. For example one of my favourite bits is Megan dressing herself, tying her infamous red tie, which turns into the same action used for the tying of the flies. These statements are significant in subtly addressing some of  the interesting aspects of Megan’s life – in this case the question over her sexuality.

I leave you with a segment from Megan’s obituary, from the New York Times in 2003

“Whose fabled expertise at tying enchantingly delicate fishing flies put her works in museums and the hands of collectors around the world and prompted Queen Elizabeth II to award her the British Empire Medal … From tiny strands of hair she made magic: the classic Scottish flies like the Jock Scott, Silver Doctor and Durham Ranger … and the fly named after her, the Megan Boyd, a nifty blue and black number famous for attracting salmon at the height of summer, when the water is low, hot, and dead.”

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‘Kiss the Water’ is available to buy as a DVD at the film’s website: http://buy.kiss-the-water.com/ and here is the trailer for the film: http://kiss-the-water.com/trailer/

Review – ‘30%: women and politics in Sierra Leone’ by Anna Cady and Em Cooper

This animated oil-on-glass and live action documentary is centered on the campaign in Sierra Leone to get a 30% quota of women in parliament. Titles in the film explain that women took a key role in negotiating the peace process at the end of an 11 year civil war, however since then female politicians have had to deal with intimidation and misogyny as they navigate the political sidelines.

Animated Documentary reported on ‘30%’ in the early stages of production back in February 2012 and again once the film was finished and publicised by The Guardian in January 2013. And we liked it so much we felt it was worth reviewing too.

The animated sequences possess a luscious mixture of figurative and abstract imagery found most commonly in impressionism. Paint swims across the screen, smudging and slipping its sensual gloopy material around our vision with all the vibrancy of the region it refers to.

The metamorphic nature of the animated medium lends itself to turbulent tonal changes that take place in the opening sequence. The viewer zips though a busy Sierra Leone street into a viscous black void where we pass burning cars, violent gestures and feel the echoes of civil war. These melting edits are brought to great effect when combined with snappy sound design.

Following visual and audio darkness the screen literally swirls into the shape of Dr. Bernadette Lahai, one of the key political figures pushing forward the 30% quota bill. The rotoscoped image dissolves into live action. My feeling is that several of the video sequences possess considerably less flair than their animated counterparts. Such an uneven aesthetic could be said to threaten the impact of the short; but here it might be worth considering how disorientating an entirely rotoscoped 10 minute short could have been. Instead animation is reserved for storytelling and live action covers the communication of important details.

This film is fruitful both in its visuals and content. As a documentary the short conveys an under-reported theme in an engaging manor, while the animated sections are sumptuous in their appeal. At Animated Documentary we are always pleased to see such formal beauty and journalistic professionalism combined harmoniously!