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/

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‘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

‘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

‘Jeffery and the Dinosaurs’ by Christoph Steger

Christoph Steger directs a mixed-media, live-action and animated documentary centred on the cinematic aspirations of Jeffery H. Marzi, an outsider science fiction screenwriter. Steger and Meghana Bisineer adopt the visual language of Marzi’s illustrations, bringing a selection of his fantasy scenes to life. The animated sequences are interwoven with an observational documentary style that dominates the film.

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Jeffery was born with brain damage. Although he exceeded doctors predictions concerning his learning ability, the 42 year old recognises his limitations and harbours anxiety about ending up homeless. Despite his preference for reliable work, as a mailman or mechanic, consistent rejection in the job market has led Jeffery to write and illustrate concepts for Hollywood blockbusters.  For the past 15 years these have been photocopied and mailed to movie producers all around the world.

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Channel 4’s Animate Projects scheme funded this documentary in 2008. Christopher Steger offered his insight in a video interview which is hosted on their website.  “In lack of a better term…” Steger places Jeffery’s practice in the field of Outsider Art. Paraphrasing the sentiments of Jean Dubuffet and Rodger Cardinal, Steger describes the raw authenticity of emotion in Jeffery’s work, which is lacking in the self-aware, contextualised practices of trained artists.

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Steger continues: “I like life, and animation is almost the opposite, it’s all about fantasy. So I felt a relief to be able to have Jeffery take care of all that. He does all the imaginary work of the visuals and it’s down to me to bring them to life…. The real film for me and the artistic challenge is in the structure of the poetry, and trying to bring out those poetic moments of a story like Jeffery’s.”

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Steger’s film ‘Mother’ was featured on the blog in January 2013. He as recently made much of his work available on Vimeo.

Review of ‘The Congress’ trailer – a new film by Ari Folman, from Screenrant

Well, I was very pleased this morning to find this review, and eager to watch the brand new trailer for the latest animated feature from the director of award winning animated documentary – Waltz with Bashir – Ari Folman.

However the trailer has already been removed for copyright reasons! So if anyone out there knows of a link to the trailer still online, please do let us know. Otherwise we will re-blog when the trailer is re – released!

In the meantime here is a short review to whet your appetite:

http://screenrant.com/the-congress-trailer-2013-movie/

‘Acts of Terror’ by Fred Grace

Acts of Terror’ portrays the U.K Police force as an intimidating manifestation of growing state control. The 2005 Terrorism Act comes under scrutiny in this real life account of one woman’s careful navigation of the murky waters of police regulation and the U.K. legal system.

The film is commendable for the incredibly clear construction of its narrative. We are led through what must have been a complex set of legal procedures with a crisp sense of simplistic clarity. The animation follows, possibly less successfully, a similarly minimal motif. On occasion one is left with the feeling that a few extra frames were needed or wondering if the thuggery of police officers may have been better expressed than by giving them homogenised slanting closed eyes. However the court battle, where the style of an early 90’s close combat game is adopted, is where the writing, animation and sound design most successfully harmonise. This simple witty metaphor illustrates the ultimately futile struggle the protagonist felt in seeking justice.

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‘Acts of Terror’ is an engaging campaign-based animated documentary that is charming and informative. It left me with the great hope that if, one day I found myself in the specific circumstances of the protagonist armed with the knowledge this film imparts, thus allowing me to personally triumph over a police officer when exercising my civil right to film them.  I will just need to make sure there is no way they can suspect me of terrorism.

I first watched this film at the London Animation Club where the organiser, Martin Pickles, proudly stated the club’s role in connecting the film’s makers. Gemma Atkinson, Adam Ay and Fred Grace of Fat Rat Films gave a presentation at LAC proposing that an animator come on board. Following this they met Una Marzorati, who animated the entire film, and Tom Lowe who designed the soundtrack. Collaboration forums are exciting environments to observe and participate in. We wish the film-makers the best of success in spreading their message and hope for many more years of networking at the London Animation Club.

‘Blogging the animated documentary’ – article on Society for Animation Studies blog

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An article about this very blog, which I was invited to write for the the Society for Animation Studies blog. Blogging about blogging!

Well in this case it’s reviewing films we’ve looked at on the blog so far, in order to assess the animadoc landscape; as something of a follow-up to other articles on the site’s current theme of animated documentary.

If you haven’t checked them out already have a look at:

Bella Honess Roe on Animated Memories

Sheila Sofian on The Camera and “Structuring Reality”

Who said that? The dispensability of original sound in animated documentary, by Samantha Moore

Paul Ward’s “To document differently”: random thoughts on a taxonomy of animated documentary.

And do leave comments – there are some fascinating points and debates to be had…