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)

‘The Foundling’ by Leo Crane

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The second film to be released as part of the Untold Tales series.

J— dreams of a family where wild birds are his brothers and sisters and he can escape the urban chaos of London. He lives with his adopted dads in a loving home, but can’t forget his past and the violent emotions he feels towards the young mother who abandoned him. In times of anger and sadness, he turns to the piano and the music that allows his dreams to flourish.

https://vimeo.com/296881122

https://www.instagram.com/leocrane77

‘Hold Tight’ by Jessica Ashman

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The first of the six Untold Tales films.

Hold Tight explores the importance of Carnival across the UK and how its celebrations provide an important lifeline to heritage and identity for younger generations of the Black Caribbean diaspora in Britain. It is a journey into the feeling of belonging, through the rituals of Carnival attendance and the power of bass.

https://www.instagram.com/jessiola

You can watch the film here:

Hold Tight – https://vimeo.com/297039237

 

Ecstatic Truth 2016 and 2017

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Ecstatic Truth 2016 panel discussion

With the next Ecstatic Truth symposium coming up on Saturday, this seems like a good time to revisit last year’s event and share the recordings of the jam-packed schedule of speakers, workshops and networking.

Video documentation of all the speakers who presented at the 2016 symposium, including keynotes from Paul Ward, Abigail Addison and Brigitta Iványi-Bitter, as well as  our own Carla MacKinnon, is available here on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/channels/documentaryanimation

Our own post from the event can be found here: https://animateddocs.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/ecstatic-truth-symposium/

The 2016 symposium was held to launch the new MA Animation: Documentary Animation pathway: http://www.rca.ac.uk/schools/school-of-communication/animation/documentary-animation-pathway

Ecstatic Truth: Lessons of Darkness and Light is the second animated documentary symposium at the Royal College of Art, London, on Saturday 26th May 2017.  

Book your FREE tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ecstatic-truth-lessons-of-darkness-and-light-animated-documentary-symposium-tickets-33257461964

The first AnimatedDocumentary.com Award at FAFF 2016!

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We were thrilled to be part of this years Factual Animation Film Fuss festival: hosting an event, giving our first ever award, and mingling with the great and the good of the UK animated documentary crowd.

The festival is in its second year, run by Daniel Murtha, and hosted at the Genesis Cinema in London, UK. In addition to several programmes of the best new work in animated documentary, a Q&A with film-maker Samantha Moore, chaired by Alys Scott-Hawkins, opened out discussions with a number of film-makers in the audience, including Mary Martins, Emma Calder and Alex Widdowson.

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Still from Truth Has Fallen by Sheila Sofian

The AnimatedDocumentary.com award was presented on the final night of the festival. We were very pleased to have our award sponsored by animated documentary director Sheila Sofian. The winner received signed original artwork from Sheila’s film ‘Truth has Fallen’, a feature length documentary we have featured on the blog. The film is about about people wrongfully convicted of murder and the weaknesses in the US justice system that allowed these injustices to occur. You can find out more about Sheila’s work on her website here.

The winning film was Spirit Away by Bettina Kuntzsch. We thought that the film was a fantastic example of using existing documentary evidence to engage the audience.

We also awarded two Special Mentions: Loop by Samantha Moore and Life Inside Islamic State by Scott Coello. We made a third award for Best New Voice and this went to The Divide by Mary Martins.

Loop by Samantha Moore

Life Inside Islamic State by Scott Coello

The Divide by Mary Martens

Ecstatic Truth symposium: ‘Defining the Essence of Animated Documentary’, 14th May 2016 at the Royal College of Art

Here’s the first of our posts reporting on the Ecstatic Truth symposium, which was held on a warm Saturday in May at the Royal College of Art, London. A postgraduate (PGR) research event organised by Animation Research Co-ordinator Dr Tereza Stehlikova, the day launched the RCA’s new Documentary pathway, on its long-running MA Animation course, now under the new head of Animation, Dr Birgitta Hosea

We start with a run-down of the speakers and their papers, from the symposium programme, illustrated by our own Alex Widdowson:

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“According to Werner Herzog mere facts constitute an accountant’s reality, but it is the ecstatic truth (a poetic reality) that can capture more faithfully the nuances and depths of human experiences. Given that animation has the freedom to represent, stylize, or reimagine the world, it lends itself well to this aspirational form of a documentary. The symposium explored the idea of “Ecstatic Truth” and reflecting, speculating and imagining how the animated form might elicitate the different facets of this poetic truth, through its unique language.

 

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Keynote: Paul Ward

The ‘illocutionary force’ of animated documentary’

I examine how animated documentaries do what they do by linking to Austin’s ‘illocutionary force’ in his ‘performative’ model of language. The illocutionary force of a speech act is concerned with effect and intention: it points to what something means and what you mean by saying it (in the way that you do). Animated documentary’s power, poetry and potential weaknesses can therefore be understood by thinking about their illocutionary force.

Paul Ward is a Professor of Animation Studies at Arts University Bournemouth, where he is Course Leader for the MA Animation Production at AUB and supervises PhD students. He has published widely on animated documentary and other topics. He is a Board Member of the Society for Animation Studies and served as its President from 2010-2015.

 

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Showing the Invisible

Roz Mortimer, PhD candidate, University of Westminster, UK

‘Traumatic histories and phenomenology as method’

My research is centred on a phenomenology of the invisible, by which I mean ghosts, atmospheres and emotions. In this talk I used my recent film This is History (after all) by Roz Mortimer to explore the challenges of making visible the invisible. In this film the image is digitally manipulated to visualise affect related to traumatic memory. The question is how can phenomenology reframe our relationship to traumatic histories?

Roz Mortimer is an artist-filmmaker and doctoral researcher at University of Westminster. Her experimental films cross the genres of documentary, fiction and animation and have been shown widely around the world since 1995. Taking documentary methods as a starting point, she incorporates fantasy into her work to create socially engaged films that question ideas around truth. Roz has an MA in Visual Sociology from Goldsmiths, and teaches universities in the UK and USA. www.wonder-dog.co.uk

 

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Carla MacKinnon, PhD candidate, Arts University Bournemouth

An Approach to Authenticity: Using abstracted stop-motion to evoke physical and psychological experience in animated documentary

I am exploring the use of ‘tangible territory’ (Stehlikova, 2012) within the evocative mode of animated documentary (Honess Roe, 2013). In particular, how stop-motion may be used to evoke physical and psychological states that cannot be conventionally recorded, through the use of materials that encourage haptic visuality and filmmaking techniques that trigger a physical audience response connecting the viewer to the subject.

Carla MacKinnon is a PhD candidate at Arts University Bournemouth. She completed her Masters in Animation at the RCA in 2013 and has worked as a producer and festival programmer as well as director of award-winning live action and animated shorts. Her documentary installation Squeezed by Shadows is currently featured in the ‘States of Mind: Tracing the Edges of Consciousness’ exhibition at London’s Wellcome Collection. www.mackinnonworks.com

 

 

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Transcending Time

Ülo Pikkov, PhD candidate, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia

Presentation of short animation film Empty Space 

Empty Space invokes a past memory, an apartment that once existed, and a small girl dwelling and playing there. It presents a story forged in the dreams of the father hiding to avoid capture and imprisonment. Empty Space is a reconstruction of a vision on the backdrop of the anxieties of the 1950s in the Soviet Union.

Ülo Pikkov studied animation at Turku Arts Academy in Finland and since 1996 has directed several award-winning short animation films (“Tik-Tak”, “Body memory”, “The End”, “Dialogos”). In 2005 he graduated from the Institute of Law in University of Tartu, focusing on the media and author’s rights. At themoment he is a PhD student at Estonian Academy of Arts. Ülo is the author of “Animasophy, Theoretical Writings on the Animated Film” (2011). www.silmviburlane.ee

ecstatic_truth_portraits_inma_carpeInma Carpe, Animated Learning Lab, Denmark

‘The Dressmaker, remnants of a life. The re-creation of the Self and memories through animation’

Animation is a visual thinking and feeling media that helps us to express an internal reflection about our reality so called life, to make sense finding our peace of mind and heart; to re-construct our Self  (the alignment of our thinking, feeling and acting). It is an alternative language to communicate and understand other points of views, other many selves seeking for the same: the ecstatic truth, our story in motion pictures.

Inma Carpe: Born in the Mediterranean, I live and work abroad between my home base in Denmark and Los Angeles. An experienced freelance visual development artist and animation-lecturer, I specialize in short formats and pre-production, but also split my time as a production assistnat in film festivals. Currently I’m working and researching how animation and visual literacy improve Self-development and communication (emotions-beliefs) based on art production experiences connecting cognitive/affective neuroscience with film making/storytelling. www.carpeanimation.com

 

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Leah Fusco, PhD candidate, Kingston University, UK

‘Northeye: past, present and anticipated narratives of a deserted medieval village’

This research explores the documentation of a DMV (deserted medieval village), previously an island but now a reclaimed landscape located on a saltmarsh in East Sussex, and addresses problems in recording fragile histories and stories in physically shifting landscapes. I’m interested in how drawn visual narrative through moving images can explore and capture alternative timeframes and readings of place.

Leah Fusco: After completing at BA (Hons) in Illustration at the University of the Creative Arts, I graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010 with an MA in Communication Art and Design. I am currently working towards a practice based PhD at Kingston University, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The research explores lost histories in landscape, using the deserted medieval village or Northeye in East Sussex as a case study. www.leahfusco.co.uk

 

Art and Science

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Keynote: Abigail Addison

Silent Signal – probing the universal truth of science  

With Silent Signal, Animate Projects has connected six artists working with animation and six biomedical scientists to produce experimental animations that elicit new ways of thinking about the human body.

The project’s producer, Abigail Addison, talked about how the artists engaged with their collaborating scientists’ data, tools and processes, and brought to life the science. She also explored how each artist challenged the universal truth of science in the work they have produced.

Abigail Addison co-directs Animate Projects, an arts agency that champions creative animation practice, and produces ambitious interdisciplinary projects, such as Silent Signal, with a range of UK-wide partners. As a freelance producer she works with individual artist and cultural organisation on developing, producing and exhibition experimental moving images projects. Abigail is a Trustee of film and photography charity Four Corners, and an Advisor to Underwire Festival. @AnimateProjects

 

Truth, Fiction and Poetry

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Marc Bosward, PhD candidate, Arts University Bournemouth

‘Layers of Meaning, Layers of Truth: Fragmented Histories & Composited Video Collage’

The paper presented a body of practice-based research that interrogates the interface of live-action and animation, specifically, how found footage as an indexical element of lived experience functions within the aesthetic of a constructed ‘other’ world. In this framework, the construction of non-real spaces that synthesise animation and found footage are explored for their potential in describing alternate histories with reference to ontology and ideology.

Marc Bosward: I am a lecturer in Animation and Illustration at the University of Derby. My research interests include the convergence of digital and analogue practices in moving image, the interface of live action and animation, experimental animation, animation and history and memory and experimental non-fiction film. I am a first year PhD candidate under the supervision of Professor Paul Ward at Arts University Bournemouth. www.marcbosward.com

 

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Alexandra D’Onofrio, PhD candidate, University of Manchester, UK

‘Reaching Horizons: exploring existential possibilities of migration and movement within the past – present – future through participatory animation’

Alexandra D’Onofrio, documentary film director and PhD candidate in AMP (Anthropology Media and Performance) at the University of Manchester. She graduated in anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and then completed her MA in Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester in 2008. At present she is in her final year of her doctoral research where she has investigated the stories and part of the imaginative worlds of three Egyptian men, though different creative methods, combining applied theatre, storytelling, photography, animation and documentary film making. Vimeo

 

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Pedro Serrazina, PhD candidate, University Lusófona de Lisboa, Portugal

‘Notes towards the use of a documentary approach in the teaching of animation’

Since its early days, animation film has always reflected its cultural context at the time of creation. Nevertheless, it is still widely perceived as kid’s entertainment. Reflecting on practical examples and teaching methodologies, this presentation argued for a practice of animation which, by adhering to documentary strategies, engages with real issues, leaving behind the traditional Disney/anime/fantasy/game-inspired references that frame most of the animation students’ intentions at the beginning of their path. Rather than a matter of technique, and regardless of the much debated issue of “realism”, this text suggests that a teaching framed by a documentary approach, bringing questions of identity and social perspective to the core of the practice, reinforces animation’s thoughtful and participative role in the contemporary moving image debate.

Pedro Serrazina is an animation director and senior lecturer at Univ. Lusófona de Lisboa currently undertaking a practice-based PhD on The Creation and Use of Animated space in Animation, with a grant from FCT, Portugal. Pedro combines work as a director (his last film was the award winning Eyes of the Lighthouse, 2010) with an academic career in Portugal and the UK. He has published academic articles, a book of short stories & illustrations, and is currently preparing his next film, with funding from the Institute of Portuguese Filmmaking. Vimeo

 

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Keynote: Brigitta Iványi-Bitter

Animated documentaries from Hungary and Central Europe:

From the 70s’ cinema verité to contemporary art practices

Animated documentary films from Hungary and the neighbouring countries are reflecting the actual historical context of the era they were made.  The genre itself became prevalent in Central Europe during the 70s due to cinema verité in Western Europe and documentaries with a socially critical edge and had a comeback in the 2010s with predominantly female directors, who gave it a poetic twist. In both eras artists of the region experienced dictatorship or later a socially engaged, critical position, therefore animated documentaries usually serve as complex traces of the past as well as pieces of art. Artists-directors to be introduced: Béla Vajda, Kati Macskássy, György Kovásznai, Éva Magyarósi, Eszter Szabó, Zbigniew Czapla, Ewa Borisewicz, Malgorzata Bosek.

Brigitta Iványi-Bitter is a freelance researcher of Central European animation history, animation film producer, curator of contemporary art (including animation) exhibitions and author. Berigitta completed her PhD at the Doctoral School of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary in 2012. Her Research thesis was on Cold War era experimental animation films in Central-Eastern Europe, with special focus on the legacy of the Pannonia Film Studio (Hungary)  and György Kovásznai’s (animation film maker) Oeuvre. Brigitta is a Lecturer in the History of Animation and in Contemporary  Media Art and animation at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest. Vimeo

 

 

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Ecstatic Truth and Human Condition in Animated Documentary

Final discussion introduced and chaired by Mark Collington.

Mark Collington is the author of Animation in Context (2016) and course leader up the MA & BA (Hons) Animation Courses at the CASS, London Metropolitan University. He completed his own animation studies at the Royal College of Art.  His MA films, and subsequent Arts Council England funded animation commission work, have been screened on television and at a number of international animation festivals. His personal work primarily explores relationships between architecture and animation.

 

Other Symposium content:

Workshop with Judit Ferenz, PhD candidate, Bartlett School of Architecture

‘Animating the layers of history’

The workshop explored the role of the narrator in creating history. It introduced attendants to a specific Hungarian conservation method (falkutatás) that uncovers the different historical layers within the walls of a building, as a means to narrate the history of that building. We translated falkutatás into animation using the multiplane animation desk in experimental ways and collectively produced a series of short animations which are be uploaded to a website created specifically for the workshop.

Judit Ferencz is an MPhil/PhD student at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. In her architectural research by design she is developing a new methodology to talk about history in architectural heritage. She studied illustration and animation at Kingston University, and art history at ELTE University, Budapest. She has a freelance illustration practice and is teaching illustration at The Cass, London Metropolitan University and City Lit. www.juditferencz.co.uk

Zoetrope by Hugo Glover, PhD candidate, Innovation Design Engineering, RCA

My research focuses on placing the animator as the central axis of animation making. By basing my approach in the arena of ‘design thinking’ I am attempting to construct an understanding of how animators think, and how they access and utilize their embodied knowledge of the world to inform their creative decisions. Using the framework of second order cybernetics my work explores control of change between animated objects viewed through a zoetrope.

Hugo Glover is an MPhil/PhD Candidate in Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) at the Royal College of Art. His research focuses on the creative exploration of stereoscopic 3D space through the use of digital stereoscopes, which house experimental CGI animation. By creating a physical space, as well as a digital stereoscopic space, Hugo’s work explores the hinterland of these two realities. Vimeo

The Ecstatic Truth symposium was coordinated by Dr Tereza Stehlikova

Tereza Stehlíková is a London-based artist working primarily in the medium of moving image.  She is currently a research coordinator on the Animation programme at the Royal College of Art.  Stehlíková is a founder of Sensory Sites, an international collective based in London that generates collaborative exhibitions, installations and research projects that explore multi-sensory perception and bodily experience. Current projects include developing a collaboration with professor Charles Spence of Cross Modal Research Laboratory, Oxford, as well as a collaboration with the Centre for the Study of the Senses (UCL), investigating how interactions between the senses can be utilised in the expressive vocabulary of cinema.

More reporting to come soon – watch this space!