Rosa Fisher wins the FAFF AnimatedDocumentary.com award for best film

London’s fifth annual Factual Animation Film Festival was hosted at the Cinema Museum on 8th December 2019.  21 short animated documentaries were screened across two programmes. Between the screenings there was a discussion panel featuring Rory Waubly-Tolley, director of There’s Something In The WaterDiana Gradinaru, director of What Is Consciousness?, Simon Ball, director of Do I See What You See?, and Haemin Ko, director of No Body.

The AnimatedDocumentary.com team are delighted to announce that the FAFF best animated documentary of 2019 has been awarded to Rosa Fisher director of Sent Away.

Sent Away explores the psychological impact that attending boarding school had on Rosa’s father, Tom. The film addresses the atmosphere of punishment, obedience and isolation that led each pupil to develop a hardened exterior. The film concludes by speculating how this emotionally traumatic cultural practice, common among Britain’s political elite, has shaped the UK. Sent Away, despite focusing on the childhood of a middle-aged man, is prescient in the lead up to the UK’s general election.  One of the candidates for prime minister forged his identity in the competitive toxicity of Eton, the UK’s most elite boarding school. The other did not.

FAFF was organised by festival director, Daniel Murtha, with help from Marina Belikova, project leader for FAFF Berlin, and me, Alex Widdowson, panel host.

FAFF 2019 Programme
Programme 1, 12pm
1 There’s Something In The Water 7 Dinosaur Blues
dir Rory Waudby-Tolley 2019 UK dir Oleon Lin 2019 China
There are two types of lakes in the South: them that’s got giant salvinia, and them that’s about to. In urban China, a man makes plasticine figures of popular characters.
2 No Body 8 What Is Consciousness?
dir Haemin Ko 2019 UK dir Diana Gradinaru 2019 UK, Romania
An autobiographical experimental animated poem on the director’s immigrant experience. Classic cartoon tropes are manipulated in this nightmarish story about memory.
3 Passage 9 Do I See What You See?
dir Asavari Kumar 2019 USA, India dir Simon Ball 2018 UK
An Indian woman revisits her immigration journey through the illusion of the American Dream. How do changes in the brain cause us to see differently?
4 A Letter To Myself At 16 10 Patchwork
dir Claire Tankersley 2019 USA dir Maria Manero 2018 Spain
Five years after her sexual assault, there is so much that she wishes she’d known when she woke up the next morning. The story of a 60 year-old woman’s liver transplant, as told by her donor.
5 Embraces & The Touch of Skin 11 Solos
dir Sara Koppel 2019 Denmark dir Gabriella Marsh 2019 UK
An animated poem about the vital need for embraces and contact with other beings. A portrait of a day in a single square in Barcelona.
6 My Dad’s Name Was Huw
dir Freddie Griffiths 2019 UK
Freddie’s late alcoholic father left behind a number of poems through which we might understand his experience.

 

FAFF 2019 Programme
Programme 2, 2pm
1 Bloomers 6 Gambler
dir Samantha Moore 2019 UK dir Michaela Režová, Ivan Studený 2018 Czechia
Animated fabric brings the story of a lingerie factory in Manchester to life. In urban China, a man makes plasticine figures of popular characters.
2 Sent Away 7 The Elephant’s Song
dir Rosa Fisher 2019 UK dir Lynn Tomlinson 2019 USA
A child sent to boarding school must contend with the trauma of abandonment. The sad but true story of Old Bet, the first circus elephant in America.
3 Fifteen-Two 8 The Children of Concrete
dir John Summerson 2019 UK dir Jonathan Phanhsay-Chamson 2017 France
The filmmaker’s mother recalls her parents’ indomitable relationship, strengthened by their love of games. An immigrant child’s conflict with ethnic and national identity.
4 O Hunter Heart 9 Eadem Cutis
dir Carla MacKinnon 2019 UK dir Nina Hopf 2019 Germany
Nature and domesticity collide in a dark take of love and loss. A person’s attempt to frame their conflict with dysphoria.
5 The Drip 10 1 Minute History of Image Distortion
dir Leonie Ketteler 2019 Netherlands dir Betina Kuntzsch 2017 Germany
You’ve never seen Chlamydia in quite this way before. Material resistance in film history.

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!

LIAF 2015 – animated documentary programme review

London International Animation Festival’s Animated Documentary screening returned to the Barbican in London in December 2015, showcasing a diverse selection of animated docs from around the world.

Many films of the selected films did not include any live action elements, and featured voiceovers which were obviously scripted and acted – raising questions about what makes a film a documentary at all. All these films were both presented and received as documentaries, but in many their claim to real world truth rested on trust – there was no ‘evidence’ presented in the film that what we were witnessing was real.

This is an interesting quality of the animated documentary – one which sets it apart from most live action work and which can, when successful, elevate it. This programme of films offered a rich variety of perspectives; not only on the world but on the documentary form itself.

The screening kicked off with Everyone is Waiting for Something to Happen, a mixed-media piece by UK-based animator Emma Calder. Calder’s film used the social media posts of one of her acquaintances to create a portrait of him over the course of a critical time in his life – his cancer diagnosis and treatment. The film offers a light-hearted look at the images we project of ourselves on social media, and the audiences we do not always know we have, who observe these.

Everyone is waiting for something to happen (Official Trailer) from Emma Calder/Pearly Oyster on Vimeo.

The Beast Inside by US filmmaker Drew Christie is a portrait of a homeless young person, determined to live a compassionate, creative and optimistic life in spite of his circumstances. The film is upbeat, with a lively, musical pace, but has moments of deep pathos that make an impact, such as when the protagonist is refused a job at a fast food joint because – he is told – he looks as if he would steal money or scare the customers. The young man’s hurt at the apparent indifference that the general public has towards the fate of those on the street, also provides a moving and memorable perspective.

The Beast Inside from Drew Christie on Vimeo.

Drew Christie’s second film in the programme is Psychedelic Blues, an animated interview with ‘freak folk band’ Holy Modal Rounders which explores their formation and early days. This is a non-stop, acid- and amphetamine-fuelled celebratory rollercoaster of music and absurdity. The characters move fluidly between their old and young selves, caught up in moments that they’d never forget, if only they could remember. The gonzo glory of the memories is tempered by a twinge of sadness, evoked by the fragility in the voice of the ageing, drug-saturated narrator, allowing an openness in terms of how the film can be received.

Psychedelic Blues from Drew Christie on Vimeo.

Baba is a colourful and entertaining short by New Zealand filmmaker Joel Kefali, in which his grandfather describes his experience of arriving in the country as a Turkish immigrant many years before. The film successfully captures the experience and character of an exuberant man, baffled by certain cultural oddities but ultimately filled with humour and joy of life; able to take the world on and adapt to his strange new environment.

BABA from joel kefali on Vimeo.

A Portrait by Greek filmmaker Aristotelis Maragkos is another film about a grandfather, but this one has a very different tone. In this piece, the film-maker’s grandfather is seen from the outside through the memories of his grandson. It is a sensitive portrayal of a complex relationship. The film touches on ugly and violent elements the man’s mysterious past, of which the film-maker only knows fragments – which lead him to fear what potential for darkness may lie inside his own genetic material. This sense of violence is undercut however by the clear love that the narrator has for his grandfather, and the tension between these two perspectives is elegantly brought out in the very short film, making it a moving and memorable work which brought depth to the programme.

Food, by US/China based Siqi Song, is a bizairre and compelling take on the talking heads interview format – in which the talking heads are in fact foodstuffs, discussing their own food choices. A plucked chicken describes its decision to go vegetarian, while a loud-mouthed burger extols the virtues of meat-eating. “I think maybe healthy is overrated” he says, his bun flapping open to reveal a tongue-like slab of meat and cheese as he speaks. The film is comically grotesque and, while the interviews themselves do not tell us anything very new, the delivery certainly makes for compelling viewing which adds a new dimension to the issues discussed.

FOOD from SIQI SONG on Vimeo.

The theme of food was returned to later in the programme with the visceral Canadian production Table D’hote, which combines an attractive illustrative style with repulsive and disturbing imagery, reflecting on the industrial savagery of meat production.

Me and My Moulton is an NFB-supported film by Torill Kove. It tells the story of a young girl growing up in Norway and coming to terms with her unconventional parents and her place in the world. The film takes an unhurried approach to storytelling and paints an engaging picture of this girl’s life and the everyday issues she deals with. It balances humour with nostalgia, conjuring a picture of a childhood world that is, while not untroubled, ultimately safe and filled with love.

Me and My Moulton (Trailer) from National Film Board of Canada on Vimeo.

Ode to Joy by UK-based filmmaker Martin Pickles is a tribute to hugely influential but near-forgotten animator Joy Batchelor, affirming her rightful place in the canon of British Animation.

Ode To Joy (2014) from Martin Pickles on Vimeo.

Elsewhere in the programme another film by Pickles, What is Animation?, is an insightful meditation on the nature of animation wrapped up in a portrait of British Animation legend Bob Godfrey. You can read more about this piece here.

In Last Words by Yuwen Xue, the filmmaker interviews hospice residents at the end of their lives, creating imaginative visual representations to capture these characters, and broadening the scope of the film beyond the individual sounds captured to wider thoughts and feelings. The visuals play experimentally with live action and animation, conjuring a fantastical space between life and somewhere else. Fascinating insights into the artist’s process can be found on Yuwen Xue’s production blog.

Words are again the focus in Arlene, by UK filmmaker Farouq Suleiman. This film is a portrait of a woman who suffers from Aphasia, a brain condition affecting language. Her difficulty with words is expressed with strong visuals including the memorable image of letters of the alphabet falling from a tree like autumn leaves.

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Still from Arlene

Hora, by Israeli filmmaker Yoav Brill, is a longer piece exploring same-sex love in Tel Aviv through reflections on public hand-holding. Interviewees discuss the practice of hand-holding, what it means to them and how the meaning changes when it is observed. There are some truthful and tender insights here, delivered with slick and engaging visuals; making for a film that carries you through smiling.

Still Born, by Swedish filmmaker Asa Sandzen, was the most hard-hitting film in the programme, in which a pregnant woman describes the experience of discovering that her 18-week old foetus has serious heart defect, and making the devastating decision to end the pregnancy. The film does not shelter from the painful process of this, taking the audience through the whole physical and emotional journey of late abortion and delivery. The film is made to feel very real by the small but affecting details that are recalled about the medicalised termination process and the disturbed thought process that takes place in parallel. Ultimately this is a raw and truthful film about the pain of loss, that is as disarming as it is memorable.

‘What is Animation?’ by Martin Pickles

Martin Pickles is the director of an animated interview with Bob Godfrey titled What is Animation? This was one of two films by Pickles that were screened as part of London International Animation Festival’s animated documentary programme. Martin is well known through his role as the organiser of the London Animation Club, a monthly screening event in Fitzrovia.

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In What is Animation? Pickles animates a snippet of wisdom from Bob Godfrey (1921 – 2013), the British animation hero responsible for creating Roobarb and Henry’s Cat.

When thinking of this film in the context of animated documentary, I was struck by how relevant Godfrey’s words are to one of the larger tensions within the genre: how does a filmmaker faithfully document their subject matter without simply replicating it? Godfrey encourages animators to be whimsical and to forget the limitations of physics or representation.

The key phrase he uses, one which I have heard many times before, is “…if this thing can be done with a live action camera then for God’s sake do it with a live action camera.”

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While Godfrey wants animators to confront the “absolute freedom” of their medium, animated documentary makers maintain an adjacent balancing act. Our challenge, perhaps, is to find a subject that requires a Godfrey-esque whimsy in order for the story to be documented usefully.

Without wanting to sound pretentious, it’s all very ‘meta’. Not only is this an animation about how animators should animate, this short documentary is also structured around an almost visible feedback loop.

Firstly there is Martin Pickles the director, interviewing his hero Bob Godfrey, who effectively imparts wisdom and instruction to the audience. Then, much deeper in the mechanisms of this film, we can feel Martin tangibly being inspired by Bob’s words and legacy – Martin even credits meeting Godfrey as the stimulus that pushed him to study animation at the Royal College of Art. The next revolution of the feedback loop begins with me, the viewer, inspired enough by Bob’s words and Martin’s film that I chose to write about it. It’s fair to predict that this whole process might inform my own or someone else’s next animation; and so the wheel spins.

Ignoring my theoretical posturing, the true joy of this film can be found in its back-story. Martin Pickles and Bob Godfrey met in Croatia at the Animafest Zagreb festival in 2004. A fan since childhood, Martin sought every opportunity to foster a friendship with Bob. Officially, he found himself in the role of odd-job-man – when they met there was always a light bulb or whatever that needed replacing. Over time, his visits to Godfrey’s ACME studio in Deptford became much more social in nature.

Martin spoke about Bob’s aptitude for story telling and teaching with great affection. One day, as Martin sat opposite his hero, sipping tea, he felt that it didn’t seem right that he was the only one experiencing this. He was struck by the realisation that no one had made the effort to record these pearly nuggets of wisdom. With a real sense of urgency he got his hands an old tape recorder, and with Bob very much enjoying the spotlight, they recorded over two hours of rambling fun from one of the British animation scene’s more charismatic icons.

The two animators started to hatch grand schemes for what to do with the material. Collaboration seemed on the cards until Bob’s health began to suffer. By this point Godfrey was in his late eighties, and with great sadness Martin witnessed his gradual decline. Out of respect the project was put on hold indefinitely. A while after Bob’s passing in 2013, his family and the Bradford Animation Festival released an open call for archival content relating to Bob’s life and work. Following that the rest of the pieces fell into place.

You can read a full transcript of the interview here.