Here at animateddocumentary.com, we want to celebrate Black History Month by highlighting some excellent animated documentaries by Black filmmakers and animators. Some of these films have been posted on the blog before, and some are brand new!
Each Monday this October we will share an animated documentary by a different Black filmmaker, four from here in the UK and one from the USA. We’d also love to hear about any of your favourite films by Black creators so feel free to share in the comments below.
The United Kingdom’s Black History Month was founded more than 30 years ago, in 1987, to recognise the contributions made by people of African and Caribbean backgrounds in the UK. Today, however, the remit of the project has expanded to include the history of Black people from all backgrounds. You can read more about Black History Month on bbc.co.uk.
Be sure to check out the official website for Black History Month in the UK, here.
The Dole Animators are a group of first time animation film makers living in Leeds UK. Together, they have made a film about their experiences of the coalition government recent welfare reforms and the impact of the changes on their lives.
The film challenges a mainstream media rhetoric, which states that people choose a life on benefits and that this ‘choice’ is an easy lifestyle choice.
The film has been made with support from a researcher Ruth Patrick and film maker Ellie Land. You can read more about the project at the website below:
We must have been busy with all sorts of of other things here at the blog (we have! – more soon) as it’s taken us a few months to catch up with this short which won the Short Film Jury Prize for Animation at Sundance this spring.
It has screened at many festivals, including Sheffield Doc/Fest this June, who described it thus:
“A strikingly beautiful stop motion animation exploring a local craftsman’s restoration of rural furniture in a small Irish community. Experimenting with the vivid expression of folklore storytelling, artifacts of bygone days are transformed from decaying neglect and brought to life, with playful vivacity.”
This is a story constructed from second-hand accounts of a phenomenal occurrence where a trapped whale seemed to express gratitude to its rescuers. The true account is condensed into the narrative of a single fisherman’s efforts to free the entangled creature.
Scenes are painted and repainted on a wall in Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park. Most noticeably this technique restricts motion; carefully composed images are constructed and then adjusted. A second feature is the presence of residual marks, also noticeable in the works of animators such as William Kentridge and Blu.
This is where an image is adjusted rather than replaced and attempts are made to mask previous drawing, although this is never fully erased. As a result the filmmaker must embrace, accept or incorporate the traces left behind. Particularly interesting marks are created when water is used, presumably to wash away previous layers of paint, resulting in a dilution and dribbling effect,suggesting an underwater environment.
The film is filled with broken illusions; a pixillated actor gestures swimming while mounted on top of a stepladder. Our disbelief is suspended by a mere thread, but half of the charm of this film is the inclusion of such mechanisms. Unlike some more technically complex animations, here we are provided with evidence as to how the scenes were constructed. For example, we are made aware of the filmmaker’s surroundings where the grass and the unpainted wall are visible at the edge of the frame.
Tess Martin draws attention to the frame presumably because she felt process was as important as narrative. This is further indicated by the choice to include a link to a making-of time lapse film.
Nyosha is the story of a young Jewish girl who becomes fixated on a pair of shoes as the source of her salvation while her life is ripped apart by the Holocaust. Based on the diary and video recordings of Nomi Kapel, one of the young filmmaker’s grandmother, director Liran Kapel and Yael Dekel have employed both stop-motion and traditional 2D animation to render this harrowing tale.
A certain uncanny charm keeps the viewer afloat in the rippling currents of such a dejected context. Despite the truly terrible nature of the historic narrative, naïve optimism is provided by the child’s perspective. The medium also engages us with a toy like simulacra; for better or for worse this buffer dampens the emotional response to the distressing subject matter.
This towering project is impressive but by no means is it flawless. At times the stop-motion is a tad jerky, the models still have their flash lines and the illusion of scale is not fully realised. That said these are the imperfections that come hand in hand with such a challenging medium: an Aardman production, for example, would be missing a great deal if all thumbprints were removed. Set design on Nyosha is impressive and at times the lighting is too. Particular attention has been paid to attempting tricky post-production effects, like the beams of light that cut through the forest. Despite not always being entirely convincing, the over all atmosphere these create is invaluable.
We are thrilled that Charlotte Kaye has also joined our team and she will be guest blogging later this week.
Charlotte’s latest film is a stop-motion piece about the disorientation of insomnia. It was filmed entirely at night in her bedroom and each component is a true obsessive ritual that keeps her awake. It illustrates the uncertainty of the life in inanimate objects experienced during the animating process – a feeling that that is heightened with sleep deprivation.
Another from the Vimeo doco-anim channel, specifically chosen as its subject centres on the life and work of being an animator. We do however disagree with the interviewees statement about Caroline Leaf!
‘Two young pencils document four Israeli animation icons. They confront them with questions, film and record every word, story or argument and by that try to comprehend the existence they once shared and the insights they still share (or are divided upon) about contemporary animation and creation in Israel.
This film was made in “Bezalel academy of art and design” in Jerusalem using stop-motion animation.’
Passionate about botany and horticulture, Gary is wearied by the endless requests from the town’s citizens for trees to be cut down. Resigned to his fate, he signs his daily quota of death warrants with an air of droll melancholy, assisted by his two colleagues: Matt, a sardonic temp with a stapling addiction; and Avril, a dedicated worker with an unreliable arm and a dysfunctional relationship with technology.
The link below is only a clip, but there is an interview with the director included.