‘Where is My home?’ by Cecelia de Jesus was the official winner of the USC Shoah Foundation’s Student voices film competition in 2013. The film tells the story of Vera Gissing and her escape from Czechoslovakia during the start of the Holocaust. The USC Shoah Foundation is home to one of the largest collections of digital archive footage of Holocaust survivors and witnesses, currently housing over 55,000 video testimonies.
De Jesus used archive footage, along with sand animation, to bring Vera Gissing’s story to life. When watching the film, you can’t help but be entranced by the macro sequences where we see individual grains of sand and translucency. The abstract imagery De Jesus creates with the sand spotlights Gissing’s testimony, the moving images accompanying her voice rather than pulling attention away from it. The film tells a harrowing real-life story, emphasising Vera Gissing’s voice.
‘Our earliest childhood memories, often episodic, are one of our most intimate experiences’ – Mary Martins (via)
Mary Martins is a London-based animator and filmmaker. She is experimental in her practice, attempting to push boundaries of animated documentary and explore innovative new ways to portray reality. Martins was the 2017 winner of the Procreate Project Mother Art Prize and her films have been screened at multiple festivals around the world.
Commissioned by BFI and BBC4, ‘Childhood Memories’ by Mary Martins is a multi-layered film which utilises stop-motion and 2D digital animation, as well as 16mm colour film footage from 1970s Lagos, Nigeria. This autobiographical short explores childhood memories and cultural backgrounds.
Martin’s reflected upon the starting point for the film, linking it to her earliest child hood memory: “… when I accompanied my mother to Lagos, Nigeria in 1987. I was 4 years old. I was too young to remain in London with my Father and my two older sisters.” (via)
Watch ‘Childhood Memories’ here. (Available only in the UK)
Osbert Parker‘s short animated film ‘Life On The Move’ is a collaborative production which explores the complexities of immigration by using real life experiences and research. The stop-motion animation plays alongside a script created by two researchers who conducted interviews with migrants, refugees and returnees in Somaliland.
‘Life On The Move’ is innovative in the way that it explores how artists and researchers can collaborate to generate knowledge that can reach wider audiences about complex issues such as immigration. The film makes this information and these testimonials more accessible to public audiences, and the team worked with the aim of inspiring more researchers to collaborate with artists.
“It illustrates how complex research findings can be disseminated in a clear and accessible style suitable for many public audiences. Visualising internal and external migration routes, it disrupts mainstream media coverage of migration as a problem, presenting a more holistic narrative.” – (via)
The figures used in the stop-motion sequence are all based on 3D scans of real actors from a variety of backgrounds to reflect differing cultures, focusing especially on unique facial features. Over 1800 individual images were used in the film to create the smooth animation. The film was a collaborative project which also involved PositiveNegatives, the Migration Leadership Team, artist Karrie Fransman and, of course, animator Osbert Parker. Research and field work was funded by the International Organisation For Migration.
The film was the winner of the ‘best social media short’ at AHRC Film Awards in 2019.
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.