Corrie Francis Parks, a Montana based animator and photographer, took part in the New Zealand based Fulbright academic exchange award. Her fellowship culminated in the creation of the 14-minute animated documentary ‘Conversing with Aotearoa’. (Aotearoa is the most widely know and accepted Māori name for New Zealand.)
Francis Parks writes about the film: ‘In an age of technological integration and urban life, people turn to the natural world for a wilderness experience. What draws us to the remote corners of land and sea when we realize something in our lives is missing? Conversing with Aotearoa/New Zealand uses unique visual imagery to take the viewer into the physical and mental wilderness encompassed in the diverse landscapes of New Zealand. In this animated documentary, New Zealanders attempt to fathom their deep, personal connection with their land. Among the interviewees are hunters, fishermen, farmers, trampers, mountaineers, adventurer-racers, conservationists, ecologists, artists, urban and rural dwellers, Pakeha, Māori and tourists, young, old and in between. The thread that ties them all together is a passion and love for the wild places in New Zealand.’
‘Conversing with Aotearoa’ is mostly compiled from photographic animation techniques interjected with partially fluid hand drawn scenes. These are characterised by a pastel colour palette and a feathered quality of line.
The film is speckled with bracing moments and cinematic experimentation. The time-lapse footage of starfish in a rock pool demonstrated the filmmaker’s fascination with the varied and wondrous environment. The title scene where the mountain range appears to breath is similarly striking.
There are however some less successful moments. A Māori spirit/mask spins around a struggling mountaineer, presumably to symbolise his relative powerlessness when confronted with the overwhelming power of nature. The crude rotational movement of the Māori design, when combined with a quaint woodwind instrumental score, felt visually disappointing and distracted from the absorbing account of mountainous peril.
Although only a trailer is available on Vimeo, the full 14-minute version is accessible through SnagFilms, an online documentary streaming service supported by advertising. It is free to sign-up but expect to receive a weekly email unless you unsubscribe.