12. festival Animateka: Animadok film retrospective
They tell about personal experiences, without staying on the level of navel-gazing, but reach out to interpersonal and shared themes, often marginalised or trivialised by women’s magazines.
5. filmski seminar za mlade: NORI NA ANIMIRANI FILM
Avtorica: Henrike von Dewitz
Authors through the protagonists
Animadok film retrospective
The Animadok Film Retrospective of the 12th International Animated Film Festival Animateka 2015 showed a wide overview of animated documentaries. The retrospective was divided into eight main categories, which represented a regional focus on Canada, a focus on two young filmmakers, a selection of films from the DOK Leipzig film festival and two recent full-length animated documentaries. This review will look at four films, all of which reveal something personal about their author through their protagonists.
The film Seth’s dominion (2014) of the Canadian series attracted my attention because of the way the animation is neatly nested in the documentary. The author Luc Chamberland contributes a deep insight into the professional and personal life of the cartoonist Gregory Gallant known by his pseudonym “Seth”. The movie is a collage of Seth’s life using archive material, interviews with him and his family, as well as his own creations like cartoons and animated productions. The structure of the film looks like someone could imagine his daily routine characterized by his different passions from painting classical cartoons, modelling houses of the city, playing puppet theatre to writing a private stamp diary in form of a comic. Therefore the fragments of Seth’s own autobiographical animations are cleverly used to illustrate what the protagonist tells in the interviews about himself living in a lonely isolated world and how his character was formed through his relationship with his parents. Watching the film the spectator can notice that Seth is not only the creator of his cartoons but also their main protagonist and that his life is an interaction between reality and animation.
Similarly, Bastien Dubois, the author of Madagascar, a Journey Diary (Madagascar, carnet de voyage, 2009), is the main character of his very personal animated travel log, the idea for which came when he hitchhiked from the north of France to Istanbul. After the screening of the film at Animateka he said that he always used to draw on his journeys and often wished his drawings to become alive. For the production he used different animation techniques like camera mapping, rotoscopy and stop motion which make his films colourful and moving. The quality of his storytelling is greatly enhanced by the fact that he spent one year living in Madagascar and studying the village life and the funeral ceremony, of which his film tells the story. Due to the intensity of sights and gestures of the characters and the photographical approach to normal life scenes, the spectator takes over the role of the traveller and thus loses the distant point of view of the cinema visitor. The strong colours and authentic objects he uses for the production (like handmade toy cars from Madagascar or embroidery), as well as the original music from this places give a genuine atmosphere to the film. Thanks to the success of this 11-minutes film he got the opportunity to direct a TV program based on it, a journey diary called Faces from Places: Greece, Mount Athos (Portraits de voyages: Grèce, Le mont Athos, 2013), a series of 20 animated films which show portraits of people from various countries around the world. Besides Madagascar, three of them where shown at the Animadok retrospective.
Another young author who builds up the main character of one of her own movies shown in the retrospective is Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre. The auto-biographical film Passages (2008) shows her experiences and difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth, using technically brilliant animations. In the beginning the spectator follows the author through expectations, doubts and insecurities about her pregnancy, and later the nightmare of the passage of time, the pain and incompetent medical support during the birth of her long-expected child. Most of the time, the author uses white animated drawings on a black background, with her voice narrating the story. Videos from the ultrasound scan, pictures of her face, the baby in the incubator, and original sounds like that of the ECG machine are added, clearly showing that this story is not invented but based on reality. On the other hand, the medical service and doctors in the hospital are dressed up like clowns or have monster’s heads to emphasize the helplessness Saint-Pierre felt.
A similar film made by her called Femelles (2012) came out four years later showing a similar problematic and almost the same animation techniques. This time the chosen colours are red and white and the sound is composed of fragments of interviews with different women describing the complicated situation, feelings of responsibility and unsureness about childbirth and motherhood. The interviews are sincere, rough and emotional and show the fascinating and ambivalent relationship that women have with their children while trying to be a good and patient mother, partner, housewife… The author uses several different alter-egos to represent these relationships: a woman who looks stereotypically Indian, later converted to a multiple armed Hindu divinity managing the whole situation, a wolf, showing the animal aspect of a feeding mother at the maximum of her physical energies.
Even though all the films discussed here are narrated from a personal perspective, Saint-Pierre’s films are different from the other two, because they are more sensitive and deal with subjects which are of a universal concern. They tell about personal experiences, without staying on the level of navel-gazing, but reach out to interpersonal and shared themes, often marginalised or trivialised by women’s magazines. The films of Lac Chamberland and Bastien Dubois give an insight in their personal story without getting in touch with the spectator but resuming for themselves and showing their proper point of view.