FAFF at the Genesis

Factual Animation Film Fuss (FAFF) came around again, celebrating animated documentary from around the globe, whipped up by Daniel Murtha.   How nice for me that I could cycle down the road to an event of this quality to see great films and brilliant people in person (more on that later).  I made it on the Saturday to ‘Onion Skins’, which was a selection of animated docs with a personal theme.  FAFF has moved into the cinema, which is great for the films but perhaps less good for the discussion part.  The large seats are really comfy, but you feel a bit isolated and cushioned from the chat at the front.  Anyway, in this screening there were many films to think about.  Kingston graduate Jennifer Zheng’s film Tough sticks in the mind, for it’s lovely spare colours and simple line but most of all for it’s engaging personal story told well.  Here she is on It’s Nice That.  I’m not surprised that she’s working with Moth Collective.  Busy Alex Widdowson‘s film Escapology in which a psychotherapist and former heroin addict reflects on his experiences and the nature of addiction.  In this film, it’s pleasurable to enjoy a telling and a showing taking different narrative paths. The Divide by Mary Martins was really interesting.  It was a beautiful and poetic tribute to her experience of being a single mother, created on 35mm.  She talked a little bit about wanting to be a part of imagining the future through her work, as opposed to dwelling on the past, which is a nice way of using animation.  In the case of her film The Divide the tone is necessarily nostalgic, but I think that she hopes that her experience of being a single mother will travel into the future and counter the myriad of unsympathetic representations.  There was a lot about it that was rough or not quite right, including really tiny text,  but it had a proper beating heart and spirit, and she’s a filmmaker to watch out for, especially once she’s had her spell at the RCA.  I liked Daniela Sherer‘s funny, creepy film There’s a man inside Mickey too.  Everything is Waiting for Something to Happen was Emma Calder‘s very thoughtful film made about and with Richard Wright from his social media data, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing it for ages.  I wasn’t disappointed. There was an especially brilliant scene in which Richard outlines his extreme baking activities, and describes how it helped him in his recovery from cancer of the bowel.  It’s very much worth looking up.

The really valuable part of the evening was the discussion. Alys Scott Hawkins quizzed Samantha Moore about her work, specifically the Wellcome Trust funded Loop, which was one of  the Silent Signal series of scientist/artist collaborative projects produced by Animate Projects last year.  Alys warmed everyone up by finding out who was in the room so we all felt more engaged from the comfy chairs.  There’s alot to report form the discussion.  Samantha’s collaborative methodology is so interesting, it seems to me that it was such a clever plan to encourage all the scientists in the lab to draw what they visualised but couldn’t see.  I can imagine that their relationship to their research (in this case – zebra fish) was quite changed by encountering Sam.  Sam and Alys involved other animators in the room, including Emma Calder, Mary Martins and Katerina Athanasopoulou so that other films in the programme were discussed too.  At the end of the evening there was a truthful exchange about Animated Documentary.  In a way, it was similar to last year, FAFF creates a small chance to take the pulse of Animated Documentary and see where it’s at.   It was described as sometimes being thought of as a ‘stocking filler’, soft and illustrative, and in a cul de sac, or a bubble of it’s own.  Myself I felt more optimistic this year, the work was more diverse, there were more experiments, and the ‘subjects’ more like collaborators, but it was felt that more can still be done to build on what’s there;  more rigour, more attention to different modes of participation, more experiments, proper critique of work,  both during and after production and in spite of the fact that the work takes ages to make and there’s no budget.  I’m sure it can only help.   Roll on next year and big congratulations to Daniel Murtha.

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