Women’s Animation from Near and Far

This was a programme selected by the Leeds Animation Workshop and screened at the Hyde Park Picture House. The occasion was to mark forty years of Leeds Animation Workshop and their total of forty films. Rona Murray celebrated and praised their contribution to both animation and women’s struggles over the years in a ‘thank you’. Before that we had a fine programme of animated films by women filmmakers from a variety of countries and in a variety of forms with a stimulating range of subjects.

No Offence, Leeds Animation Workshop (1996).

This was part of a series of films the Workshop made using the ‘fairy-tale’ form. In this case the topic was sexual harassment at work. In an original twist a Queen disguises herself as an ordinary female worker to investigate the behaviour of her managers. The tale includes reforms to end the harassment. The narrative is told with the distinctive voice of Alan Bennett.

Otesanek, Czech Republic 2017. Director Linda Retterová. 6 minutes

This film is an updated version of the traditional tale, ‘Little Otik’. There is an earlier version by Jan Švankmajer and Eva Švankmajerová (2000). This version is less macabre and the ‘Otik’ character is a carved trees stump in the form of a child. But s/he also devours everything in sight. The animation uses felt and embroidery as the materials for stop-motion.

The Black Dog (1987). 18 minutes.

This is a film by Alison De Vere who was a key figure in British animation from the 1950s until the late 1990s. The ‘Black Dog’ of the title is a shaman figure in a dream world which parallels work by surrealist artists. The fantastical settings are finely done and traverse a range of imaginative imagery.

The New Species, Czech Republic, 2014. Director Katerina Karhánková. 6 minutes.

The film follows three children as they attempt to identify a mysterious bone. On the way we also see representation of adult ways with children.

Phototaxis, USA (2017). Director Melissa Ferrari. 7 minutes.

The film uses the ‘Mothman’ myth from West Virginia; dramatised in the feature The Mothman Prophecies (2002). The film draws quite complex parallels between this and an addiction epidemic in the region. The film is fairly experiential in its techniques, including paper with superimposed pastels.

Black Soul, Canada (2000). Director Martine Chartrand. 9 minutes

In this narrative we see an older black woman and her grandson as she proffers examples of their cultural heritage. The film uses paint-on-glass techniques. The colours are luminous whilst the film’s trajectory is versatile.

Three Thousand, Canada (2017). Director Asinnajaq. 14 minutes.

This film combines newsreels [partly from the 1920s], ethnographic film and film of indigenous art work to explore the worlds of the Inuit peoples. It uses both animation techniques and film footage.

Nutag-Homeland, Canada (2016). Director Alisi Telegut. 6 minutes.

The film-maker is of Kalmyk origin. This people were formerly in the North Caucuses but now they are settled by the Caspian Sea. Their history is one of travails and forced migrations. The film presents poetic images of this through hand-painted frames.

The Fruit of Clouds, Czech republic (2017). 10 minutes.

Another film by Katerina Karhánková. In this a small colony of delightfully realised woodland creatures have an unusual diet. One brave individual finds an abundant source of this.

Own Skin, Leeds (2018). 3 minutes.

Geena Gasser and Saskia Tomlinson enjoyed an internship at the Animation Workshop. This hand-painted film examines the pressures of the body image.

They Call Us Maids: The Domestic Workers’ Story, Leeds Animation Workshop (2015). 7 minutes.

This film uses the actual experiences of migrant women works to expose the exploitation and oppression that they frequently suffer. The film relies on hand-painted water colours. It was commissioned by the Pavilion arts project and worked with Justice 4 Domestic Workers.

The whole programme was a rich palette of animation. There were a variety on techniques on show. And the subjects ranged widely as did the form of the films. Most of the titles had not been seen in Leeds before so this was a real treat.

Hopefully we will see more with a celebration at the Leeds International Film Festival of this important anniversary.

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