Animation Discourse Week 6 Animated Documentary – Conflict of combining art and actuality

Ryan had returned this week for another presentation on Animated Documentary with the conflict of combining art and actuality. He showed us the Zara’s story with Zara in live action with her animated dog.ย We then moved onto the styles of documentary:


Bill Nicholsโ€™ theorised 6 modesโ€ฆ but their differences are nuanced:

Observational: undisturbed actuality; no influence from the filmmaker

Expository: objective โ€œvoice of Godโ€ narration – the โ€œ David Attenboroughโ€ style

Participatory: the filmmaker interacts with the subject โ€“ the โ€œLouis Therouxโ€ style

Reflexive: relies on audience engaging with the filmmakerโ€™s perspective

Poetic: almost exclusively about creating mood and emotion

Performance: filmmaker becomes the subject


In recent decades, โ€œpresenting informationโ€ has become a flexible definition, meaning most productions inherently take on a persuasive form, whether itโ€™s to make you side with a perspective, question the information provided or simply feel a certain way.

The question isโ€ฆ does the influence of the filmmaker hurt or benefit what information we learn from a documentary?

We watched a short film koyaanisqatsi which shows us life and the speed of time.ย 

The spark brothers montage of past music videos and concerts they’ve done showing their weirdness is the cool.ย 

A short film of Drawing from memory where a man draws from memory events which happened and didn’t happen.

Whyย do we Use Animation in facts

Emerged in the 20th century, but was largely denoted to PSAs and information films.

-Alternative way to present supplementary information without directly addressing it.

-Visualising unseen knowledge e.g. the feelings of participants.

-Basicallyโ€ฆ it tried to grow acceptance towards using art to portray โ€œfactโ€.

-Howeverโ€ฆ this has caused much debate and controversy as weโ€™ll later seeโ€ฆ

Visualising autism

A Is For Autism (1992) โ€“ Tim Webb used creative contributions from autistic participants to visualise autism in a way never seen before.

Snack And Drink (1999) โ€“ Bob Sabiston et al used a Rotoshop program to similarly experiment with raw audio footage of an autistic teenage.

BBC Four – Autism for kids on visualising kids with autism.

The Conflict

The notion of absolute authenticity is being challenged with the rise of subjective experiencesโ€ฆ but this can lead to bias and misrepresentation in the wrong hands.

-Opposition believe it downplays fact in favour of individual experiences.

-Supporters argue intimate stories reveal โ€œignored realitiesโ€ and encourage empathy.

-Opposition suggest audiences might struggle to tell whatโ€™s real and whatโ€™s not.

-Supporters give audiences more credit for separating the real from the abstract ie. Animation is evidentially not authentic, itโ€™s about verisimilitude.

ari folman

Folmanโ€™s reflexive documentary aimed to showcase his efforts to recall his memories of the 1982 Lebanon War using talking head interviews and dramatic re-enactments. The animation helps remind the audience that memories are prone to distortion so cannot be explicitly โ€œtrueโ€.

How is animation used to make us empathise with the participantโ€™s personal experience of the massacre?

-Does using animation (instead of live-action) make the โ€œrecollectionโ€ or โ€œre-enactmentโ€ feel honest?


Just for fun… Experimenting with real footage and audio allows you to tell unique stories and highlight the crucial fact that context matters and the style of presentation has is powerful stimuli on the audience.

Creature Comforts used non-actors from council estates and retirement homes to recreate Vox Pop style interviews and recontextualised the audio for comedic effect.

BY Jonas odell

A mix of short films on the subject of sex, virginity and consent.ย 

Consider how it elevates each story using animation to portray the emotional perspective of each participant.

-Does it enhance you understanding of their experience?

-Does it feel โ€œmanipulativeโ€ or โ€œpersuasiveโ€?

-Does subjectivity truly hurt the truth?


Ryan (2004)
by Chris Landreth

A short film we watched back in first year in semester 1 or 2 about the animator Ryan.

Landreth meticulously implemented animated psychological realism to show not only the feelings of both Landreth and his subject matter Ryan Larkin, but also encouraged the audience to interpret information and drawn their own conclusions.

Notice how it combines several modes of documentary and relies on animation to accentuate complex information.

This gives me quite a few ideas on my assignment 2 essay on documenting a specific music band, or animation film that is both live action and animated. However I still have other options when it comes to gender, sexuality, disabilities e.g. autism, horror for young audiences or a documentary of a music band.ย 


Leave a Reply