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DENIS G. VIREN
State Institute for Art Studies,
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-3680-6028
DOCUMENTARY ANIMATION OR ANIMATED DOCUMENTARY?
Reflections on the history and the current situation on the example
of Poland and other countries
Abstract. Documentary animation is a hybrid cinematic form, the history of which goes back over 100 years. Earlier such films were rather a rarity, while lately they appear on screens more and more often. Using numerous examples, the article discusses the goals of artists turning to this unusual and controversial practice. The main thematic blocks are highlighted, the boundaries between the fictional artistic world and the real basis of a film are determined. The author also attempts to distinguish between animated documentary and “full-fledged” documentary animation.
After reviewing the genesis (films by W. McCay, J. and F. Hubley) and films that have become modern classics of the direction (Waltz with Bashir, Crulic: The Path to Beyond etc.), the most notable modern samples—primarily those filmed in Poland and in Russia, where animadoc is rapidly gaining momentum—were analyzed in detail. Directors use this form when talking about historical events (reconstruction), ambiguous personalities and unusual places, as well as about their own or others’ internal problems and experiences. Documentary animation is becoming a common means of (auto)psychotherapy and fits into the current trend of pronouncing taboo topics and working out hidden traumas. Animation allows to penetrate deeply into the world of characters without violating their personal boundaries. An important place is held by metafilms, reflecting on the language of the animadoc and cinema in general. Today, documentary with the use of animation is more common than “real” animadoc, although the line between the fictional artistic world and the actual basis of films is rather fluid. The phenomenon is still in the making. Nevertheless, such films must have a real component: interviews (usually off-screen), newsreels, photographs, genuine objects, etc. The factual basis is not a sufficient argument to classify the work as a documentary animation—the decisive factor here is the hybridization of the form.
Keywords: documentary animation, animated documentary, Polish cinema, Polish animation, hybrid forms