Tuesday, March 15, 2016

All is not forgotten with Khurpui, the Kom animation film project.

Following on from the successful Experimental Animation Workshop at the National Institute of Design in January, I later went back to Manipur to reconnect with the few Kom people that I know.  It was a very short visit, and I had other work to do there too, as there was the Meitei "Tapta"  film that was a priority - the errant film needed to rejoin the rest of the "Tales of the Tribes" collection...

Anyway, while I was there, I was able to meet our young Kom cultural advisor, Augustine, who came to the Manipur State Film Development Society (formally the Manipur Film Development Corporation) in Imphal.  I was able to introduce him to Dr. R.K. Joykumar, who had been our main collaborator and director of the "Tapta" film, and we all watched the "Khurpui" documentary made by the students at the National Institute of Design.  I have also submitted a proposal to the Department of Art and Culture in Manipur for support for  a workshop to take place during the summer, to bring some young animators to Manipur to help our young Kom friends from Koirentak to finish the film, using the medium of sand.

Lets hope that this will be the first animated folktale from the Kom tribe in Manipur, and that it can inspire and enthuse the local young people to do more about translating their oral narratives for new media.

Friday, January 15, 2016

After the festive mood we are back on track.
We had  movie screening at morning. Sarah Lawton, an artist and MA graduate from Manchester University also joined us during the screening. After seeing a film by Yuri Norstein, we first watched a short documentary film about the Adivasi Arts Trust animation project in Arunachal Pradesh and a preview of the new Gond film that is currently in production, as we were told that the animators for both projects - graduates from NID - would be coming to visit us in the afternoon to see our work.  After this, we watched  the documentary on the workshop that Arjun has been working on.  Tara reminded us of the importance of documenting the process, explaining that the process is as interesting as the final outcome, as it will contextualize the short film and detail all the issues we faced, both with the medium and the representation.  

At the end of the session Sarah introduced a camera obscura device to us.  It was a device that assists the artist in being able to sketch as it reflects the subject onto the paper using mirrors, so that it is then easier to draw the outline.

This is the last day of this sand animation workshop. Our animation is almost done and Shanthala is working on the final shots in which the tiger stripes transform to become the traditional Kom dress, the Ponthle, that the Kom wear for ceremonial and festive occasions to this day.   Most of our group are now busy doing post production. Some of them are working on the final sound track, and the rest of us are placing all the sequences on the final timeline. Now we can almost see our film.  We are making a presentation to our faculty today, but will continue to refine the edit and complete the last few frames of the sand animation in the coming days.

Nilava Roy

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A very happy ‘Makar Sakranti’ & ‘Pongal’ & ‘Uttarayan’ to all of us.

Yesterday, we all attended the interactive ‘Baatein session’ with Sukanta Majumdar, a sound designer who took us on an audio-tour to a place we have never seen before and gave us, really an ear-blowing experience. When asked about his need for visuals, he replied,“My sound recorder is my sketchbook!”

Yesterday ended with a lot of hard but smart work.
Till now, progress of our project –

Animatics – Done
Sound – Done
Animation –  Done (nearly)

What remaining is now the post production, which already has been started parallely.
Hence, today had been quite a leisurely day, where we, on track with our post-production, enjoyed the day with lots of kite-flying, yummy lunch and fantastical lanterns.

So, all’s well that end’s well!

Amruta Bakshi

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

With almost all the shots of sand animation animated we are all excited to see the final film. Today, we collected the footage which was animated and have started putting it on the timeline. The sound team is ready with the sound mix. We are all set to compile it all together. Arjun is working on the documentary film which documents our experiences about this workshop and the ‘Kom’ tribe. We are expecting to see it by this Friday. 

This workshop introduced us to a new medium which is fun to explore. Sand has an amazing property which gives a different effect each time you add a new layer of sand on a light table, the more sand one adds the darker is the colour achieved. It took us some time to get comfortable with the medium as the sand simply slipped from our grip as we picked it. 

The daily exposure to the experimental animation films in the morning is very motivating and it pumps us to make films as individual animators in contrast to the commercial films. Today Tara introduced us to tribal animation films which told us the stories from the lands we had never heard of. The motive behind animating tribal films and involving the local people of the tribe in the process is to introduce, encourage, and empower them to the story telling medium of animation. This workshop has helped us empathise with the tribes in India and take their stories to a larger platform. 

Gouri Ajay Katdare

The films screened today showed examples of animations made in collaboration with indigenous storytellers and communities. In Australia there is a genre of animation films based on Aboriginal stories, an example is the Dust Echoes series. In Canada the National Film Board has also supported collaborations with Inuit artists.Dust Echoes - The Mimis, available from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3DH7vRUHRk

 Dust Echoes – Morning Star, available from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGlApOP237s

ABC Dust Echoes, Mermaid Story (2007), available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSbHwDoj4OM

Dust Echoes2, Whirlpool, available from:

The Owl and the Raven: An Inuit Legend, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xhWWdGm8fE

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Today we complete eight days as we attempt to tell a Kom tribal story from Manipur through a medium which is completely unexplored by us - that is sand.

We started off  researching information that would help us to construct the story board and character design for the film along with understanding, questioning why  sand is being used as the only medium and how it gives justice to the film. Things began to have clarity after watching sand animation films which gave us  ideas of how story telling is achieved through this medium.

As we started animating, my partner Jaai and I tried our hands for the very first time with sand and we tried to make a small animation which was not so good in the end but responding to Tara’s kind appreciation towards it motivated us to get started with our first shot.

Working with the sand, we got to know about the property of it and how the layers of sand are used to show the depth or dark tones in the film. The process was surely a painstaking one as each and every frame was supposed to be wiped out and  before starting to redraw it all over again, and again. At the end, there is no such joy  as watching a completed shot which comes to life as sand rolls from one frame to another.

Thank you

Akshay  S. Malotkar

The screenings today presented a genre of indigenous film-making, where films are made by, or in collaboration with, indigenous storytellers to retell their stories for local target audiences.

Tara showed a few sample short animation films made in Canada there were based on Native American folklore and the well known Raven character that had been made by Winazi James 
including Bald Eagle (2006), by Winadzi James, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2IWV24CWHk, and 

Raven Tales Bald Eagle Part 2 (2006), available from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlsIgFuRTes

How Coyote Got his Cunning (2011), available from: 

The session ended with a screening of The Tallest Story Competition (2006), a collection of five animated Adivasi folktales that Tara had been involved with.  More information about the production company that made the series, West Highland Animation in Scotland can be found here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

What a delightful start to the day – we watched and studied the works of one of my favourite artists - Jan Svankmajer, an influential Czech Surrealist film-maker who has performed great experiments using various mediums in the field of animation. He pushed the limits of puppets in his films. We saw a documentary on him and two of his films. I was amazed by his clever ways of editing. In Historia Naturae, he doesn't move the subjects frame by frame throughout the film. He cleverly cuts between them, in quick succession, creating a dramatic impact on the viewer. The sound supported these visuals tremendously, making a delight for us to savour. His works are haunting, clever, humorous, exaggerated, making a political comment and creating a strange unsettling effect on our minds. All credit goes to his innovative stop motion and pixelation techniques.

We had a little discussion on the concept of authenticity. It's something that we as film-makers need to think about. How can we classify a piece of work as authentic? Probably an accurate, honest account of a subject that has not been ripped from any source. A piece of work that gives due credit to the source of origin from which it has been adapted, or interpreted differently. We also spoke about the importance of research before making a film. Since we are animating a folk tale of the Kom tribe, it is imperative that we know every little detail about their appearance, clothing, language, culture and way of life. Only then we will be able to get into the skin of the characters and animate them accordingly.

After a short break, two of my friends and I recorded a couple of foley sounds and composed the background score of the film. All the sounds were created using bamboo, cowries, beads, dhol and the flute. We tried using the same approach as the Kom does during their dance performances. It was an interesting exercise to create each sound traditionally instead of using computer generated ones on the software. We really got into the groove of the drumbeats for their dance. These beats now paint a much clearer picture of each shot and their transitions in my head. Also, the spirit of the people when they dance. Meanwhile my peers are slowly but steadily progressing, striking off one shot after another, doing a great job with sand.

Also, I was just telling my faculty member how interesting it would be for the boys and girls of the Kom tribe to try sand animation themselves. They can totally do it! We all have grown up playing with sand, making little castles and mountains with it as kids. So in that sense we are not entirely alien to the medium. Sand animation would just be an extension of playing with sand. Or making a rangoli. It will be an interesting exercise for them.

In addition to the first part of a documentary film about Jan Svankmajer, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e89U4ZD-Kvo, the animation films watched today were:

Ashes (1994) by Frenc Cako, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79zhloD3ehI
(a short film made using the medium of sand)

Dark and Light  (1989) by Jan Svankmajer, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=el8RUqN_4Fw

Historia naturae (Suita) 1967) by Jan Svankmajer, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cERmx_q0rgI

Zeel Sanghvi

Friday, January 8, 2016

At the moment, We are at the end of week 1 of the Experimental Sand Animation Workshop. Throughout the week our understanding about the medium and our knowledge about the methods of animating using this medium has steadily but surely increased.
Our work usually begins with a session where we look at already existing works in this medium. We have already seen the few sand animation films that we have with us, but we viewed two of them again today, to remind ourselves of how sand has been used in animation already.The films were viewed as a way to remember that in sand animation maintaining the beauty of the medium and it's uniqueness is also equally important. Our recent efforts and trials were in a way leading to a more or less 2D and black and white kind of style. But correction of this slight change is on the way. The gradient and partial opacity the sand can produce is special to this medium, and including this effect in the film throughout is also important.  The learning experience prepares us to try new things, and experiment using this medium. Also it helps us to use the knowledge towards the completion of our project.

We also watched several animation films that combine orthodox narrative techniques with new approaches to challenge and subvert the dominant presentation that is usually conveyed in mainstream animation films.  

Examples of these films that we watched today are:  

The Street (1976) by Caroline Leaf, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGWSYrgB6gM

Girls Night Out (1987)  by Joanna Quinn, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ficrLSm-dYk

The Hand (1965) by Jiri Trnka, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS4Th36zN_g

Thanking you,
Arjun Janardhanan Kappatan

The Street is a film that uses metamorphosis, and ink painting on glass to tell a realistic story centred on a young boy's emotions.  Girl's Night Out challenges female stereotypes with more realistic, natural depictions of women and The Hand was a political statement about freedom of expression.  These films contrast the artificiality of the kind of world that is commonly  presented to children in mainstream animation programming.