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By Annabelle Honess Roe

Animated Documentary, the 1st booklet to be released in this attention-grabbing subject, considers how animation is used as a representational process in nonfiction movie and tv and explores the methods animation expands the variety and intensity of what documentary can exhibit us concerning the world.

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While all documentaries purport to teach us something about the world, the use of animation as a representational strategy broadens the potential of documentary by expanding the range of what can be shown and told. Through mimetic substitution, non-mimetic substitution and evocation, animation responds to the limitations of liveaction material. Rather than questioning the viability of knowledge through documentary, animated documentaries offer us an enhanced perspective on reality by presenting the world in a breadth and depth that live action alone cannot.

More recent examples of substitutive animation can be seen in the BBC’s 1999 natural history series Walking with Dinosaurs, and its later re-boot Planet Dinosaur (2011), and Brett Morgen’s Chicago 10 (2007). In Chicago 10, motion capture and traditional animation are used to recreate the trial of Abbie Hoffman and the other members of the anti-war movement accused of inciting riot in the run up to 1968’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago. No filmed record of the courtroom exists and these sequences are based on the transcripts of the legal proceedings, which often descended into a circus-like state of chaos as the defendants refused to adhere to the proceeding’s rules and regulations.

In several of the essays collected in the two volumes of What Is Cinema? he seems to promote a somewhat essentialist theory of film aesthetics that is implied by the medium’s ontology. Bazin extolled the virtues of non-interventionist filmmaking because these techniques, he argued, were best suited to the fundamental nature of the cinematic form. Conversely, he was critical of montage editing, which he called ‘anticinematic’, because it distracted from the reality in front of the camera (2005 [1967]: 46).

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