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Animation brings family history to life in moving new film

26 April 2019 @TeessideUni

 

A documentary featuring the animation expertise of Teesside University graduates will make its North East debut next weekend.

A still from one of the animations produced by the TUCan animation studio at Teesside University for Irene's Ghost
A still from one of the animations produced by the TUCan animation studio at Teesside University for Irene's Ghost

Irene’s Ghost uses animation mixed with filmed footage to tell the story of director Iain Cunningham’s mother Irene, who died when he was just three years old.

Through interviews with Irene’s friends and family, the documentary pieces together fragments of the past to uncover a long held secret about her life and her battle with mental illness.

Northumbria University Senior Lecturer and award-winning animation director Ellie Land was asked to lead on the animation for the film, which will be screened at the Tyneside Cinema on Saturday 4 May.

Ellie partnered with Teesside University and worked with a team of animation students and graduates at the University’s TUCan animation studio to produce the animated scenes used throughout the film to tell Irene’s story.

Ellie said: 'Because much of the film was based on people’s memories of Irene, animation provided a way to portray these scenes in a sensitive and thought-provoking way, and to combine this with the filmed footage and interviews.

'Everyone involved in the film is very proud of the finished result and to see it being screened here in the North East will be a wonderful moment.'

After being asked to direct the animation for Irene’s Ghost, Ellie teamed up with Siobhan Fenton, Associate Dean (Enterprise and Business Engagement) of Teesside University’s School of Computing & Digital Technologies. The two had previously worked together on Ellie’s 2012 film Centrefold and recruited a team to work on the animated scenes for Irene’s Ghost.

Ellie said: 'We had a team of around eight people working on the animation for the film, both here in the North East but also in Australia and Sweden, so it was a real team effort and great to see the creativity on show.'

The TUCan animation studio is based in the School of Computing & Digital Technologies and offers students and graduates the chance to work on live projects for commercial clients.

Siobhan Fenton added: 'Getting the opportunity to provide animation for a documentary film was a brilliant experience for the graduates in the TUCan Studio “We are delighted to have been able to provide support and it’s fantastic to see that the film is already attracting fantastic reviews.'

Irene’s Ghost received funding from the British Film Institute (BFI), with further support from Creative England, Creative Scotland, The Wellcome Trust, Maudsley Charity, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, The Maternal Mental Health Alliance and the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton.

The UK premiere of the film took place at the BFI London Film Festival in October last year and has since been shown at Glasgow Film Festival, Borderlines Film Festival in Hereford, Foyle Film festival in Northern Ireland and most recently had its North American debut at the Full Frame Festival in North Carolina.

It was awarded Best Feature Documentary at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.

Following a number of screenings in London, the film will be touring the UK over the coming weeks, with screenings at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle on 4 May, the Midlands Art Centre in Birmingham on 16 May and the Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax on 25 June.


In the News

Regional premiere for moving animated film
Northern Echo, p.53, 26/04/2019
A documentary featuring the animation expertise of Teesside University graduates will make its North East debut next weekend.