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Hanna Heilborn: Animation as a human and real tool

On 8th February, the Swede documentalist Hanna Heilborn she was with us as a guest in the presentation of Animac 2013 in the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona.

Heilborn is a pioneer of the animated documentary using animation techniques with computer or CGI. With the collaboration of David Aronowitsch, they form the duo responsible for the animated trilogy of documentaries Gömd (2002), Slavar (2008) and Sharaf (2012). Documentary hyperrealism to the service of raw realities that need to be revealed again and again. A personal style that has influenced filmmakers throughout the world and has also been appreciated by all types of audiences in theatres, schools and exhibitions.

How is an animated documentary? Our friends from La Xarxa Tendències have made and yield to us an interview –published recently in his website– to Hanna Heilborn during the presentation, which is very suitable to get to know her and her filmic corpora.


The event began with the screening of Slaves (Slaver, 2008). Abuk and Machiek are two of the thousands of children who were captured by the military-supported government, during the civil war in southern Sudan. Both tell in first person their experiences since they were captured until their release by Uager Alic and his organization CEAWC (Committee of Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children).

During the question time, Hanna gave many details about the creative process and production of her second animated documentary. Slavar is a deeply true story, where the use of the actual sound of the interviews is the cement of the whole film. Heilborn stressed the importance of design before animation, as they way she works is "absolutely contrary to the animators," they are two completely different techniques that are increasingly joined together in a growing trend that is the animated documentary. However, the animated format was not her starting point: "We are not animators, we are documentary makers and animation is a technique that helps to extend the natural life of a story told over again through the media.” One last question from the audience hit one of the key points in Heilborn's speech: animation humanizes reality and can make it even more real." With animation, and in the case of Slavar, I think you can represent reality more accurately, more humanly, using more layers."

Later on Hanna showed us, like a tour, a great pile of sketches and designs not only from Slavar but also from Sharaf, his latest animated documentary that we discovered in the last edition of Animac. The story of an undocumented teenager, using a style entirely designed using folded papers, in an ironic way. Heilborn’s words hit all the attendees: "I believe it is inconceivable that the term illegal immigrant is being used. How can a human being be illegal?”

Finally, Hanna showed us pictures and details of his new project, an animated documentary film entitled Territories. With a more experimental nature, Territories criticizes the racist Europe that has built walls to the new Europeans, which regards the poor as a foreign threat. One of their targets is the security agency Frontex, which oversees the European borders with astronomical budgets and using absurd technology of a science fiction film, in the words of Heilborn. 

La Paeria - Ajuntament de Lleida

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