Magazine article Metro Magazine

Animating Gallipoli: Leanne Pooley and Matthew Metcalfe on 25 April

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Animating Gallipoli: Leanne Pooley and Matthew Metcalfe on 25 April

Article excerpt

AWARD-WINNING FILMMAKER LEANNE POOLEY'S ANIMATED DOCUMENTARY 25 APRIL--WHICH GAVE AUDIENCES AT LAST YEAR'S TORONTO AND CANBERRA FILM FESTIVALS AN EMOTIONAL RIDE, AND HIT AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND CINEMAS ON THE TITULAR DATE THIS YEAR--CONSIDERS NEW ZEALAND'S RARELY RECOGNISED INVOLVEMENT IN THE BLOODY BATTLE AT GALLIPOLI. OLIVER PFEIFFER SPEAKS TO POOLEY AND PRODUCER MATTHEW METCALFE ABOUT HOW, THROUGH THE USE OF TALKING-HEAD MOTON CAPTURE, THEY HAVE MANAGED TO BRING TO LIFE ANOTHER STARTLING PERSPECTIVE ON THE TRAGIC 1915 WORLD WAR I CAMPAIGN.

Oliver Pfeiffer: Matthew, you came up with the concept for 25 April (2015). What was the impetus behind the project, other than the Anzac centenary in 2015?

Matthew Metcalfe: Adult animation is a subject that is very interesting to me--I watched Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir [2008] and it really impressed me. I started thinking about Gallipoli and how I would love to do something about the New Zealand story because it had never been done. I found myself thinking that a regular feature like Peter Weir's film [Gallipoli, 1981] would be so difficult and virtually impossible to pull off in a New Zealand context. Then I thought about a feature documentary and [realised] the stock footage and photographs were limited, and there were obviously no survivors, so [we] would only end up doing what the History Channel had done many times before. Therefore, I started to think: what if we could bring Gallipoli back to life, but treat it in the same way that Waltz with Bashir did by doing it as a feature animated documentary, which would bring everyone and the environment back to life? That was the genesis of the idea. One of the primary reasons to make it animated was to tell a big story with a different set of resources.

What did you take from Waltz with Bashir? How did that film inspire you?

MM: I was just inspired by the idea of animation. A lot of great ideas are just so obvious--this was such an obvious way to go, and so dynamic and alive, and explores the subject matter so well. That got me thinking about how we might be able to do something with animation for Gallipoli, and that was the beginning of the journey. It took a long time and a few people to convince but, in the end, I'm very satisfied with the outcome.

Does animation speak to audiences in a different way than live-action features and documentaries?

Leanne Pooley: The animation allowed us to bring those men back to life--to take those six individuals and make them alive. It also enables you to illustrate the events in a way that gives you quite a lot of freedom to get inside the heads of the participants, and also to explore visual metaphors. Like, I can have boats that turn into birds (1) if I want to [...] We could explore the imagery and allow the audience a different experience of Gallipoli than they had before. Had it not been animated, I would not have been interested in just an ordinary documentary.

So the animation was pivotal in enticing you to the project as well?

LP: Yes, that's what I found interesting, challenging and exciting. Animation is such a wonderful visual smorgasbord for a director. You can do almost anything. It provides you with the opportunity to really get inside the story, and explore visual metaphor and also colour.

You use animated talking heads, which were created using motion capture with live actors. What was the idea behind this?

LP: I felt it was really important for those talking heads to bring the emotional content. The film fails if you don't connect with the characters themselves, and I felt I wanted actors to help me with that. I knew the actors would bring a lot to the table. The performances that you see in those interviews--[the actors] have really immersed themselves in those characters. They'd read all the letters, all the diaries, and they'd looked at the pictures. Some of them had even been in contact with some of the families. …

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