“Another Day of Life” (opening in LA and NY September 13 from GKids) is an intense, animated documentary about the chaos of the Angola civil war in 1975, adapted from Polish war correspondent Ryszard Kapuściński’s gripping book by directors Raúl de la Fuente and Damian Nenow. Intercutting graphically striking animation (utilizing mocap for the characters) with interviews and archival footage, it’s like transposing “Apocalypse Now” to Angola, replacing Willard with Kapuściński and Kurtz with isolated rebel leader Farrusco.
“I was fascinated by this surrealistic diary, the desperate chronicle of a reporter at the limit of his strengths, fighting for survive and finding the truth in a chaotic and fuzzy war,”said de la Fuente. “This film is a hallucinatory trip to the heart of darkness, a Cold War tale with a thrilling spy mood, magnetic topics, and characters: decolonization, freedom fighters, boy soldiers, epic battles and, above all, the surreal and poetic approach by Kapuściński.”
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“Kapuściński had seen the world from only one, yet ultimate, perspective — standing right in front of a human being, describing the world through the prism of one’s emotions and feelings,” added Nenow. “The way he wrote…creation, allegorical, magic realism…this is exactly the vocabulary of animation. Every single description from the book was stimulating my ‘animation’ imagination big time.”
Kapuściński risked his life to inform the world about a forgotten war in Angola, which spilled over into a proxy Cold War struggle between the superpowers. “He wrote to break down stereotypes, to bring justice,” de la Fuente said. “Also, he wrote for ethical reasons, as the poor tend to be silent. His journalism had a mission: to make the voice of the poor to be heard.”
And how did they prepare for such an ambitious hybrid that combined a multi-layered comic book look with the natural beauty of Angola? “The visual style has many influences and one is reality,” added de la Fuente. “There is a huge documentation work, searching for the visuals of the period. We also traveled to Angola before making the film to take pictures of landscapes, cities, weapons and for sure we used real pictures of our protagonists as an inspiration for the final look of the movie.”
“Kapuscinski’s writing was crying for such a multi-angle, multi-dimensional approach in order to achieve something close to his writing method,” Nenow added. “The very story was the key to balance the format. There is only one, consistent, synthesized story we wanted to tell. Animation and live action materials are just storytelling tools. The goal was simple – tell the story in the most optimal and immersive way possible.”
The animation in “Another Day of Life” (a Polish-Spanish-Belgian-German-Hungarian co-production with several teams) was created with natural, realistic motion and camera work. All facial animation was computer key-framed on top of the live actors’ mo-cap performances. The bodies were similarly done using CG techniques, based on motion point data, also captured from the mocap performances. This live-action approach allowed them to generate schematic, previs-quality, virtual footage in relatively short time. And delivering complete scenes allowed unrestricted, flexible editing needed to design such a complex hybrid form of storytelling.
Crucially, though, experimenting with color, shape, and deformation provided an unlimited arsenal for visualizing the primary theme of chaos (which the Angolans call “confusao”). This was conveyed through Kapuściński’s troubled state of mind, with objects floating up or down or being torn apart or destroyed. Highlights included a devastating roadside massacre, the destruction of his typewriter with the coming of tragic news, and the city floating underwater full of dead bodies.
“From the very beginning, entering in ‘Kapuściński’s mind’ was a challenge for us,” said de la Fuente. “Kapuściński was a new adventure, a new journey, and I saw in his universe something that transcended the written texts: I remember very well the scene that inspired me to create this film in animation: the wooden city. The city is dying. Disappearing. First, the Portuguese police left, and the country fell into anarchy.
“Then, the firemen left. Then, the garbage-men. Finally, the colonials, saying goodbye to their African homes with a mixture of despair and anger,” continued de la Fuente. “Amaia Remírez (producer and co-writer) and me were impacted by that surreal image of the Portuguese civilians escaping, leaving the colony in a hurry. It was amazing, the harbor of Luanda full of crates with Portuguese belongings, scared but carrying out the final plunder. So poetic.”
Yet Nenow contends that confusao dominates geopolitics today through the use of social media. “This is happening all around, right now,” he said. “Ukraine, Syria…. Confusao is there. Disinformation, lack of understanding. Fear comes out if it. Out of fear comes hate. Out of hate comes war. But this is the way it goes for centuries. No surprise here. What’s actually terrifying is that the evolution of mass media made the ‘perspective’ thing even worse. Now it’s not just the problem of judging the world from a certain, geopolitical perspective. Now, the very perspective became a tool and a commercial merchandise. By polarizing and ‘orchestrating’ the internet and mass media content, one can topple governments, ignite revolutions….People want to see and hear what they need. Nobody is interested in real, human perspective on things. This is deeply terrifying.”