Computer Animation

Anerkennung - Honorary Mentions

An Excavation of Us

Shirley Bruno (US)


A mix of compositing of 2D images in a 3D space with 3D animation.

It is 1802, during the last year of the Haitian Revolution. The film is in black and white and sepia. We see the shadows cast by Napoleon's army on a boat lit by lamps. The army enters a cave, passes through different dark and textured rooms. The water is black and shiny.

The film is a journey through the cave. We listen to the contemplative voice of Marie Jeanne. As if she were explaining recipes, she describes one by one the unimaginable torture techniques carried out on her people. She tells us why she fought. Should we choose a slow and humiliating death through slavery or the liberation of her people?

Somewhere in the cave there is an explosion of light, an explosive light like that of war. Rows of silhouettes in battalion fire instinctively with their rifles. We see that all the guns point towards the silhouette of a calm and provocative soldier who was brought here to meet his death, condemned to the firing squad. It's Marie Jeanne herself.

The camera's getting closer. You can see her chest filling with air ... the shadow of her body doesn't miss a detail. She inhales, and exhales ... the calm of the cave. Marie Jeanne whispers something to herself ... before the bullets detonate again.

Her death in the film marks a split between the real historical figure and Marie Jeanne the martyr known in the region as a woman who seduced French soldiers and then killed them with poison. Her death also marks another split: the transformation from "reality" to the world of myths, legends, and imagination, more abstract. The film is a lyrical reinterpretation of these historical events, focusing on specific moments of the Haitian Revolution that still haunt the country today. A long camera shot will make us discover the cave, crossing it and revealing it layer after layer. The play of light and shadow will disturb our perception like Plato's cave, like History itself. We understand the evolution of the silhouettes of all the characters from an ambiguous minimalist to detailed forms, because we are talking about bitter-sweet victories, the result of horrible tragedies applied to Marie Jeanne's "body".

The film combines a contrasted aesthetic made of black silhouettes on a white background and 2D and 3D compositing images. The film was shot live with still images in the Marie Jeanne cave in Port-à-Pimente, Haiti and then in After Effects, the images were deconstructed to recreate the space of the cave in layers. The cave itself is intimately linked to the idea of an interior—that of Marie Jeanne's body. I play with spaces and the boundary between history and myth, a more symbolic space but always real. This will anchor the film in reality and history, as a documentation of the cave itself and of the legend of the myth of Marie Jeanne. The film will make these two realities inextricable.

This animated and experimental film thus works on the question of the stigmata, the physical and symbolic traces left by the tragedy of slavery on the collective body, especially the female body. It deals with the way in which history—though elusive and changing according to perception—is inextricably linked between a place, history, and myth. It is the persistence of memory and experience, penetrated, consumed, then captured on the collective body. It is also a film to confront the banal culture of collective forgetfulness, a way to contemplate the traumas of my ancestors endured and written on my own body. It is a way to contemplate the sins endured and written for those who forget.


Shirley Bruno (US/HT)

Shirley Bruno (US/HT). Shirley Bruno's films draw upon her heritage, preserving and radicalizing her ancestral traditions and mythology. She creates modern myths that expose the slippery spaces between the physical and metaphysical world, between collective memory and history. In her work she explores the everyday, the Sacred, and the intimate violence in the things left unsaid that mark us generation after generation. Shirley has a Masters from London Film School and another Masters from Le Fresnoy – Studio national des arts contemporains where she was an artist fellow. Shirley has received numerous grants and awards and her work has screened internationally. She works alternately between New York, France, and Haiti.

Director, writer, camera operator, Storyboardist, Editor: Shirley Bruno
Animation, 2nd camera operator: Alexandru Petru
Sound design: Rémi Mencucci
Music: Junkai Chen