Last week I went to the launch of Centrefold, at the Wellcome Trust in London. The film, directed by Ellie Land (one half of the team behind this great animated docs blog), is about female genital cosmetic surgery and aims to provide a non-judgemental look at labia surgery and ‘encourage informed discussion’ on the topic. It certainly provoked debate at the Q&A session after the screening last week, with a panel made up of Dr Phil Hammond, the director, consultant gynaecologist Sarah Creighton, consultant clinical psychologist Lih-Mei Liao, artist Jamie McCartney and psychoanalyst Susie Orbach. In particular, things got heated around whether the film was balanced and the reasons that motivate women to have this surgery.
I was interested in the points made by Jamie about using animation, and art in general, to tackle tricky subjects and Ellie’s comments that animation helps you get closer to participants (because their privacy can be protected) and generates an emotive response from viewers through the power of imagination – something I’ve always believed about animated documentary. But, I also found it fascinating that the filmmakers made a second documentary to go along with Centrefold. This other film is a conventional documentary featuring talking-heads interviews with Creighton and Liao, who were co-partners on the film project. I understand the need for providing as much information as possible on this topic, but it did make me wonder whether this second film undermines the potential of the animated documentary. The audience last week, however, seemed in consensus that the film worked equally well on its own as in tandem with the conventional doc.
Happily, the film gives me another great example to use in my book on animated documentary, which I’m beavering away to finish by the end of the summer. In that, I talk about how animation is increasingly used to raise awareness for issues, especially to do with health and social consciousness.
You can watch Centrefold online for free from 20th July here, meanwhile you can view the trailer below