Digital Media Program Contributes to Documentary

Posted November 12, 2013 in Faculty, Digital Art and Design

Digital Media faculty members Bill Fischer and Susan Bonner, through their company, Visualpump, worked over an extensive period of time to create animations for a documentary film, "Lost Boy Home," the story of one of the Sudanese Lost Boy's journey home to find the family he left behind more than 24 years ago.

Now, that hard work has finally made it to the silver screen. "Lost Boy Home" has premiered to vast critical acclaim, including being an official selection of the 2013 Palm Beach International FIlm Festival, winning an Award of Excellence from the Best Shorts Competition, and being an official selection at the Africa World Documentary Film Festival. While the awards are, well, rewarding, being involved with such emotionally compelling and human subject matter is what's really memorable for the KCAD faculty involved in the project.

"The lost Boys of Sudan were 5 years old when they traveled away from their home - they fled soldiers who were killing every boy they saw and kidnapping every girl," said Bonner. "They faced lions and ate leaves and sticks for food on the journey of 1000 miles. When we made the film, [the documentary's main subject, Zacharia], whose story is told, had a child who was 5, and so did I and Liesel Litzenburger Meijer, our executive producer. That connected with me in a very real way. I would look at my own son and wonder how such a small child could go through so much, knowing how much this little one depends on me."

On Sunday, November 10, "Lost Boy Home" was screened at a special private event at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art theatre, known for its penachant for provocative, emotionally-stirring films. The subject matter alone is enough to fit "Lost Boy Home" into that category, but the film's animations bring additional power to the story by helping to illustrate the magnitude of Zacharia's journey.

"The roll of the animations was to depict the journey of the Lost Boys through war torn Africa and to tell the story of those childhood moments," said Bonner. "We animated maps which reveal the length of the journey and what it was like to arrive in an Ethiopian Refugee camp, only to get attacked and to have to keep traveling to Kenya's Kakuma Refugee camp- which in Swahili means "Nowhere". We animated a moment when young Zachariah was in a tree all night hiding from the fighting and was taken down by a soldier who led 1000's of children to safety. That contrasted a moment in Grand Rapids when Zachariah pulls his own child out of a Maple tree in the safety of his Michigan neighborhood."

Sixteen animations in four weeks. That's what Bonner, Fischer, and Yarhouse were expected to produce, and though it might not sound like a heavy workload to the layperson, it's actually a formidable challenge when you consider how integral the animations were to the finished product.

"I worked closely with Director Mark Barger Elliot and Executive Producer Liesel Litzenburger Meijer to tell the story of this Lost Boy's journey," said Bonner. "I would ask Liesel to help me to understand what the huts in these refugee camps looked like and she would do that research for me. My team from Visualpump consisted of Bill Fischer who animated and Brad Yarhouse who storyboarded. A project like this is a team effort."

While the film's producers are working to get distribution for the short documentary through a network, "Lost Boy Home" has already toured the  the Palm Beach International Film Festival, the Africa World Documentary Film Festival, IRepresent International Documentary Film Festival in Lagos, Nigeria. For those who haven't had an opportunity to see a screening, the film will be released on DVD in early 2014.

To see a trailer of "Lost Boy Home", and for more information, visit the film's official site