Short films give a filmmaker the freedom to tell whatever story they want, oftentimes, it’s a story that is deeply personal to the filmmaker. This medium gave queer and feminist filmmaker Alex Anna the freedom to tell her touching and eye-opening story about her relationship with self-harming and mental health. “Scars” screened at this year’s TIFF as part of its Short Cuts Programme 05.
Blending documentary and animation along with the poetic reflection of the filmmaker herself, “Scars” is a deeply moving short that gives viewers a peek into the world of someone who is coping with self-harming tendencies. As the animated scars appear and disappear on the naked body, the narrator shares her emotion and intimate journey. The 9-minute short is beautifully done, and just as the scars themselves tell a story, “Scars” tells the story of addiction and want to create someone else while materializing the pain within with a certain delicacy that only someone who has lived it can do. Alex Anna does an engaging and innovative job of trying to make the subject matter of mental health and self-harming not a taboo subject. With the help of animator Clément Natiez, “Scars” is an intimate portrait of a film that is to be used as a conversation starter to get people to open up about their pain and struggles.
“Scars” is only the second short film by the director (the first was “The Fruit of Our Womb” in 2017) and it got its premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). “Having ‘Scars’ world premiere at this year’s TIFF is such a great opportunity for the film to be viewed by such a large group properly. I’m thrilled and grateful for this and it’s such an honor to be a part of this huge festival.” Still fairly new to the industry, Alex Anna feels “its all been good news and I’ve been really happy meeting new people and all of the opportunities that have been opened for me through this festival and the film.”
Even though it’s a short film, Alex Anna says it took some years for “Scars” to come to fruition. “It has been a long process. The first step was coming up with the idea and I spend some months recording myself talking about my experiences with self-harm — that was the very beginning part of it. From there we went into thinking about exactly how we wanted it to look with the animation and everything.” Using such a specific storytelling device — animation, documentary and poetic reflection — came to the director as she’s always had this idea of “using the ink drops. It’s always been in my mind, not necessarily in this specific idea, but I knew I wanted to talk about self-harming and do it in a documentary and not in a work of fiction. Coming to the decision to make that the subject of the film took some time to process. I wanted to tell a story about beauty and violence and do I connect those two — it is a challenge. That’s why the animation was put into the project to add beauty to such a raw and violent subject.”
Alex Anna says she hopes that “Scars” will “help break the silence around self-harm. I want people to understand the importance of talking about it and not being ashamed about it — whether they are suffering with it themselves or their loved ones are — whether it’s happening now or it’s happened in the past.” The filmmaker goes on to say that she draws influences from the works of other directors who have “wonderful feminism and certain queerness to their films.” She hopes to continue this tradition with her work in the future. But for now, “Scars” will continue to have its moment in the spotlight as it premieres at the Atlantic International Film Festival as she continues to work on new projects that focus on women’s sexual health and gender identity.
We Live Entertainment would like to thank Alex Anna for taking the time to chat with us.
“Scars” will also be screening at the 2020 Atlantic International Film Festival from September 17th until September 24th.