Two years ago, Josephine Lohoar Self came across Art Spiegelman’s critically acclaimed graphic novel Maus and was instantly moved by the author’s powerful portrayal of the Jewish experience in Nazi Germany. In the candid graphic novel, the comics artist relays his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor, conveying the Jewish people as mice and Germans as cats in a highly stylised postmodern aesthetic. Josephine, a stop motion animator based in Glasgow, found Maus instantly enthralling in its outspoken narrative of the grievous experience and started to think more about Spiegelman’s decision to express his characters as mice, the blurring of lines between fiction and non-fiction, as well as fantasy and reality.
Exploring this idea further, in May 2018, Josephine went onto write a script centred on grief. That was the beginning of The Fabric of You, an animation short premiering in June of this year at The Edinburgh International Film Festival. Also using anthropomorphised mice as a vehicle for expression, the animated short follows Michael, a grieving protagonist living in a poor community of Manhattan-style red brick tenement buildings.
“For the setting, I drew inspiration from Will Eisner’s epic graphic novel A Contract with God set in a poor New York City tenement,” Josephine tells It’s Nice That. Having lived in Glaswegian tenements herself, Josephine recognised the masterful way Eisner captures the living experience, and along with references from Hitchcock’s Rear Window, she created a painstakingly detailed set design to enhance Michael’s anguished narrative.
Introduced to animation in her second year of her painting and printmaking degree at The Glasgow School of Art, Josephine went from thinking she would be a painter, to dedicating a lot of time, effort and energy into pursuing the notoriously labour-intensive medium that is stop motion animation. “I’ve always been drawn to films that tell stories from unusual perspectives,” she says on her imaginative animations which have previously seen her cast an unborn foetus, a dead dog and a huge talking frog as central characters.
Since graduating in 2017, Josephine’s continued to make short films but it wasn’t until she received funding for The Fabric of You that her work has really taken a turn. Drawing inspiration from the work of Gaspar Noé, Michael Haneke, Lynne Ramsay and Pawel Pawlikowski, Josephine first gathers a variety of references which then feed into her films in differing ways.
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