Bafta-nominated animation In Her Boots explores how society deals with dementia

Animator Kathrin Steinbacher draws inspiration from her grandmother and a beloved pair of old hiking boots in this emotive short.

5 October 2020
Reading Time
3 minutes


Having only recently graduated from London’s Royal College of Art, Kathrin Steinbacher's six minute animated short, In Her Boots, has only gone and received an animation for a Bafta. A moving tale exploring a subject close to home and in the Austrian animator’s own words, the biggest challenge with making this short was “to do my grandmother’s story justice.” In the immersive and painterly animation, Kathrin explores the experiences of someone with dementia, and how others may deal with a loved one with the condition.

While she draws inspiration from her own experiences, the protagonist of In Her Boots – Hedi – is in fact, not Kathrin’s grandmother. The two characters bare similar personality traits; stubbornness, strength and humour to name just a few, but all in all, this evocative animation equals its accolades in its expression of the human state. It’s animation’s ability to convey this authenticity of experience which first attracted Kathrin to the medium, explaining how animation “helps to make the invisible visible as the medium is capable of capturing what a camera may not.” A “virtually limitless” art form filled with countless opportunities for originality, animation can communicate thoughts or ideas that are difficult to visualise – even ones which don’t exist yet.

With this unique vocabulary in mind, Kathrin sought to tell this story in an immersive way. Admitting she does not know what it is like to have dementia, but in this first person perspective narrative, the animator craftily accentuates the character’s feelings by outwardly visualising their emotions. In other words, as mentioned above, “making the invisible visible and more accessible”; a unique aspect of Kathrin’s portfolio thus far. Combining a multitude of bold textures, materials and processes to tell the story, the jam packed animation achieves an organic quality, in turn, enhancing emotional stats of the characters.

GalleryKathrin Steinbacher: In Her Boots, 2019

Highly stylised, we’ve celebrated the London-based animator’s work here on It’s Nice That before. Back in May, Kathrin along with fellow animator Emily Downe gathered over 90 animators from around the world to create an uplifting compilation of the quarantine experience – an appreciated addition to an anxious time. But while #FlattenTheCurve looked to the present, In Her Boots harks back to Kathrin’s past. Remembering her childhood growing up in a small village in Austria, there, she tells us, “it always bothered me how people cared so much about what others thing of them.” This issue helped form the inspiration for the film. That, along with a pair of old hiking boots that her grandmother was very attached to.

“They were old and almost falling apart but she refused to get new ones,” Kathrin remembers. It was an obsession that many did not understand, a poignant memory which would go onto form the crux of Kathrin’s latest film. In In Her Boots, the old hiking boots represent something fundamental for Hedi. “She seems a bit silly and confused,” she continues on the protagonist, “but she is pretty self-confident and a strong woman. The hiking shoes represent something fundamental about her: Her strength, her independence and her ability to maintain her autonomy in spite of her old age.”

It’s a powerful piece of work which propelled the film to star in a line up alongside the words of Quentin Tarantino and Charlize Theron; the Baftas. Nominated for Best Animated Short is what Kathrin describes as “the most surreal experience ever,” In Her Boots has also been nominated for a British Animation Award (amongst others) and has featured at many a festival, from Zagreb to New Orleans. Adding touches of humour throughout, In Her Boots possesses both a visual and emotive depth to the trying narrative that countless families endure. Posing questions around how society deals with the dementia, fundamentally, Kathrin’s short highlights that “a person suffering from this disease can still have a fairly good life and fun,” as seen in the character of Hedi. So what are you waiting for, if you haven’t already, give In Her Boots a watch. You won’t regret it.

GalleryKathrin Steinbacher: In Her Boots, 2019

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

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