Rosa Fisher’s animated documentary tells of her father’s experience at boarding school

Sent Away explores the lasting psychological impact of being sent away from your family at a young age, and how it has a disproportionately large impact on British society today.

10 January 2020
Reading Time
3 minutes


For many, moving away from your family aged eight seems like an unimaginably difficult experience, yet in the UK thousands of children do this each year when they are sent off to boarding school.

Rosa Fisher’s father was one of them, and his recollections provide the basis for her emotive animated documentary, Sent Away. “Boarding schools can rip children out of their secure, loving homes and deposit them into a cold, unloving institution,” she tells It’s Nice That. “Sent Away looks at the psychological implications that this can have on children and in particular the effect it had on my father, Tom.”

The emotional changes that children can exhibit have become known as “Boarding School Syndrome,” a condition that encompasses behaviour such as suppressed emotions and a need for dominance. A number of prominent people in the UK are textbook examples of this, including Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Nigel Farage.

“I wanted to show the wider political consequences this cultural tradition of child abandonment under the guise of privilege brings. The majority of the political leaders in Britain have been shaped and hardened through this system, and this no doubt feeds into the sometimes questionable ways that the country is governed.”

Rosa, who created the film for her graduation project at the Royal College of Art (RCA), relishes the challenge of covering such weighty issues. “I really enjoy combining a jokey, light-hearted aesthetic with darker, serious topics,” she explains.


Rosa Fisher: Sent Away

Her subject matter may be hard-hitting, but Rosa’s more cheerful aesthetic is informed by classic animation studios from days gone by, as well as the “expressiveness” of a certain sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

“Recently I have really gotten into creating a bouncy exaggerated movement that is quite influenced by classic Rubberhose animation,” she says. “A big influence has also been UPA animation, I really admire the way that they only include necessary elements in the background to give a sense of the space.”

When watching Sent Away, it is hard not to notice the evocative use of sound and music in particular. For this, Rosa, who is based in London having grown up in the Peak District, collaborated with musician Martino Gasparrini: “He wrote all of the music and we worked closely on the sound design and decisions. I wanted to have the sound of a French Horn throughout the film, and use it both musically and in more abstract, distorted ways,” she explains. “The beating drums were also used to bring in militaristic connotations whilst also building tension.”

It is this freedom to create interesting visual landscapes and soundscapes that makes animation a unique format for factual films, and it is clearly something that Rosa embraces: “There are so many visual techniques that animation can offer within documentary, for instance, using visual metaphor to demonstrate things that might lie beneath the surface and that aren’t immediately visible.” It is evidently something that’s working too, with Sent Away recently winning the 2019 London Factual Animation Festival.

Following on from this success, Rosa has begun planning her next film, where she will be collaborating with fellow RCA graduate Gabriella Marsh. The topic they will be exploring has not yet been revealed, however, we’re expecting another unique combination of dark subject matter juxtaposed with light aesthetics.

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Rosa Fisher: Sent Away

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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