Basque filmmaker Ángel Amigo has drawn inspiration from courtroom sketch techniques for his documentary “Voces del pasado imperfecto” (Voices From the Imperfect Past), about the 1970 trial of ETA militants in Burgos, Spain under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
Making a virtue out of necessity, because of the lack of visual material, the documentary applies courtroom sketch techniques by graphic designer Unai Guerra, and adds trial session audio recordings made by defense lawyers.
The doc is contextualized with chronicles by international press correspondents covering the event alongside radio reports by Radio Paris and Radio España Independiente, broadcast from exile.
“The documentary will be a recognition of the work of the lawyers and the professionalism of the correspondents,” said Amigo, who doubles as “Voices” writer-director.
A standout producer of key titles from a brief but vibrant New Basque Cinema movement after Franco’s death, including Imanol Uribe’s “La fuga de Segovia,” Amigo is producing “Voices” at his production house Biliben 2014, alongside Edurne Etxebeste.
Graphic designers Guerra and Iñaki Martin are responsible for “Voices” realization, editing and VFX, with drawings by Martin Azpilikueta. The style is inspired by the tradition of sketches of American courtroom scenes.
“To represent the documentary images we used several animation techniques. Starting from visual references, both photographic and videographic, stories and testimonies, we recreated on paper the elements that later, with computer techniques, have been endowed with movement,” Guerra said.
“This is a tribute to the classic artists present at the trials who portrayed the people involved in quick sketches, since cameras were not allowed,” he added.
“To enhance this type of artisan drawing and get away from infographics, we used backgrounds that simulated papers and natural surfaces, with their flaws and roughness, giving them an organic and natural look,” he explained.
Aimed at giving greater depth and dynamism to the images, designers separated them into different layers, simulating traveling or panoramic views.
While some characters have been animated with traditional techniques, mainly in mouth movement when speaking; for others, the designers constructed anatomies as if they were puppets. “We always looked for a limited, fast and expressive animation, consistent with the type of drawing used in the documentary,” Guerra said.
“It is a humble but effective way of storytelling, which reminds us of the origins of the Paleolithic illustrators who piled up static images of bison on the cave walls and brought them to life by applying the flickering light of the torches,” Amigo explained.
Now marking its 50th anniversary, The Burgos Trial took place Dec. 3-9, 1970, and was seen by many as the beginning of the end of Francoism.
The ETA members were accused of criminal acts allegedly committed in the late 1960s. Six of them were sentenced to death, giving rise in Spain and abroad to widespread protests and petitions against the trial.
The sentences were commuted by Franco’s government for those convicted of lesser charges. Seven years later, all the defendants would be released after a general amnesty promulgated in 1977 by President Adolfo Suárez.
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