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My Mother's Coat. Dir. Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits. digital screener, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

Animated Realities: Animation, Documentary, and the Moving Image. Edinburgh University, Edinburgh College of Art, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Edinburgh, UK, June 23–24, 2011.

This event explored the emerging field of animated documentaries within contemporary film practice. The conference took place at Edinburgh College of Art and was held in conjunction with the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival. It aimed to bring together practitioners and theoreticians from a diverse range of disciplines in order to discuss and debate a hybrid and rapidly expanding area of contemporary visual culture.

Included below is the abstract for the paper I presented at the conference.


ABSTRACT

Memory Lapses: Visualizing the Porosity of Remembrance in Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits’ My Mother’s Coat

A young girl wraps her arms around her mother’s waist. Instinctively, the mother encloses her daughter within her long fur coat. The image is bare, as only a few lines sketch out the two figures. But the viewer is still able to feel the softness of that coat, recognizing the familiar sensation of resting one’s head against a loved one and melting into the comforting warmth of another body. Through the subtle movements of its fragmented visual imagery, Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits’ animated short My Mother’s Coat conveys this shared intimacy of familial love, articulating the interconnectedness of lived experience. The film illustrates a love letter written to the filmmaker by her mother, in which she reflects upon leaving her homeland to reside in Greece upon getting married, her memories of motherhood, and her desire to return to her small hometown in Italy. Her coat triggers this act of remembrance, becoming a connective fiber of experience between mother and daughter.

In this discussion of My Mother’s Coat, I examine the porous nature of individual memory, given that the utterance of the personal is innately collective. Both mother and daughter have a shared investment in the past, and through the film, each viewer becomes linked to this process of remembrance. Engaging with Walter Benjamin’s writings on storytelling, Marianne Hirsch’s notion of postmemory, and Svetlana Boym’s discussion of diasporic nostalgia, this analysis explores how My Mother’s Coat binds together individual memories within the reservoir of collective experience. It examines the expansive capabilities of simplified visual representation and argues that Tsakiri-Scanatovits’ employment of a disjointed narrative structure and cinematic style reflects the illusory nature of memory itself, as the film struggles to recreate a past that appears to forever escape one’s grasp.