This project aimed to develop, produce and distribute an animated film for children and young people on confronting the problem of violence in the home.
Animation is a visual medium and so crosses language boundaries and shows problems in a universal way, avoiding stereotyping and victimising or alienating its audiences. This project aimed to produce and distribute an educational package, consisting of an animated film plus teachers’ notes, that examines the difficult realities of young people whose mothers or other female relatives are experiencing violence from men they know.
The video is suitable for an audience of young children between 8 and 13. Addressing the reality of the young people and their educators, it acknowledges the children’s experiences, and suggests support mechanisms for them. The support materials also help the teachers or youth workers leading the viewing group to use the video for the greatest benefit to the audience.
Although domestic violence is part of the mainstream agenda, and is portrayed in movies and television dramas, before the development of this video it had no part in the school curriculum.
Research had shown that the fear of domestic violence is one of young people’s greatest worries. Although difficult subjects such as sex education and drugs were discussed formally in the classroom, domestic violence remained unmentioned. This lack of acknowledgement of its existence exacerbated children’s isolation further.
The original target age group of the video was 6 -12 years, but research in the development stage revealed that the age group most in need of materials was slightly older, between 8 and 13.
The video uses a fictionalised ‘documentary’ approach in which five young people tell of their experiences of domestic violence. They explain how living with violence affects them, their friends and their families. The film portrays children as resourceful survivors, not pathetic victims, responding by taking positive action. They all assert their right to live in a safe environment free from violence.
The video contradicts some of the myths about domestic violence: that it’s a private matter; that it’s the woman or child’s fault; that it only happens in families from certain class and cultural backgrounds. It emphasises that violence against women and children is a crime for which there are no excuses.
A simple graphic style with strong colours was used, designed to appeal to the age group, and a ‘cut-out’ animation technique that involves using hinged characters. A framing/split screen device was used to show the violent incidents, so aspects of a situation can be seen simultaneously without showing the total picture. Final cuts were made in English-language versions and ‘international’ versions, containing the soundtrack without voices, to allow the video to be dubbed into other languages.
More than 2,000 copies of the video were distributed, and it is still available on a not-for-profit basis.
A follow-up to this project was accepted for DAPHNE funding in 1999.
1. The additional time and effort put into the pre-production aspects such as writing the script, developing the characters and storyboarding the video, helped the team to produce a more useful final product. Several rounds of consultation helped the project team to refine the original concept. National and international partner organisations helped in identifying the most pressing needs, which resulted in a refocusing of the video to an older target audience. A group of young people, most of whom were in the target age group, helped to identify suitable language, while others groups of young people also provided feedback. Potential users in the form of teachers, refuge workers and children’s charity groups also provided valuable suggestions.
2. The use of animation rather than ‘real’ people in the video film meant that it could be adapted to other languages and could be non-specific in ‘look’. Animated characters’ lips do not move when they ‘speak’, so they can in fact speak any language! And during development stages, it was possible to attempt to include many different ethnic groups, both sexes and different age groups as the animated ‘stars’ of the video. This is important especially in a product meant to ‘cross borders’, because it allows the product to be used widely and inclusively.
3. An external evaluator of this project did not like the cartoon images, suggesting they were ‘patronising’ to children (the children themselves did not say this). However, the evaluator noted that the use of animation is very effective for young children. The evaluator noted that there was plenty of information regarding the project on the organisation’s website.
Video Home Truths and accompanying booklet available at a cost of £40 (sterling) inclusive of postage, packing and VAT (sales tax) (English only but contact LAW to discuss possibility of other language versions)
Home Truths script (English)
Summary report on the project
Postcard colour image from the video