Raised as a human, a highly intelligent and eloquent black bear finds himself locked in an interrogation room, suspected of murder, in Rebecca Archer’s National Film and Television School grad film Canuck Black. Quizzed by two aggressive cops, this fearsome carnivore must fight his animal instincts and prove his innocence…or at least disprove his guilt!
Eager to explore ideas surrounding animal liberation, Archer’s film playfully uses the tradition of Anthropomorphism in animation to create a character struggling to find the balance between his animalistic nature and his educated upbringing.
“I wanted to explore a character that was intelligent beyond expectation”
“I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of animals being portrayed in human situations, whilst retaining some of their natural instincts and way of life”, Archer admits when discussing the inspiration behind her short. “I wanted to explore a character that was intelligent beyond expectation and actually quite dangerous, but still approachable. Much like a child is naturally drawn to a cute fluffy animal without knowing their potentially killer instincts.”
Another filmmaking tradition employed in Canuck Black is the use of the interrogation room as a setting. From Basic Instincts to The Usual Suspects these restrictive spaces have been used as the backdrop for some of cinemas most memorable games of cat and mouse and Archer uses her location to full effect. Canuck is literally the caged animal in this scenario, chained to the table and under the scrutiny of his human captors, but like in all good interrogation scenes who holds the power is never truly clear until the end.
Along with presenting an impressive narrative about identity, Canuck Black also showcases two different animation styles – stop-motion and paint-on-glass. For the interrogation scenes, the lighting, set and physical puppet of Canuck gives these sections of the film a dark but believable feel, whilst the more colourful painted animation feels perfectly fitting for the flashback to the bear’s happier times.
“I wanted to explore different techniques in animation in a way which would lend itself to the narrative”, Archer explains. “So I explored stop frame for the present time and paint on glass for the Bear’s memories, to create something more fluid and dreamlike”.
Now working as a Production Manager at Nexus Studios (whose list of directors feature a raft of S/W alums including Conor Finnegan, Felix Massie, Fx Goby, Jonas Odell, Kibwe Tavares, Marc & Emma, Nicolas Ménard & Till Nowak), where she “enjoys working with lots of creative minds”, Rebecca hopes to return to directing at some point in the future.