The Story of Edward Healing
The Festival Circuit
Published on 10th May 2017 by Holly Kilpatrick
Collaborators Yannis Zoumakis and Manos Gerogiannis, otherwise known as Odd Bleat, already had an impressive back catalogue of animation work before they decided to make a live action film. In just three years they have created commercials for more than ten different organisations, winning a string of prizes along the way including three Ermis awards in 2017. Their clients have ranged from health food delivery service Seven to social enterprise Odyssea, whose main aim is to provide practical solutions to the environmental and humanitarian issues in Greece. We spoke to Gerogiannis about The Story of Edward Healing, a short film that has seen Oddbleat take a bold new direction into live action production.
Without giving too much away the story follows a day in the life of titular character Edward, an artist whose receding memory is becoming a strain on his life as well as those around him. In a world where the ageing population is rapidly increasing, Alzheimer’s disease is certainly a topical issue. Yet Gerogiannis sees his connection to the story as more personal: "As a creative person, I am always worried about...how the decay of my body and mind could affect my perception and my creativity," he says. "What is left exactly, if an artist is ripped of their memories and the ability to express their creativity?"
This question is explored to poignant effect in Edward Healing, as we see our protagonist trying to use his previous artwork as a reminder of the people he is starting to forget. Watching the film, it is interesting to see art used not simply as a creative outlet, an interpretation of the outside world, but rather Edward’s tool used to make that world safe and understandable. It is as necessary to him as the reality itself.
When portraying such a life-changing disease, one is conscious of the need to dramatise it in a sensitive and moreover realistic way. Gerogiannis was therefore careful to do his research, reading books on both Dementia and Alzheimer’s. He was also able to visit retirement homes, speaking to residents and doctors, and even went to a seminar for the families of people suffering from Alzheimer’s. This thoroughness is certainly evident in Odd Bleat’s film.
Edward’s live action narrative provides a sensitive, and at times heartbreaking, depiction of memory loss and disorientation, whilst animated scenes have a voiceover detailing his condition. The contrast of the two is oddly unsettling, making the viewer aware of how the facts of the disease are much easier to deal with than the very real distress to sufferers and their families. When asked about this choice Gerogiannis explains that he imagined the voiceover as "a part of Edward’s memories. It is a lecture he heard regarding his condition." On hearing this we question whether Edward, and by extension anyone, would feel more or less isolated by having an understanding of what has happened to them.
Much of the beauty of Odd Bleat’s film lies in the use of artwork; both the animated scenes that illustrate images from Edward’s memory and his own drawings of the people in his life. "People suffering from Alzheimer’s tend to remember more details regarding their work, their earlier years of life," Gerogiannis points out. "As an artist, the synapses in [Edward’s] brain that had something to do with drawings would therefore be the strongest." It is an effective choice given the difference we see between the clarity of Edward’s physical illustrations and the confusion of his memories as seen in the animated scenes. "These showcase the moments where Edward is lost in his mind," says Gerogiannis, "a completely different world where his mind lies."
As viewers we question the vulnerability of our own minds and how long we can hope to retain those images that shape our environment. Once the comfort of familiar people and places are no longer recognisable, can we still hold on to a sense of ourselves? The collage effect used in the animated scenes in Edward Healing recalls half-remembered dreams that are lost as soon as we wake up. It is this aspect of the film, the indication of memories just out of Edward’s reach, which is particularly affecting.
Moving from animation to live action involved a lot more work for Odd Bleat in terms of "working with so many people at the same time," says Gerogiannis, but he maintains that this was also "the best experience while working on this film" and would be very open to doing so again. For now however Edward Healing is making a name for itself at film festivals whilst Yannis Zoumakis and Manos Gerogiannis continue their work in the studio. Regardless of whether it’s a commercial or a short film, we are confident that Odd Bleat’s next venture is sure to reflect their signature inventiveness.