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Bafta-award winning MDX Associate Professor creates powerful Save the Children animation

Captivating film documents child's harrowing escape from Ukrainian war

MDX Associate Professor of Animation Jonathan Hodgson has been working with BA Animation alumni Sofia Negri and Luke Ramsay on a project for Save the Children.

Margarita’s Story is an animated film about a 10-year-old girl whose life changed forever when she fled the city of Mariupol with her family when war began in Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Save the Children approached Jonathan to work with Ukrainian illustrator Anna Ivanenko to produce a film documenting the journey of a child's escape from the horrors of war.

The result is a powerful insight into the devastating impact of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, where millions of children have been caught in the crossfire of war.

Since the conflict began, the UN has verified more than 23,000 civilian casualties including around 1,500 children who have been injured or killed.

More than two million children are also at risk from the high contamination of explosive weapons, unexploded ordnance (UXOs), and mines.

The film premiered at the prestigious international policy institute, Chatham House, ahead of the Ukraine Recovery Conference, scheduled to be held inLondon from the 21st to the 23rd of June.

Through "Margarita's Story" Save the Children, Jonathan Hodgson, and Anna Ivanenko aim to amplify the voices of those affected by the war and raise awareness of the profound challenges faced by children in Ukraine. The film serves as a powerful tool to inspire action and support the protection and well-being of children.

Jonathan’s past projects include directing human rights focussed animated documentaries including such as Guantanamo: The Hunger Strikes and End the Death a Penalty, which were both commissioned by Guardian Films and Amnesty International.

After interviewing the young girl and her mother, the transcript was edited down into a three minute piece before Jonathan crated an animatic, which is a storyboard, but on a timeline.

His daughter Olive, 17 read the script and sound designer Barnaby Templer, who runs Fonic Audio Post Production in Hackney, worked with composer Graham Slack to write and record a beautiful soundtrack.

Meanwhile in Kyiv, Anna took the rough sketches I'd created for the animatic and worked them up into the final designs.

Jonathan said: “It is incredible to think that shells were falling on Kyiv while she was working on the designs and I feel that her first-hand experience of the war definitely adds to the authenticity of the film.”

MDX BA Animation alumni Sofia Negri and Luke Ramsay were key animators on the project, which took around six weeks to complete.

“It was quite a rush to produce the film with such a short schedule, and I was concerned that the animation would fully communicate the intensity of a child's experience living through war,” Jonathan said.

Despite the challenges, Jonathan was pleased with the outcome of the film.

“It was really important to do justice to the amazingly powerful imagery produced by Anna Ivanenko and it was a humbling experience to collaborate with her on Margarita’s Story,” he said.

“She created some incredibly emotional images for the film and her direct experience of the war and her eye for detail has brought a level of authenticity and integrity to the animation, which would not have otherwise been possible.

“I hope that in some way it will help the children of Ukraine.”

Award-winning Ukrainian illustrator Anna said: “Children are the most vulnerable people in this war. You can't imagine what the impact this will have on them in the future, my heart is bleeding when I hear about their suffering."

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