Girl Effect, the empowerment organization born out of NIKE Foundation and multiple partners, has launched a new animated short film: Invisible Barriers. The piece dramatizes the cultural and social norms that hold many girls back from reaching their full potential, and challenges the world to create a “new normal” for girls through access to education, health care, choice in marriage, community support and visibility.
Invisible Barriers combines distinct mixed-technique animation from Mustashrik Mahbub — a filmmaker and illustrator who has created spots for high profile brands like Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors and music videos for artists including Ladyhawke (“Anxiety”) and Ed Sheeran (“One”) — with an original poem by Nigerian-born performance poet Bassey Ikpi. The film illustrates the complexities of a girl’s life in poverty, showing how while the world makes great strides in health, education, safety and financial services, social norms still stand in the way of access for girls.
“I have witnessed first hand the devastating effect on a community that does little to encourage young women to take the lead. A country, a community, a society can not grow if more than half of their populations aren’t encouraged to be active and productive members of society,” said Ikpi. “With this poem, I wanted to speak directly to both the girls who need the encouragement and those who may question their importance. I know the importance of words and the power that they have to motivate change — I hope the words that I put together are able to do that in some way.”
Mahbub’s animation process for the short began with traditional 2D and rotoscope techniques using pen and ink. This was then combined with frame-by-frame Photoshop animation, with rotoscoped references, and elements built in 3D and then rotoscoped with custom inks and brushes. A library of hand-painted wet and dry textures, colors and brush strokes were then built up to create style frames. These textures and layers were applied in 3D space to give the scenes perspective and depth. Characters were also colored using background textures, to ensure all ink work was kept abstract and elegant. To give the film the final look, pre-filmed ink in water were used to create subtle ink explosions.