Documentary and fantasy intermingle with a combination of animation and live action in the innovative film, In the Realms of the Unreal, by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu (The Living Museum, Breathing Lessons). The Sundance 2004 hit is screening tonight, Jan. 5, at 7 p.m. in the UCLA Hammer Museum, located at 10899 Wilshire Blvd. Admission is $5.
When reclusive janitor Henry Darger died at the age of 81, his landlords cleaned out his cluttered apartment to discover hundreds of paintings and a 15,000-page novel. The unsettling and striking imagery of his work–warrior girls with penises, hybrid human-butterfly children, demons, dragons and exploding bombs–garnered Darger posthumous international acclaim.
Yu’s documentary borrows its title from In the Realms of the Unreal, Darger’s unpublished epic fantasy novel about a group of young girls known as Angelinia, who fight the savage, dark forces of Glandelinia on an unnamed planet. Yu mixes traditional animation based on Darger’s drawings with live action footage to contrast the artistic hermit’s real life with the one he constructed, asking whether one’s imagination can be fulfilling enough to counteract a dismal reality.
"We needed to bring the sense of his imagination alive," Yu told Animation Magazine in March of 2004. "We needed animation to extend the limits of documentary filmmaking."
In the Realms of the Unreal was made for $410,000 with funding provided by public television’s Independent Television Service (ITVS). A team of animators led by Los Angeles-based producer Kara Vallow used Adobe Photoshop and After Effects to bring Darger’s artworks to life. "We move back and forth between episodes of his life and the Unreal worlds," Yu continues. "Each time the animation becomes a little more complex. In the beginning, we only have simple cut-outs, but as you get to know him better, we have this sense of a gradual immersion into his world."
Yu will be on hand for a Q&A session following the screening. For theater directions and other details, call 310-443-7000. More information on the film can be found at www.realmsoftheunreal.com.