How do we get people to care about what’s happening in the world? How do we draw attention to crisis situations most of us don’t even know exist?
It is questions like these that drive the creative vision at Port Elizabeth-based video production company Rooftop, which created the newly-released United Nations Children's Fund’s (UNICEF’s) video titled, “A fight for education like you’ve never seen before”.
With a script that reads like a fairy-tale, it tells the story of a little girl overcoming great obstacles to get to school in South Sudan, a country where more than 70% of children are out of school because of ongoing conflict. It is UNICEF’s very first stop-motion video.
Just a day after its release late last month, it had already notched up over a million views on UNICEF’s Facebook page. These have since climbed to over two million views.
“What’s happening in South Sudan is a story that needs to be told,” said Rooftop managing director Richard Ahlfeldt
The video was inspired by the real-life story of a South Sudanese girl, Anne Kaku Yorudma, 18. She was attending school in the town of Yei, when fighting broke out in July last year. Unable to find her family (who lived in a nearby village), she embarked on a difficult and dangerous journey out of the war-torn country, on foot. She now lives in in a refugee camp in Uganda, staying with another family. What gives her hope is being able to go to school in the camp – because “that is all I have … I don’t have my family to help me so I need to finish. I want to be a doctor someday.”
“This video took careful attention to detail and plenty of collaboration with UNICEF to make sure we got it right … Telling stories that make a difference is why we exist,” said Ahlfeldt
Rooftop art director and animator Scott Kelly created the video’s main character, sculpting her with plasticine modelling clay, around a custom-made armature. Kelly sewed her clothes and created a tiny backpack with matching shoes – and was responsible for bringing her to life, “moving her one frame at a time”.
It took significant team effort to build the set, which included creating a landscape that resembled South Sudan’s countryside, a school, a library with a mountain of tiny books, and a cloudscape.
“It took about 1200 photographs to create the two-minute video clip, with 10 to 12 photos per second,” said Kelly. “There was a lot of pre-production, getting all the different elements ready. But once we got into the full swing of production, it took about three weeks to make.”
The video’s director James Collins said: “The challenge for me was to stay focused on the story, and not get lost in the art or the technical details … I had to keep asking myself: Is this doing justice to what’s going on in South Sudan? What shots would work best to tell the story?”
He said he hoped the video would “get the conversation started” about South Sudan.