'Break the Confinement' with postgraduate study

Break the Confinement, by MA Visual Communication student, Taian 'Leo' Lu, has been selected as part of the New York New Film Makers Festival, a year-round festival dedicated to independent, underground and experimental film.

Still from 'Break the Confinement'

An entirely hand-drawn film, Leo's animation was inspired visually by the traditional Japanese art form of Ukiyo-e, and the animator Yukai Du. Thematically, Leo explains that the film was inspired by his childhood experiences growing up in China:

"I really like frame-by-frame animation because it's a form full of soul. Whether it's in animation or other art fields, I personally think life experience and observing life are crucial. Through combining social phenomena and my own experiences, I try to explore my animation with different materials and media."

This presence of soul is felt throughout Break the Confinement, in no small part from the film's themes. A retrospective tale by all accounts, Leo's film touches on experiences of bullying, low self-esteem and protective parenting:

"Many families in China spoil their children. The child has lived under the protection of his parents since he was born, having little contact with the outside world and lacking communication and problem-solving skills. Like flowers in a greenhouse, they can't withstand any storm, they can only live in good conditions."

After originally studying graphic design, Leo decided to develop his skills in animation through postgraduate study, specialising in film and animation, a pathway on our MA Visual Communication course. This variation in study is reflected through Leo's production process:

"At first, I thought of using different materials to paint on paper and make the animation, however I only had around one month to complete the project. Thus, I chose to use digital, hand-drawn animation for this film. I drew a storyboard and determined a few key pictures."

Sketches from film 'Break the Confinement'

"The composition of my animation is usually asymmetric, and the angle of view is usually abnormal, such as looking from above. I used bright colours and complex patterns, as well as dashed lines and layering of dots to create the surface, and when creating the baby in the mother's womb scene, I used dyed cotton for the background, combining digital elements to form the picture."

Stills from film 'Break the Confinement'Despite being just over one-minute long, Leo's film has made a significant impact, being selected for the New York New Filmmakers Award and featuring on the front-page of prestigious creative blog, It's Nice That.

Speaking on Leo's achievements, Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication Matt Tromans said: "Leo is a great example of a student who has immersed himself in the opportunities the course offers and we are delighted he is garnering an international reputation at festivals and in significant publications. The MA in Visual Communication provides a transformative experience in a challenging, yet supportive environment, empowering students to situate their individual practice within the context of a global industry. Students are encouraged to experiment practically and develop a critical examination of their own practice to nurture a highly creative individual voice with skills that go beyond the confines of a particular discipline."

Associate Professor Robert Gibb added: "Leo follows a string of successful graduates coming out of the MA Visual Communication course. 2018 graduates, Shiyi Li and Mengxia Liu, both had their work selected for the St Etienne Biennale in 2019, and Mengxia has since featured in the prestigious magazine, Creative Review. Leo now joins this list of graduates who, through the Master's programme, have developed their own unique creative voices, and cutting edge works which are now being internationally recognised."