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GOCRITIC! Animafest Zagreb 2024

GoCritic! Review: it’s just a whole

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- Bianca Scali’s graduate short plays with textures and semantics to tell a story of the universal and existential combat with corporeal form

GoCritic! Review: it’s just a whole

A round, black ink dot winks at us before we see Maya lingering behind a minimally decorated table in an examination room. The flat environment around her resembles cheap, bleached copy paper, with the scratched outline of a table, protruding lights, and a warning poster set against the background. Appearing in Animafest Zagreb’s Student Film Competition, Bianca Scali’s short film, it's just a whole, is the directress’s (her preferred title) 2023 Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg diploma film, which won the Young Talent Student Jury Award last year in Ljubljana’s Animateka. In a world where women are still fighting for body autonomy in both the litigious and private spheres, Scali’s short opens the door to a fresh take on the theme of choice in women’s reproductive care.

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A roughly outlined doctor scuttles onto the scene in her rolling office chair, speaking in curt German and offering up an unsympathetic yet pragmatic presence. The detached physician glides across the examination room and demands that Maya remove all her clothes in preparation for a full-body examination. The dermatologist is searching for microscopic, “small but deadly” moles.

Maya frequently appears without clothes in the film; disrobed, she’s reminiscent of the stick figure signage found in public bathrooms, possibly pointing to standardisation and humiliation in the universal patient experience and the contentious politics surrounding public restrooms. She responds to the doctor in French, relatable to those, like the filmmaker, who were born in Paris but are studying in Germany, and accurately pinpointing a cultural clash on the doctor-patient level.

Through a clever combination of techniques, warmth is infused into the film’s otherwise sterile whiteness. The texture of the movie’s monochromatic animation is mostly drawn out by manipulating the materiality of the background. Grooves and raised embossments on the heavyweight paper take on the subjective texture of goosebumps and hair standing on end, further compounding the film’s tactile approach. An absurd sequence later on in the story plays with the paper background, distorting it into frayed, torn fragments that flutter around, symbolising the flood of bureaucracy familiar to those undergoing even the minutest of procedures.

it's just a whole conceals its message within the minuscule on a superficial, skin level, but it also toys with the semantics of logic and poetic humour. It might be read as a reflection on body politics, but the short film ultimately shies away from exploring that territory too extensively. Its strength is the room it leaves for interpretation, opting to focus on the universal and existential fight with our physical form by showing that flaws are a part of the whole, even when they’re no longer attached to it.

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