Felix in Exile (1994)

Felix in Exile is the fifth of eight films that complete the Drawings for Projection series, on which William Kentridge worked from 1989 to 1999. All the films consist of 30 to 40 charcoal drawings, and they transport poetic and political stories. As a South African, Kentridge is very conscious of his country’s history and its colonial past.
This short tells the stories of Felix, a man living in exile in Paris, and of Nandi, a woman working as a land surveyor. The woman is Felix’s alter ego. She stands for the longing for one’s homeland, and how for his sake someone bears witness to the incidents in the new, democratic South Africa.

Fundamental is the concepts of time and change. Kentridge conveys it through his erasure technique, which contrasts with conventional cel-shaded animation, whose seamlessness de-emphasizes the fact that it is actually a succession of hand-drawn images. This he implements by drawing a key frame, erasing certain areas of it, re-drawing them and thus creating the next frame. He is able in this way to create as many frames as he wants based on the original key frame simply by erasing small sections. Traces of what has been erased are still visible to the viewer: as the films unfold, a sense of fading memory or the passing of time and the traces it leaves behind are portrayed.
In the same way that there is a human act of dismembering the past there is a natural process in the terrain through erosion, growth, dilapidation that also seeks to blot out events. In South Africa this process has other dimensions. The term New South Africa has within it the idea of a painting over the old, the natural process of dismembering, the naturalization of things new.

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