“Home Is Somewhere Else” directors on reaching new audiences with animated docs

Today (June 15) marks the premiere at the Annecy Animation Film Festival of Home Is Somewhere Else, an animated documentary from directors Carlos Hagerman and Jorge Villalobos, of Mexico-based animation ...
June 15, 2022

Today (June 15) marks the premiere at the Annecy Animation Film Festival of Home Is Somewhere Else, an animated documentary from directors Carlos Hagerman and Jorge Villalobos, of Mexico-based animation studio Brinca Taller de Animación. Below, Hagerman (pictured, left) and Villalobos (pictured, right) share their thoughts on the potential impact of animated docs on audiences of all ages, growing the market for documentary via animation, and why it was the right choice for the subject matter of their film.

When we were kids, going to the movies was the most wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Many of the pictures we’d indulge in were fantastic animation voyages from Disney and other animation studios. And today, while other children may not be able to relate to our experience watching various animated classics in a 900-seat film theater, screened on 35mm prints, animated films still have the capacity to change the lives of children everywhere.

Think, for example, of Wolfwalkers — a film produced by Cartoon Saloon and Mélusine Productions that talks about the importance of protecting the family and the environment, all in an amazing visual style — or Pixar’s Ratatouille, a film about following our dreams, no matter the circumstances.

Animation is a wonderful tool to translate challenging life lessons into a digestible format that children and adults alike can benefit from. That is why we decided to animate a documentary about immigration and the challenges young people and their families face as a result.

Because animation doesn’t look like “reality,” anything can happen. At times, words or even facial expressions can’t quite capture the feeling of a moment. That is where artists come in to help depict the impact of a decision — a picture, after all, is worth a thousand words.

We took that to heart in creating Home Is Somewhere Else, our animated documentary about the experience of four young characters living as part of undocumented families in the U.S. We chose to build a distinct world for each of the stories based on the psychological characteristics of the character’s narrative. Set against the backdrop of these animated worlds, we chose to use the real conversations about the real lives of these families as the core of the emotional journey. This is why this film is a documentary, and it is from the contrast of the real voices and the free graphic interpretations that it derives its unique narrative power.

By using animation, we were able to create meaning from the dramatic contrast of the childlike illustrations and the all-too-mature stories these children have to share, such as the arrest of a father, the isolation of a sister, or the deportation of a young man. Animation enabled us to create a familiar storybook element in our documentary that reaches a broad audience and helps educate and build compassion.

We want to reach a new generation that is hungry for change, so we are adjusting the model with which we deliver this information. We do not want to preach to the converted: instead, we set out to create a vehicle that, by its own design, could be used by teachers and parents to present an experience that could help kids to empathize, support, and even love classmates, neighbors, and friends that look different from them.

This film can be more than just a documentary in a film festival — it can be a tool for learning at home, in the classroom, and in the theaters. For us, our younger years served as a time to solidify our personal beliefs and understand our social identity; we hope that our film, and its use of the cinematic language of animation, can do the same for millions of other young people around the country.

Home Is Somewhere Else is produced by Brinca Taller de Animación in association with Shine Global, directed and produced by Carlos Hagerman and Jorge Villalobos with producer Guillermo Rendón, and is executive produced by Carolina Coppel, Andrew Houchens, Mariana Marín, Susan MacLaury, and Albie Hecht.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.