The story centres on Kate Ashby (Michaela Coel), who works as a legal investigator in the London law chambers of Michael Ennis (John Goodman). When Kate’s adoptive mother Eve (Harriet Walter) takes on a case prosecuting an African militia leader, the story pulls Michael and Kate into a journey that will upend their lives forever.
Studio AKA director Steven Small designed beautifully rendered hand-drawn sequences to be inserted into four episodes in the eight-part series. Along with a team of animators, Small drew reference from a wide array of source materials, using a combination of 3D, rotoscoping and simple hand-drawn line artwork to create these impactful images portraying graphic events. The resulting imagery is captivating and powerfully wrought.
The first question we asked Hugo was— why use animation?
Hugo responded that the stories and recollections that they wished to tell were not something that could be communicated with archival footage or recreated with actors. The sequences had to sit apart but be bound to the drama by other means. The key for us was that these personal recollections are factual accounts of harrowing stories — but retold from memory, and so are essentially unreliable narratives. This concept of the veracity of the sequence depending on personal perspective seemed a good fit for the ambiguity that animation could deliver, to reflect how such tragic events happened to ordinary individuals.
To bring this to the screen, Steve chose to adopt a hand-drawn and semi-realistic style, focusing on the documentation of everyday settings, picking out details in the way that our memories can grasp some details clearly, but disregard others. The team employed a painterly style with natural performance and camera movement derived from a blend of methods. Utilising both reference footage, bespoke 2D animation and 3D CG spatial reference backdrops, this technique was allowed to fluctuate into more surreal movement and unexpected transitions to reflect the story’s more emotional and violent aspects, allowing it to settle back into naturalism as appropriate. The intention was to sensitively recreate a relatable and everyday setting that could reflect the horrific events that unfolded with more erratic and fractured imagery.