LIBERTY and JUSTICE: A Cautionary Tale in the Land of the Free
What happens when a pair of lost citizens wander in the deep dark woods in search of a new leader? In this satirical take-off of the traditional folk tale, “Hansel and Gretel”, the wordless story follows protagonists Liberty and Justice as they negotiate the challenges of today’s unique political landscape, while being shadowed by a persistent Twitter bird.
The film is a dark satire, made in the exaggerated style of caricature. It includes a dramatic scene with President Trump dressed in the uniforms of some of history’s most iconic dictatorial rulers. The comparisons are symbolic and are not to be taken literally. They serve as a warning, to look at history for guidance when confronted with a president who exhibits authoritarian behavior. The 13 min. movie is at the end of this post.
The film features an ensemble of old and new cast members from the Wee Folk Players theater troupe, who formed soon after the 2016 election. Other posts about the Liberty and Justice animation project include “Liberty and Justice” in process, All that Glitters, America First Lady, stop-motion in action, costuming despots and innocents and Animated Film Logo. In this Interview on WGBH TV, I reflect on my foray into political satire and describe how speaking out through art has affected my work and life.
After about a year filming in the basement, where our animation stage is set up, my husband Rob Goldsborough and I are thrilled to share the fruits of our labor! It’s the first large joint artistic/technical venture we’ve undertaken in almost 40 years together. We used stop-motion animation to create the narrative, spending countless hours manipulating and photographing the characters and props so that they appear to move on their own when the series of frames is played in fast sequence.
We each had our field of expertise – I made all of the dolls and scenery and did the animating, while Rob contributed his talents in photography, lighting, computers and editing. Rob, a retired engineer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has had a life-long interest in photography and film-making. He and I have wanted to bring my wee folk characters to life through animation for many years – we just needed a compelling reason to jump in.
For a framework, I drew a basic story board that grew and developed over time. Every night at dinner, we discussed ideas for different camera angles and how we were going to film the next shot. What was supposed to be a fun summer adventure, ended up becoming a big part of our lives for a whole year! The more we learned, the more invested we became in the project. Luckily, we are both detail oriented and not very chatty, so spending hours on end in silent concentration, filming what would become 5 to 20 sec. scenes was not a problem. I calculated that at 24 frames per second, our 13 min. 32 sec. animation is made up of almost 20,000 individual photographs. Even though the project was incredibly time consuming, we loved working this way and would like to make more animated films in the future. But right now, I have to get back to working on a new children’s book, which you can see progressing here.
A highlight of the project has been finding and working with the musicians who produced the original score for the movie. Rob and I filmed about 100 silent scenes, knowing all along that music and sound effects would be an integral part of the finished film. Through friends, we were lucky to connect with Matthias and Carla, a local Woods Hole couple who specialize in this kind of work. I mean, what are the chances of us living just a few miles from each other in a small town on Cape Cod?
We are thrilled with what they’ve created for the soundtrack! They took our movie and ran with it, blending together many layers and styles into a carpet of sound that propels the story along, creating the right mood for each scene. Their sound production company, Stellwagen Symphonette, creates evocative instrumental music for radio, film and computer games. Drummer and pianist Matthias Bossi, violinist Carla Kihlsted and guitarist and engineer Jon Evans bring together many years of experience writing, performing and recording music. If you listen to NPR, you’ve heard their music embedded in stories from time to time. Their clients include This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, Atlantic Public Media, Transom.org and Frontline Dispatch.
Liberty and Justice was shown in the Woods Hole Film Festival in July 2018 and won the Audience Award for short animation.
I hope that you enjoy the movie! It can also be viewed and readily shared on YouTube here.
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OMG!!! This is stupendous!!! I love the movie so much! All you work has paid off. This needs to be out there!! I am sharing!!!!!
Congratulations! You did a wonderful job depicting how we got into this mess with politics in America. I hope we can still have a happy ending in our future. Love the Mike Pence character.
Salley — That was marvelous… and chilling — an ingenious way to convey such a disturbing chain of events. I know this video entailed an enormous amount work, but it was clearly worth the effort. And the musical accompaniment was absolutely perfect in every way. (I wonder whether the perpetrator-in-chief will be tweeting vicious messages about little dolls stitched from felt some time soon.)
I wonder what the sequel be???
Wonderful, a true labor of love! I hope your film is nominated for an Oscar. If there is not a category for it they need to create one for your film. Wonderful, just wonderful!
Salley, the effort you and Rob put forth to make this film is so admirable. I’m in awe of how you have used your artistry to create such a potent commentary about the state of our country. Mike Pence made me laugh out loud, but then cringe. The use of the sheep to point out the racial and cultural divides is brilliant. Bravi to you both!
Words can’t do it justice. Amazing!
Beth said much of what I wanted to say. This is amazing! Good for you both. I hope this goes viral!
You and Rob have done yourselves proud!
It was a delight to watch.
Just tried the links on YouTube and Vimeo..neither worked..Sure it is a glitch that you will fix …can’t wait to watch Cheers Jacqueline
Sent from my iPad
Sorry Jacqueline, but we’ve decided to enter it into film festivals, so we had to remove the links to Vimeo and YouTube. It is still on this blog, though.
Glad you are entering it in festivals. This film deserves a wide audience. It makes a point (and the dolls themselves and sets are amazing).
Glad to hear this!
Ah… I was going to suggest that you enter it. It’s amazing! I can’t even begin to imagine what goes into something like this… What a team you two are! Your work, of course, is always exceptional, but how cool that your husband has the perfect skills to partner with you on this. Fantastic!
Thank you, dear Salley and Rob! Also for the fun showing at your house on Sunday. Quite amazing, the whole movie!!! Cheers, Maria
I cannot watch the video on youtube, but your email suggests that it could be. Will that link be available later?
Thanks, Thea Church
Sorry Althea, but I had to remove the links because the movie has been submitted into film festivals. For now, it’s just available on this blog.
You and Rob have created something that’s truly amazing!! The message comes through loud and clear — thank you.
Watched your film. So much work and all conveyed sooo much. Loved Melania’s figure, her shoes and wiggling foot! Trump certainly looked like trump – with his cheap looking red hats I hate.
Putin was fantastic!! And the costuming on trump as all the “rulers” were fabulous. I will watch again. Congratulations on a wonderful commentary.
Absolutely brilliant. Bravo!!!
i agree! absolutely brilliant! such talent too. i’m in awe.
Your work is absolutely amazing and it really sets an amazing dark mood through the woods. It’s very realistic and wonderful three-dimension! I can only imagine the time and patience you both gave to this project. So, so fabulous! And thank you for the message…
I’d love to watch it but both Vimeo and YouTube said it was not available. Is anyone else having that problem?
Judy Gaynes Sebastian
Sorry Judy, but we’ve decided to enter it into film festivals, so we had to remove the links to Vimeo and YouTube. It is viewable on this blog, though.
😆. if you ever have time (?), ck out her previous political scenarios. she did a whole bunch of vignettes, and the creation of the figures and the set ups are amazing. i saw the birds in person and it would blow you away. coming over soon? friday?
Sent from my iPad
Yes, there will be an audience at Film Festivals. Satire is so healthy and so needed.
Bravo you and Rob!!
Even though you’ve been teasing us for ages with your work-in-progress photos, nothing could have prepared me for how magical the finished movie is. The animation takes the characters to a whole new level. Brilliant. Well worth all the hard work. Definitely going to watch this again and again.
Wow, Salley and Rob, this is really astounding. It is so beautiful to look at (I love moving through those forests), funny (that elephant scene with Pence and his bucket of sh*t), and so impressively skilled, as always (beautiful stitching, uncanny likenesses). And the soundtrack is perfect! I’m glad you will enter this in festivals so that it can reap the honors it deserves. Since you began this project I have been inspired by your urge to use your gifts to make a statement. What a labor of love. Thank you.
Filled with admiration, Elizabeth Stubbs
Wonderful! Thanks for creating this!! Xo Amy
Wow!! So many little touches–the Burma Shave sign; the sheep with the red hats; the Russian nesting dolls and the troll dolls–Just fabulous!! I hope you will submit this somewhere so you can get national recognition–Hollywood would love this!!
Congratulations on you and your husband’s venture into film making. Do you seriously mean that I can circulate it on Facebook and in my Blog? If so, do you have some information you would like me to include.
Thanks Ann B. >
Thank you Ann, I’m glad you like it. Right now, the movie is set up to only be seen on this blog, within the context of my artwork. You may share a link to this post, if you like.
Congratulations Sally and Rob on an amazing piece of art. From an outsider (British!) this really does depict the situation you find yourselves in over the pond. The costumes and animation are incredible. Your hard work has paid off. Good luck with the film festivals – if I were a judge you would win, hands down! Well done!.
Ditto to all of the comments above. I must say, you have created an amazing piece of work! It was well worth the wait. We need to make the Academy of Motion Pictures aware of this superb stop-animation video. It is that good. It is great! Happy that you have submitted to the film festivals (plural?) Someone will take notice of this amazing body of work, both in the film and stitch world. I’m going to pass it along to those who appreciate political satire along with stitching. You are simply amazing. Such a talent!
Thank you for your kind words of support, Barbara. Through your comments over the years, I feel like I know you!
Congratulations! You and your husband have managed to say mouthfuls in a short non verbal piece. Can’t imagine the time and patience put forth from beginning to end. It’s great.
This is amazing! The end where he transforms into various dictators is chilling. So well done.
Congratulations on your achievement! You folks put together something amazing. I showed it to my husband, who wasn’t familiar with your work, and he was blown away by both the medium and the message. Apart from being wonderstruck by all the incredible work and thought that went into the film, I’m really caught by how irrelevant Bannon has become since you started the project, and how Putin looms large as ever. It just goes to show how mercurial the whole situation is.
I’ve watched this multiple times now, each time admiring a different detail. I realized today that Stellwagen Symphonette did a terrific job of providing “evocative” music and sound effects. It all fits into the movie so seamlessly. It adds just the right touch of added dimension to the story without being overwhelming or distracting, as a good soundtrack should. Every detail of the movie was well thought out and rich with meaning. Enjoying it immensely.
Thank you Mia, I’m so glad you’re taking the in the details. Yes, the music is an important part of production, as it is for all animation.
Wowza!! The detail in both your fiber art work – wee folks is outstanding! The lighting, filming & story is very creative & incredible!
I’ve been following you for awhile Sally !!!
This is truly an outstanding work of art & heart!!
Thank you sooo much for posting
Just absolutely wonderful. Even with reading your posts and watching your progress, I am amazed at the amount of work and planning that went into this project. It’s fabulous. Thank you!
Bravo, bravo Salley, magnifique!
Enjoyed seeing your work on the costumes and background, however, it’s hard for me to understand how you could work for a year developing this video with so much hate. Do you
know that hate is very unhealthy for your well-being, it’s destructive. Also, what are you teaching
children that hate is okay, sad! sad!. I would definitely never let my grandchildren view this video,
respect for one another is a thing of the past, how unfortunate.
Thank you for expressing your opinion, Theresa. I find it curious that you describe the movie as hateful. It tells the story of our time, as a cautionary tale with a warning not to be fooled by false promises. I certainly respect your judgement about what is appropriate and what is not for your grandchildren. Is the movie critical? Yes. Is is full of worry and concern for the future of our democracy? Yes. But hateful it is not.
I always find it so amazing that the people with so much talent and creativity that wouldn’t be allowed to be expressed in so many other parts of the world are the most critical and hateful of everyones elses rights to their own opinions. The “if you don’t see things my way you are an evil horrible person” mantra is what is destroying our world instead of just acknowledging that your opinion is your opinion, no more valid than anyone elses. Dictitorial is losing your job because you won’t take a shot, countless people dying alone, children denied education and social contact, businesses lost, mask mandates on and on. For what? So the elite class of our society could do as they pleased and Dr.’s with giant egos could rule over all of us. Are you going to make a movie about this, I doubt it, it wouldn’t fit your narraitive.. I admire your talent and handiwork and thought that when I saw the title that it might, just for once show what good we’ve done around the world and that the American people are the most generous and giving people of everything that so many others in the world need. Can’t remember the last time some other country has come to the aid of the US when we have needed help. Floods, huge wildfires to name a few, they are just climbing over each other to get here first, not! So sorry to see another artist trash the country where you have the freedom to do what you do. I suppose you could move to one of those other places which is so much better than here, but there isn’t somewhere else is there. So sorry I spent my money purchasing your books to fund your hate.
Thank you for expressing your point of view, Lori. I understand your disappointment in the political nature of my film. Others are also surprised to see my cute little dolls take on this role. I also hear your genuine concern for the state of our country. I acknowledge that your opinion and mine may be poles apart, but I believe that we both love America. It just manifests itself in different ways.
Absolutely loved it, Salley and Rob! I think my favorite part was at the end when Trump changes into all the different characters/tyrants! Bravo! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
Amazing wondderful film.How can I show it in bigger format to a group.I saw it on pinterest on my phone but its got a big arrow in middle of screen.
Thank you, Anya. For the time being, the movie is just available on my website. To see it larger, try hooking up a computer to a screen. After it is in film festivals, it’ll be put on Vimeo.