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No Arks (1969)


Main image of No Arks (1969)
35mm, colour, 8 mins
 Alan Kitching
 Johanna Darke
Production CompanyBritish Film Institute Production Board
NarratorVanessa Redgrave

Noah takes the animals into his Ark at the time of the flood, and muses on becoming master of the world, but after the rains an Oriental Noah appears on the horizon and a war ensues.

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Abu (1924-2002), born Abu Abraham, was one of the most distinguished left-wing political cartoonists of his generation, having drawn for Punch and the socialist weekly Tribune before being hired as the first ever political cartoonist for the Observer. He was hired by the Guardian in 1966, where he was based when the BFI Production Board funded his only animated film. Shortly after the film was made, he returned to his native India, where he continued to work as a cartoonist with a particular reputation for attacking political corruption - to the point where he fell out with the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, in the mid-1970s.

No Arks is very typical of Abu's simple style, evolved out of a need to draw fast to meet pressing deadlines. The construction of Noah's ark is indicated by the sound of hammering and simple plank shapes being slid into place, and Noah himself is deftly sketched via simple but solid lines, black on a plain background that shifts from green to blue with the occasional flash of red, yellow and orange.

The film follows the traditional story of Noah and the ark, with a few additions such as the dinosaurs drowning in the flood (presumably they were too big to fit on the ark), until the ark is confronted by another, helmed by a Chinese Noah. Since both believe that they walk with God, neither will budge, and mutually assured destruction is the only logical outcome. It's nowhere near as graphic as Joan and Peter Foldes' nuclear parable A Short Vision (1955), but it's ultimately just as despairing - a dove remains alive at the end, olive branch in its beak, but it has nowhere to go.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
Complete film (7:24)
Production stills
Redgrave, Vanessa (1937-)
The BFI and Animation