Dr Bella Honess Roe

Research Interests

Documentary film and media
Animation studies
British cinema
The film industry
Visual studies/ visual culture
Genre cinema

Research Collaborations

I am co-editing Vocal Projections with Maria Pramaggiore (Maynooth University, Ireland) and The Animation Studies Handbook with Nichola Dobson (Edinburgh College of Art), Caroline Ruddell (Brunel) and Amy Ratelle (University of Toronto)


At Surrey I have taught and convened the following modules:
Animation and the Virtual World
Blurred Boundaries: Fact and Fiction in Film
Director Study (Michael Winterbottom)
Documentary History and Concepts
The Film Industry
Introduction to Film Studies

Departmental Duties

I am Programme Director for Film Studies. Prior to this, I was Senior Tutor for the Professional Training Year (PTY) programme in Film Studies and played an integral role in establishing PTY for Film at Surrey

Contact Me

Phone: 01483 68 3049

Find me on campus
Room: 25 AC 05

My office hours

Semester 1

Fridays 11:00-13:00, or by appointment


Journal articles

  • Honess Roe A. (2017) 'Interjections and Connections: The Critical Potential of Animated Segments in Live Action Documentary'. Sage Animation: an interdisciplinary journal, 12 (3), pp. 272-286.


    Gwen Haworth’s 2007 documentary about her male-to-female gender transition is an autobiographical documentary that comprises mostly interviews with family members and close friends, interspersed with home video and observational material. The film also includes some less conventional documentary material in the form of a few short animated segments. About thirty minutes into the documentary an interview with Gwen’s mother is interrupted by an animated sequence that playfully establishes the issues she has with Gwen’s take on being female. Captions are added to retro magazine images of women and domestic scenes, such as ‘family events are not optional’ and ‘grow your hair long.’ Haworth (2008) has commented that she included the animation to lighten the mood and to add humour to a film that would otherwise become too intense and serious. However, this segment is more than a comic interlude. We might think of the use of animation in She’s a Boy I Knew as an interjection. In spoken language, an interjection is a word such as ‘wow’ or ‘aha’ that one utters to create emphasis, draw attention to what has just been, or is about to be, said and to express emotion and attitude. Grammatically, an interjection is not related to the other part of a sentence, yet it only really gains meaning, or significance, when heard in conjunction with that sentence. If a speaker says ‘wow!’ and nothing else, the listener will most likely wonder ‘what?’ If the same speaker says ‘wow! That’s the best documentary I’ve ever seen!’ then the listener will better understand why they said ‘wow’ and the value judgement being made regarding the documentary in question will gain greater emphasis. So, while the ‘How to be a girl’ section in She’s a Boy I Knew can be viewed independently of the documentary in which it appears and as such could stand as an exclamatory statement on its own, it only fully resonates as an articulation of the film’s themes about the societal expectations around gender when viewed within the film as a whole.

  • Honess Roe A . (2016) 'Against Animated Documentary?'. International Journal of Film and Media Arts, 1 (1), pp. 20-27.


    Animated documentaries have been written about in a mostly positive way that explores the way the form enhances and expands the documentary agenda. This is true of scholarly and academic writing as well as that in the popular press and film reviews. However, some authors have taken issue with the ascription of the term ‘documentary’ to animated documentaries. In addition, there are potential issues regarding audience response to animated documentaries and the technical proficiency of the films themselves as they become more ubiquitous. This chapter explores the existing, and potential objections to and criticisms of animated documentary and suggests that a more ‘360-degree’ discussion of the form will enrich the scholarly discourse on animated documentary.

  • Honess Roe A. (2012) 'Uncanny Indexes: Rotoshopped Interviews as Documentary'. Sage Publications Animation, 7 (1), pp. 25-37.


    This article considers the several animated interviews made by Bob Sabiston between 1997 and 2007, and the implications of considering these films as documentaries. The author argues that the films are liminal, discursive texts that negotiate tensions between reality and make-believe, observation and interpretation, and presence and absence. Textual analysis of the short films in question demonstrates an aesthetic presentation that confirms their documentary status at the same time as exploiting the expressionistic potential of Rotoshop. The nature of Rotoshop also emphasizes the absence of the physical body of the interviewee, replacing it with an excessively present style of animation. Other conventional markers of documentary authenticity and evidence, such as the visual index, are also absent in these films. These absences, coupled with the presence of an aesthetically liminal style of animation infer a pleasurably complex and challenging epistemological and phenomenological viewing experience.

  • Honess Roe A. (2011) 'Absence, Excess and Epistemological Expansion: Towards a framework for the study of animated documentary'. November 2011 Edition. Sage Publications Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 6 (3), pp. 215-230.


    This article gives an overview of the history of animated documentary, both in regard to the form itself and how it has been studied. It then goes on to present a new way of thinking about animated documentary, in terms of the way the animation functions in the texts by asking what the animation does that the live-action alternative could not. Three functions are suggested: mimetic substitution, non-mimetic substitution and evocation. The author suggests that, by thinking about animated documentary in this way, we can see how animation has broadened and deepened documentary’s epistemological project by opening it up to subject matters that previously eluded live-action film.

  • Honess Roe A. (2007) 'Spatial Contestation and the Loss of Place in Amber’s Byker'. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 4 (2), pp. 307-321.


  • Honess Roe A. (2013) Animated Documentary. Palgrave Mcmillan


    Animation and documentary may seem an odd couple, but Animated Documentary shows how the use of animation as a representational strategy for documentary enhances and expands the realm of nonfiction film and television. From prehistory to states of mind, animation can show and evoke things that elude live-action. The current boom in animated documentary production is situated in the historical context of the cross-pollination of animation and documentary, before exploring the different ways animation functions in the animated documentary. Through analyzing films and television programmes such as Waltz With Bashir and Walking With Dinosaurs, this volume – the first to be published on this fascinating topic – demonstrates that while animation might at first seem to destabilize documentary's claim to represent reality, the opposite is in fact the case. Table of Contents: List of Figures Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Representational Strategies 2. Digital Realities 3. Animated Interviews 4. The World in Here 5. Animated Memories Afterword Notes Bibliography Index

Book chapters

  • Honess Roe A. (2017) 'A Liar’s Autobiography: Animation and the Unreliable Biopic'. in Reinsch PN, Whitfield BL, Weiner RG (eds.) Python beyond Python: Critical Engagements with Culture 1st Edition. Palgrave Macmillan
    [ Status: In preparation ]


    This chapter analyses the 2013 film adaptation of Graham Chapman’s autobiography and questions its surface interpretation as an unreliable biopic that undermines the conventional goals of the genre. At first glance, the film’s freewheeling narrative and fragmented visual style that uses fourteen different styles of animation could be argued as representing the unknowability of its subject. However, this chapter argues that through rejecting the typical aims and approaches of the biopic, this film in fact works to reveal much about Chapman’s personal life and his creative work with Monty Python.

  • Honess Roe A. (2014) 'The Evolution of Animated Documentary'. in Nash K, Hight C, Summerhayes C (eds.) New Documentary Ecologies: Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses Palgrave Macmillan Article number 11
  • Honess Roe A. (2011) 'Snow White'. in Geraghty L (ed.) Directory of World Cinema: America – Hollywood Intellect
  • Honess Roe A. (2011) 'The Canadian Shorts: Establishing the Wartime Style'. in Van Riper B (ed.) Learning From Mickey, Walt and Donald: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films McFarland
  • Honess Roe A. (2009) 'A ‘Special’ Relationship? The Coupling of Britain and America in Working Title’s Romantic Comedies'. in Abbot S, Jermyn D (eds.) Falling in Love Again: The Contemporary Romantic Comedy I.B. Tauris

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