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Observations on a New Life in Spain

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More Cultural Integration

17 June, 2008 (02:13) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Last night we had dinner with friends and then went to a bar in in our neighborhood, Gracia, that Marta invited us to, which was debuting an animated short film by her friends, whom we had met at her parties. Our Ethiopian meal was superb, and the short walk to the bar playing the film was laden with good conversation.

After dinner we walked to the Bar Helio Gabal to view what turned out to be an impressive 27 minute animated film, but not your ordinary ink and paper or slick CG animation; this film was done almost entirely with sand. To me it seems that the three guys who put this project together were complete masochists. Not only was the medium incredibly difficult to work with (I’m assuming here) but the images and camera moves they chose to portray would be difficult to film in the real world let alone one that was built entirely out of colored sand. The environments that the characters walked through were beautiful and stark, very film noir, with unseen sources of light creating hard rim lights on the characters faces. Gold highlights on faces that would fall of into darkness and shadow. Heads turn towards the camera as light and shadow plays across their face. Mysterious clouds of steam rise and part to reveal distant figures moving in a train station then are quickly enveloped by the steam again. As the character sits in his seat on the train he looks out the window, buildings pass by, some close and some distant. The parallax between the buildings as they pass by is perfect and we find it hard to believe they are doing this with sand. The camera turns back to the face of the man on the train seen through the window from the outside. Subtle reflections in the glass mix together with the light and shadow that is passing over his face. The camera then moves back into the train car, this time from 5 or 6 rows in front of the man sitting in his seat. There are people in the seats in front of him and the camera very slowly zooms through the people to center on the man in the seat. The parallax of the people moving past the camera is again perfect and I found myself wondering if they could have made this project any more difficult on themselves.

Mark talked to one the directors of the film afterwards and asked him a few questions. One thing he wanted to know was if they had used story boards to plot out the scenes and the look. The director replied, just the first part of the film was story boarded. There were three of them working on the concept of the film for about 6 months. There were two animators and a traditional artist, which helps to explain the seamless marriage of beautiful images and the brain numbing technical aspect of moving bits of sand to bring these images to life. They worked for another 6 months together in an isolated location in the hills outside of Barcelona and are such gluttons for punishment that they probably flogged themselves in between takes of these extremely difficult looking sand animations.

I just love the film and art scene in Barcelona. Its really fresh. There’s an optimism and energy reminiscent of Ginsberg, Neil Cassidy, Dharma Bums et al. Unjaded. Determined against all odds. Art for art’s sake.