Belgian stop-motion film fest lauds master’s oeuvre

By Eric Holmberg

BRUSSELS, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Stop-motion filmmakers judge their output on a modest scale, usually producing a few seconds of film per day.

So when stop-motion animator Sam Ortí Martí joked he was showing 12 years of work in an hour of short films, the Brussels audience at the Anima film festival laughed painfully with him.

The long production time is a result of the stop-motion process: Take a picture, move the characters and repeat. While the technique has been around for a century, the process has barely speeded up in that time.

As his first film ended, Ortí led the audience in applause, shouting his own “Bravo!” from the first row.

In addition to showing his entire life’s work of nine films in barely 60 minutes, Ortí, 40, taught a three-day class about clay animation, which he began doing as a child. Anima, a 10-day event that has been running for 31 years, is one of the world’s leading stop-motion festivals.

The enthusiastic Spaniard made this year’s 45-strong shortlist for the Oscar in Best Animated Short Film with “Vicenta”, but didn’t make the final cut of five.

“You never make a film to go to the Oscars,” he said. “You make a film because you need to make a film.”

Sunday’s animated short Oscar winner was “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, beating the much-touted “La Luna” by Enrico Casarosa and three other films.


Vicenta, the title character, is neglected by her husband as he spends money on his mistress across the hall.

Ortí provides drops of Spanish culture, such as a well-placed chorizo sandwich that saves a man’s life.

Like “Vicenta”, Ortí’s 2003 film “Encarna” is also based on his mother. Encarna is an overwhelmed housewife driven to murder. Her family, including bullfighter husband, annoying neighbors and a bothersome repairman are all killed in comedically gruesome ways.

One sequence that delighted Ortí in the making is where Encarna shoots a large hole in one neighbor’s torso and launches a rocket through the hole to blow up a second neighbor.

“That’s what I like: To do the impossible with plasticine,” he said of the modelling clay he uses.

The story is dark, and funny, but it was also a way for Ortí to vent: “I try to kill just in the films,” he said.

“For me it’s therapy. The thing is, doing it in this way, it’s a very slow therapy.”

When thinking about his style, Ortí mentioned the depressing rivalry of Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner, a long-running cartoon on television.

He would love to make a film about the Road Runner’s last day and the vindication of catching the uncatchable. He wants to see Coyote kill the Road Runner in a bloody way, putting his over-the-top stamp on the series.

On killing his characters, he said, “When you do it properly, people really enjoy it.”

He snaps back to reality, seriously doubting that Warner Bros. would let him have that much fun with their characters.

(Reporting By Eric Holmberg, editing by Paul Casciato)

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