1-sylvain-chometIn this week’s spotlight we are turning our attention to the fascinating universe of animation and to one of the animation world’s most respected and acclaimed filmmakers: Sylvain Chomet. Born in France in 1963, Sylvain Chomet spent the majority of his free time during childhood perfecting his cartoonish drawing style and followed an education path focused primarily on art, earning a diploma in animation from a prestigious art school in Angoulême, France.

Following his graduation, Sylvain began working on independently released graphic novels and comic books (including an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s first novel, 1826’s Bug-Jargal). The drawing of graphic novels and comics lead Sylvain eventually to try his hand on animation. In 1991 Chomet started working on his first animated film: The Old Lady and the Pigeons (La Vieille Dame et les pigeons). The short film had a great success winning a series of prizes including a BAFTA and culminating with an Oscar nomination for best-animated short film.

sylvain-chometAs a result of his first film’s notoriety, Chomet was invited to join the staff of Disney Animation Studio’s Toronto location. Unfortunately, Sylvain’s time at Mickey’s House only furthered his belief that he should be working independently. In an interview with The Guardian, Sylvain remarked, “I learned an awful lot from [Disney] – how not to do it. The artists have no say any more. The suits decide everything now, and there are so many of them. It is like the dinosaurs, they got too big and their brains too small.”

Sylvain Chomet2Continuing his independent career, Chomet started working on his first feature-length animated film, The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville, or Belleville Rendez-vous in the UK). Released in 2003, The Triplets of Belleville was nominated for two Oscars: Best Animated Feature and Best Song and established Chomet’s as a bold new voice in the world of animation. Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, remarked that “The Triplets of Belleville will have you walking out of the theatre with a goofy damn grin on your face, wondering what just happened to you.”

In 2006, Sylvain was invited to contribute a short film to an anthology movie called Paris, je t’aime. Sylvain’s entry, Tour Eiffel, marked the first time that he had ever tried his hand at live action. Still, Sylvain’s passion lay in the realm of animation and it was around that time that he began work on his second full-length animated feature: The Illusionist (L’Illusionniste).

the illusionistPremiered at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2010, The Illusionist, has its roots in mid twentieth century popular French culture. It is based on an un produced script that Jacques Tati had written in 1956 as a personal letter to his estranged eldest daughter and stars an animated version of Tati himself. The animation presents the tender and touching tale of an aging magician who befriends a young Scottish girl. Virtually wordless, the movie will take your breath away, not just because of the luscious hand-drawn animation but also because of the movie’s raw emotionality.

Still creating 2D animations in a world dominated by 3D, Sylvain Chomet explains his long life attraction to the classical way of designing cartoons: “3D basically means you have puppets without the strings, it’s a virtual world, so you have to be good in volumes and sketches and make them move. But a 2D animator is someone who can draw ‘classically’, who can draw fast, and someone who knows anatomy.”

Just like Sylvain Chomet, ÉCU is sustaining the independent creation of animated films and has a dedicated section for animators all around the world. We hope the story of Sylvain Chomet and his “Triplets of Belleville” inspire you and give you the incentive to submit your animation for ÉCU 2014. Details on the animated films section here: http://www.ecufilmfestival.com/?page_id=20254&lang=en

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Ruxandra Matei

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