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HomeCraftsAnimationContender – Director Alê Abreu Boy And The World

Contender – Director Alê Abreu Boy And The World

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LR-Ale Abreu-email

Ale Abreu
Ale Abreu
If Walt Disney had lived in Latin America, developed a political consciousness and still deployed some of the techniques he used in Fantasia, he might have come up with something like Boy And The World.

Like Fantasia, Alê Abreu’s film is mostly a combination of music, lines, color and image, looking at the world through the eyes of a young boy, Cuca, whose bucolic rural life is thrown into upheaval when his father heads off to the city to find work.

Cuca eventually takes off after him, and the simple line-based renderings and character drawings of the early part of the film yield to more intensely swirling colors, neon lights, water journeys and barrios and favelas occupied by lonely workers who commute to empty factories that are, in turn, gobbled up by voracious multinationals.

Boy And The World
Boy And The World
But originally, Abreu had something very different in mind than the hand-drawn animation he emerged with. “I was buried in research for another project, an anima-doc called Canto Latino,” he recounted in an email interview from his native Brazil. “The title means ‘Latin Song,’ and I had already traveled to several countries, including Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Cuba and Mexico researching geopolitical questions regarding the early years of those countries. I was exploring what the infancy of these Latin American countries had in common, and how they became a part of today’s globalized, neoliberal era.”

A critique of the global, neoliberal order isn’t something one usually associates with nominees in this category, but Abreu said “that study nurtured in me a passion for the protest music of those countries from when they were dictatorships. People like Violeta Parra, Victor Jara and the Nueva Trova Cubana.”

LR-boy_hires21But after amassing his research material, while still intending to do his anima-doc, the muse struck him in an unexpected way. “One day, while going through one of my old notebooks, I found a scribbled drawing of a boy. It wasn’t so much the character, but rather the way I’d drawn him, that attracted me. There was an urgency there. That character had in him the real essence of the Canto Latino project. I decided to put aside the documentary and to go on a journey to try to discover the story of that boy. I made a game of it, trying to listen to what he was telling me, coming up with fragments of his story, which then I would tie together at the editing table.”

Once tied together, Abreu’s characters manage to be fully – even movingly – expressive, even though rendered in a somewhat abstract, stick-like way, each grappling with whether one can actually “go home again” or not , and if not, where is one’s place in our relentlessly modern world?

LR-boy_hires31Boy And The World’s nomination by the Academy – especially given some of the other studio-made contenders that were left out – is still something of a surprise, but one that Abreu remains appreciative of. “I’m extremely pleased that the film is being recognized, mainly because it’s an independent film and opens new possibilities for animation. I feel like a spokesperson for this film, which is something greater than I am. I’ve welcomed with great love and with an open heart everything that is happening.”

His heart also remains drawn toward animation. “I have a very strong desire to use drawing as my main method of expression,” he maintained. But then he closes with a nod toward a phenomenon, that also speaks to some of the recurring issues the Academy grapples with in terms of what’s real and what’s animated, in an era where nearly all films are at least partially rendered: “There’s no reason an animation project can’t be transformed into live action,” he said, contemplating a film’s journey going the other direction. “To me these borders are increasingly blurred nowadays.”

Exactly the kind of blurred borders that Abreu’s Boy finds, journeying in his World.

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