JDIFF 2013: Pablo

 

Michelle Cunningham gets drawn into the world of Pablo, which screened as part of the 11th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (14-24 February 2013).

Pablo

Tue, 19th February
Light House 2
18.05
93mins

Pablo is a beautifully made film documenting the life and works of Pablo Ferro, a self-taught animator, celebrated film title designer, who comes across as quite an endearing and modest artist. Pablo began his career as a cinema usher after moving to the US from Cuba at the age of 12. He then went on to create commercials, design graphic novels and work with animators such as Stan Lee, the editor of Marvel comics. Pablo was a pioneer of quick-cut editing, “multiple screen” (famously used for the first time in the original Thomas Crown Affair) and counts the phenomenal trailer and opening title for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove among his best known work.

This documentary combines live action, old archive footage, photographs, animation and collage of images to tell the personal and professional story of Ferro. Throughout the film Ferro maintains a background presence; a passive genius interpreting a lifetime of events as history speeds by.

The laid back style of Jeff Bridges narration suits Goldgewicht’s documentary perfectly. Various anecdotes about Ferro from cinematic icons such as Angelica Huston and Jon Voight and artistic icons such as Stan Lee and Steven Heller engage the audience from the outset.

As well as documenting his amazing body of work at a professional level, there are also little pieces of personal history woven into the story, through interviews with his ex-wife, children and friends. There are beautiful animated montages illustrating what life was like in his apartment in New York during the 60s. The apartment appears as a socialites’ hub, and a den of sex, drugs and everything else that was prevalent in the bohemian culture of the 60s as well as the place where he mysteriously gets shot in the neck.

During the Q&A after the screening Richard Goldgewicht described how the structure of the film came about. The film took over 5 years to make, beginning as a series of interviews with Pablo which were originally meant for a tv series. Initially it was just 40 interviews, then came the narrative ‘and who better than the dude to do it’ – (said of Jeff Bridges), followed by the animated pieces and archive footage. Goldgewicht described how fantastic it is in America with regards to copyright of material and how he could use Clockwork Orange footage in his film and as long as he stated ‘copyright by’…he could use any footage he wanted. This, he said is a huge benefit to documentary makers in the states as not many other countries have this luxury.

Regarding this particular style of film Goldgewicht described the blending of media as a contemporary approach to filmmaking and many of the animated scenes were born out of necessity rather than a wholly planned part of the film.

There was also a certain process of Pablos ‘coming around’ to the idea of the movie. He does feature quite regularly throughout the film but wasn’t very forthcoming with all the details of his personal life – Goldgewicht discovered quite a lot from his interviews with Ferros ex-wife, friends and children.

A groundbreaking visionary, the embodiement of the American dream, the classic tale of the rags to riches immigrant, the rise and fall of American cinema, there is much going on in Richard Goldgewicht’s biopic of Pablo Ferro. Yet the way this story is told both visually and through the narrative thoroughly entertains and captivates the audience. This documentary would be of particular interest to those in the film industry, the design industry and the animation industry but primarily it is an interesting story of a man’s life during a revolutionary time in the worlds of art culture and politics.

Michelle Cunningham

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JDIFF 2012: Crulic – The Path To Beyond

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012

Real to Reel

Crulic – The Path To Beyond

Saturday, 18th February, 6.10pm, Light House

Anca Damian is a well-known cinematographer, director, writer and producer and in this, her first animated feature, she delivers the beautifully made, well-told and shockingly recent (2008) story of Claudiu Crulic. Claudiu is a 33 year-old Romanian who went on hunger strike after being wrongly accused of theft in Poland. Narrated by the protagonist from beyond the grave, Crulic chronicles the events that lead up to his death.

The film begins with a phone call to Crulic’s uncle from Polish authorities telling him that Crulic is dead. His mother and sister go to Poland to identify him, which they find difficult, as he had lost about 30KG and looked much older than he was. As they journey home with Crulic’s body, the story commences. He begins with his childhood, which is a typical story of a boy born into a poor family, whose parents separated when he was very young. He was left in the care of his father but was raised by his aunts and uncles. He left school early as the family needed money and went to work in a garage. He then began travelling to Poland with his Uncle buying various trinkets (that were unavailable in Romania) and selling them. He is then arrested and this is where his life changes forever.

The style of animation is very beautiful – but dark. The medley of animated styles used throughout the film serve to really hold the viewer’s attention and ultimately lend themselves to the tragic nature of the story. Collage, line drawings, watercolors, stop motion and a small amount of live action along with the narration by one of Romania’s top actors, Vlad Ivanov, creates a visual and auditory spectacle. The bleak colours and often childlike line drawings evoke further empathy for Crulic and the events that unfold after his imprisonment. The transitions between animation styles are seamless and stylish. The small details in the animation, for me, had the greatest impact. This is clearly evident in the distressing scenes where he is in prison wasting away from hunger lying in the foetal position. The lines become thinner, sketchier, the colours of his clothes and face change and become bleaker and more transparent.

The story is mainly told visually but the slow, steady pace and the sadness in the voice of the narrator completely envelops you. Crulic’s own letters, photographs and documents are incorporated with animated images and when the film ends and the credits are rolling, real news footage is shown, bringing the audience back to reality with a bang. The introduction of news footage at this point reminds us that this is a real story and these injustices can and really do happen.

There was a Q&A session immediately after the showing with the director of the film Anca Damian. Damian related how unconditionally trusting and supportive Crulic’s family were during the making the film and their intention to go to trial using the film to prove his innocence. Damian describes Crulic – The Path to Beyond as a story about the dignity of human beings and human rights.

The film was very well received although there were some comments from the audience about how critics view animated documentaries and how they might not be as respected and not as believable as live-action documentaries.  Damian described how she made an animated feature rather than a live action documentary, having conducted her research for a year and collected countless documents and photographs.  The contrast between the starkness of real events and the creative medium of animation strengthens what is a visually unusual, moving and thoroughly enjoyable documentary.

Michelle Cunningham

Click here for Film Ireland‘s coverage of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Click here for full details and to book tickets for this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

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